Bauchi, Gombe battle over ownership of new oil wells

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A crisis is set to spring up over the ownership of the Kolmani Oil and Gas field as both Bauchi and Gombe States have begun laying claims to the oil wells.

Officials and residents of both states have also accused each other of attempting to appropriate the site which is said to contain one billion barrels of crude oil reserves and 500 billion standard cubic feet of gas.

This comes barely two weeks after President Muhammadu Buhari inaugurated oil exploration at the Kolmani oil field by the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Limited and its joint venture partners.

Kolmani reportedly has oil in commercial quantities with Oil Prospecting Licenses 809 and 810, cutting across Kolmani One, Two, Three, Four and Five.

Speaking during the event, President Buhari disclosed that the project has attracted over $3bn investments so far.

According to him, “We are pleased with the current discovery of over 1billion barrels of oil reserves and 500 billion Cubic Feet of Gas within the Kolmani area and the huge potential for more deposits as we intensify exploration efforts.”

He added “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 to attract investment of over $3bn to this project”.

The president noted that the Governors of Bauchi and Gombe states had assured of their unwavering commitment and willingness to ensure support and cooperation in the localities.

However, the Governors’ assurances seemed to have been forgotten as both states declared that they are the rightful owners of the oil-rich field.

While insisting on Gombe’s ownership of the contentious Kolmani field, the Special Adviser to Gombe State Governor on Information Management and Strategy, Ahmed Gara-Gombe, blamed the boundary Commission for the controversy.

Gara-Gombe said “The truth of the matter is that the Kolmani oil well is in Gombe State; Akko Local Government, Pindiga emirate, Tai district, Kaltanga Mamuda ward. It has nothing to do with Bauchi State or Alkaleri Local Government.”

“If putting the records straight is what is seen as a crisis, so be it. The National Boundary Commission, the NNPC are hypocrites in this matter, they know the truth and they should come out clean.”

Gara-Gombe stated that the solution is to give Gombe what belongs to it, adding that “Kolmani One is in Bauchi State in Alkeleri, let them go and explore that one. Four oil wells are in Gombe.”

He noted, “Again, we need an independent jury to determine and verify our claims. Our people whose land was dubiously taken in the name of access road and were paid between N64,000 to N117,000 as compensation by the NNPC must be paid appropriately.”

“NNPC must go to Gombe side and also construct a road like they did on the Bauchi side. Besides, Pindiga (Gombe) to Kolmani is shorter and friendly terrain than the Bauchi (side) which is longer and an unfriendly terrain.”

Similarly, a lawyer based in Gombe, Abdullahi Inuwa, blamed a former Group Managing Director of the NNPC who died recently, for awarding the land to Bauchi State.

The late NNPC boss was reportedly an indigene of Misau, Bauchi State.

Inuwa explained that their complaint was not with the Federal Government but the NNPC, noting that the President was misguided on the true owners of the land.

According to him, “The true position is we did not accuse the Federal Government directly but our accusation points at the NNPC, not the Federal Government per say. We are accusing the NNPC, since the late GMD’s time, of manipulation; for trying to create a smokescreen by portraying the fact that Kolmani is in Bauchi, while Kolmani is in Gombe.”

“There is a village head of Kolmani who is answerable to the district head that is also answerable to the Pindiga emirate under the Akko Local Government. Our position is that Kolmani is in Gombe, not in Bauchi.”

Inuwa further said “The Federal Government or the President has been misled by the NNPC especially the highest ranking officers of the NNPC that are of Bauchi State origin”.

He also claimed that the NNPC had shown preference for Bauchi State, saying “If you go to Misau, you will see so many developments made by the NNPC in Misau, where the late GMD came from. On the issue of boreholes constructed by the NNPC in the area, there are more boreholes on the side of Bauchi and less on the side of Gombe.”

“Also, that area in Bauchi where oil is alleged to have been discovered from the borders, all the fenced block is on the side of Gombe, there is no area on the side of Bauchi surrounded by walls where oil is to be drilled.”

“And not only that, if you are to go to Barambu during the late NNPC GMD’s administration, I was informed about a store constructed by the NNPC in Barambu, which is part of Bauchi and I was told there is a laboratory there.”

“If they had treated us fairly whether Kolmani is in Bauchi or Gombe, we would just remain mute and not say anything. As time goes on, the way and manner they are treating us as if we don’t know what we are doing is what provoked us to come out and voice out our grievances and also tell the world that this is our position; that we are not ready to relinquish Kolmani which is in the process of annexation from the side of Bauchi through the NNPC.”

Inuwa further warned that the contention would not degenerate into violence, noting that they were ready for dialogue.

He stated “We have heard about the challenges in the Niger Delta but sadly in this case it is the government through the NNPC’s selfish interest that is trying to create problems and disharmony.”

“Some of us have parents who hailed from the other side, Bauchi side; we go to their market, they come to our market. We inter-marry, we are one. NNPC’s senior officers should remember the oath of allegiance; they are first from Nigeria before considering themselves as indigenes of Bauchi.”

He, however, said “I don’t think it will escalate to the Niger Delta extent. From the outset, if someone like the late NNPC GMD had engaged both communities from both sides of the boundary, it wouldn’t have escalated. Our doors are not closed for dialogue and I believe our leaders will resolve it amicably.”