AKK gas pipeline: Is the Federal Government consciously under-developing Niger Delta, South East?

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Editorial

On the 30th of June, 2020, President Muhammadu Buhari will flag-off the AKK, Ajaokuta-Kaduna-Kano 614km-long natural gas pipeline which is developed by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC.

The gas pipeline, which forms the first phase of the Trans-Nigeria Gas Pipeline (TNGP) project, will be laid between Ajaokuta and Kano in Nigeria.

The pipeline is implemented through a build and transfer (BT) public-private partnership (PPP) model, that involves the contractor providing 100% of the funding and will cost an estimated $2.8bn with the project’s engineering, procurement and construction contract for phase one awarded to OilServe/Oando consortium in April 2018 while Brentex /China Petroleum Pipeline Bureau (CPP) consortium was awarded the EPC contract for phase three.

The sole aim of this enormous project is the connecting of pipeline network between the eastern, western and northern regions of Nigeria. I.e., the South East and South-South produce the Gas and pipe it to the North for the industrialization of Northern Nigeria and maybe North Africa in the future.

Description of the project shows that three new captive gas-fired plants, to be located in Abuja, Kaduna and Kano, are expected to deliver 3,600MW of power.

Nigeria has 202tn ft³ of proven gas reserves and with additional 600tn ft³ of unproven potential resources. But despite having the largest gas reserves in Africa, only c.25pc of these reserves are currently productive.

Writing with glee on the potentials of the project as one of the achievements of President Buhari, even though the project was designed in 2013, Femi Adesina, the special adviser to Buhari on Media and Publicity wrote that “It’s another humongous signature milestone by President Muhammadu Buhari, which will leave his footprints inexorably on the sands of time. Roads. Bridges. Rail. Airports. Social Investment. And many others. Buhari is doing great things, which will pedestal him in the pantheon of great Nigerian leaders. And now, he has struck again. He is kicking off the AKK pipeline project, which will carry Gas between the southern and northern parts of the country. The project will eventually extend to North Africa”.

The NNPC had in 2013 announced tenders for the project which is a component of the Nigerian Gas Master Plan designed in 2002, with a project proposal submitted to the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission in June 2017, while the Federal Executive Council granted the project’s approval in December 2017. The project was reportedly delayed in 2013 over lack of capturing of the regions which produced the core raw materials, according to an industry expert, but has been seen a rush to actualize it under Buhari’s administration.

Praising his boss the more, Adesina wrote: “If the intention was to continue to run the NNPC as an automated teller machine (ATM), as we have seen before in this country, will such staggering project ever be approved, not to talk of taking off? And some people are still asking for Change when it is right before their very eyes”.

It is pertinent to note that of all strategic gas infrastructure laid out in the gas master plan, only the AKK gas pipeline has been rushed for approval and commencement of work.

But there is a problem associated with piping Gas from the Niger Delta and South East to the North for industrialization without the two regions benefiting from what they are producing. This has also been the case with the multinational whose exploration activities pollute the Niger Delta while their head offices are in faraway Lagos. What this implies, however, is that the decisions on oil and gas matters, community relations, corporate social responsibility etc. are made in Lagos and Abuja. The jobs associated with having these headquarters in the region are lost on the claims of insecurity. But if insecurity could allow for the exploration of crude and Gas, why has it all of a sudden stopped allowing the siting of the headquarters of the multinationals in the region which they pollute?

The constant pollution of the Niger Delta environment through oil and gas exploration has disrupted the livelihood of many communities, forcing indigenous people, especially the young ones of these communities to migrate to the urban centres like Port Harcourt, Warri, Asaba, Yenagoa and Uyo in search of better living. These people, however, find getting jobs hard due to lack of industrialization of these urban centres and most times resort to crime and criminality. This has been the undoing of many of the oil-producing states.

While they have access to the sea, the ports in the areas have been forced to become moribund skeletons of what they were before, thanks to federal government’s policies which make ports in Lagos the centre of attention thereby depriving these states of the needed economic benefits of having access to the sea. But that is not all. These states that produce Gas and oil have also been deprived of having gas-powered plants in industrial areas which would provide constant electricity supply to these industrial areas while Gas is piped 614km away from these states to Kano. Insecurity in the Niger Delta and the total of underdevelopment of South-South and South-East has become a federal project.

For clarity sake, the first section of the TNGP is the AKK pipeline, which will connect Ajaokuta with Kano while the second section will link the Qua lboe terminal (also Quaibo River which is a river that rises near Umuahia in Abia State and flows in a southeastern direction through Akwa Ibom State to the Atlantic Ocean) with Cawthorne Channel/Alakiri (in the Bonny River area, Rivers State) and will also comprise a metering station, which is to be constructed in Obiafu/ Obrikom in Port Harcourt, Rivers State. The third section of the TNGP will be laid between the Obigbo gas compressor station and the Ajaokuta node. There is already a gas pipeline from the Niger Delta to the Lagos-Ogun area, the Escravos–Lagos Pipeline System (ELPS), a natural gas pipeline built in 1989 to supply Gas from Escravos region of Niger Delta area to Egbin power station near Lagos. The ELPS has a subsequent spur line that supply Delta power plant at Ughelli, Warri Refining and Petrochemical Company at Warri, the West African Portland Cement (WAPCO) Plants at Shagamu and Ewekoro, industries at Ikorodu, City Gate in Ikeja Lagos. This also majorly excludes the Niger Delta and aide the industrialization of Lagos and Ogun.

It took 20 years after Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas, NLNG, located in Bonny Island Rivers, delivered its 1st LNG cargo for a maiden LNG DPLG (Cooking Gas) ship to berth at the StockGap terminal in Port Harcourt.

The ship which was received on Tuesday, 5th of November 2019 by governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike in the company of Mr Tony Attah, MD of NLNG and Mr Stanley Obiamarije, MD/CEO Chairman StockGap Ltd, generated excitement on the faces of the people.

The berthing of the first ship followed a project initiated by the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas, NLNG, with its modalities to ensure that cooking gas is delivered directly from Bonnyy to Port Harcourt, instead of being routed through Lagos.

Before the NLNG project with support from Rivers State government, DPLG (Cooking Gas) from LNG in Bonny gets to South-South and South-East through Lagos as Vessels from Bonny in Rivers State usually offload Cooking Gas in Lagos before trucks haul the Gas back to Rivers State. The inability of NLNG ships to berth in Port Harcourt made cooking gas more expensive in Rivers State than Abuja, Kaduna and Kano.

But is the Federal Government purposefully underdeveloping the two regions? If the answer is NO, then why is the TNGP designed to transport between 11 and 24 million metric cubic meters per day of natural Gas and which will form part of the Trans Sahara Gas Pipeline (TSGP) system not include portions of the South-South and South-East? Shouldn’t the region be the first to benefit economically from the huge gas deposits under their feet? Why are Kano, Kaduna, Kogi and Abuja benefiting from these gas-powered plants but Bayelsa, Akwa Ibom, Rivers, Imo aren’t?