The Nigerian Government has declared Oguta/Ohaji/Egbema and its environs as an oil and gas free trade zone, following the request by the Imo State Government being part of efforts to unlock the hydrocarbon deposits in OML130 Orashi Field, located in the state.
Professor Yemi Osinbajo, outgoing Vice President made this known in a statement obtained by EnergyDay on the sideline of the recent hydrographic survey and dredging of the proposed sea route from Oguta Lake and Orashi River to Degema in Rivers State up to the Atlantic Ocean.
EnergyDay gathered that the $2 billion OML130 Orashi Field estimated to contain approximately 500 million barrels of oil equivalent, was discovered in 2020. It is estimated to be able to produce as much as 17,000 barrels per day (bpd).
According to Osinbajo, President Muhammadu Buhari has granted Governor Hope Uzodimma’s request to declare Oguta/Ohaji/Egbema and its environs as an oil and gas free trade zone.
He noted that the proposed free trade zone has one of the largest hydrocarbon deposits in the country.
Osinbajo said, “Again, this is another clear winner. The synergy between the dredged sea route and the free trade zone will deliver enormous commercial benefits to the region.
The VP also emphasized that through the dredging project, the Navy will be better equipped to protect the country’s coastlines.
He this. “This would enable the Navy to easily curb crude oil theft and illegal bunkering and other criminal activities that appear to have taken advantage of the difficulty of the terrain for the operational use of naval platforms.
He also revealed that the oil and gas-free zone needed Presidential approval, adding that it would not have been possible without the blessing of President Buhari.
The outgoing Vice President further hinted that the project is a vital collaboration between the State Government, the Nigerian Navy, and a consortium of technical partners, initiated, approved, and set in motion under the stewardship of President Buhari and Governor Uzodimma.
He said, “As far back as 1914, the British, understanding its strategic importance in connecting the hinterlands to the coast, utilized this route to facilitate the smooth export of products such as palm oil, timber, and coal, from Oguta and its neighbouring regions. The route has always been a vital component of our nation’s potential for increased trade and economic prosperity.
“We aim to revive this once vibrant and economically strategic channel, furthering job creation and sustainable growth in Imo State and the entire Southeast region.
Osinbajo, therefore noted that efforts to enhance the coastal connectivity and facilitate seamless transportation, through the project will engender trade and investment, spur growth in multiple sectors including shipping, manufacturing, and agriculture, and offer numerous opportunities for the people.
Governor Uzodimma earlier in a statement commending President Buhari for the approval to dredge the two rivers, noted that the project will be achieved through Public Private Partnership (PPP).
He said, “The dredging and opening of the two Rivers to the Atlantic will remove Imo State from being land locked as it is encapsulated in security and economic development.”
He pointed out that the hydrographic survey and dredging are to determine the mapping and debt of the entire distance from Oguta Lake to the Atlantic.
“The success of the project will bring unquantifiable employment for Imo State, the South East, and Nigeria at large, this will be followed by the establishment of an Industrial cluster leveraging on the gas deposits and other natural resources in the area.
“In addition, the project will bring about cultural ties between the South-East and the South-South when the security is strengthened and movement becomes seamless,” the Governor explained.
Mrs. Nneamaka Okafor, SA New and Electronic Media to Imo State Governor, in a comment on the project said that the Orashi Oil and Gas Free Zone in Imo State, entails less restriction, less taxation and as such, no limitation to business activities that will rise to economic limelight, improved revenue and greater development across the region and the State.
According to her, the project comes with great job opportunities for the Imo State population and will surely open up new economic ventures.
Explaining the plan by the Imo State Government to handle the resulting effects of gas flaring in the state, Mrs Okafor said, “With gas gathering, collation, and processing centers, gas flaring would be eliminated in the zone to guarantee a clean and healthy environment.
She further said, “The dredging project is expected to have sufficient depth to berth small to medium size vessels and provide an evacuation corridor for gas and other products processed and produced within the Oil & Gas Free Trade Zone, for sale to neighboring states as well as export purposes.”