ABUJA, Nigeria, July 7 (UPI) -- Nigeria is Africa's largest oil producer and the world's eighth largest producer but is looking for other than its traditional oil-producing areas to increase its holdings.
The Nigeroan oil industry produces 2.2 million barrels of oil a day. That provides 95 percent of the country's foreign exchange earnings and about 80 percent of its budget.
For the last five decades the bulk of Nigeria's production has come from its riverine delta region on the southern coast of the country. But that area has seen increasing militant action by locals unhappy with both their exploitation and the environmental destruction caused by the production.
The most high profile of the insurgent groups is the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, more familiarly known as MEND.
Constant militant activity and other sabotage of oil equipment have taken a toll environmentally, too. An estimated 500 million gallons of oil have spilled into the delta.
President of the Nigerian Mining and Geosciences Society Akinola A. George is insisting that the country's north has massive quantities of oil as well, the Daily Trust reported.
"Judging by the discoveries of commercial oil in neighboring countries like Chad, Niger and even in Uganda, Kenya and Sudan, there should be in ours too, because the geology that exist there are same with the ones we have in our inland basins," George told the Daily Trust.
"It's just a matter of applying modern technology to discover it."
He said the discovery of oil in nearby countries "should serve as booster, encourage and stimulate" the government to explore for hydrocarbons in Benue trough, Chad, Anambra and other inland basins.
George points out the geographical areas lie on the Central African Rift and West Africa Rift systems.
"It would make economic and socio-economic sense to explore for oil and gas in these basins if only to increase Nigeria's hydrocarbon resources," he said.
He added the government should carry out a geophysical survey to determine possible locations of oil.
Oil production began in the Niger Delta in 1956, producing a "sweet," low-sulfur crude called Bonny Light that was easily refined, leading Nigeria two decades later to join the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries -- OPEC.
In speculating on what northern oil supplies might mean for the country George added: "Don't doubt it. There is commercial quantity of crude oil in the north.
"If oil is discovered here in the north, the over-dependence on oil in the Niger Delta will be reduced. And of course, the social and economic welfare of the people will be improved as many jobs will be created and the region will be better for it."
He advised Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan to pursue oil exploration "vigorously."