20 November 2013, Abuja – Attempts to have an agency that will coordinate and pursue oil exploration in the inland sedimentary basin, especially in the northern parts of Nigeria received a boost when the bill scaled second reading in the Senate Tuesday.
Sponsored by Senator Smart Adeyemi, (Kogi West), the bill seeks the establishment of an agency that would explore new frontiers for oil in order to avert the financial challenges that may arise to the country’s economy as more in wells oil wells in the Niger Delta region begin to record a consistent decline in their outputs.
Smart had noted earlier that the bill has the added objectives of promoting efficient, sustainable explorations of hydrocarbon in the frontier basins of Nigeria and stimulate exploration interest of local and international oil companies toward increasing the country’s oil and gas reserves.
He added that it was imperative to continue to search for more oil and gas to add to the national reserves with petroleum being the mainstay of the economy and accounting for about 90 per cent of Nigeria’s foreign exchange earnings.
In addition, the idea behind looking for oil in the North, he said, was to look beyond the Niger Delta basin as the only source of oil to the country, noting that the venture would give equal opportunity to all parts of the country to contribute to the national coffers through the instrument of oil revenue.
Contributing, Senator Barnabas Gemade (Benue North and West) said it would be wise to pass the bill so that an agency would be made responsible for the handling of funds meant for oil exploration in the frontier basins, while Senate Leader, Victor Ndoma-Egba (Rivers Central), noted that: “Perhaps, we have not been zealous enough in our exploration of oil in the contiguous geological basin.
“We need to legislate an agency that will force the hands of the operators of the oil sector to explore for oil in the frontiers basins,” he said.
However, Senator Olubunmi Adetunmbi (Ekiti North), said the only merit of the bill is that it has called attention to the need to pass the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB).
“This bill has helped call attention to the PIB which has remained pending. The issue of frontier exploration is a component of the mother PIB. But here we are giving attention to it. We should extend the same action to PIB by getting the government committed to hasten all the process to fast-track it.”
Senator George Akume (Benue APC) was of the view that every effort to ensure expansion of revenue should be encouraged in every way possible. “Any investment in more exploration will not amount to a waste. The earlier we passed it, the better so that it will be incorporated into the 2014 budget”, he added.
In his remarks, the Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu, who presided over the debate, thanked Adeyemi and his colleagues, saying “You know most times, we spend our time thinking of how to share the national cake and we don’t bother ourselves how to bake more cakes. So today, I think we have spent very qualitative time dealing with how we can ensure that we have more cakes for sharing purposes.
“This is very commendable. And, as usual, you have shown commitment to Project Nigeria. People from different parts of the country are speaking in support of this bill,” he said.
– Reuben Buhari, This Day