Abuja, Port Harcourt â€” Tension between Rivers and Bayelsa over ownership of certain oil wells heightened yesterday as the two states stuck to their grounds, a day after the Kalabari people alleged moves to annex five oil communities into President Jonathan’s home state.
Billions of naira in derivation cash is at stake in the battle for the oil-rich areas between the two states. Bayelsa State Governor Seriake Dickson yesterday said the disputed oil wells do not belong to Rivers and that his state was only trying to reclaim what belonged to it in the first place.
Dickson, through his spokesman Daniel Iworiso-Markson, said by the 11th edition of the administrative map of Nigeria published in 2000, Bayelsa is entitled to derivation and other claims from crude oil production in the disputed wells because they fall within its borders.
“The government of Rivers State has been receiving derivation revenue over several oil facilities and installations which are clearly within Bayelsa territory from 1999 till date in spite of the clear boundary delineation in the said map,” Iworiso-Markson said in a statement.
“The facts remain that all the relevant maps–the administrative map of Nigeria 10th edition produced in 1992 and the 11th edition produced in 2000–were clearly produced long before Dr. Goodluck Jonathan became the Vice President and later President,” he added.
But the Rivers State Information commissioner Mrs Ibim Semenatari insisted that the disputed oil wells were Rivers’.
She told Daily Trust that the Kalabari people were merely asking Bayelsa State to obey the Supreme Court judgment that directed that the mistake in the 12th edition of the map should be corrected.
Semenatari said the National Boundary Commission confirmed making a mistake in the 12th edition of the map which the Supreme Court ordered to be rectified.
In its statement yesterday, the Bayelsa state government said its attempt to benefit from the disputed oil deposits did not mean it wanted to annex parts of Rivers State as the Kalabari people alleged on Monday.
“Whereas the claim of a state is based on territorial boundaries contained in the administrative map, that of a clan, family and community is based on traditional history, possession and other forms of ownership,” Iworiso-Markson said.
“We acknowledge the long standing dispute between the Ijaws in Bayelsa in Nembe clan and the Ijaws in Kalabari clan in Rivers State over traditional land boundaries.
“The claims predate the creation of Bayelsa State. However, the present issue is not about Nembe people laying claim to Kalabari land or of people trying to annex Kalabari land and communities as part of Bayelsa State.”
Jonathan denies hand in dispute
In a statement in Abuja yesterday, presidential spokesman Reuben Abati said President Jonathan has no hand in the alleged plot to annex oil wells in Rivers State to Bayelsa.
“We consider these allegations irresponsible and most unfortunate considering the status of the persons who reportedly championed the protest,” Abati said.
“The statutory agencies being referred to by the protesters do not take orders from the President; they are independent bodies. Besides, there are laid down procedures for resolving inter-state boundary disputes.
“In this particular case, the dispute between Rivers and Bayelsa states predates the Jonathan administration, and has been a matter for consideration by the National Boundary Commission, the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) and other relevant agencies, long before now. The matter has never at any time been brought before either the President or the Vice President.
“The school-boy style protest is an attempt at cheap blackmail. We find the motive deplorable. It is all the more surprising that a man of Alabo Graham Douglas’s stature, a former Minister who ought to know what is right, will team up with a group intent on causing disaffection between the President and his Ijaw kinsmen.
“We advise the Kalabari National Forum, its members and hidden sponsors, to avoid the temptation to instigate conflict between the Nembe and Kalabari people of Rivers and Bayelsa states, who are both of the same Ijaw stock. The statutory agencies assigned the responsibility of resolving boundary disputes should be allowed to do their work.
“President Jonathan appeals to the good people of Rivers and Bayelsa to refuse to be dragged into the politics of conflict being orchestrated by individuals pursuing a hidden agenda. The Federal Government, under President Jonathan’s watchful eyes and supervision, remains committed to the promotion of fairness and justice in the interest of all parties concerned.”