Oil Wells – Twin Brothers Go for One Another’s Throat

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Port Harcourt — There have been good neighbours for decades, but the age-long bond is being tested by disputed oil wells at their common borders.

Unless there is a middle ground at the end of the meeting called by President Goodluck Jonathan to broker peace in the on-going crisis between Rivers and Bayelsa States over the disputed oil wells, the situation may degenerate into anarchy, concerned indigenes of the two sister states feared.

Weekly Trust learnt that youths from the two feuding states are already moblising for confrontation and only consensus from the outcome of yesterday’s meeting between the President and the Rivers State Governor, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, as well as his Bayelsa State counterpart, Seriake Dickson, will calm the fraying nerves.

Within the week, a paramount ruler from Nembe local government area of Bayelsa State has raised an alarm over the possibility of the face-off degenerating into a bloodletting, while calling on the Federal Government to immediately step in.

Worried by the turn the battle for the oil wells has taken, Jonathan has arranged for mediation between the two states through their chief executives. The meeting, Weekly Trust learnt took place at the Aso Rock Vila yesterday.

The mediation is coming on the heels of an intervention into the lingering controversy over ownership of some blocks between Enugu, Anambra and Kogi states last Wednesday.

As if waiting for the President to step into the Enugu, Anambra and Kogi imbroglio, chiefs and community leaders from Kalabari Kingdom, Rivers State took to the streets of Port Harcourt, the same day to protest over what they called a calculated plans by the Bayelsa State government to cede ten oil bearing communities in Rivers State to President Jonathan’s home state. Traditional rulers and elite of Kalabari Kingdom decked in their traditional etibo regalia matched from Isaac Boro Park to government house where they presented a protest letter to the Rivers State Deputy Governor, Engr. Tele Ikuru.

The Amayanagbo of Abonnema, Israel Bob-Manuel who spoke on behalf of the protesters said prior to the present crisis, Rivers and Bayelsa States had enjoyed a robust relationship. He said “the plank of our petition is essentially to protest against the malicious , myopic and selfish interest of certain well placed officials to willfully balkanize and excise virtually all the oil and gas bearing communities of Kalabari Kingdom which include but not limited to Kula, Soku, Elem Sangama, Idama and Abissa and all their fishing settlements which from time immemorial have been in Kalabari communities in Rivers state with which they share common linguistic, cultural and ancestral shrines and also consanguinity.”

Bob-Manuel said the cardinal aim behind the act is to excise and seize the Kalabari communities and make them part of Bayelsa State in order to benefit the accruals from the oil and gas revenue emanating from the affected communities such as Soku, Robert Kiri, Ekulama and Santa Barbara oil fields which he said, are constitutionally domiciled in Kalabari territory of Rivers State.

He noted that the boundary between Rivers and Bayelsa has never been in dispute until “the most unfortunate subterranean manipulations by Bayelsa State which started sometime in 1999, to exert economic control over the oil and gas communities with Kalabari.”

The traditional rulers said the Kalabaris will not give an inch of their territory to another state.

Ikuru, in his responses claimed that N17 billion accruable to the state from the affected oil fields were given to Bayelsa State in September by the Revenue Mobilization and Fiscal Commission. He stated that Soku boundary adjustment with Bayelsa has been a torn on the state, pointing out that all effort made to reverse the matter has not yielded any result. “Soku has been in Rivers State for many decades. We have gone to court over this matter and court seems to be helpless,” he said.

The 13-page petition signed by the Amnayagbo of Kalabari Kingdom, King J.T.J Princewill and representatives of the 13 clans in the kingdom as well as the political and opinion leaders was given to the state deputy governor for presentation to governor.

The protest was rounded up with a world press conference jointly addressed by Chief Israel Bob-Manuel and Engr. Emmanuel Awoyesuku-Jack. The duo in their separate speeches said the boundary dispute between Bayelsa and Rivers started in 2011 when the then, governor of Bayelsa State, Timipriye Silver visited the Soku gas plant. They stated that indigenes of Soku and the entire Kalabari at large see such visit as a trespass by a and had carried out a peaceful protest condemning it.

Weekly Trust gathered that the disputed oil fields produce about 3000 barrel of crude oil per day.

Rivers State Governor Rotimi Amaechi is also in agreement with the Kalabari agitators in their quest not to trade away their God given natural resources. Amaechi while declaring open a legislative capacity building programme for the state house of assembly in Calabar, Cross River State, called on Bayelsa state government to leave the oil wells of Soku and Elem-Sangama communities in Rivers State alone.

The governor stated that both states had never had issues with boundaries because there are well know to all, adding that since the creation of Bayelsa State there has been no law or agreement ceding any part of Kalabari communities or Rivers to it. “We will not allow the attempt by Bayelsa state government to take our oil wells. I have read what the Bayelsa State governor said. That the 11th edition of the administrative map of Nigeria gave them the oil wells. When? They didn’t talk about the 1st edition to the 10th edition, they chose to avoid that, and went to the 11th edition, but the question they should answer is why avoid the previous editions?” He asked.

Similarly, the law maker representing Akuku-Toru constituency 11, in the state House of Assembly Benibo Anabraba alleged that the Federal Government has conspired with the Bayelsa State government to take over 20 communities in the Kalabari Kingdom. The disputed oil wells are located in Akuku-Toru constituency.

According to him, “the Bayelsa State government went and fabricated lies into the 11thedition of the map that the oil wells belong to them, which the boundary commission has confirmed that they made a mistake and the Supreme Court has asked the state to correct the mistake in the 12th edition but they refused to do so .

“And they have been collecting our oil revenue and land criminally and this is heartbreaking to communities that have had so much challenges and difficulties. we have been through oil exploitation and now facing the flood challenges yet the federal government and Bayelsa State government do not have any remorse”.

For those who think that the present face off is but a personality clash between President Goodluck Jonathan and Rivers State governor and by extension the Kalabari communities, Professor Nemi Brigg a former Vice Chancellor of the University of Port Harcourt has a different view. “We are not against any individual that is occupying any position given to him by God. What we are asking for is that the National Boundary Commission should rectify the anomalies in the boundary.”

However, the paramount ruler of Oluasiri clan in Nembe Local Government Area of Bayelsa State, HRH, King Iyeritei Awululu, had described the claim of ownership to the oil wells in contention by Rivers State as frivolous.

King Awululu said the Soku Gas Plant which was in contention was on Oluasiri territory in Nembe council area and not on Kalabiri land as being claimed by the Rivers State.

According to him, “Oluasiri is the 13th ward in Nembe council area and have boundary with Odua, Abua and Akuku-Toru. The Soku Gas Plant is at the centre of Oluasiri land. The place is far from Soku and it is a minimum of 22 minutes drive on the fastest speed boat.”

He said the instrument that created the Nembe district council in the then Eastern region was in 1955/56 while the instrument creating Kalabari district was in 1960/61.

Also, Bayelsa State Governor, Seriake Dickson had described the agitation by the Rivers state government and its people over the matter as an attempt to blackmail the President.

He accused Amaechi’s government of disparaging President Jonathan, while Presidency said that Rivers State has engaged “in school-boy style protest” with “an attempt at cheap blackmail.”

Dickson also accused the Rivers State Government of making statements capable of creating a crisis between the two states.

He requested the government of Rivers State to tender an unreserved apology to the President and the government of Bayelsa State “over its unguarded, mischievous and misleading statements, which clearly are calculated to disparage the Presidency and incite violence between the two states.”

In : Energy