Vanguard (Lagos)

20 February 2013

Nigeria: Akwa-Ibom Royal Fathers Reject Proposed Oil Rivers State

Traditional Rulers of Eket Senatorial District in Akwa Ibom State, have urged the National Assembly to drop any intentions to include the land and wealth of the people of Eket, Esit Eket, Onna, Mkpatenin, Ikot Abasi and Nsit Ubium local government areas of the State in the proposed Oil Rivers State.

Chiefs and leaders of the local governments made the request in their petition to the National Assembly Committee on Constitution Amendment in Abuja, last week.

The chiefs said in the petition signed by the Attah of Eket, Obong E. C. D. Abia, that having scrupulously gone through the "Memorandum for the creation of Oil Rivers State out of the present Rivers and Akwa Ibom States," submitted to the National Assembly and dated June 2012, they are persuaded that the document is not only misleading but also mischievous.

The royal fathers said: "The agitators and architects of the said memorandum have employed outright falsehood and distortions to advance their demand. If the Ibenos and the people of Eastern Obolo who now claim to be of Ijaw extraction desire to join the people of Rivers State to form a state, they should do so with their land and wealth not ours.

"The area of our land and wealth thereon which the people of Ibeno and Eastern Obolo local government areas of Akwa Ibom State have caused to be drawn or made to form part of the proposed Oil Rivers State is ours, they do not belong to the people of Ibeno and/or Eastern Obolo."

The petition noted that between 1914 and 1918, the Supreme Court at Calabar, the West African Court of Appeal and the Privy Council had decided that the entire coastal area known as Stubbs Creek and the sea extending from the mouth of the Qua Iboe River eastward along the seashsore to the Child Point (Okposo II) belong to the Ekets, to wit: Eket, Esit Eket and Onna local government areas.

It states that in 1941, in the celebrated Down Below case, at the West african Court of Appeal and in 1947 and 1948 (in the Akata case), the people of Onna obtained judgments against the people of Eastern Obolo over the area of the land sought to be excised to form the proposed Oil Rivers State.

"The people of Mkpatenin local government area, particularly of Ikpa Ibom Clan, obtained judgment in Suit no. HET/23/77 to the effect that the area of the land which is shown to form part of the proposed Oil Rivers State belongs to the people of Mkpatenin not Eastern Obolo.

It added that in 1925 and 1943, the people of Ikot Abasi obtained court judgments to the effect that the coastal area belongs to the people of Ikot Abasi and not the "Ijaws" or people of Eastern Obolo.

On the oil bearing community of Nsit Ubium local government area, the royal fathers said the tributaries/rivers from the sea run into all the waters and streams of the local government adding that any oil spill affects them.

The petitioners noted that while they did not oppose the creation of Oil Rivers State for the Ijaws or the agitation of the Ijaws for a state of their own, "we do not also oppose the people of Ibeno and Eastern Obolo local government areas on their desire to join their perceived kin (Ijaws) to form a state of their own, but they should not do so with our land and wealth."

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