Ebenyi-A: Slow pace of oil search in Nasarawa raises concerns

By David Okpashi

In 2023, when the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC Limited) launched the commencement of oil exploration in Nasarawa State, the frenzy was loud and expectations high.

Former President Muhammadu Buhari whose government commissioned the oil prospecting across Keana, Obi and Assakio, gave full support to the project. Officials of the Nasarawa State government and the host communities were joyous and hoping to join the league of oil producing areas in Nigeria.

Analysts are however of the view that one year after the process began, nothing concrete has been put on ground for the public to see except occasional assurances by the state government that work is indeed going on.

NNPC through its oil service arm, ENSERV, has continued to assure that work is fully on ground in Obi and progressing in phases to include Keana, Assakio, Agwatashi amongst others. But the assurances are not without challenges. For instance, agitations by the youths in the areas to be carried along in the operations have continued to raise concerns.

The Ebenyi-A oil well was billed to be completed as quickly as possible to pave the way for others to follow, to gain access to the massive oil reserves believed to be sitting under the soil, but as doubts are however being expressed following the long delay in seeing the reality on ground, the Obi community youth had dispelled insinuations saying everything is on course.

Popular among agitations by the youths in Obi include lack of social amenities such as electricity, health facilities, schools, compensation payments to the host communities.

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Gov Sule

There is no gain saying that the host communities would have positioned themselves for the prospects that usually accompany oil discovery, explorations and exploitations.

Abubakar Yusuf, a youth leader in the Agada area of Obi, had earlier spoke on account of the fact that they have problem with the manner at which compensation are being paid to those whose lands were acquired for the project.

It is however undoubtedly established that people from within and outside Nasarawa are buying up lands in Agwatashi, Agada and neighbouring villages to position themselves for compensation when drilling extends further to other fields.

As it is also being alluded that some powerful interests are involved in the land matter to position themselves to benefit from the solid minerals available within the oil rich area of Obi in particular and other areas such as Keana, Assakio and Angwayanshi to mention but a few.

Interest parties have however commended the state governor, Abdullahi Sule for the foresight displayed by putting together a technical oil and gas committee saddled with the task of ensuring that a workable mechanism for the benefits of the people and the government are properly, equitably and evenly spelt out.

It is hoped that due to long delay and other challenges perceived to be characterizing the sooth and quick completion of the exploration, members of the Committee which include oil experts with several years experience such as Dr Musa Adamu have to see the responsibility among others be purposeful, God fearing, just and fair in their assignment to justify the governor’s good intentions.

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As expectations are high over the oil drilling from the host community and Nasarawa state at large, confidence building must be taken into account in view of the caliber of technocrats with a wide spectrum of years in oil and gas.

Support is greatly required to ensure that the carefully selected citizens of the state who have distinguished themselves in various areas of endeavors either in oil and gas, especially the Chairman of Nasarawa State Technical & Advisory Committee Dr. Kasim and fellow member, Dr Musa Adamu succeed.

Carefulness as a catalyst for success must be applied in order for the committee not to be hijacked along political, religious and ethnic lines. Sensitization of the host community, especially the youths and other stakeholders should be given priority attention ahead of the full blown oil production to avoid a repeat of the scenario in the Niger Delta Region following oil exploration and exploitations in the area.

Nasarawa state is no doubt blessed to have its citizens such as Dr. Kasim and Dr. Musa Adamu amongst others who have spent a greater part of their useful time in the oil and gas industry. Patience, understanding of one another irrespective of political inclinations should continue to bind the people of the state together.

NNPC Limited as a major driver of the project should ensure that it lives up to its social responsibility to the host community. Provide the people with the required and necessary incentives in accordance with the Petroleum Industry Act 2021.

No community can live or survive in an atmosphere of rancour, hostility and disagreement. Peace must be embraced for the successful production in Nasarawa state. To achieve maximum gain, several exploration platforms should be opened up to effectively collaborate with the government technical oil and gas committee.

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