Opinion | If Oil Is Discovered In The North?

By Azibaola Robert

For years, Nigeria has sunk Billion’s in the search for crude oil in the north. I certainly will be glad if oil is discovered in huge commercial quantities in the region. But it seems to me discovering oil in the north will bring no real economic value to Nigeria, apart from ego massage and the possibility of local refining and consumption.

let’s say oil is discovered: To sell the oil, more than a thousand kilometres of pipelines would have to be laid. The colossal cost from, say Borno, to Lagos, Akwa Ibom or Port Harcourt, may diminish the economic value derivable from it. These pipelines will, in the typical Nigerian fashion, be exposed to sabotage and illegal bunkering to the extent, majorly, water will be pumped out at the other end instead of crude oil. This has been a major challenge even in the Niger Delta were oil majors are now abandoning their wells onshore and moving to the deep ocean to prospect for oil outside human interference.

Securing those pipelines will be a nightmare for Nigeria and the sabotage of the pipes crisscrossing Nigeria’s beautiful north may turn the region to polluted lands like in the Niger Delta. Fertile agricultural lands may be destroyed and render them waste lands.

Let’s pray also, if discovered, the crude is not laden with Sulphur, as in the case with the crude oil in Niger Republic, which makes it difficult to refine and thus hard to get international market for it. In that case the crude may become practically useless as well.

Hypothetically: If the crude discovered, is of international quality like Brent or Bonny Crude, will Nigeria be able to build and maintain refineries for local consumption and, maybe, export to neighbouring countries such as Niger, Chad, Benin etc? Let’s hope.

This leaves me asking a basic question, why have the major oil companies in Nigeria, Shell, Agip, Mobile, Chevron etc., not invested resources to prospect for crude oil in the north? The likely answer is that they may have seen no business case in the venture. It is important to note that in the two decades or so, crude oil may have lost its place as the no.1 energy source to other renewable energy sources. Investors will only want to invest in areas where they have solid business case of returns on investment.

Truthfully, the north has unreckoned and enviable wealth which is a topic for another day. Instead of continuously sinking huge sums in search for crude, it probably would have been better if Nigeria rises early in time and invest these resources in renewable energy sources like expansive solar energy farms, wind turbines, hydroelectric dams and massive irrigation systems. These may serve the interest of the north and Nigeria better in the near and long future.

Azibaola Robert, an Entrepreneur, Innovator and Thinker, writes from Abuja, Nigeria.