During the recent commissioning of the oil refinery built by Orient Petroleum at Aguleri Otu in Anambra State, President Goodluck Jonathan used the occasion to declare the state an oil producing state amid contesting claims by Kogi, Ebonyi, and Enugu states all of which have contiguous borders with the area in Anambra State, and thus with oil wells OPL 915 and OPL 916.
The controversy is compounding the ongoing one of allowing all littoral states benefit from both onshore and offshore largesse, which the government has been trying to silence.
While the Chairman of Orient Petroleum, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, former Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, rushed to agree with President Jonathan's "resolution" of this controversy, effectively giving the oil blocks to Anambra State, because according to him the "bulk" of the deposits are there, Kogi State Governor, Captain Idris Wada countered that "Kogi State will be a major stakeholder in the refinery, considering the fact that the oil wells that will service the refinery are in Odeke Community, in Ibaji Local Government Area of the state." Enugu State is also claiming at least part ownership of the oil found.
This issue cannot be decided on emotional or political grounds but should be decided on facts on ground: precisely where are these oil wells located? It is for the Office of the Surveyor General of the Federation to establish the exact coordinates of the oil fields, and then for the National Boundary Commission to determine within which state or states the oil wells fall into, because ultimately the matter pertains to geography, land contiguity and boundaries, in the first instance. It is therefore not for the Presidency or Orient Petroleum to declare either way. After the appropriate agencies have been involved in determining these, the Department of Petroleum Resources and other organs should then proceed. There should be no mystery regarding the avenues to follow before a state (or states) can be declared an oil-producing area.
As this is not likely to be the last time such controversy will arise, as Kwara, Sokoto and many more are case in point, avenues for determining these matters should be looked into more thoroughly, and strengthened where necessary. The process must be transparent, fair and equitable. Natural resources are valuable assets with economic, political and strategic implications. Where they are located is also very important. It is not in Nigeria's best interest to allow political exigencies to determine how such issues are decided. Otherwise issues of this nature have potentials to escalate and become huge national problems with political and social implications.
Nations have threatened to go to war over such matters, not just for trying to claim oil resources, as in the Sudan/South Sudan imbroglio, but even in situations where such lands are uninhabited (as in the case of China and Japan fighting for the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands); or where no known natural resources exist (as in the fight between Ethiopia and Eretria over some barren strip of border fields) .
Where deposits crisscross borders and straddle communities, as is bound to happen from time to time, government officials must develop the habit of encouraging cooperating among contending states and communities, for mutual benefits through joint exploration and joint development, along the Nigeria-Sao Tome model. In the long-run, the target should be to manage these and other new resource finds judiciously rather than remaining fixated on extracting all raw materials simply for export. The government should go beyond the colonial model of simply extracting and exporting, while striving to add value, offer employment to people and create wealth.