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How Nigeria Will Benefit from the Expansion of Its Continental Shelf by the UN

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By Fasuyi Tolulope Samuel

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In a significant development, Nigeria has received approval from the United Nations to extend its continental shelf by 16,300 square kilometers, a territory five times the size of Lagos State. This achievement, announced by President Bola Tinubu upon receiving the report from the High Powered Presidential Committee (HPPC) on Nigeria’s Extended Continental Shelf Project, marks a new era of maritime and economic potential for the nation.
The approval, based on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) 1982, grants Nigeria sovereignty over this additional maritime territory, expanding its jurisdiction beyond the existing 200 nautical miles. This expansion offers numerous benefits that could significantly enhance Nigeria’s economic landscape.

Economic Potential and Resource Exploration

One of the most significant benefits of this territorial expansion is the access to previously untapped resources. The newly approved area is rich in hydrocarbons, gas, solid minerals, and a wide variety of sedentary species. This means that Nigeria now has a broader scope for resource exploration and extraction, which can boost the nation’s economy considerably.
Surveyor Aliyu Omar, Secretary of the HPPC, emphasized the strategic importance of this development. The increased access to natural resources could lead to a surge in investments in the oil and gas sector, creating job opportunities and enhancing Nigeria’s position as a key player in the global energy market. Additionally, the extraction of solid minerals and other marine resources could diversify the economy, reducing dependence on oil revenues.
Strengthening Maritime Security and Sovereignty
With the extension of its continental shelf, Nigeria gains greater control over its maritime boundaries, which is crucial for national security. Enhanced jurisdiction allows for better monitoring and protection of the maritime territory, deterring illegal activities such as piracy, illegal fishing, and smuggling. Strengthening maritime security not only protects Nigeria’s economic interests but also promotes regional stability.
Advancing Scientific Research and Technological Development

The successful submission to the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) was supported by years of meticulous scientific research in geophysics, geology, and geography. This achievement underscores Nigeria’s capability in conducting high-level scientific research and opens up opportunities for further advancements in marine science and technology.
Professor Larry Awosika, a leading marine scientist, highlighted the importance of maintaining and enhancing the scientific infrastructure that made this achievement possible. Continued investment in research and development can lead to new discoveries and innovations in marine science, further benefiting the economy and environment.
Opportunities for International Collaboration
The expansion of Nigeria’s continental shelf also paves the way for increased international collaboration. President Tinubu’s discussions with former President Muhammadu Buhari and international counterparts, including Brazil’s President Lula, highlight the potential for strategic partnerships. These collaborations can enhance knowledge exchange, boost investments, and promote sustainable development in the newly acquired maritime territory.

Legal and Diplomatic Milestones

The UN’s approval is not just a scientific and economic milestone but also a diplomatic triumph. The process, initiated in 2009, involved extensive negotiations and diplomatic efforts, showcasing Nigeria’s commitment to peaceful and strategic expansion. This success sets a precedent for other African nations, emphasizing the importance of adhering to international laws and conventions.
Path Forward
Following the approval, Nigeria has two options: finalizing the registration with the UN Secretary-General within a year or acquiring additional data for a revised submission, potentially extending the process to four years. Regardless of the chosen path, Nigeria will maintain control over the newly approved area, ensuring long-term benefits.
President Tinubu expressed his gratitude to the HPPC and the scientific community for their dedication. “This is a significant achievement for Nigeria. We have gained additional territory without conflict, showcasing our commitment to peaceful and strategic expansion,” he remarked.
As Nigeria moves forward, leveraging this achievement will require continued investment in scientific research, strategic international collaborations, and robust maritime governance. The expanded continental shelf holds the promise of substantial economic growth and enhanced national security, marking a new chapter in Nigeria’s maritime and economic history.

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