The bitter-sweet song of crude oil in Niger Delta

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In the recent past, the Imo State Government in the Niger Delta region discovered crude oil in four more local government areas namely Oru East, Oru West, Ngor-Opkala and Obowo. The Managing Director of Imo State Oil Producing Area Development Commission (ISOPADEC), Dr Henry Okoro, in an interview revealed that ‘if the oil discovered is utilised, it would afford the State an opportunity of becoming a front runner among the oil producing States in the country’. Good news for these communities I hear you say however having seen the attendant problems associated with dancing to the song of crude oil in communities in Bayelsa and Rivers, is this really good news? Ironically, while the government of ‘front runner’ oil producing States are looking beyond oil to other raw materials, Imo State government is calling on the Federal Government to come and inspect these areas for possible exploration so that oil companies can come and invest. The ever enticing song of crude oil is playing in yet another community and the ever ready dancers are happily swaying to its melody…

Nigeria2006PoliticsOil_fig1With the rapidly growing trend of natural gas production from “shale” formations in the United States, the US has reduced its demand for crude oil thereby resulting in a decline in production from conventional gas reservoirs. If this development is any indication of things to come, then in a couple of years the US may have no need for our crude oil. Seeing that the US is our biggest market, what effect will this have on our economy which at the moment is largely dependent on oil? There is therefore an urgent need for all Niger Delta States including Imo State to embrace the ‘beyond oil’ movement and develop other raw materials that can boost our economy.

As aptly put by Dr Okoro, ‘there are enough raw materials in Imo capable of increasing the internally generated revenue of the nation’. What then are these raw materials? Apart from our dearly beloved crude oil and other mineral based resources like natural gas, lead, zinc, natural gas, kaolin, laterite sand, limestone, salt, marble, granite, laterite clay, silica, kaolin, iron ore, quartz, potash, talc, limestone and shale!, Imo State is equally rich in economically exploitable flora like Iroko, mahogany, obeche, bamboo, rubber tree, oil palm etc. However forestry is yet to be fully developed in the State; of the 490 potentially useful species available, only about 100 are currently being utilized. This is an area that is very ripe for investment and is seriously crying out for investors.

OIL-WORKER-rig1Agriculture is a very attractive sector for development in Imo State, its location within the tropical rainforest gives it the ecological basis for production of a wide range of tropical agricultural crops with extensive potentials for industrial usage such as maize, rice, legumes, roots and tubers. Investors are welcome to participate in direct agricultural production by investing in the planting and cultivation of crops like Pro-vitamin A cassava and trees like cashew, oil palm, oranges, citrus tree. Livestock production like fish farming is a much neglected but very lucrative sector especially with the increase in the consumption of fish and fish products as a result of its health benefits.

In conclusion, the song of crude oil currently playing in Imo State must be danced to with extreme caution as it is one that quickly wearies the dancer. There is no need for us to continue to lean on the crutch of crude oil when there are many other resources that we can fly with.


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