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Akwa Ibom @ 33: Over Three Decades Of Crude Oil Contribution To National Development

Of the nine oil-bearing states of the Niger Delta, Akwa Ibom, Delta, Rivers and Bayelsa account for 80 per cent of the crude produced thereof. Other states’ ratio shows the following – Delta 21.56 per cent (346, 000bpd); Rivers 21.43 per cent (344, 000bpd); Bayelsa 18.07per cent  (290, 000bpd); Ondo 3.74per cent  (80, 000bpd); Lagos 2.64per cent (40, 000bpd); Edo 2.06per cent (33, 000bpd); Imo 1.06per cent (17, 000bpd); and Abia 0.68per cent (11. 000bpd). The debates over whether or not Cross River State is an oil-processing state are still ongoing.

With a whopping 31.4per cent, an estimated population of over 6million, Akwa Ibom is indisputably the largest contributor of oil to the federation, accounting for about 504,000 barrels per day. But does it really matter that the state today lifts petroleum products from depots in Calabar or Port Harcourt for its over 6million population spread across 31 local government areas? Perhaps the most painful truth is that the state has nothing tangible as proof in terms of critical oil-related infrastructure by either the Federal Government or the IOCs, as it celebrates her 33rd anniversary.

The recent call by Governor Udom Emmanuel for the Federal Government to site at least one fuel depot in the state supplies more fuel to the pitiable narratives. It leaves nothing to be proud of if after over six decades of oil exploration and Akwa Ibom being the largest producer, having a depot still forms paramount part of the state’s request. Then thinking of a refinery must be merely idealistic and utopian! Indeed, what message does it pass, that 33 years after, the state is begging for “at least a fuel depot”?

Related:Gov Udom Emmanuel’s Request For Fuel Depot: Matters Arising (1)

Recall that the governor made the request to the Federal Government, through the Office of the Minister of Petroleum for State, Mr.Timipre Silva, during a recent retreat held in Uyo by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). Not even the news that France’s largest hydrocarbon group, Axens, has won a bidding to license key refinery technologies to one of Nigeria’s leading industrial conglomerates, BUA Group, to build a 200,000bpd refinery and petrochemical plant within the next four years, can be any consolation. That is because it is still a matter of time, proposition – and politics. Akwa Ibom deserves more after 33 years of existence!

Read Also: Akwa Ibom: The History Behind The Birth

Current statistics shows that Nigeria presently produces about 2.5 million of crude oil every passing day. This, by global ranking, makes the country the largest producer of oil on the African continent and the sixth in the world. Without argument, this huge quantity of oil has been taken only from the Niger Delta region, a naturally endowed region that occupies only 7.5per cent of the total area.

Appropriately, the nine adjoining states on this richest belt of the country are collectively best regarded as oil-producing states, a designation that adumbrates their importance to the economy. Hence, like no other thing, perhaps this has made the Niger Delta region the cynosure of all eyes, the hen that lays the golden egg, and the vault of gold.

Ironically, even with the superlative endowment in material and human resources, available records have shown that bona fide aborigines of the Niger Delta constitute infinitesimal or negligible numbers of those who are fully involved in oil activities in the area in terms of having strategic stakes in ownership, critical appointments by government and IOCs, and developmental index of this very region.

Read Also: At 33: Reflections On Akwa Ibom Dream

After 63 years of oil exploration and exploitation, Nigeria presently has only four refineries – two in Port Harcourt, one each in Warri and Kaduna. As it stands, none of these four aged refineries, with combined capacity of 445,000 barrels per day are fully functional and bogus promises of resuscitation over the years by successive governments are yet to materialize.

According to reports from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), in a period between 2015 -2019, the country is said to have spent $264.57 billion on petroleum imports, with its exports within the same period valued at $206.07 billion. Corroborating this untoward situation, a release by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) shows that between January and September 2019, a disturbing N1.13 trillion was expended on petrol importation alone.

There is yet another painful but laughable irony: Although Nigeria is the largest producer of oil in Africa, that has done little or nothing to reduce the frequent cases of hike in price of petroleum products. The country spends 35per cent of her scarce foreign exchange to import 90 per cent of its petroleum due to  lack of domestic refining capacity or functional refineries. Shouldn’t this have been an incentive to government to build more refineries, one of which necessarily should be in Akwa Ibom?

Akwa Ibom people would have been somewhat consoled if IOCs operating in the state have been justifiably committed to corporate citizenship. As at today, none of the IOCs have their corporate headquarters in the state; not one single refinery; no willing compliance to tax obligations; no infrastructural evidence; and statutory employment quotas by the Federal Character Principle still remains one hard bone of contention – more than 60 years of oil exploration, 60 years of Independence, 33 years after state creation.

A research work entitled, “Analysis of the Expectations and Benefits of Petroleum Resources Exploration in Oil Producing Communities of Akwa Ibom State”, by Uwemedimo Okon et al at the Akwa Ibom State University, presents a picture that captures the realities. The work which centred on Esit Eket, Ibeno and Eastern Obolo, the largest contributors of oil at the state level, showed the level of the people’s expectations from mega oil companies in the areas: employment (28.50 per cent); construction of good roads (21.75 per cent); electricity (15per cent); provision of school and educational facilities (22.25per cent); pipe borne water (19per cent); health care (17.75per cent).

Although some mischievous saboteurs, from within and without, are wont to look at the matter with the broken lens of politics, last year, Governor Udom Emmanuel also made a case over the tactical delay or total refusal by Federal Government to refund monies the state spent on federal roads. “Under three years alone…road construction, ongoing or completed, we have done about 1,301 kilometres. Most of the federal assets are maintained by us and we are yet to get even a naira refund for it”, he stated. We might choose to forget the Calabar-Itu Road as one enduring evidence of Federal Government’s ingratitude to Akwa Ibom State as a principal oil-producing state.

Today, Oloibri, previously in Rivers State but now in Bayelsa State, seems to monopolize contemporary discourse as the genesis of oil exploration in the country counting from the 1950s, but history shows that exploration in the country actually dates back to 1903 when Nigerian Bitumen Corporation began its search on the onset of the First World War. D’Arcy Exploration Company and Whitehall Petroleum were the pioneers, although they left without a find.  However, Shell D’Arcy Petroleum Development Company, discovered oil in Akata, Eket in the 1920s.

Blessed and placed today as the highest producer of oil which has been the breadwinner and sustainer of the country since 1958, one of the many questions that stare us at the face as Akwa Ibom celebrates her 33rd Anniversary must be how genuine and determined the Federal Government and IOCs are in compensating the state, beyond the paltry 13per cent derivation, after 33 years of statehood and outstanding and consistent contribution to national development.

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