Will exploration in middle Benue trough lead to greater prosperity, energy security?

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Africa’s largest national oil company, the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC) has, for some good reasons, been on the news in the past months.
The company has sustained its aggressive search for oil to boost the nation’s oil reserve with the drilling in Gombe state and, now, Nasarawa state basins going on unabated.
With an estimated more than one billion barrels of crude oil reserve from the new northern oil wells, Nigeria is expected to gain nearly $73 billion or N32.3 trillion at an average global crude oil price of $73 per barrel benchmark used for the 2023 budget proposal.
This earning could be realised over a period of 10 years, depending on when commercial production at the basin starts.
At the moment, the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC) said crude oil reserves were at 37 billion barrels.
President Muhammadu Buhari, of course, is very supportive of the national oil company in its quest to deliver on its mandate of growing the nation’s oil reserve through aggressive exploration activities across the basins of the country.
Thus, President Muhammadu Buhari, this week, stated that the discovery and drilling of oil in Nasarawa state will lead to greater prosperity for Nigerians as well as enhance overall energy security for the country.
In his virtual message to the official spud-in of the Ebenyi-A Well located in the Middle Benue Trough, in Obi Local Government of Nasarawa state, the President said the surrounding communities would, particularly, benefit from the value created by the exploration and eventual production activities.
“This is consistent with the commercial discoveries of hydrocarbons in the Kolmani Area of the Upper Benue Trough. I am pleased to note that activities are currently ongoing to develop the Kolmani petroleum discoveries to commercial production to add to the nation’s considerable hydro-carbon assets,” he said. “I am encouraged by the enormous work done by NNPC Limited to exploit the prospects in the Middle Benue Trough, leading to the event of today. I congratulate NNPC Limited, the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission and other partners for their immense contributions towards making this day and this event possible.”
It is noteworthy that NNPC Limited has continually spent on frontier exploration as shown in its FAAC report. With the new Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) 2022, funding for frontier exploration has risen to 30 per cent, which means the reformer NNPC Limited would have more funds to develop oil fields in Nigeria.
Last year, NNPC has spent N29.4 billion on new oilfields exploration. A report in 2021 showed that NNPC spent N20.681 billion on frontier oil exploration in the first seven months of the year.
The oil find in the North is coming at a time crude oil production in the South has dropped to about 1.2 million barrels per day mainly due to oil theft and vandalism.
It is expected that oil production in the North would shore up revenue for Nigeria which continues to witness a huge budget deficit owing to dwindling oil revenues.
The impact of the new oil exploration in the North, experts believe, would make all the difference for the North and curb the desire for oil theft and sabotage in the Niger-Delta.
It is a fact that due to lack of alternative, the country is often held to ransom by restive youths and saboteurs around oil facilities in the South but, hopefully, with the start of oil production in the North, the appetite for such vices will be minimised.
No doubt, finding oil in the North is good for Nigeria because the country will have more refining capacity and the perennial fuel scarcity will become a thing of the past as the need to bring petrol from the South will no longer be there.
Of course, it is instructive that the President has directed NNPC Limited and its partners to take due care of the environmental consequences of these oil exploration activities and to mitigate the negative effects.

Welcome on board, Solomon Arase!

President Muhammadu Buhari Wednesday sworn-in a former Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Dr Solomon Arase, as the Chairman of Police Service Commission (PSC).
With the swearing-in of Arase, Nigerians hope that things will get better with the police service and its personnel.
For now, it is sad that in spite of the critical role the Nigeria Police Force play in nation-building and the sustenance of democracy, some of the NPF’s operations are characterised by inefficiency and impunity including extortion and other sundry abuse of the fundamental human rights of the citizens.
The dwindling security situation in the country has, therefore, reinforced the need for structural changes to facilitate and make the police more effective. Such reforms should include an urgent attitudinal change by the police personnel.
Indeed, strict discipline and meaningful and impactful policies are needed to be put in place in the services of the NPF.
Thankfully, Arase has promised to prioritise the welfare of officers and men of the Nigerian Police Force and address the issue of corruption and the recurring crisis between the Office of the Inspector General of Police and the Police Service Commission.
“We’ll ensure that we continue to put our local and international expertise at their disposal,” he said. “We will be strong in training in various areas, especially alternative dispute resolution. The issue of discipline will be taken seriously… So, if any officer steps out of the line, there will be consequences.”
According to him, the skills of the police personnel need to be sharpened and he said that he will do so. And so also the need for training and retraining of the police.
With training, the trust gap between members of the public and the police will be bridged. In the meantime, while the issue of training needs money to get actualised, funding remains a challenge.
Yet, as the scope of law enforcement’s responsibilities expands, the need for expanded and more effective training become critical. Officers must be trained and enabled to address a wide variety of challenges including international terrorism, communal conflicts, evolving technologies, changing laws, new cultural mores and a growing mental health crisis.
Sadly, without state governments buying gadgets, vehicles and other equipment for the police, it will simply be more disastrous than we have.
Rightly or wrongly, therefore, some Nigerians are of the view that to have an efficient police, we should outsource recruitment to reputable organisations, cede some control to the states so that their funding or support can be robust and more enduring.
In the end, however, it should be noted that the present security challenges in Nigeria, including insurgency, banditry, kidnappings, cybercrimes, violent crimes and organised transnational crimes make it inevitable and compelling for a reorientation and reform of the police.
Indeed, while the members of the public are in agreement that the police and other security agencies in Nigeria are key players in the government’s efforts to halt the deteriorating security situation, there is a general consensus that for the police reforms in the country to be effective, certain structural changes are necessary.
Joyfully, Arase said: “That is what I want to do.” But, first, he is right to have called on members of the public to collaborate with the police force and see them as part of the larger society.
Building trust and nurturing legitimacy on both sides of the police–citizen divide is the foundational principle underlying the nature of relations between the police and the communities they serve.
If the police are to carry out their responsibilities according to established policies, those policies must reflect community values. It also requires a more effective leadership posture for the police.

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