From PAT NNADI, Nsukka
The name Ehandiagu, in Nsukka Local Government Area of Enugu State, may not ring a bell. It isn’t exactly Enugu’s Oloibiri or the Coal-City State’s equivalent of Rivers Etche, the oil-producing town in Ikwere land. And being neither the town hosting Orie Orba nor that of Eke Ozzi, two prominent markets in Nsukka cultural zone, it is not defined by any popular market day either. But for those who know the community very well, it may well be running neck to neck with the selfsame Oloibiri in Bayelsa State or Ekpan in Delta State, as far as crude oil deposits are concerned. It is an oil town in its own rights!
Located about 25km from Nsukka city centre, the oil well, which is comprised of proven crude oil and natural gas deposits in commercial quantities, was said to have been discovered shortly before the Nigerian Civil War.
AbeyaNews, however, gathered that since the discovery, there had not been any meaningful move but only half-hearted steps, by the federal government to exploit the hydrocarbon resource in that part of the country.
In a chat with AbeyaNews, one of the community’s leaders, Mr. Clifford Ugwueze, expressed disappointment at “the inexplicable attitude of the federal government to such an important national economic asset,” wondering how a government, “which is still searching for oil where it probably doesn’t exist, would abandon an oil field with proven reserves to be swallowed by grass, which has taken over the place.”
“The natural gas and oil reserves were discovered about 54 years ago, a few metres from the popular Nkwo market in the area and since its discovery, nothing meaningful has been done about it. Even the road leading to the oilfield had remained a death trap for as long as one could remember until only recently when the Enugu State government awarded a contract for the rehabilitation of the road, which, as you can see, is still under construction,” Ugwueze told AbeyaNews in the interview. “We know that if the oil well is put to proper use, it will generate a very huge income for both our community and governments at all levels.”
The community leader, therefore, urged the federal government to commence exploitation of the oilfield without further delay, “so that Enugu State could become an oil-producing State, which would boost the economy of the State.”
Another community leader, Chief Roland Nwamba also expressed the desire of the community to cooperate with the government to start exploiting the field.
“We want to be like Abia, Delta, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, and Bayelsa States, all of which experience rapid socioeconomic development in their areas, thanks to oil wealth. This oilfield will definitely help us to go far in economic development,” he enthused.
AbeyaNnews gathered that the natural gas and oil deposits in the area are in commercial quantities, estimated to last for over 50 years. In 2013, an indigenous oil and gas company, Seveen Energy reportedly acquired the site for exploitation but abandoned it for what insiders called ‘political interference’.
Further checks revealed that the vast gas site was first discovered by CGG Company prior to the Nigerian Civil War in 1966. It has now been overgrown with weeds and left in a deplorable state.
According AbeyaNews findings, the untapped crude deposits found in abundance in the area run through a gamut of communities in the Nsukka cultural zone. That means that there are hydrocarbon deposits in contiguous forms across several local government areas in the cultural zone.
Studies show that areas such Obollo Eke in Udenu Local Government Area, Ezebinagu in Nsukka Local Government and Isi Uzo, among other neighbouring communities, have traces of crude deposits
Our investigation also revealed that the major base of the oil is in Ehandiagu where the proven deposits indicate there are aout 30% petrol and 70% natural gas deposits.
With the seemingly abandonment of the oilfield by the federal government, residents of the oil-rich communities have expressed worry over the inability of the indigenous company, Seveen Energy to carry on further exploiative activities since the federal government awarded it in 2013.
The residents dislosed that the Seveen Energy company had carried out a siesmic operation they termed environmental impact assessment in February 2014 at the abandoned oil zone but not much has been heard from them ever since.
In 2008, the huge natural gas deposit attracted Geokinetic Gas and Oil Plc, for further exploration of the site but for some inexplicable reasons, the company could not continue.
A community leader, Cletus Akor disclosed that prior to the Nigerian civil war in 1966, the oil and gas deposits had earlier attracted CGG company, which carried out its first seismic exploration but couldn’t continue as a result of the severity of the civil war.
However, expressing disappointment at the seeming abandnment of the oilfield by the federal government, a youth leader, John Chukwuemeka Eze described it as a waste of both human and material resources.
He said: “This type of thing should not be joked with. Look at such a natural endowment being overlooked; something that would have been a source of employment opportunities for jobless Nigerian youths is overgrown with grass! When this company first came here, our youths were employed as labourers while some worked in other lucrative positions, but look at how delapidated the place has becoem now, a national treasure cove practically abandoned.”
“They told us that they would test the natural gas which they did and carried a half-tanker of the crude gas for test, but we have not heard from them again,” he lamented.
When our reporter visited the traditional ruler of Ezebinagu /Ehandiagu community, HRH Igwe Donatus Eze in his palace, he was said to have travelled out of the community. He could not be reached on his cell phone for comments either.