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Abandoned opportunities in Tongeji oil island!

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Amosun-Ogun-Governor-ibikunleTongeji Island is located in the Ipokia Local Council Area of Ogun State, South-West Nigeria. An Island that is five minutes to Port Novo in Benin Republic by boat and 50 minutes to Badagry in Lagos is sure closer to the Republic of Benin than Nigeria, at least by proximity.

It is an Island reputed to have within its bowels a marginal amount of crude oil. It is an Island whose bowels share black Gold of the Dahomey embayment of the South-Western Nigeria, which is the eastern end of the cretaceous Benin basin of West Africa from where the Tunde Folawiyo Petroleum Company, TFPC in Lagos State is presently producing after a $400M investment in 25 years.

An Island, with enough resource to attract significant attention, which can transform it to a financial treasure base, is an Island with prospects waiting for development. Why the Island has remained unattractive to exploration of its potential at a time when marginal profits are being made from the remnant of a crashed market and pipeline vandalism a market gradually becoming unattractive is the reason DrillBytes’ brings the matter to the front burner.

It has often been said that all resources beneath the surface of the earth in the geographical entity called Nigeria shall be the exclusive property of the Federal Government of Nigeria but going through the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended, chapter II, section 16, sub-section 1, it is stated thus, “The State shall within the context of the ideals and objectives for which provisions are made in this constitution (a) harness the resources of the nation and promote industrial prosperity and an efficient, a dynamic and self reliant economy; (b) control the national economy in such a manner as to secure the maximum welfare, freedom and happiness of every citizen on the basis of social justice and equality of status and opportunity: (c) without prejudice to its right to operate or participate in areas of the economy, other than the major sectors of the economy, manage and operate the major sectors of the economy”.

Having seen the position of the constitution on the matter, it is clear the Ogun State government can, on its own start the exploration and exploitation of crude oil in the Island. Beyond that and with present economic realities, it is an unimpeachable fact that neither the State government nor the Federal Government can! This is why it is imperative that the Ogun State government enters into productive discussion with the Federal Government of Nigeria to see how a partnership arrangement can be worked out with the private sector, local and foreign to fast-track exploration and exploitation of crude oil from the bowels of Tongeji Island before it becomes an unattractive venture in future. If a proper legal framework is arranged, it is certain that service companies in Nigeria can work with whatever producing company that is berthed to drive the campaign with better technology to deliver in a shorter time with less funds compared to the TFPC campaign in Lagos. In the short, medium and long terms, the Island will witness tremendous development, at least, from corporate social responsibility, the State government will witness a surge in their internally generated revenue and the central government will make more money from such progressive decision thereby freeing more money for developmental strides rather than excuses.

Much as it sounds preposterous that the central government will not support an objective government that thinks outside the box to attract development due to unproductively partisan considerations, it is better now that both the central and state governments belong in the same party! This implies that discussions of this magnitude that has timelines attached will be better achieved for refreshing results to start falling in place once kick-started.

Tongeji Island is a sleepy town presently helping itself to stay alive through smuggling and diversion of petroleum products from Nigeria to Benin Republic as an economic mainstay. An Island that is almost cut-off from the country for lack of adequate government’s presence is an Island that will survive on self-help! As of July 10, 2016 and as reported by Precious Igbonwelundu in the Nation Newspaper, the Island has a landmass of approximately 200 hectares, a population of over 500 people and is about 150 minutes by speed boat from the Western Naval Command in Apapa, Lagos. Surrounded by aquatic splendor, the Island with its enormous palm/coconut trees, white sand, green vegetation and oil is an Island of opportunities waiting to be embraced. An Island that ordinarily should be a tourist paradise with resorts to boot is cut off from civilization for no reason!

It is gratifying that Nigeria’s President Mohammadu Buhari has directed the establishment of a naval base in Tongeji Island and reassuring that the present Ogun State governor Ibikunle Amosun has pledged not to allow the Island go the way of Bakassi but beyond all these, maximizing the moment by tapping the resources of this Island to a fruitful development, the economic progress of the State and a further strengthening of accruable revenues to Nigeria and Nigerians is one of the surest ways to add value to the economy of the country.

Tongeji Island, together with its opportunities, should be embraced and not abandoned!

• Kayode Adeoye is an oil and gas expert in Lagos.


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