Eleven private firms have shown interest to partner with the Ondo State Bitumen Exploration and Exploitation Company (BEECON) through the State Development and Investment Agency (ONDIPA) to commence the exploitation and exploration of bitumen in the state.
The Special Adviser to Ondo State Governor on Development and Investment, Boye Oyewumi, disclosed that the state would only partner serious investors with the technical and financial capabilities to develop the sector due to its special attributes.
According to him, the event was the first of its kind in the nation, where prospective investors would be brought together in an open competitive presentation.Expressing delight over the quality of participants, Oyewumi who also doubles as the Vice chairman/Chief Executive Officer of ONDIPA, admonished the participants to prepare for another detailed technical session with the consultants and evaluators who are seasoned academia in the field.
For the record, Ondo State is reputed to have the second largest bitumen deposit in the world and the largest in Africa with over 42 billion reserves of the highest quality.Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu had made relentless efforts to attract the attention of world class firms to the natural endowment available in the state.Akeredolu hosted diplomatic communities to a dinner in Abuja last year to showcase the various investment opportunities in the state to the outside world.
Among those high commissions and embassies that were present at the dinner included Britain, China, Australia, India, Japan, Korea, Ghana, Ethiopia and South Africa.Other multi-lateral agencies like the World Bank, UNICEF, Africa Development Bank (AfDB), United Nations Development Program (UNDP), United States Agency for International Development (USAID), US Public Health Service (USPHS) were also there.
Some of the investors present at the event for presentations included, Energy & Mineral Resources Limited; BML energy; CRCC construction group; Global oils and Liquefied Resources (LR) USA Ltd. Others were Zenilum Company Ltd; CCC Snirand Technologies Ltd, and Drichels Technologies.
The Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Development and Investment, who doubles as Director of Business Development and Investment Management at ONDIPA, Femi Akarakiri, said bitumen exploration will provide not less than 30,000 direct jobs in the state.
According to him, bitumen was discovered in the state in the year 1904 but nothing has been done on it due to the expensive cost of exploration which the government cannot invest on it alone.Akarakiri, who said there was dire need to invite investors to partner with the state, explained that the BEECON partnership is aimed at fashioning out modalities to mine bitumen product and to make the process transparent.
“The purpose of this programme is to bring partners to Ondo State to partner with BEECON. We want to allow private organizations invest on bitumen exploration, we have the licences and we are calling on private sectors to partner with us, to bring their finances and expertise to explore the product.”However, one of the evaluators, Prof. Idowu Odeyemi, faulted most of the presentations made by the bidders for relying on old data, charging them to go to the field and do more practical jobs.
Oduyemi, a Professor of applied Geology from Federal University of Technology Akure (FUTA), noted that the current reserves of 42 billon barrel being circulated over the years could not be relied on because it was a guess work.He underscored the need for government and investors to undertake independent research over a wide area of the bitumen belt so as to have a near accurate data of the bitumen proven reserves, saying it will aid effective investment decision.