The Senate yesterday invited the United Nations Resident Team in Nigeria and the Nigeria Boundary Commission to brief it on the status of Nigeria’s claim of extended continental shelf.
The upper chamber also directed its committee on Marine Transport when constituted, to diligently follow up activities of the extended continental shelf project and regularly brief the Senate.
The briefing by the UN Team and the Boundary Commission on the claim, it said, should take place within four weeks.
The resolutions followed the adoption of a motion sponsored by Sen George Thompson Sekibo (Rivers East) and 32 others on the “Urgent need to ascertain the status of the Nigerian Extended Continental Shelf Project.”
Sekibo, in his lead debate, noted that on May 7, 2009, Nigeria made a formal submission to the United Nation’s Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS), stating its intention for an extension of her Continental Shelf beyond the 200 nautical miles from the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured.
He noted further that the submission is sequel to the provision of Article 76 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) which allows coastal states to make additional claim of between 200 nautical miles to a maximum of 350 nautical miles (650 miles) beyond their Exclusive Economic Zone of 200 Nautical miles (about 370km), if the coastal state is able to prove through scientific data and information that the seabed and the subsoil of the marine area of its territorial sea is a natural prolongation of its land territory to the outer edge of the continental margin.
The senator said he is aware that every coastal state has a seaward delimitation of its territorial waters and for the purpose of insight, it is as follows: the territorial waters; the contiguous zone and extended continental shelf.
He said the United Nation’s Convention allows such additional claim to a maximum of 350 nautical miles.
Sekibo also said Nigeria’s claim for an extension of her continental shelf from 200 to 350 nautical miles is achievable and thus set up an inter-ministerial technical committee in the year 2000 which has been coordinated by the National Boundary Commission and has been in the forefront of the project.
He said he is aware that on the submission of her claim, Nigeria set up an office in the United Nation’s office with some indigenous experts trained for that purpose and foreign consultants engaged for overseeing the day to day activities of the project.
“I understand also that the President Muhammadu Buhari set up a High Powered Presidential Committee (HPPC) on November 5, 2015, being chaired by the Attorney General of the Federation for the purpose of a proper follow up to the successful claim of the submission,” he said, adding that the committee was as recommended by the Senate in 2013.
of 8,000Km2 (approximately twice the size of Lagos State) in her first submission made in 2009 which could be improved upon if the submission was based on morphology supported by geology as against the evidence to the contrary used in gathering her technical data that was submitted in 2009.
He said he is aware that the Extended Continental Shelf when achieved would be an additional seaward territory beyond the Exclusive Economic Zone of 200 nautical miles over which the country already has sovereignty rights;
He added that he knows further that Article 77 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea has given exclusive rights with regard to exploration and exploitation of such resources to the coastal state that has been able to claim the territory as prescribed by the Convention.
Similarly, he said that article 81 also gives an exclusive drilling right to the coastal state that has been able to claim its Extended Continental Shelf.
He said that the Extended Continental Shelf is strategically important to any coastal state that is able to go through the rigorous process of approval.
According to him, the importance among other things include naval activities and national security both on the sea, the seabed and the airspace, as well as valuable resources as sedentary fisheries, Bio prospecting of deep ocean diversity, diverse types of minerals, including diamonds, phosphorite, sulphur, coal, iron and hydrocarbons.
These are in addition to abundant energy resources of oil and gas which have been estimated to account for about 90 per cent of exploited seabed minerals, he said.
He added that Nigeria would gain more as offshore oil well produced about 30 per cent of the 85 million barrels of oil output per day in 2010.
“This means that with enough oil and gas prospecting infrastructure on offshore exploration and exploitation, the country would harvest more oil and gas than what it currently being produced onshore,” he said
Sekibo said that he was informed that between August and September 2015, the United Nations Commission’s Subcommittee Commission on the Limit of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) met about twelve times in New York for the review of Nigeria’s submission and made certain recommendations that need to be rigorously followed up to conclusion.
He said that after the release of the funds in 2016, Nigeria made an amended submission to the UN, based on the ‘General Rule’ of morphology backed by geology and geophysics, and that the amended submission contained increased outer limits, making a claim for far much bigger area (about19km2 or 5 times the size of Lagos State) than the submission in 2009; and
He believes that the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which has helped push the Project forward all along need to as a matter of urgency ascertain the status of the submission of the Extended Continental Shelf Project and make further deliberate effort for its completion before it is time barred.
The Senate also resolved to commend President Buhari for setting up the High Power Presidential Committee with the mandate to coordinate the activities of the Extended Continental Shelf Project.
It urged the President not to relent in his efforts to fully support the project to its conclusion by defraying the outstanding financial commitment to the Nigerian office (the United Nation residents’ team) Set up for the Project at the United Nations and the foreign consultants to enable them concentrate effort to obtain a positive recommendation from the United Nations body (The UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf).