The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation ( NNPC ) has suspended the exploration for crude oil in the Lake Chad Basin, situated in parts of Borno State, following attacks on its workers and some military personnel by the terrorist group, Boko Haram.
The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Ibe Kachikwu, said the exercise had to be put on hold until the military could give the corporation sufficient clearance to resume oil search in the region.
Kachikwu, who commiserated with the families of those killed by the insurgents, however, stated that the corporation got the necessary clearance from security agencies before embarking on the trip that led to the death of scores of persons on Tuesday.
“The reality is that anytime the NNPC decides to go into a terrain, it first gets the privilege of security advice and that security advice, I can say, was sufficiently cleared,” he said.
He regretted that the team was ambushed by terrorists, but insisted that no work would be done at the site anytime soon.
Kachikwu spoke to journalists at the headquarters of the NNPC in Abuja on Thursday.
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.
Kachikwu stated that after sufficient advice from the military to resume exploratory activities on the site, which passes through Borno State, the corporation in 2016embarked on the venture despite the risk in order to grow the country’s crude oil reserves.
“Certainly, we will not go back unless they (military) give us a clearance, just like we didn’t go in before they gave us a clearance,” the minister said.
Providing an explanation on how the Tuesday attack happened, Kachikwu stated that the NNPC Frontier Exploration Services and Surface Geochemistry Sampling crew comprising of 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.
Kachikwu, however, noted that the NNPC had yet to officially confirm reports that the military had rescued its workers who were abducted by Boko Haram.
This was despite statements by the army spokesman, Sani Usman, that all the NNPC workers had been rescued and the corpses of nine soldiers and civilian JTF members retrieved.
The minister said the national oil firm would wait on the military to determine its next move and assured families of the victims that the government would support them.
He stated that the incident had provided the NNPC and the military very useful lessons in future, particularly whenever they prepare to re-enter the exploration site.
Kachikwu said, “When incidents happen, they are important for two reasons; for the fact of their occurrence and also important for the lessons that you will take away. Obviously, the lesson for us is that we are going to look at the security apparatus and see whether there is a little bit more we can do.
“I know there were over 200 security personnel between the military and other security agencies, they were very well protected. I will imagine that the security operatives will take a second look at what has happened and like the lessons they take from every area where Boko Haram has operated, they will look to see more protection they can put in place.”
Source: ( Punch Newspaper )