DISCOVERY OF OIL IN NORTH: Jubilation as ‘heavy machines’ move to site
Following the discovery of hydrocarbon of both gas and oil in Kolmani River 11 of the Barambu exploration site in Alkaleri Local Government Area of Bauchi State by the NNPC, the host communities have erupted in jubilation as ‘heavy machines’ move to site ahead of oil exploration in the North. However, residents of host communities stated that they didn’t want to experience what is happening in Niger Delta where decades of oil exploration have led to massive environmental degradation. Expressing joy over the proposed oil exploration, a resident of one of the host communities, Alhasan Abbas Musa, 55, said that the community is happy with the oil discovery in their land. He added that they are already advanced in age, hoping that the oil would be of benefit to their children.
He said: “It is my hope that the oil will benefit the whole of Arewa people and it would also be of benefit to all Nigerians and even beyond.” He appreciated the present administration of President Muhammadu Buhari for what he called his tireless effort and commitment to seeing that oil exploration is a reality in the North as he said that many past administrations had failed or rejected the idea that there was oil deposit in the area.
“Our expectation is that when the exploration proper starts, government would give our youths work because we have a lot of them who have finished school without jobs. We have people with degree without work; some of them are selling sugarcane, Kola, while others are engaged in petty trade.
We want government to consider them for employment in various fields.” According to Musa, his people are not really bothered about what becomes of their farming occupation, as he said they are ready to relocate from their houses to other places, as all they want is to see that oil exploration commences. Another resident, Alhaji Bakoji Gwaram, 87, explained that, during Independence he was a youth and got married to his first wife and that since then he had been hearing of oil discovery in Alkaleri but nothing had been done about it.
Gwaram said: “The oil story to us was just like a joke, because same thing was said about one of the roads in the area, that it would be constructed but nothing happened. The last time a road was constructed was during Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa regime from Bauchi to Gombe.
But now that the government appears serious about the oil thing, we are very happy as we are expecting that it will bring the needed development to our communities. God has finally remembered us. We are very grateful for this.” Also, Adamu Yellow Kachiciya, 36, told our correspondent that as a community they thank God for the oil discovery in their communities.
“Before now people from other parts of the country see us as parasites but today God has decided to bring us to their level by depositing oil in our land, we are no longer parasites. God has vindicated the North; it is our prayer that government should start the exploration in earnest, which we believe will be of benefit to the whole of this nation and even to our unborn children.”
He said their expectation from government is to develop the state like any other state in the federation, saying the state had been left behind in education, infrastructural development while also lacking other social amenities. Kachiya said: “Now we have the opportunity to develop like them and walk with our shoulders high because we now have what it takes to develop as a nation.”
He however, pleaded that the government should plan properly so as not to affect their farming activities “because that is our occupation and it is important to our lives. If it will adversely affect our farming, then viable companies, suitable to our people should be established to avoid the rise in social vices, which may also lead to breakdown of law and other.
In a similar vein, on the need for them not to have the Niger Delta experience, Mr. Sarki Shanu Alkaleri, said they received the news of the oil discovery in their land with mixed feelings. The 42-year-old Anguwan resident said they have been hearing of a lot of negative implications in places where oil had been discovered and explored, hoping that such would not happen in their communities.
He suggested that government should look for those living in the areas, especially those whose farms will be affected and provide them with adequate and lasting palliative measures and solution before the exploration begins, to avert what is going on in the Niger Delta region. According to him, government should also provide enough security to tackle all other challenges and social vices associated with oil exploration and provide youths with necessary jobs that fits their qualifications.
Haruna said: “We are fully aware of what is going on in Niger Delta because of oil and we would not like that to happen here in the North. What we want is that government should provide solutions to those challenges and even tackle them before the exploration proper commences in Bauchi State.”
He said that they are aware of how lands have been degraded, and water polluted with increase in kidnapping, and other social vices but hopes that the situation would be different in the North. “Our expectation is that government would take proper care of the environment and all the risks associated with oil exploration. We may stop farming if the exploration starts proper and if the lands are taken by government, because we believe that petroleum work is not a joke; it may reduce our farming capacity and produce.
