Lokoja and Awka — As President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday inaugurated the first oil refinery in Anambra State, the Kogi State government stepped forward same day to stake a claim to the oil wells that will serve the refinery.
President Jonathan opened the refinery being built by Orient Petroleum at Aguleri Otu in Anambra East local government area and declared Anambra an oil producing state.
But moments later across the border in Kogi State, Governor Idris Wada said in a statement: "Kogi will be a major stake holder in the refinery, considering the fact the oil wells that will service the refinery are in Odeke Community in Ibaji Local Government Area of the state."
Wada made the claim in a statement issued from the office of his deputy Yomi Awoniyi, a day after a community group issued a public notice saying that the oil deposits claimed by Anambra State are within the Odeke community of Kogi State.
Governor Wada said in the statement yesterday that the state "is doing everything humanly possible to resolve the issues surrounding the location of the oil wells with the contending states."
The statement ended on a note of optimism: "Kogi State will soon join the league of oil producing states in the country."
But speaking yesterday at the ceremony to kick-start his company's oil refinery in Anambra State, Orient Petroleum chairman Chief Emeka Anyaoku said the controversy over ownership of the oil deposits has been resolved and that the 'bulk' of the deposits are within Anambra territory.
He however added that any state where oil was found and drilled by Orient Petroleum would be accorded due recognition.
"There was misconception that the oil well was not entirely in Anambra, that has been resolved through the map of Nigeria. Let me quickly state that the two oil blocks encompassed parts of Enugu, Kogi, Delta and Edo states but bulk of it is in Anambra," Anyaoku said.
He said in addition to the private shareholders, other bodies that have shares in the company include Anambra, Rivers, Kogi and the 21 local government areas of the state.
Speaking at the commissioning of the refinery, President Jonathan said the Federal Government was committed to oil exploration in all the sedimentary basins and commended the oil company for pioneering the inland crude oil production in the country.
"The good news is not Orient Oil and Anambra basin alone, the good news is for all our sedimentary basins all over the country," Jonathan said. He said it would give confidence to other investors to invest in other inland sedimentary basins.
Jonathan urged operators in the oil industry, especially those at the upstream sector, not to think only about exporting crude oil but should also add value to it and export refined products.
"We have a lot of gas resources in Anambra Basin from meteorological records," he said.
"Orient Petroleum has helped us not just in producing the crude oil but adding value to the crude oil. As a nation, we should not continue to think that we will be exporting crude oil materials abroad.
"The vision of Orient to diversify into refining and power generation, among others is the way to go. People who refine crude oil make more money than us who export the crude commodity," he added.
Anyaoku said crude refining by the company would commence by next year, and that when the refining facility was completed about 20,000 litres of crude would be refined daily.
In his remarks, Governor Peter Obi, assured that he would continue to partner with the company to develop the oil sector of the state.
'The oil belongs to Kogi'
Meanwhile, a group called Ibaji Development Association (IDA) warned that the oil wells OPL 915 and 916 are located in Kogi and not Anambra State as claimed by Orient Petroleum which is carrying out exploration in the area.
In a message to President Jonathan ahead of his visit to the area yesterday, IDA said "the area where the current productive oil well is located is in Odeke community in Ibaji Local Government Area of Kogi state and not in Anambra State."
"Oil exploration activities leading to the successful access to crude oil were carried out in Kogi state within Odeke, Echeno, Ehile, Anocha and Omabo communities by Orient Petroleum Plc. Workers of this company actually rented houses in these communities as quarters for their staff for the final phase 1 of oil well production testing of these wells. Phase 2 is due at the end of September 2012 in Uchuchu, Ikah, Iregwu and Ujeh also within Ibaji local government area of Kogi state," the group said.
IDA said Ibaji area was in conflict with the people of Agulere and Otuocha in Anambra State over ownership of the oil wells since 1994 which led to loss of lives and property.
The association called on President Jonathan to officially declare Kogi as an oil producing state saying "our non-resistant stance should not be misconstrued to mean cowardice, even in the face of glaring provocation from Anambra state, whose communities are already head over heels over the benefits of the oil wells that do not belong to them."