Ordinarily, having issued a press statement last Tuesday on the Oluasiri Oil Wells/Oil Field which clearly shows that the said oil wells/oil fields (which Rivers State refers to as Soku) belong to Bayelsa State, the Bayelsa State Government would have maintained a dignified silence in the face of provocation on the subject matter. But the Bayelsa State Government is compelled to issue this statement though with restraint, to respond to the press statement of the Rivers State Government published in many national newspapers in the country to save the Ijaws, Federal Government agencies and the entire country from the desperation and lies of the Rivers State Government.
For all intents and purposes, the said press statement of the Rivers State Government on the above issue was obviously intended to create crisis amongst the peace loving Ijaw people in Rivers and Bayelsa States and garner public sympathy for Rivers State.
The said statement, which was signed by the Rivers State Commissioner for Information, on the instruction of the Rivers State Governor amongst others, accused the presidency of mischief. This is not only disrespectful and insulting, it also smacks of insubordination and arrogance on the part of the leadership of the Rivers State Government. While this matter remains in the front burner of public discourse, it is advisable for the Rivers State Government to stop denigrating the President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria because the office of the President is the highest institution in the land. Public Office holders must at all times protect the sanctity of public institutions and not to desecrate same the way the leadership of Rivers State did and is still doing.
The government of Bayelsa State therefore urges the Rivers State Governor and his appointees to refrain from making inciting and inflammatory remarks capable of triggering off inter communal crises among our people. It will be recalled that Bayelsa State Government has restrained the Nembe people from responding to the threats and drums of war by the Kalabari people as this could lead to great disaffection between the two communities.
We also urge our fellow Ijaw brothers and traditional rulers to refrain from being used by Governor Ameachi as tools to cause disunity between the people of Rivers and Bayelsa States over the derivation matter because derivation is purely a state matter and not a matter between communities.
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.’’
6. It is worthy of note that the Rivers State Government had in its white paper (1993) titled: RIVERS STATE GOVERNMENT REPORT OF THE JUDICIAL COMMISSION OF ENQUIRY INTO THE DISTURBANCES / CONFLICT BETWEEN AKUKU-TORU AND BRASS LGA OF RIVERS STATE UNDER THE CHAIRMANSHIP OF HON JUSTICE PETER B. AKERE rejected the use of River Santa Babara as the boundary between the Kalabari people of Rivers State and the Nembe people of Bayelsa State. The Rivers State Government in the said white paper specifically stated as follows:
‘‘The commission recommends that;
(i) Until that stage is reached, a temporary map which reflects the Rivers Santa Barbara as an administrative boundary should replace Exhibit SG 1.’’
(a)Rejects the recommendation of the commission in B (2) (i) above...”
The Rivers State Government can therefore no longer claim River Santa Babara as the boundary between the Nembe people of Bayelsa State and the Kalabari people of Rivers State and hence the boundary between the two States.
7. Following dispute between the Nembe and Kalabari peoples, J.G. Cousins Acting District Officer of Brass Division acknowledged River San Bartholomew as the boundary between the Nembe and Kalabari people when in His report dated November 1952 titled KALABARI/NEMBE FISHING DISPUTE stated in paragraph 4 as follows:
“…I note that Consul Hopkins fixed the boundary between Nembe and new Calabar (Kalabari). This is mentioned in the report of the commission into the Kula-Nembe boundary dispute presided over by Mr B.G. Smith acting District Officer in 1944, to which I am also referred by the Nembe Chiefs.”
The New Calabar people in the above quotation refers to the present Kalabari people of Rivers State.
8. The 11tth 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.
9. For now there is no pending litigation over the Oluasiri oil wells/oil field between Rivers and Bayelsa States since the Supreme Court struck out the suit by the Rivers State Government challenging Bayelsa State’s ownership of Oluasiri oil wells/oilfield. The matter was heard under suit number SC/106/2009: Attorney General of Rivers State vs Attorney General of Bayelsa State and Anor.
10. Between, 1996 to 2006, the Rivers State Government wrongly collected several billions of naira from the federation account accruing from the Oluasiri oil wells/oil fields, which was wrongfully allocated, to it by the Federal Government.
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.
God bless Bayelsa State
God bless the Ijaw Nation
God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeira
Deacon Markson Fefegha
Hon. Commissioner of Information and Orientation