Catholic groups oppose oil prospecting priority plans in Lake Chad Basin

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Rev. Evaristus Bassey

The Caritas Nigeria and Justice Development and Peace Commission (JDPC), organs of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria, have rejected the decision of the President-elect Maj- Gen. Muhammadu Buhari to give priority to oil prospecting in the Lake Chad Basin.

Buhari made the pledge recently during the visit of Borno elders to his residence. The Catholic groups in a statement by its Executive Secretary, Rev. Evaristus Bassey said, “the decision to commence oil prospecting however should not be approached with haste, and certainly not from a sentimental reason of a balancing act between the North and South.

From a more rational scientific perspective, fossil fuel is one of the greatest causes of environmental degradation and global warming.

It should not be that while other nations of the world are researching into ways of alternative and efficient energy, we in Africa are still hooked to ideas that promote carbon emissions.

He added:“Besides, oil prospecting is a multi- million dollar business. With scarce economic resources, occasioned by the drop in oil price, it would amount to people-sabotage, to take resources that could have improved the well-being of hundreds of thousands of citizens into an enterprise that is costly to nature and fast becoming moribund, even if it is a joint venture initiative”.

He argued that “perhaps a concept of Prospect-Recover-and Share should be adopted if political pressures become unbearable, where private companies are given licenses to prospect and share profits upon oil recoveries but which bear all losses if unsuccessful.

But Caritas Nigeria and JDPC condemn the use of peoples’ funds at this stage for such environmentally unfriendly initiatives. “As agencies of the Church, Caritas Nigeria and JDPC have only a leaning towards defending the poor and have no other bias whatsoever.

We are aware that those from the Niger Delta have a tendency to behave as if they own the oil that feeds the nation. The truth however is that oil in Nigeria is a God-given resource which has and continues to benefit every part of the country.

“Gen. Buhari should therefore prioritize tackling the corruption in the oil industry; maximizing current oil revenues through the formulation of a realistic and honest budget that meets with the needs of the people; he should fight with all his might the profligacy in the budget that massages the ego of public servants and that deliberately creates leakages for ease of misappropriation of public resources. We have not even made the best use of our present oil resources”.

The Catholic group said, “being quite familiar with the terrain, having been a former military governor, it is quite natural to have some nostalgia and positive sentiments towards a people the President-elect knows so well. Caritas Nigeria and JDPC commend Buhari’s vision about Lake Chad.

This is in line with target 6.6 of the proposed Sustainable Development Goals which hopes that ‘by 2020 will protect and restore water-related ecosystems, including mountains, forests, wetlands, rivers, aquifers and lakes.’ “Whatever could be done to recover the lake and accelerate economic activities enhanced by water resources should be done.

Obviously the recovery efforts at the lake will lead to greater agriculture outputs and ultimately a greater sense of well-being. This also will contribute to goal 2 of the global agenda which is to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture.”



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