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President orders the resumption of oil exploration in the Lake Chad region of Borno State

18 May 2023
Reading time: 4 minutes

State After six years of dormancy, Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari has directed that oil exploration resume in the Lake Chad region of Borno State in the north of the country.

Oil exploration was suspended in the region in 2017 after suspected members of the Jamā’at Ahl as-Sunnah lid-Da’way Wa’l-Jihād (JAS), better known as Boko Haram, attacked a team of geological engineers from the University of Maiduguri who had been engaged by the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to carry out a survey of the Lake Chad region in Borno State in the hope of finding oil.

Malam Mele Kyari, who heads the NNPC, disclosed on Tuesday, May 16, that the company had received a directive from Buhari to resume the search for oil, saying the region was now “peaceful enough”.

On Thursday, May 18, large lorries loaded with equipment for oil exploration were seen in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State. They were heading to the Maiduguri-Monguno road bound for the Lake Chad region. A large convoy of military and other security operatives were escorting the trucks.

Security analysts and environmental experts have urged the federal government to conduct a critical environmental impact assessment and to deploy more security personnel to ensure the safety of oil explorers and other workers in the region.

Alhaji Mukhtar, a senior lecturer at the geography department of the University of Maiduguri, said: “Whenever oil exploration or extraction of any natural resources is about to take place, the government needs to look at two things; first, it is imperative to look at the blessings that will be derived from the exploration, and second, to investigate the hazards or disadvantages to the environment that might occur.

“For instance, it is evident that there are a lot of challenges and environmental hazards in the Niger Delta areas and the Oloibiri Oilfield in Rivers State, which range from a series of oil spillages that hampered human activities, particularly farming and which could result in food shortages. Poverty and hunger could lead to conflicts and crises among communities.

“It is imperative that the government embarks on a critical environmental impact assessment to better understand the environment in terms of natural vegetation and inhabitation. It has to investigate if the exploration will affect the biodiversity in the region detrimentally. These factors need to be considered so that the environment in the Lake Chad region is not destroyed.”

Mukhtar said the government needed to sign a memorandum of understanding with all relevant authorities before and after the oil exploration. It also needed to employ the teeming youths in the region who were jobless if it wanted to avoid the conflicts and crises seen in the Niger Delta.

“In a nutshell, oil exploration in the Lake Chad region will bring about massive human capital development, such as job opportunities for the youths, construction of roads, sustainable means of livelihoods, an increase in the federal allocation to Borno State, as well as diversifying the economy of the state. But the effect on the environment must be a major consideration.”

Abba Hassan Abatcha, a security analyst and a senior lecturer at the Mohammed Goni College of Legal and Islamic Studies, told RNI that insecurity issues were the major challenges and warned that they could cause major setbacks to the oil exploration.

“The government should keep in mind that in 2017 Boko Haram [JAS] insurgents kidnapped lecturers from the university’s geology department. Other workers who were part of the search for oil were also captured. That’s why the government suspended exploration in the region.

“If oil exploration is to take place – and already equipment is being sent and other preparations are under way – the government must make security a priority. Stringent security measures need to be in place, with adequate security operatives deployed, to ensure the safety of workers in the area.”

Two residents, originally from Gudumbali in the Guzamala Local Government Area in the Lake Chad region but now living in Maiduguri because of the insurgency, spoke to RNI.

Kyari Kura said he was excited to hear that oil exploration would resume.

“This will go a long way in improving our livelihoods, diversifying the economy and overall national development. We are optimistic that the exploration will be beneficial to us and our grandchildren in the future and in next generations to come. May God make it happen.”

Abba Kurkurra told RNI that the exploration would be a “blessing for everyone in Borno State”.

“If it is successful, it will benefit not only the inhabitants in the Lake Chad region but also Nigeria as a whole.”


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