Atemnkeng C. Anu AmbaNews24 Correspondent, Yaoundé Cameroon
The government of Cameroun, through its state-run National Hydrocarbon Cooperation (commonly abbreviated in French as “SNH”) has halted oil and gas exploration in Ambazonia’s Bakassi Peninsula beginning May 13, 2020.
Business partners have complained of “rising insecurity in the Northwest and Southwest Regions because of the Ambazonia separatist war,” a high ranking official at SNH office in Yaoundé told AmbaNews24.
This has discouraged foreign investments in the Bakassi block and forced the National Hydrocarbon Cooperation to declare a “force majeure” in the oil and gas rich Bakassi concession in Ambazonia’s Rio del Rey basin (7,000km square). In this regard, all oil and gas exploration in Bakassi are suspended.
In February and March of this year, there was increase movement of Ambazonia Defense Forces (ADF) in the block area, with three gun battles in which the ADF soldiers and Cameroun military exchanged fire in the deep of night for hours.
AmbaNews24 investigations have shown that before general movements were restricted by the Covid-19 pandemic in the region, heavily armed ADF and other Ambazonia fighters were in Bakassi. It is not clear, however, whether they were on transit to other battlegrounds across Ambazonia or were on an economic sabotage mission in Bakassi.
The presence of these Ambazonia soldiers in the Bakassi Peninsula has certainly heightened security concerns to potential investors, thwarting Cameroon’s 2020 -2024 Development Plan.
The Covid-19 pandemic that has caused a major collapse in oil prices in the global market has further caused oil and gas exploration companies to ask themselves whether it is worth risking lives and investments in the Peninsula when returns on investment in the market will be significantly low.
With the suspension of oil and gas exploration in Bakassi and the non-functioning of the lone oil refinery on which Cameroun relied for economic survival, namely SONARA, the Cameroon economy is heading for a cliff. The Paul Biya , 86, regime will have to rely on endless high interest loans from the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and countries such as China to stay afloat.
In fact, as recent as May 4, 2020, the IMF had to approve a disbursement under the Rapid Credit Facility (RCF) of US$ 226 million to rescue the Biya’ s regime urgent balance of payment needs resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and the terms of trade shocks from the sharp fall in oil prices. The situation is only getting worse, while the Cameroon government tries to fight the Ambazonian people in a war it cannot win and hopes on more foreign partners to come to its aid.
GICAM estimates that Cameroon has lost not less than 800 billion CFA from the insecurities created by the Ambazonia War of Independence. The damage to the state is mounting every passing day and it is only a matter of time before the center shall no longer hold, and Yaoundé will come asking Ambazonia liberation leadership for ceasefire negotiations.
The global Armed Conflict Location and Event Data (ACLAD) Project recently said because the Ambazonia Defense Forces are the largest liberation force in Ambazonia, “in the absence of a ceasefire agreement between the Ambazonia Defense Forces and the military, Cameroon is unlikely to see a sustained drop in violence.” This ceasefire is the absolute necessity for hope and revival in the Yaoundé regime.
The Bakassi Block petroleum plays consist of deltaic growth faults (Agbada), Paleocene platform turbidite plays and cretaceous horst block play. Five wells with one (1) gas discovery (IEM-1) have been made in the Block with live oil recovered from seeps.
The oil richness of the Bakassi Peninsula is largely unexploited. This economic viability of the Ambazonia territory is one reason the government of Cameroon is willing to sacrifice all its soldiers on the altar of the Ambazonia liberation struggle than see Ambazonia become independent and sovereign. Time, however, is not on Yaoundé’s side.