How Anambra Was Stopped From Benefitting From Its Crude Oil

Anambra State is one of the Igbo states of Nigeria. It is a state that has produced great innovators like Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, Odumegwu Ojukwu, Alex Ekwueme, Innoson Chukwuma, Chuba Okadigbo, Emeka Anyaoku, Peter Emeagwali, Dora Akunyili, Chukwuma Soludo just to mention a few. Anambra State is known as a pace setter as far as Nigeria and Africa is concerned – in the areas of politics, business, the arts and any other sector.

An group of traders in Anambra created Nollywood, a multibillion Dollar industry and the number 3 film industry in the world without access to funds like bank loans. One must ask what they would have been able to do for the black man if they had access to loans like others. But without access to loans Anambra had all these years a resource that was worth so much, it would have given them the money they would have used to do more to make Nigeria the first developed country in Africa. Anambra had crude oil, but was prevented by hook or crook from exploiting and benefiting from it.

In Anam in Anambra North, it is said that anybody up to 40 years can count the number of oil fields in their locality, but guess what, nothing is being done about it by the Federal Government. This is the same Federal Government that has spent over N900 billing in a matter of decades searching for oil in the North.

What this shows is a systematic attempt to deny the Igbos a source of financing for development, and it seems to have worked because oil is no longer the Black Gold it used to be, with the price sliding uncontrollably from $100 a barrel a few years ago to just about $30 today.

All these years , the oil producing states in Nigeria, while not being in total control of the resource in their localities enjoyed 13 percent derivation on the revenues accruing from the oil in their states. With such money is a serious state government in Anambra would have been able to build schools, hospitals, roads, low-income housing, etc., to make the quality of life better for the people. But they were not allowed to do so by a Federal Government that had classified the oil as a strategic reserve. Strategic reserve for when? When the oil is worthless or when alternatives are found for fossil fuels, I guess.

I do not believe that oil is automatically a curse as is now the cliché. I believe oil is a resource that is of great benefit to anyone that has it under their lands or waters if the funds derived from it are well managed. For instance, Norway was able to use their oil to create a rainy day fund, and has saved so much money from oil over the years, that if the money saved from oil is shared today, every single citizen would receive $1 million US Dollars each!

Oil was meant to be a great equalizer that would give poor countries, a lot of whom had it, a lot of money – money they would have found difficult to get to finance their development. For instance, Dubai, when they found out that their crude oil would dry up in a few years used a large portion of the oil revenue they had gathered to quickly diversify their economy into the trade and tourism sector; and that transformed it into the trade and investment hub that it is today.

I shake my head in sadness when I look at all the opportunities to finance development Anambra State would have been able utilize if it was allowed to exploit its oil or if its oil was exploited by the Federal Government.

It would have been easy for a responsible Anambra State government to partner with Delta State to build the second Niger Bridge that has taken the Federal Government forever to build.

The Anambra State Government would have found it easy to turn the Onitsha Main Market into a kind of Dubai, with a well constructed Onitsha Airport handling the arrival of international passengers to trade, a situation that would have brought in a lot of badly needed foreign exchange into Nigeria’s economy.

The Anambra State Government would have found it easy to turn the commercial town of Nnewi into the workshop of Africa, a place where lots of industrial goods are manufactured for use in Nigeria and for export abroad. Already, in spite of the challenging business environment present today Nnewi plays host to such great manufacturers like Innoson, an indigenous company that manufactures motor vehicles. There is also Coscharis, PO Ogbuawa, and other manufacturing concerns.

The Anambra State Government would have found it easy to build the Onitsha Inland Port a long time ago to drive commerce ever more closer to Onitsha.

But alas, it seems Anambra may have been denied the opportunity to benefit from the oil that flows underneath it in seismic streams. The price of oil has fallen from over $100 in 2014 to about $30 today, amid a dire prediction by international investor Prince Alwaleed of Saudi that the price of oil may never reach $100 again.

While we hope his prediction would not come to pass, we can’t fail to notice that there is a serious oil glut in the world market; and a country like Nigeria which used to find it very easy to sell of its oil to wealthy countries who needed oil to power their economies now finds it extremely difficult to find buyers for her oil – even with the low price.

The United States which used to get 10 percent of its oil from Nigeria has since ended that arrangement and has instead become a net exporter of oil like Nigeria, adding to the low prices.

To make matters worse, Iran which was barred from exporting oil is in the process of flooding the world market with oil. So, as you can see, barring any unforeseen occurrence, Prince Alwaleed’s statement holds a lot of water.

With the reluctance of the Federal Government to develop oil in Anambra State; a few years ago, some indigenes of Anambra State joined with the state government and investors to build a refinery which would depend on oil from an oil field in Aguleri Out, Anambra State. The Kogi State government unexplainably waited until the refinery was completed and commissioned before laying claim to the oil and starting a bitter controversy. Before you could say ‘petroleum’ killer squads had turned the oil field at Aguleri Otu into a killer field. Thus till today, Anambra State has not gotten a kobo from its crude oil.

The message seems to be: Your oil is in ‘strategic reserve’, whether you like it or not.

Anambra, nay the Igbos of Nigeria had people in government that would have pushed for drilling of oil in the Anambra wells all these years of plenty, but for some reason or the other, they didn’t. Now – at least at present – oil is not the game changer it used to be. It is worthless. What a wasted opportunity, not only for Anambra, but for the rest of Nigeria.