We’re approaching Christmas, the season of love and sharing, but two Nigerian states don’t seem to have gotten that memo.
But before we get into the real gist, let’s summarise the background story for you.
Oil field found in northern Nigeria
Nigeria’s first commercial oil was discovered in Oloibiri, Bayelsa State on January 15, 1956. Since then, oil has been found in large quantities in Nigeria’s southern belt. The South-South states known as the Niger Delta, have held vast quantities of Nigeria’s oil reserves. Over the years, states like Ondo, Imo, Abia, Lagos, Anambra and Kogi have also discovered oil.
After various failed expensive explorations spanning 30 years, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) finally discovered oil in the northern region in 2019. The corporation discovered the oil in the Kolmani river region which is a border community between Bauchi and Gombe States. You don’t need any seer to tell you why this’ll cause a fight.
So what’s the cause of the fight now?
Everyone loves oil money because oil money is bastard money. But there’s only thing better than discovering an oil well. That’s finding out it’s exclusively yours and its proceeds only shared between the state and the federal government. When another state begins to lay claim to the property, that’s where wahala starts. And that’s the matter on ground now.
In November 2022, Buhari flagged off operations on the Kolmani oil field.
Buhari at flag-off [Reuters]
A few days later, according to Punch, an adviser to the Gombe State government said Kolmani exclusively belongs to Gombe. He blamed the National Boundary Commission (NBC) and NNPC for misleading Buhari into thinking the two states have equal claims. The adviser argued that NNPC’s compensation to those displaced in the construction of access roads to the oil fields was inadequate.
He also accused the former Group Managing Director of the NNPC, the late Maikanti Baru, of using his powers to make Bauchi an equal claimant to the oil fields because he hailed from there.
The Bauchi State government has said they need some time to come to an official position on the matter. But if comments by a member of the Bauchi State House of Assembly is anything to go by, it might be some time before the issue is resolved. The member, Muhammad Bako, insists the lands on which oil was discovered are in Bauchi and that the NBC chairman is from Gombe State which has made him not objective in handling the matter.
Kolmani [Daily Trust]
There have been calls for an independent body to look into the claims of the two states. That could be a good place to start. But more importantly, governments at all levels should also look into proper plans to ensure the errors made with the degradation of oil-producing areas in southern Nigeria don’t repeat themselves here. Such a mistake might prove very costly.