Oil Prospecting Licences 809 and 810, cutting across five Kolmani fields being developed by the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited [NNPCL] and its joint venture partners, are said to contain one billion barrels of crude oil reserves and 500 billion standard cubic feet of gas.

But barely two weeks after the ground-breaking ceremony at the fields that straddle the Gongola Basin, dispute has erupted between Bauchi and Gombe over the ownership. Coming at a time when there are reports of gunmen terrorising residents of communities around the oil field with kidnappings for ransom now rampant, any inter-state war can only exacerbate the security challenge that may be difficult to manage in the long run.

Ahmed Gara Gombe, the controversial sports administrator who is now an adviser to the Gombe state governor, is so outspoken about the dispute. “Kolmani oil well is in Gombe state; Akko local government, Pindiga Emirate, Tai district, Kaltanga Mamuda ward.

Also Read: Kolmani: Oil Exploration Will Boost Fortunes Of Northern Nigeria – Atiku

“It has nothing to do with Bauchi State or Alkaleri Local Government,” Gombe said. He has since been joined by others who argue that the National Boundary Commission [NBC] ought to have stated categorically that the oil find is domiciled in Gombe State. They also accuse a former NNPC group managing director, the late Maikanti Baru, of ‘maneuvering’ to make Bauchi a part owner of the oil fields.
Baru was a native of Misau Local government in Bauchi state. Some Bauchi community activists deny this claim while counterclaiming that the fields belong to their state. 

Since mineral wealth is in the Exclusive Legislative List of the 1999 Constitution and is a federal responsibility, it ordinarily shouldn’t have mattered which state the oil block is located if it is within Nigerian territory. That, however, will be to discount the matter of derivation.

Only recently, the presidency caused an uproar by revealing that it paid over a Trillion Naira in derivation funds to nine oil-producing states, with a lot more still to be paid.

The prospect of partaking in this bonanza is the obvious cause of the Bauchi-Gombe rift, which is very unfortunate since these two states were together in Northern Nigeria, Northeastern State, and even old Bauchi state.

Also Read: Nigeria’s 37bn Barrels Oil Reserve and the Prospects of Kolmani Crude Oil Chest

They were only administratively separated in 1996 with the creation of Gombe State. 
However, this is not the first time we will be witnessing such friction over oil fields. A decade ago, there was a similar dispute between Cross River and Akwa Ibom States over the ownership of some offshore oil fields for derivation purposes.

The courts finally decided in favour of Akwa Ibom as the real owner. As a result, Akwa Ibom is now awash in derivation funds while its sister Cross River State is left high and dry. There have also been cases between Rivers and Imo States.

In the end, the actual location of the Kolmani oil fields must be decided by National Boundary Commission or, if that fails, the courts. 

Also Read: Nigeria: North East Oil Discovery Brews War Between Gombe, Bauchi states

It is commendable that the governors of Bauchi and Gombe states have refused to be drawn to the controversy, having earlier assured the president of the full cooperation of host communities in this giant undertaking. But they should call their aides and other citizens to order before matters get out of hand. Hoodlums in our communities need little encouragement to take the law into their own hands and could impede the whole operation in the so-called name of ownership. If that happens, no one will derive any benefit from this lucky addition to national mineral wealth. 

President Muhammadu Buhari also has a responsibility to wade into the matter by inviting the two governors to work together in the collective interest of their states and Nigeria.


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