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Your Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari GCFR, President and Commander-in-Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

All praise be to Almighty Allah for the privilege and opportunity to be part of this epoch-making event, one that will go in the annals of history of Gombe State, the North-east subregion and Nigeria at large. It is equally historic for the development of the oil and gas sector of the economy.

2. Let me start by welcoming and paying special tribute to His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR whose unique vision and uncommon commitment made today’s event possible.

3.As commissioner of petroleum during the military era, you played a prominent role in the development of the oil sector especially in the areas of exploration, exploitation and building of refineries in order to boost domestic production and improve value chain optimization. More than four decades later as president of Nigeria, the Petroleum Industry Bill was passed under your leadership after languishing in the national assembly for 13 years. Today’s event, which was the culmination of exploration activities that started in the 1990s, would not have been possible without your commitment to prioritizing the exploration of frontier basins across the country.

4.Today’s flag-off is a dream come true for the people of the North-east subregion. As one-time regional military governor, your interest in the development of the north-east subregion is indisputable. This is clear in your commitment towards the security and stability of the subregion using both kinetic and non-kinetic approaches. Under your leadership, the forces of terror are being defeated and peace and normalcy is returning to our communities. It is also worthy of mention that the North-East Development Commission was established under your leadership in order to deliver durable solutions to address the root causes of the conflict in the subregion.

5. The Kolmani integrated development project is unique because it is built on the lessons learnt in the past 60 years of oil exploration in Nigeria. Building on these lessons and experiences, I am confident that the north-east has what it takes to avoid the conflicts and mismanagement associated with natural resource exploration as seen in the Niger Delta. The project will create opportunities for our people across the upstream, midstream, and downstream segments of the oil and gas value chain.

6. For us in Gombe, we are making adequate plans to take advantage of those opportunities. Few weeks ago, we convened the first-ever Gombe State Investment Summit, with many investors expressing interest to partake in the oil and gas sector. To this end, we are putting in place human capital development strategies to identify skills requirements in the sector. The aim is to partner with relevant stakeholders to equip our youth with the relevant skills and expertise to participate in the project. It is my strong belief that the only panacea to resource conflict and instability is to empower local communities to benefit massively from exploration activities in order to foster a spirit of collective ownership and shared responsibility.

7.At the subnational level, under the auspices of the Nigeria Governors Forum, Northern Governors Forum and the North-East Governors Forum, we are working with relevant stakeholders to harness our vast human and natural resource potentials in order to address the developmental deficit in the country.

8.Mr. President, I know some people are expressing skepticism at our effort to invest in hydrocarbon exploration in frontier basins at a time the world is moving towards green energy. But if the ongoing European energy crisis caused by the Russia-Ukraine war has taught us any lessons, it is that we should not throw away or abandon our old blessings. Instead of blindly jumping onto the bandwagon of western energy transition and climate action advocacy, our effort should focus on energy diversification and natural resource balance as you articulated quite clearly in your November 9th op-ed in the Washington Post.

9.It is therefore gratifying that while efforts are being made to address the security challenges bedeviling the North-east, strategic investments like this are equally being made to kickstart the economic transformation of the subregion. Already, the North-east is lagging behind the rest of the country across all indices of human development, thus providing a fertile ground for terrorism and other related crimes.

10. Reversing this ugly trend requires the mobilization of resources on a colossal scale and I would like to commend Mr. President for all his support and concern for the development and welfare of our people. It is our hope that other areas with substantial hydrocarbon deposits like the Lake Chad Basin will be equally explored.

11.At this juncture, I would like to once again extend our profound appreciation to Mr. President for this historic milestone. Special appreciation also goes to the leadership of the national assembly, my brother and counterpart the Governor of Bauchi State, the Honorable Minister of State for Petroleum Chief Timipre Silva, the Group CEO of the NNPC Limited Mallam Mele Kyari, as well as the board and management of NNPC Limited, New Nigeria Development Company (NNDC) and Sterling Oil Exploration and Production Company Limited (SEEPCO). Gombe State is ever willing to provide all the required facilities and support to complement the work of existing NNPC facilities in the State like the NNPC depot and the area office. I would like to assure you of the commitment of our local communities and traditional institutions to working closely with security agencies and other critical stakeholders for the successful implementation of the project.

12. On this note, I warmly welcome Mr. President and all other dignitaries and invited guests to the official flag-off of the Kolmani Integrated Development Project. I wish us successful ceremony and safe return to our various destinations.

13. Thank you and God bless you all!