While Nigerians continue to reel under the yoke of economic visscitudes typified by rising prices of food items and depreciation of the naira, a new dimension of unaffordable domestic gas due to over 100 percent rise in prices has become a major source of worry to consumers.
More worrisome is the fact that the abundance of these natural products, gas inclusive, are being wasted either through uncontrollable flaring or lack of adequate technology to emback on the needed drilling for the country to enjoy the full scale of energy exploration.
Also, the international oil companies which are supposed to be in the vanguard are shying away due to alleged selfish and political reasons.
The only option left to the country, as it were, is for the ruling class to capitalize on what they regard as inappropriate pricing for gas not only at the international oil market but also recently in the local markets or welfare posturing of governments, particularly the present administration as to continue to pay subsidies or under recovery with few Nigerians milking the country to its marrows.
For instance, there are oil wells in Kogi State, and some of these wells were drilled as far back as the 70s and lately between 1985 to 1987.
Specifically, Total-Elf drilled another well named Oda river 1 which was completely a natural gas well, with about 95% gas with the remaining 5% crude oil.
But, currently the well is capped waiting for necessary usage because Total-Elf exploration was aimed at crude oil and are therefore not in a hurry to continue with exploration activities.
Intrestingly, before these activities, different oil companies like, Shell, Agip had carried out similar exploratory work at different locations in Igalamela, Ibaji and Olamaboro Local Government Areas of the state since in the 70s. Most of the sites were plugged and abandoned for alleged similar reasons, among others.
Further investigations show that several wells were discovered in an area referred to as Anambra Basin, which includes the expanse of land accommodating the same Ibaji Local Government Area of Kogi State, which has a river as boundary with part of Anambra North-West and Enugu State.
Also, four of the wells, it was further gatheted, are said to be at exploration stage, one each from Anambra and Enugu States, while the remaining two are situated on Ibaji land.
But questions agitating the minds of most Nigerians is why successive governments have decided to be silent on a better prospects for gas production in the country.
Nigeria is said to be working towards dominating the local gas market by July 2022, prompting stakeholders’ anxiety over the prospect with the prices of domestic cooking gas going over the roof tops and consumers painstakingly reverting to the use of coal or firewood for cooking.
But due to poor leadership bedeviling the country and the state in particular since its creation, the foresight and political will to tap into these natural endowments have been lacking.
“How do you explain a situation whereby an international oil company would abandon an oil well simply because of existence of gas as opposed to oil that they are passionately looking for. And why would a serious government either at the centre or state not raise an alarm and take decisive action?.
Let’s see what a government that prides itself as democratic and responsive will do now that prices of domestic gas have gone beyond the reach of poor Nigerians,” says a concerned stakeholder.
Part of the preparation then was the exploration activities, a 55,000-barrel per day refinery by Orient, at Otuocha in Anambra State under obtained licence for blocks it referred to as OPLs 915 and 916, which it said include a “small portion of Kogi State,” in a letter to the then governor of the state Alhaji Ibrahim Idris in August, 2011.
The company had in the letter intimated the state of its intention to commence the production testing of already drilled wells and acquisition of about 640 square kilometers of high resolution 3D seismic data in its oil blocks within the period. It, therefore, urged the government to “kindly inform the local government authorities and the communities at the border of Anambra and Kogi States that as stakeholders, they are expected to establish and maintain a warm and cordial relationship with the seismic survey contractor throughout the survey.”
The company also requested for large expanse of land from the state government where it will establish a depot that will serve the northern part of the country.
However, investigation reveals that the then NNPC/NPDC carried out seismic activities in Anambra Basin between 1976 and 1983, and about 4,500km of 2D seismic were acquired. Between 1952 and 1986, three companies – SHELL BP, Elf and AGIP drilled 25 exploration wells, two appraisal wells and eight core-drill wells in the entire basin. At the end of the exercise, oil and gas were discovered in Anambra River-1 well, while gas and condensate were found in Anambra River-2 well, which fall within Kogi State. The NPPC’s efforts at the time produced gas and condensate in Alo-1 well, Igbariam-1well, Ihandiagu-1well, Amansiodo-1well among others. Okpo-1well was abandoned due to technical reason, while Okpe-1 well, Nzam-1 well and Akukwa-1 well recorded some gas shows. It was suggested then that the federal government should carryout comprehensive exploration in the Inland Basins at the earliest possible time so that strategic reserves could be added from hinterland, apart from the Niger Delta reserves.
On July 18, 2001, the then governor of Kogi State, late Prince Abubakar Audu wrote to the Group Managing Director of NNPC intimating him of the discovery of mineral substance suspected to be crude oil at Odeke and Echeno in Ibaji Local Government Area of the state.
“The discovery of this substance has generated widespread public interest and anxiety in Kogi State and I wish to request your organisation to carry out a thorough investigation of the substance to determine its nature and extent of deposit,” the letter reads in part. The NNPC promptly sent its men to the affected sites for “a very preliminary investigation of the claims.” The efforts also confirmed the existence of crude oil in the area.
So the understanding in Kogi has been that there is crude oil in commercial quantity across Ibaji Local Government Area and other parts of the state where exploration activities suggest its existence.
In fact, the NNPC’s earlier report confirmed that some “exploratory work has been done in the Anambra Basin with reports of oil show…Our programme in Anambra Basin therefore, are well founded, and we are very optimistic about the petroleum potential of this basin.”
However, the crisis over the ownership of the oil wells among Kogi and its neigbouring states have continued to be a source of concern until the recent development.
Two decades later, the country is still on the drawing board while international oil companies continue to dither on further prospects since gas deposits are likely to be in abundance.
The implementation of tax on cooking gas with the accompanying hardship on Nigerians and lack of coordinated approach or legislation on gas policy in the country portend danger and more impoverishment for an average Nigerian.