Nigeria set to sell 15 bitumen blocks

Sep 18, 2001 02:00 AM

As a mark of its commitment to the development of the solid minerals sector, the Nigerian Federal Government is set to sell 15 bitumen blocks, Minister of Solid Minerals Development, Mr. Godwin Agabi (SAN) has said. Agabi's disclosure came just as President Olusegun Obasanjo re-affirmed that the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) was established primarily for the development of every facet of life in the nine oil-producing states.
The minister blamed the rising tide of ethnic strife, on the failure to develop the solid mineral sector "which would have afforded all the states enough resources to tackle poverty."

Speaking in Abuja at the opening ceremony of a two-day seminar on solid minerals development organised by the House of Representatives Committee on Solid Minerals development, Agabi said that decision to offer the bitumen blocks for sale was informed by the realisation that about $ 5 bn would be required to efficiently exploit Nigeria's bitumen reserves, hence the decision to invite the private sector. He, however, urged foreign firms, particularly those from Canada and Venezuela, that have indicated interest in the sector to form consortiums.
"We cannot allocate our 15 blocks to 15 bids, that is why we want consortiums to be formed by prospective bidders" declared Agabi, who maintained that the Federal Government will only deal with firms which display an impressive financial commitment required to exploit Nigeria's reserve which he said stood at about 42 bn barrels.

Against the realisation that "bitumen is one area on which Nigeria can afford to place its confidence," Agabi regretted that "we have spent ten years attempting to produce seismic studies for bitumen." Fortunately, $ 5 mm has been earmarked for seismic studies in the 2001 budget, he added.
Prior to the bidding exercise which he said will be "in the next few months," the minister further urged private investors to show more interest in the industry. "The present policy on bitumen places emphasis on private sector participation, foreigners won't invest $ 5 bn unless we show our interest," noted the minister, charging state governments to expend a chunk of their allocation to seismic studies of the solid minerals in their states.
Also decrying the status of the solid minerals industry in Nigeria, Agabi disclosed that Nigeria's coal output was less than what was mined in 1954. "We are not putting sufficient money into coal production. Currently, we have two mines which we have to de-water since they are sitting in water. South Africa which invests about $ 500 mm a year in solid minerals exploration, earns as much from coal as we earn from oil," he stated.

Speaking when he received members of the Niger Delta Youths Movement who paid him a courtesy visit at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, President Obasanjo vowed that nothing would deter him from redressing the cumulative neglect which the Niger Delta had suffered in the past.
His words, "The preoccupation of my administration is to redress the cumulative neglect which Niger Delta region had suffered and for a long time, my mind had been made up to address these objectives".
Obasanjo listed the achievements so far recorded by his administration in the region with particularly reference to roads development: "It is possible to drive through the land in Abonema, Buguma and Degema and before long, it would be possible to do so in Bonny".

For rapid socio-economic development of the region, Obasanjo challenged the youths to keep the peace. In their response, members of the Niger Delta Youths Movement expressed appreciation for Obasanjo's regimes love for their regime which had started to yield results.
They said: "We want to bring to your notice our collective resolve during the recently hold Niger delta Peace Summit to graduate from confrontation to consultation and dialogue". The leader of the movement, Fred Obe showered encomiums on the Obasanjo administration: "No Nigerian leadership before this administration has had the political will and love to tackle the Niger delta question through dialogue directly with the much maligned youths".
Before naming President Obasanjo, the "Grand protector of Niger Delta", the youths urged the President to ensure the following:
-- political settlement of the resource control issue;
-- the 9 oil producing states should involve all communities in expending derivation funds;
-- involving youths in formulation and implementation of policies;
-- employment of youths and
-- establishment of tertiary institutions in the Niger Delta.

Source: This Day
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