Buhari’s quest to expand Nigeria’s maritime borders may include hydrocarbon ambition

*Section of Nigeria's oil & gas acreage.

*Section of Nigeria’s oil & gas acreage.

Oscarline Onwuemenyi

07 November 2015, Sweetcrude, Abuja – President Muhammadu Buhari’s approval for the continuation of efforts by the National Boundary Commission to significantly expand the nation’s maritime boundaries may open the country up to new discoveries of large quantities of gas and other hydrocarbons, officials have said.

Buhari, on Thursday, gave officials of the National Boundary Commission the green light expand the nation’s maritime borders, in line with international regulations, a move which, if successful, could have a major impact on the economy of the nation.

According to a statement by the president’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, the President gave the approval after he was briefed by the Commission’s Director-General, Dr. Muhammad Ahmad, on the preparations for a submission by Nigeria to the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf.

Shehu also said that Buhari had approved the constitution of a presidential committee to oversee the conclusion of work on the submission, which could lead to the expansion of Nigeria’s maritime boundaries from 200 nautical miles to 350 nautical miles if approved by the CLCS.

He said the President had also directed the Ministry of Finance to provide the funds required to conduct the geographical surveys, which are essential for the submission.

According to Article 76 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the continental shelf of a coastal state comprises the seabed and the sub-soil of the submarine areas that extend beyond its territorial sea throughout the natural prolongation of its land territory to the outer edge of the continental margin, or to a distance of 200 nautical miles from the baseline from which the breath of the territorial sea is measured, where the outer edge of the continental margin does not extend up to that distance.

A sovereign coastal state like Nigeria can extend its maritime territory beyond 200 nautical miles, up to a maximum of 350 nautical miles, if it can prove scientifically that the natural prolongation of its land territory under the sea extends beyond 200 nautical miles.

The objective of the submission being prepared by the National Boundary Commission is to claim for the country a potentially rich maritime territory of up to 104,000 square miles without any war or litigation.

There is a strong likelihood of the presence of large deposits of hydrocarbons, gas and other mineral deposits in the extended maritime territory.

Speaking with State House correspondents at the end of the presentation to the President, Ahmad said the continental shelf project was meant to gain for Nigeria additional maritime territory of 104,000 kilometres.

He said, “The Nigeria Extended Continental Shelf Project is a project that intends to gain for Nigeria additional maritime territory of up to 104,000 kilometres, which is about one third of the land area of the Federal Republic.

“We explained to him (Buhari) the progress of the project and its challenges. The President was positive and he has given us a marching order to go ahead and work seriously to ensure that Nigeria succeeds in the venture.”

Ahmad stated that the shelf’s extension would enable Nigeria to explore and exploit its seabed resources to enhance the country’s economy and facilitate peace and security in the Gulf of Guinea.

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