OIL WELLS DISPUTE: RIVERS FIGHTING LOST BATTLE — BAYELSA


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The Bayelsa State Government has called the neighboring Rivers State to stop heating the polity over Oluasiri oil well/oil field, which had generated tension between the two states in recent time.

In a press statement signed by the Commissioner for Information, Bayelsa State, Deacon Markson Fefegha, the state maintained the oil oils/field belongs to it and not Rivers.

Fefegha said he was compelled to issue a press statement in response to an earlier press statement issued by the Rivers State Government, which in his view was intended to cause disaffection between Ijaws in the two states.

He urged the Rivers State Governor, Hon. Chibuike Amaechi, and his appointees to refrain from making inciting and inflammatory remarks capable of triggering off inter-communal crisis among the people, pointing out that the Bayelsa State Government had already restrained the Nembe people from responding to the threats and drums of war by the Kalabari people.

According to him, the 11th edition of the administrative map of Nigeria, further confirms the fact that River San Bartholomew is the boundary between Nembe of Bayelsa State and new Calabar (Kalabari) of Rivers State, which has metamorphosed into the boundary between the two states.

Besides, the Information Commissioner said there was presently no pending litigation over the Oluasiri oil wells/oil field between Rivers and Bayelsa States after the Supreme Court struck out the suit by the Rivers State Government challenging Bayelsa State’s ownership of Oluasiri oil wells/oilfield.

The statement reads in part: “The hard facts about Oluasiri/Soku Oil Wells/Oil Field are as follows:

“1. The Rivers State Government had previously filed two suits against the Bayelsa State Government at the Federal High Court and the Supreme Court respectively in other to assert its purported ownership over the said oil wells/ oil field and woefully failed as the said suits were all struck–-out by the courts.

“|2. Soku is a village in Rivers State while the oil wells/ oil field and the flow station are located in the Oluasiri Clan in Nembe Local Government Area of Bayelsa State. The name Soku oil wells/oil field was wrongly given by Shell Petroleum Development Company Ltd (SPDC) since Soku village was their operational base at that time. 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.

“3. The Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) in its report on the Familiarization/Verification visit to oil producing states, volume 1, Main Report, August 2006 in Chapter 3, page 30 also acknowledged the above anormaly when it stated as follows: The Bayelsa/Imo/Abia State Governments complained that the naming of oil fields was often done arbitrarily without any regard to the culture and particular environment of the people where the wells or fields are located. This has given rise to wrong attribution by relevant agencies.

“4. 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.

“5. The Special Presidential Committee on verification of oil wells in volume one of its report on disputed oil wells of December 2000 (P; 25/26) after a painstaking field verification process and hearing from both states stated and recommended as follows: ‘‘4;5.6 Soku Oil Field The team relied on the legal notice captioned “The Eastern Region Local Government Law, 1955 E.R. NO 26 of 1955. Instrument Establishing the Nembe District Council” tendered by Bayelsa State on Pages 40-41 of its submission.

“It should be noted that while the Kalabaris of Rivers State call the area Soku, the Nembe people of Bayelsa State call it Oluasiri which is one of the councils mentioned in paragraph 5 of the above mentioned instrument…In the light of the above, it is recommended that the production from Soku Oil Field be attributed to Bayelsa State. 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 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 Mobilization 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. We therefore urge all Nigerians to discountenance the frivolous and baseless allegations contained in the press release by the Rivers State Government as they are calculated to mislead the entire Country and instigate crises amongst the Ijaw brothers in Kalabari and Nembe communities. Inspite of this provocation, the Bayelsa State Government will remain focused and determined to ensure a peaceful resolution of the issue.”

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