The Rivers State government has described the current efforts by the Bayelsa State Government on the controversial Soku oil wells as a belated and desperate attempt to stand the truth on its head.
According to a statement issued by Governor Rotimi Amaechi’s Chief Press Secretary, David Iyofor, the current attempt by Bayelsa State government claiming that the Soku oil wells, which historically have always been in Rivers State are in Bayelsa State is coming after Governor Seriake Dickson has held several clandestine meetings with a few Kalabari indigenes and Chiefs in his bid to get them to publicly renounce the Kalabari ownership of the Soku oil wells.
“At these meetings, all sorts of dummies were thrown up, including the ‘story’ that President Jonathan is Ijaw; Kalabari people are Ijaw; so Kalabari people should support their fellow Ijaw brother, who is the President, to take away Kalabari oil wells and should not join Governor Amaechi, who is not Ijaw, in the fight to return Soku oil wells to Kalabari people of Rivers State,” Iyofor said.
The statement insisted that the facts on the Rivers State ownership of the Soku oil wells are immutable, no matter how the Bayelsa State Governor “tries to stretch, twist or spin them.
“Even in his statement, he conveniently left out the fact that from colonial times up till the 10th edition of the Administrative map of Nigeria, the boundaries between the Kalabari communities in Rivers State and the neighbouring Nembe communities of Bayelsa State have been clearly delineated, with the boundary clearly marked as the Santa Barbara River.”
According to the statement, the 11th edition of the Administrative map, prepared by the National boundary Commission and the Federal Surveyor General’s Office in 1999, but published in 2000, strangely shifted the boundaries between Rivers and Bayelsa States from the initial boundary between Kalabari and Nembe, west of the Santa Barbara River, to San Bartholomew River, contrary to the delineation by all preceding administrative maps of Nigeria and all historical records.
Irked by this distortion of facts, the statement claimed that the Rivers State Government, under Dr. Peter Odili, petitioned the then chairman of the National Boundary Commission, Vice President Atiku Abubakar.
“In a letter dated July 3, 2002, the Director General, National Boundary Commission acknowledged the error and apologized, stating, “ I have discussed this issue with the Surveyor General of the Federation and wish to state as follows: that the National Boundary Commission has taken note of the State’s observation on the INADVERTENT MISREPRESENTATION OF THE BAYELSA/RIVERS INTERSTATE BOUNDARY ON THE SAN BARTHOLOMEW RIVER AS SHOWN ON THE MAP.”
The Director – General, the statement claimed further, also said: “I am to assure your Excellency that your observations have been noted and necessary corrections shall be reflected on the 12th edition of the map currently under production. I am to assure you that the boundary line as reflected in the said edition of the map shall in no way have bearings on the current efforts.”
Governor Amaechi said that the revenues from the disputed Soku wells were originally fixed in an escrow account to await the resolution of the boundary dispute and this has been so until recently when the authorities decided to release the monies from the disputed oil wells to Bayelsa State.
“This unjust and illegal administrative decision resulted in Rivers State Government instituting Suit N0 SC/106/2009 Att. Gen of Rivers State State Vs. Att. Gen of Bayelsa State & others in which the Court decided that it would be appropriate to await the final delineation of the boundary by the National Boundary Commission.
“For completeness, we quote the court: ’’It is on account of the foregoing and because of the technical nature of the dispute and the claims of the parties that the court finds that the NBC(National Boundary Commission) as an authority vested with authorities and expertise, know-how in dealing with this matter, should have, once and for all, conducted an exhaustive exercise of delineating the disputed boundary, hence the long awaited 12th edition of the Administrative Map when completed soonest would have been of tremendous assistance in settling the lingering dispute.
“In the light of the observations I have clearly expressed above, I do not feel comfortable to grant the declarations sought until the NBC concludes its exercise of delineation of disputed boundary to finality. It will be futile and premature to determine the boundary of the two parties in the present circumstance’’.
Rivers insists that the Supreme Court Judgment is clear- “that it could not and will not decide the boundary based on the erroneous 11th Edition Administrative Map the Bayelsa State Governor is relying on and using as his basis to claim Bayelsa ownership of the Soku oil wells; but that it will await the final delineation to be heralded by the promised 12th edition of the Map.”
In the light of the foregoing, Rivers State government therefore wondered why the accruals from the disputed wells which have been kept in escrow all these years to await the final resolution of the matter was suddenly paid to Bayelsa State.
It also wondered why the Federal Government would rely on an Administrative Map whose authors have acknowledged its inaccuracy and promised to remedy?
Governor Amaechi described the press statement in which his Bayelsa counterpart, him of “blackmailing President Goodluck Jonathan and leading a smear campaign against President Jonathan; and of using Soku to incite the Kalabaris in Rivers State against their Nembe kinsmen in Bayelsa, as dangerous, unfounded and in bad faith.
Rather, Amaechi said that it is the Bayelsa State Governor who has been blackmailing Kalabari people of Rivers State, cajoling them to relinquish the Soku oil wells to Bayelsa State, using the puerile argument that President Jonathan is Ijaw; Kalabari people are Ijaw; so Kalabari people should support their Ijaw brother, who is the President, to take away Kalabari oil wells and should not join an Governor Amaechi, who is not Ijaw, in the fight to return Soku oil wells to Kalabari people of Rivers State.
The current situation notwithstanding, the statement said that Gov. Amaechi, will continue to accord the highest respect to the person and office of His Excellency, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, but will never submit to any attempt, as is being orchestrated now, to be intimidated in its responsibility of preserving the property and resources that rightly belong to the people of Rivers State.
“The Governor and people of Rivers State cherish the historic good neighbourliness they have enjoyed with the Governor and people of Bayelsa State. Governor Amaechi will work to preserve this cordial relationship in the context of mutual respect and observance of the rights of each state,” it said