The 19 northern state governments have intensified their search for oil and gas in the region with the appointment of a British firm to carry out the exploration activities.
This is coming about two weeks after President Muhammadu Buhari had directed the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation to increase the tempo of the crude oil find in the North-East.
The Chairman, Northern Nigeria Development Company, owned by the 19 northern state governments, Mallam Bashir Dalhatu, said the company had commenced its prospects for oil and gas in the Lake Chad and Benue basins, using the services of the British company.
He said, “We have engaged a British company that is already working in the Lake Chad region and from Niger and Chad side in the same area with us and we have been meeting with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation in order to put efforts together..
“The Federal Government has also re-emphasised to us, during those meetings, its total support for exploration and exploitation of oil and gas in the North-East of the country.”
The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, had earlier said that the Federal Government would begin oil drilling activities in the Chad Basin from the third quarter of this year.
According to him, the commitment of the government and the NNPC to explore oil and gas in the inland basins, especially Chad Basin and the Benue Trough, is unwavering.
He said the NNPC, through its Frontier Exploration Services and Renewable Energy Division, had progressed reasonably with seismic acquisition activities in the Chad Basin frontier area up until insurgency necessitated the suspension of operation there.
The minister was quoted, in a statement issued by the spokesperson for the NNPC, Garba-Deen Mohammed, as saying that eight phases out of the planned 12-phase project to cover 3,550 square kilometres had been acquired.
“A total of 1,962 square kilometres have been acquired and processed, interpretation is currently ongoing at about 90 per cent completion, and drilling activities will commence by the last quarter of 2016,” Kachikwu stated.
The Group Managing Director, NNPC, Mr. Maikanti Baru, confirmed that exploration activities were going on in the frontier basin in Chad and in some areas close to the Kolmani River, located in Bauchi State, where Shell had made some indicative discovery of hydrocarbons.
Baru said that the NNPC was currently taking steps to re-strategise and get into those regions to step up crude oil exploration activities.
“We will reinvigorate the frontier exploration services and see how they collaborate with the Northern Nigeria Development Company.
“The NNDC is holding bloc 809 where we have some of the finds and the Department for Petroleum Resources, for the other blocs that have not been assigned,” he added.
Meanwhile, Governor Masari has said that the discovery of hydrocarbon in the region will hardly solve its challenges, adding that the solution lies in utilising the abundant land and manpower of the North to revamp the agricultural sector.
Masari, who lamented that globally, only African mineral resources had yet to be fully developed, expressed joy that that the NNDC had started posting profits in its operations after being rendered comatose for years.
He pledged that northern governors would look into the possibility of acting as a guarantor for the company’s loans if they could not increase outright its current N500m share capital.
Members of the NNDC board in the delegation included the secretaries to the governments of Jigawa, Gombe, Nasarawa, Kano, Plateau and Katsina states.