“We are also aware of the challenge of drinking water and environmental damages; that is why we are calling on government to provide alternative before work starts or before we reach the stage where things would be out of hand like in the Niger Delta.” Bala Mohammed Sani of Sarkin Tasha Alkaleri, age 40, said they knew that there was oil in Alkaleri before the coming of this administration but that President Buhari is the only president that had the will to make it a reality. “We believe that the oil exploration would bring development to our society and Nigeria in general, and help to boost our economic activities and create jobs opportunities for all Nigerians,” he said. Sani added: “We are fully aware of what is going on in the Niger Delta region; it’s been the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Ogoni land as we heard has been destroyed completely as a result of the oil exploration there. But we also know that if government wants to do something it will do it that is the reason why we are pleading now so that we don’t experience such here in the North. “With regards to the issue of land degradation we expect government to provide lasting solution before exploration starts and provide laws that will guide the host communities and those working there, to avoid a repeat of what is happening in the Niger Delta as a result of the oil exploration.
“We know that if the exploration commences we cannot no longer farm on our lands, especially irrigation farming. So, we want government to be mindful of all this and provide alternatives in the course of the exploration. The oil activities could stop us from farming but that will be gradual and we can only stop when the land is completely affected by the exploration.
We depend on farming to survive as we have no other occupation than that. so, before we could stop farming, the government should provide suitable alternative so as to avoid breakdown of law and order.” Sani also said they are ever willing to welcome visitors and workers that will work on the sites: “We are willing to receive visitors from all parts of the country and even foreigners.
We already have good relations with those working here at the site, we have rented our houses to them; we interact, eat together and live peacefully with one another without differences and we hope to continue in that manner.” He added that strangers, who have bad motive or intentions, would not be welcomed in their communities.
“The people of these communities are much excited with the oil discovery because we are hoping that it would reduce poverty in our midst, create jobs and improve the economy of Nigeria. In Arewa, farming is our major occupation, together with animal husbandry. Oil will not stop us from farming completely but it will reduce drastically.
“Our expectation is that government should pay full compensation to the land owners as it promised us earlier since we can no longer farm there. Payment of timely compensation would really help us to move on with our lives” Alhaji Dauda, senior Magajin Rafin Duka, in Pali district of Alkaleri, 64, revealed that as communities they have many expectations from government, especially to renovate or reconstruct their dilapidated schools and moribund hospitals as the exploration kicks off. He said: “We also expect that government would send our children to schools to become experts in those fields of oil and management while employing others as labourers since the oil is discovered in our backyards. We are looking for food and food has come to our doorsteps; we will look for another place to continue with our farming occupation rather than to stop the oil exploration.
“We expect that government would look for a place and build us houses there; we are ever ready to leave and start a new life elsewhere. We see nothing wrong if we are relocated from this place. We will receive visitors of good character and we will report the bad ones to the proper authorities. “It is our belief that we in the North will not have same problem similar to what is happening in the Niger Delta because we have respect and regard for our parents and traditional leaders. We are ready to listen to what they may tell us regarding security and we are ready to support them to find solutions to the menace.
“It is our prayers that all the challenges they face in Niger Delta would not happen here we, don’t want them to happen here. We don’t want to experience what they are experiencing because of oil and we will continue to be loyal to our leaders so that we can achieve this.” Also Speaking, Usman Mohammed Bello, a resident of Felfelu, Alkaleri South, 54, said that he is now very sure that the discovery of oil is real because those working at the site would tell them that they have small quantity of the product in their houses, which is good news to all of us as Nigerians.
“We are expecting that this exploration would bring rapid development to our communities and government should try to do justice to everyone and assist the host community by paying timely compensation and early relocation of residents. We heard that there would be problem of farming and animal husbandry but we are hoping that government would do something about it by employing most of our youths and site companies here that would provide jobs for both the skilled and unskilled youth of our communities.
“Since we can no longer farm there, government should replace farming with job creation and avoid what is happening in the Niger Delta.” Another villager, Alhaji Maina Alkaleri, 75, said: “We want to tell everyone that oil that has been discovered in Alkaleri is not for Alkaleri people alone but it is for all Nigerians and we thank God for depositing it in our communities. We thank President Buhari for his resilience, effort and support to see that our oil is been excavated.
We want government to employ our youths, especially those with requisite qualifications since the oil is in our areas. “If the story of oil discovery is true we wouldn’t mind if the whole of Alkaleri would be relocated to another place. We want the oil to be the source of revenue to Nigeria and to uplift the country’s economy like that of Saudi Arabia,” Alkaleri said.