This Day (Lagos)

5 November 2012

Nigeria: Rivers, Bayelsa Oil Dispute - Jonathan Fails to Secure Truce

Photo: This Day
Governor Rotimi Amaechi

The war of attrition between Bayelsa and Rivers States over some disputed oil wells raged on yesterday, notwithstanding Saturday's intervention by President Goodluck Jonathan to broker a truce over the weekend.

The Bayelsa State Government, in response to Friday's attacks by Rivers State, warned it to stop heating up the polity by whipping up sympathy for itself.

Bayelsa State Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Mr. Markson Fefegha, in a statement, rebuked Rivers State for attempts to denigrate the presidency and also accused it of trying to incite disaffection between the Ijaws in the two states.

Amid last week's recriminations between the two states, Jonathan had met with a delegation from Rivers State at the State House, to broker a truce in the simmering disagreement between the two neighbouring states over the ownership of the oil wells.

Although he was initially billed to meet delegations from the two states, the president only met with that of Rivers, led by the governor, Mr. Chibuike Amaechi. No reason was given for the exclusion of the Bayelsa delegation from the Saturday meeting.

According to a source at the meeting, which lasted more than one hour, the president explored means of peacefully reconciling the differences over what some indigenes of Rivers State claimed to be an attempt to excise some oil wells belonging to their communities.

However, Bayelsa on the heels of the meeting, said in the statement titled: "Soku/Oluasiri Oil Wells/Oil Field: Rivers State Government Should Stop Heating Up the Polity", that having explained its position on the issue last Tuesday, it would have kept quiet if not for Rivers' statement last Friday in which the state accused Jonathan of being part of the alleged plot to annex Rivers' oil wells to Bayelsa.

"The Bayelsa State Government is compelled to issue this statement, though with restraint, to respond to the press statement of the Rivers State Government published in many national newspapers in the country to save the Ijaws, Federal Government agencies and the entire country from the desperation and lies of the Rivers State Government.

"For all intents and purposes, the said press statement of the Rivers State Government on the above issue was obviously intended to create a crisis amongst the peace-loving Ijaw people in Rivers and Bayelsa States and garner public sympathy for Rivers State.

"The said statement, which was signed by the Rivers State Commissioner for Information, on the instruction of the Rivers State Governor, amongst others, accused the presidency of mischief.

"This is not only disrespectful and insulting, it also smacks of insubordination and arrogance on the part of the leadership of the Rivers State Government," Bayelsa State Government said.

It urged Rivers to stop "denigrating the President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria because the Office of the President is the highest institution in the land".

Giving its account of the dispute, Bayelsa said while Soku is a village in Rivers State, the oil wells/oil field and the flow station are located in the Oluasiri clan in Nembe Local Government Area of Bayelsa State.

According to it, the name Soku oil wells/oil field was wrongly given by the Shell Petroleum Development Company Ltd (SPDC) because Soku village was their operational base at that time.

It said: "This is not peculiar to Soku. For example, the Idu oil wells/oil field is named after a town in Ekpeye land in Ahoada East LGA of Rivers State while the oil field is actually located in Biseni land of Bayelsa State.

"Similarly, the Omoku West oil field is in Biseni land of Bayelsa State but Omoku is a town in Rivers State.

"Incidentally, Soku village in Rivers State is about 10 km, as the crow flies, from the flow station while the Oluasiri/Soku oil wells/field is surrounded by various Oluasiri villages of Nembe LGA in Bayelsa State."

The Bayelsa State Government explained that it was wrong for Rivers to now claim River Santa Babara as the boundary between the Kalabari people of Rivers State and the Nembe people of Bayelsa State, when in its White Paper of 1993 on the report of the Justice Peter B. Akere panel it rejected the river as the boundary landmark.

It added that the 11th edition of the administrative map of Nigeria has confirmed River San Bartholomew as the boundary between Nembe of Bayelsa State and new Calabar (Kalabari) of Rivers State, which has metamorphosed into the boundary between the two states.

It said since there is no pending litigation over the Oluasiri oil wells/oil field between Rivers and Bayelsa States, after the Supreme Court had struck out the suit by the Rivers State Government challenging Bayelsa State's ownership of Oluasiri oil wells/oilfield, the oil wells belong to Bayelsa.

"Between 1996 and 2006, the Rivers State Government wrongly collected several billions of naira from the Federation Account accruing from the Oluasiri oil wells/oil fields, which was wrongfully allocated to it by the Federal Government.

"It is pertinent to note that the 11th edition of the administrative map of Nigeria has not been set aside by the National Boundary Commission (NBC) or any court of law.

"Furthermore, since the creation of Bayelsa State, it is the 11th edition of the administration map of Nigeria that defines the boundary between the two states.

"Therefore, the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) was perfectly right in attributing and paying the revenue accruing from the said oil wells/oil field to Bayelsa State," it said.

While urging Amaechi to ensure that his appointees refrain from making inciting and inflammatory remarks that could trigger inter-communal crises between the two states, it said his Bayelsa counterpart, Hon. Seriake Dickson, had restrained the Nembe people from responding to threats from the Kalabari people to ensure peace in the two states.

"We also urge our fellow Ijaw brothers and traditional rulers to refrain from being used by Governor Amaechi as tools to cause disunity between the people of Rivers and Bayelsa States over the derivation matter because derivation is purely a state matter and not a matter between communities," it added.

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