The Senate last week Thursday, set machinery in motion, for the establishment of Bitumen Development Commission and making Nigeria tap into $147billion Bitumen Global Market. TAIYE ODEWALE reports
What is bitumen?
Bitumen is an immensely viscous constituent of petroleum. Depending on its exact composition, it can be a sticky, black liquid or an apparently solid mass more in liquid form over very large time scales.
Geologically, 70 per cent of bitumen production across the globe, is used for road construction by binding it with aggregate particles like gravel and forms a substance referred to as asphalt concrete aside other uses for building purposes.
Whether found in natural deposits or refined from petroleum, the substance is classed as a pitch and has multiple purpose usages.
Senate’s move in the direction of establishing Bitumen Development Commission in Nigeria and making the country tap into the $147billiin global market for the natural resources, arose from a bill sponsored to that effect by Senator Jimoh Ibrahim ( APC Ondo South ), which was thoroughly debated by Senators and passed for second reading.
The proposed legislation titled: “Bitumen Development Commission (Establishment) Bill 2023, was first read in the read chamber on the 20th of July, 2023, and unanimously concurred to , by virtually all the Senators who contributed to debate on it, for second reading.
In his lead debate on the bill, Senator Jimoh Ibrahim said Nigeria has quantum from 5.9trillion barrels (938billion m³) of global in – place bitumen and heavy oil resources, second to Venezuela.
He, specifically, informed the Senate that more than 80% of the resources are found in Canada, United States of America, Venezuela and Nigeria.
He, however, lamented that while other countries blessed with the natural resources are exploiting it through required legislations or legal frameworks, Nigeria’ has no legal framework for such exploration with attendant untapped opportunities and huge market loss.
Therefore, according to him, “the objectives of the bill, among others, include, “the need to develop a legal framework for the regulation of the Bitumen development in Nigeria; to prevent unconventional sources from taking advantage of research-enhanced applications over other competitors; and to lead innovation and resource-based strategy in the development of bitumen in Nigeria.
“Ensure effective utilisation of over 38billion reserve of bitumen in Nigeria; and to promote economic diversification policy of the Federal Government”.
He posited further that the proposed legislation among others, seeks to restrict the activities of the commission to its regulatory and cordinating functioons, specifically as it relates to the Development of Bitumen in Nigeria.
Ondo state alone according to him, has the highest deposit in Africa with an estimated value of $42billion which are aside from depisits in Ogun state, Edo, Lagos and Akwa- Ibom states.
“The proposed Bitumen Development Commission, when established, would fast-track the development of Bitumen in Nigeria, make her a key player in the $147billion global market and create instant 12, 000 jobs for Nigerians.
“It would also help government at various levels to put in place asphalted roads in various communities.
“Out of the 200,000 kilometres of roads in Nigeria, only 20, 000 are asphalted even with imported Bitumen which is not good and being addressed with the proposed commission,” he said.
On economic gains, the multiple degrees holder Senator said job creation is number one with estimated 12, 000 jobs at take off of the commission and exploration of bitumen in all areas deposited in Nigeria.
Drastic reduction of dependency on oil as source of revenue and facilitates industrialization being raw material for industrial purposes.
Many of the Senators who contributed to debate on the bill, concurred with Jimoh Ibrahim’s submissions, making the Senate as put to voice votes by its President, Godswill Akpabio, passed it for second reading.
Akpabio in his remarks said: “This is a bill that when passed into law, would help to diversify the economy and facilitates development generally, particularly in the area of road construction across the country.
“Is a very good one from Senator Jimoh Ibrahim and the Senate would flesh it up legislatively as regards the proposed Bitumen Development Commission for Nigeria to tap into the over $100billion bitumen global market, being a country richly blessed with quantum of deposits of the resources”.
He accordingly mandated the Senate Committee on Solid Minerals to make further legislative inputs into the bill after public hearing session and report back in a month’s time.
Jimoh Ibrahim’s hopefulness
Apparently elated by passage of the bill for second reading, Senator Jimoh Ibrahim while fielding questions from journalists, said the irony of Nigeria having large deposits of bitumen but importing it for road construction would stop, when the proposed Bitumen Development Commission is established and large scale exploration of it is carried out.
“You can imagine Ondo state alone having an estimated value of $42billion of the natural resources alone around Agbabu, Ode – Irele, Igbatako, Ode Aye and Ayebandele , largely untapped”, he said.
“When properly explored, Nigeria would not only immensely benefit from it for different spheres of development but also key into the $147billion international market through exportation”, he enthused.