BY JIMITOTA ONOYUME
Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State, yesterday, accused his Bayelsa State counterpart, Governor Se
riake Dickson of distorting facts on the ownership of the Soku oil wells, saying attempts to use Ijaw hegemony to browbeat him into submission would not work.
Amaechi in a response to Dickson’s claims that Bayelsa’s ownership of the oil wells flowed from the map produced by the National Boundaries Commission in year 2000, reminded his colleague that that map was subsequently proved to be erroneous and upon which the then Vice-President, Atiku Abubakar, apologized to the then Rivers State governor, Dr. Peter Odili.
Governor Dickson had in a statement on Wednesday accused Governor Amaechi of distorting facts concerning the ownership of the Soku oil wells and using the issue to blackmail President Goodluck Jonathan who is from Bayelsa State.
He had also claimed that the oil wells were ceded to Bayelsa State upon the report of the National Boundaries Commission in 2000.
Responding in a statement issued on his behalf by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr David Iyofor, Amaechi said: “After a very long slumber, the Bayelsa State Governor, Seriake Dickson, through his Chief Press Secretary, has issued a statement, claiming that the Soku oil wells, which historically have always been in Rivers State are in Bayelsa State.
“This statement is coming many months after the Rivers State Governor, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, has been consistently reiterating that the Soku oil wells which belong to Rivers State have been appropriated to Bayelsa State by the President Goodluck Jonathan-led Federal Government.
“It is also interesting to note that the statement from the Bayelsa Governor is coming after he 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.
“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.
“The 11th edition of the Administrative map, prepared by the National Boundaries 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 Rivers State Government, under Dr. Peter Odili, petitioned the chairman of the National Boundaries Commission, His Excellency, Vice President Atiku Abubakar.
In a letter dated July 3, 2002, the Director General, National Boundaries 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 Boundaries 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 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.
“The Bayelsa State Governor, in his press statement, accused the Rivers State Governor, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, 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.
“This assertion is dangerous, unfounded and in bad faith. Rather, 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 Governor Amaechi, who is not Ijaw, in the fight to return Soku oil wells to Kalabari people of Rivers State.
“The Rivers State Governor, Chibuike Rotimi 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.”