Reports credited to the Group Manag
ing Director of the Nigeria National
Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mr. Maikanti Baru recently suggests that President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered for a fresh search for crude oil and other hydrocarbons in the Benue Trough.
The NNPC boss, who was receiving a delegation of the Benue State Government in Abuja said that the President had earlier directed the NNPC to intensify crude oil exploration in the Chad basin. The reason, according to him, was to guarantee energy security for Nigeria.
In the words that followed, Mr. Baru appeared to invalidate the reason for the marching order to find oil in the North, when he stated that not only was NNPC strengthening the collaboration with the Benue State Government on the ethanol project for bio-fuel production, Nigeria had also signed the Kyoto protocol on renewable energy.
On the one hand, the world is now headed for alternative energy sources and Nigeria cannot afford to lag behind. As a signatory to the Kyoto protocol on renewable energy, Nigeria cannot afford to waste one more kobo searching for new oil fields, at least not now.
Nigeria is currently at a crucial junction where it must take the right decision or once again drift into the wilderness of despair and regrets. The coincidence of serious economic downturn, drop in oil price and agitation from the oil producing areas is enough to make Nigeria develop alternative sources of income and energy.
Just when people are coming to terms with the inevitability of returning to agriculture, the Presidential emergency on the search for oil in the north can be distracting. It can affect the focus of the nation as it is potent with hidden meanings. This is when the government cannot afford to lose focus or present a body language that can confuse investors.
In times like this, the least the government can do is to reassure people as they make the transition to agriculture. In times like this, an array of policies and incentives should be released to favour agriculture. In fact, government should provide infrastructure that support agriculture as well as markets for produces locally and internationally.
To give agriculture the needed impetus, government should speak with farmers, cooperatives, investors and agric experts to provide the enabling environment. Nigerians should be finding answers for security, accessibility to land and funds, provision of processing and storing facilities and marketing boards among others.
Nigeria cannot afford to give lip-service to agriculture again. After the failure of Operation Feed the Nation, Green Revolution, DFRRI among others, Nigeria ought to have learnt from her mistakes. To once again waste this opportunity at changing the psyche of the average Nigerian will be a colossal loss.
The Tide cannot also see the wisdom in spending another uncountable number of billions of Naira to look for oil after similar efforts over the decades have failed. The billions that will be used in the vain exploration for oil in the North can do so much in the development and popularisation of agriculture that no civilisation can do without.
On the other hand, we cannot understand why any government should see the search for oil as a priority now. Apart from the fact that the energy provided by hydrocarbons is being phased out, the price of oil compared to the cost of production vis-à-vis the numerous demands, make it unprofitable, even the market for it has shrunk.
Meanwhile, the discovery of oil in the North will also duplicate the crisis that now rocks the Niger Delta. Apart from the pollution of the environment, the failure of government to meet the demands of the locals will be a problem that Nigeria should not be in a hurry to be involved with again.
Perhaps, it should be restated that Nigeria is better off investing in and developing renewable energy sources for her energy needs. The country must consciously walk away from petroleum that has done nothing but enslave the minds of Nigerians and limit her needed drive for agricultural pursuits. Even more important is that Nigeria may have to develop agriculture now or waste another era before coming back to find their lifeline in it.