Nigeria starts drilling for oil in a new place

STORY: Nigeria's state-owned NNPC started drilling for oil and gas in northern Nigeria for the first time on Tuesday.

That's even amid a global push away from the use of fossil fuels.

Speaking at the launch of the project, in the Kolmani area between Bauchi and Gombe states, President Muhammadu Buhari said the field has reserves of one billion barrels and 500 billion cubic feet of gas.

"It is therefore to the credit of this administration that at a time when there is near zero appetite for investment in fossil energy, coupled with the location challenges, we are able attract investment of over $3 billion to this project."

The Kolmani facility, which will include an oil refinery, gas processing unit, 300-megawatt power plant and a fertilizer plant, is a departure from Nigeria's traditional oil heartlands in the Niger Delta.

That region has been blighted for decades by oil spills into farmland, creeks and lagoons.

Nigeria has been battling an insurgency in the northeastern part of the country.

But despite that, NNPC's managing director Mele Kyari said there was potential for further large scale finds.

"Our teams are currently engaged in several exploratory activities and have commenced reentry into the Chad basin with the recent assurance of a clearer security situation."

Crude is overwhelmingly Nigeria's main export.

However insecurity and theft have hobbled production, causing the country to lose its status as Africa's top oil producer.

As a consequence oil majors in Nigeria are increasingly focused on offshore drilling.

Dr. Abiodun Adeniyi, lecturer in mass communication at Abuja's Baze University, said that oil is "sometimes a curse" because problems come with a commodity that "attracts huge sums of dollars".

"I do not think that the experience of Niger Delta should be replicated in Bauchi and Gombe if we are really serious because these experiences are good for us to learn from," he said.

The use of fossil fuels was a thorny issue at the recent COP27 climate talks in Egypt.

Some countries had pushed for a phase-out, or at least a phase-down, of the use of fuels such as oil and gas.

However some electricity-poor nations in Africa have argued for their right to develop their fossil fuel resources.

The final COP27 deal drew criticism from some quarters for not doing more to rein in climate-damaging emissions.