Thursday, September 20, 2012

Sokoto: A sprinkle of black gold in Heart of Savannah

Bello Gusau in this piece writes on the discovery of oil in Sokoto State and efforts by the governor of the state, Alhaji Aliyu Wamako, to convince the general public and the Federal Government of the newly found black gold and its commercial quantity. SOKOTO State is widely known as the Heart of the Savannah. The State governor, Alhaji Aliyu Wamakko, has for some time been exhibiting reflexes of blessings for the people of the state. The policies and programmes his government has put in place since 2007 when he came on board as governor have been egalitarian by designs. Agriculture, rural development, building of infrastructure and commitment to peace and general progress of the state are top on his priorities. Sokoto had known peace until lately when terrorists struck in the state in an al-Qaida-like operation.But the government of the state never quaked at the attack; it immediately put in place measures to contain further activities of bombers in the seat of caliphate and the melting pot of the Islamic tradition in the entire North. Not too long ago, the Sokoto government scored a first in addressing the problem of almajiri known as street urchins and poor beggars in the state. The government facilitated the construction of a model almajiri school which President Goodluck Jonathan commissioned with a promise, on behalf of the Federal Government, of more interventionist ideas meant to grossly reduce the culture of almajiri in the entire northern states. The model school is increasingly gaining popularity in the North at the moment with resolve by more northern state governments to engraft it to their educational programmes. Again, Wamakko is blazing the trail in a special area. He is about answering the nomenclature of a Messiah in the entire northern states which, for decades, had clamoured aggressively for discovery of crude oil, otherwise known as black gold, in the northern basin. Indication to this emerged a week ago when Wamakko told the world about the success of some secret explorations for the black gold his government had funded within the territories of Sokoto. He chose a very special occasion to do just that. In Sokoto, the end of Ramadan usually accompanies sessions of funfare and festivities. The Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Saád Abubakar III, paid the governor a symbolic courtesy visit and was privileged to hear the good news. Wamakko did not mince words when he told the Sultan that the black gold being sought for in the North for years had been found within his Sultanate! Wamakko, with a display of confidence, told the Sultan, “We will soon write the Federal Government on the issue with a view to complying with the necessary guidelines. The oil deposits, when fully explored and exploited, will certainly boost the socio-economic status of the people of the state as well as the nation’s economy.” Wamakko took a step further to convince the larger audience in Nigeria that his report on oil discovery in Sokoto State was never a fluke. He sought audience with President Jonathan to break the news, thus formalising and nationalising the special report on oil in Sokoto. He had disclosed that the crude oil deposit in the state was of commercial quantity. A Sokoto-based Islamic cleric, Sheikh Bindawa, in a chat with Gamji, expressed delight on the news of oil discovery in the state, disclosing that the turn of events was gingered by the prospect of oil exploration in the neighbouring Niger Republic,which, according to him, had joined the elite class of oil mineral producing countries in Africa. Bindawa commended the governor who, according to him, had brought luck to the state, noting that the report on oil discovery in Sokoto was true. He said the state had got more than sufficient evidence of huge oil mineral deposit long before now. In Nigeria, past efforts at prospecting for the black gold, most especially around the northern basin, had been a subject of crass politics, given the age-long rivalry between the North and the southern regions of the country on economic matters. From indications, the North had been agitating for the huge concessions usually made to the oil mineral- producing states in the South-South on derivation. There have been arguments that the offshore oil wells should not be exclusively credited to the littoral states since the offshore oil wells are owned generally by Nigeria, the territorial waters being the property of the entire Nigerian federation. From the military era till date, consistent efforts had been made to strike crude oil in the northern region with huge sums of money committed to the project. For instance, oil exploration was carried out in Bauchi State and the Chad Basin in years past with funfare, whereas the efforts ended up fruitless owing to what experts describe as insufficient quantity of deposit so discovered. Almost a year ago, the Kwara State government also announced that it discovered oil at a village in Aran-Orin. Yet, subsequent developments on the issue offered very little hope that anything meaningful would come out of the report. Not too long ago, the chairman, Northern Governors Forum (NGF) and governor of Niger State, Dr Mu’Azu Babangida Aliyu, announced preparations by the state to commence the process of exploring oil again in the Chad Basin. It remains to be seen how the efforts made so far will yield fruits in due course. Meanwhile, the former governor of Kaduna State, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, who spoke on the new development in Sokoto, called for cautious optimism. Much as he expressed delight at the prospect of discovering oil in Sokoto, the Heart of the Savannah, the activist urged the Federal Government to move in and subject claims by the Sokoto State government to test to be convinced that the crude oil so discovered is, indeed, in commercial quantity and of a good explorable quality. Balarabe Musa said he would not doubt the claim by Governor Wamakko of oil discovery in Sokoto because oil could be found in any part of the North and Nigeria. What matters, according to him, is the quantity and quality of what was discovered. He said if the quantity discovered was not of a high quality, the cost of exploring it would be greater than the benefit, a reason governments usually developed cold feet in acting on reports of oil discovery in specific areas of the country. He said: “Oil was said to have been discovered in the North Sea in England at a point in time and everybody was happy. But the project was abandoned by the British government because what was discovered was not in commercial quantity. It is important to know that the cost of drilling the deposit that is not in commercial quantity will be more than the benefit to derive from it” If Nigerians are to place a hope on Wamakko’s report on oil discovery in Sokoto, perhaps what to focus attention on are the confidence and the logic he applied in breaking the news to Nigeria. He told correspondents at the Presidential Villa that his government was compiling a full report on its findings and that the report would be laid before the Federal Government for necessary action. It presupposes that the government could then draft in the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) through its relevant agency, the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) to affirm the general expectation of Nigerians on Sokoto in respect of oil discovery. For now, all hands are on deck for Sokoto to blazé the trail as the first northern state to strike the black gold in Nigeria.

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