The recent ambush on oil exploration team in the North-East Nigeria by Boko Haram has put a damper on the nation’s drive to tap its highly underexplored inland basins, industry experts have said.
Last week, the Frontier Exploration Services/Surface Geochemistry Sampling team comprising the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, consultants from the University of Maiduguri, consultants attached to the Integrated Data Services Limited, a subsidiary of the NNPC and civilian escort team, was attacked by the terrorist group.
The attack, which led to the killing of at least 48 people, came one year after President Muhammadu Buhari directed the nnpc to resume exploration activities in the inland basins, especially the Chad Basin and the Kolmani River in the Benue Trough.
The inland basins of Nigeria comprise the Lower Benue Trough (Anambra basin), the middle Benue trough, upper Benue trough, the south eastern sector of the Chad basin, the Mid-Niger (Bida) basin, and the Sokoto basin.
Following the attack, the NNPC suspended oil exploration in the Lake Chad Basin, which is situated in part of Borno State.
An energy expert and Technical Director, Drilling Services at Template Design Limited, Mr. Bala Zakka, said, “It came as a big shock and a very big disappointment. It is a big blow to the military, the political governance and to the Nigerian oil industry. It has further threatened anything that has to do with oil activities in Nigeria.
“Before now, we were seeing threats to investments as far as Niger Delta is concerned. But it is very clear now that even if the quantity discovered in other potential basins, like the Chad Basin, is more than the quantity in the Niger Delta, the threats and the safety concerns in that area are too high and risky to any oil and gas operations in the near future.”
The Chairman, National PIB Committee, Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria and Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, Mr. Chika Onuegbu, said, “When we heard about the story, we thought it was kidnap for ransom. But we were surprised to learn the people were killed.
“It is really a rude shock and, honestly speaking, the government has to do something about the level of killings going on in the country. It is going to affect the oil industry; first is that workers will not be willing to go to that part of the country for any oil and gas activities, especially exploration.”
The Chairman, Society of Petroleum Engineers, Nigeria Council, Dr. Saka Matemilola, who commiserated with the families of the bereaved, said the exploratory activities in that part of the country would have to be put on hold until security could be guaranteed.
He said the incident would significantly slow down the country’s efforts to expand the frontiers of its basins where oil had been found.
The immediate President, Nigerian Association of Petroleum Explorationists, Mr. Nosa Omorodion, expressed sadness over the incident, saying the issue of security needed to be adequately addressed in the country.
“The nation thought it was ready and that adequate security measures had been taken. Now, there is this setback; so we need to learn from it. What has happened is very unfortunate,” he added.
The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, said last week that the exploration activity in the Lake Chad basin had to be put on hold until the military could give the corporation sufficient clearance to resume oil search in the region.
Providing an explanation on how the Tuesday attack happened, he stated that the NNPC Frontier Exploration Services and Surface Geochemistry Sampling crew comprising three consultants attached to the FES and the Integrated Data Services Limited, nine external consultants from the University of Maiduguri, military personnel and members of the Civilian Joint Task Force were ambushed by Boko Haram.
He said the team was returning to Maiduguri after conducting a survey mapping/geological study of parts of the Lake Chad Basin, in preparation for re-entry for seismic activities.
The oil found in commercial quantity in neighbouring Chad Republic had encouraged the NNPC, on the orders of President Muhammadu Buhari, to intensify and focus its exploratory work in the inland basin on the Chad Basin and Benue Trough areas.
In November 2016, the corporation resumed exploration activities in Gubio, Magumeri, Monguno, Kukawa, Abadam, Guzamala and Mobar, after getting security advice from the military.