June 20, 2009

C/River State and the loss of 76 Oil wells

By John Ighodaro
NOT a few persons are aware that it was a letter that stopped the Second World War. Or let’s put it this way:  It was an action promptly taken in response to a letter that stopped the Second World War. How come a mere letter stopped the Second World War?

Hear this: On August 2, 1939, the great Mathematical-Physicist, Albert Einstein wrote a letter to President Franklin Roosevelt of the US in which he persuaded the president to launch the Manhattan Project  to develop the Atomic Bomb because, he, Einstein feared that rampaging Germany’s Adolf Hitler might develop one.

Liyel Imoke, River State Governor

Liyel Imoke, River State Governor

It was that letter written with mere ink and perhaps on just a page of a mere white paper that saved the world from Adolf Hitler’s menace during the Second World War.

How did that letter save the world? President Roosevelt listened to Albert Einstein’s advice in the letter and subsequently launched the Manhattan Project  which resulted in the development of the Atomic Bomb that actually stopped the Great War when America threw nuclear bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki . It was a clear statement to Adolf Hitler that the Allied Powers had the capability to erase Germany from the map, so the war ended.

We are not here to debate whether it was right for America to drop those bombs, because many innocents perished thereby, but we are saying that it ended the war. Had those bombs not been dropped, Hitler would have conquered and enslaved the world. He was already dealing decisively with some European countries.

A mere letter? Yes. Better still, a wise response to a letter, yes.

It is in the light of that letter by Albert Einstein to President Roosevelt that one would want President Musa Yar’Adua to see the appeal of C/River’s Elders Forum to him.

In a public statement, the C/River Elders Forum noted it was their  “confidence in Mr. President’s sense of justice that we have been able to contain this provocation.”.

The Elders Forum further noted it was “appreciative of Mr. President, His Excellency, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, GCFR, decision to intervene in this matter in the interest of all parties.”

In the public statement, the C/River Elders Forum noted “when Bakassi was handed over, it was stated clearly by the Federal Government that Nigeria is not losing any maritime territory and no oil wells would be lost. This maritime territory in issue and oil wells were vested in Cross River State.

If Nigeria ceded no maritime territory or oil wells to Cameroun , how come Cross River is now said to have lost its maritime territory and oil wells? It is ironic that Cross River State is alleged to have lost its maritime territory and is landlocked and yet it plays host to one of the nation’s Seaports, the Calabar Port.!”

Before now, Cross River would receive #2.2 billion from the Federation account on a monthly basis but since the loss of the 76 oil wells the state has been receiving #1 billion monthly from the Federation account which is not even enough to pay salaries.

Currently, Cross River State is handicapped or crippled and when a member of a caring family is handicapped, do other members of that caring family inflict more pains on the unfortunate member? No. they don’t, they provide the unfortunate member with crutches or a wheel chair or even a special vehicle specially designed for the physically challenged.

Meanwhile C/River appears to be the only oases of peace in terms of the absence of militant activities in the Niger Delta and the Federal Government should not be seen to be giving the youths in this area an excuse to embrace militancy which has provoked a military campaign in parts of the volatile region.

This is not a matter of whether the 76 oil wells rightfully belongs to this state or to that state, but this is about providing crutches, wheel chairs or a special vehicle for the physically challenged and that’s what a state is if it cannot pay salaries or meet its obligations as a state.

This is no time for arguments as arguments will prolong the suffering and challenges of the state. What is required now is providing crutches or wheel chairs to the physically challenged.

Prince Bola Ajibola has argued that in 1962, the Foreign Minister of Nigeria conceded Bakassi to the Camerouns and that subsequently Nigeria ensured that Bakassi was not appearing in the map of Nigeria . Sound argument. But a Calabar-based legal practitioner, Barr. James Ibor has also argued that Bakassi was not also appearing in the map of Cameroun until 2001 or 2002. So arguments seldom help. So at a time, Bakassi was neither in the map of Nigeria nor of that of the Camerouns .

Stakeholders in Cross River State cannot believe that this is happening. At the news of the loss of the oil wells to Akwa Ibom, the Cross River State House of assembly reacted sharply to the loss.

In a resolution of the House they sent a message to the President in which they noted “the Cross River State House of Assembly and indeed the entire people are appreciative of the fatherly role of the President and commander in Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Alhaji Umar Musa Yar’Adua and his prompt intervention in the crises with a view to redressing the injustice being meted out to Cross River State and its people.”

They called on the national Boundary Commission to “revisit, as a matter of urgency the purported boundary adjustment between Cross River State and its sister state, Akwa Ibom which has led to the loss of our membership of the league of oil producing states of Nigeria .”

In his reaction the president of the Calabar Chamber of Commerce, High Chief Edem Duke said the Federal Government should not allow C/River to ground to a halt.

According to him, “ Cross River State should not be made to suffer multiple injuries arising from the Bakassi issue by being further strabgulated while it is still battling to weather the multiple effects of the excision of Bakassi from its territory and the resettlement of displaced Bakassi people.”

He argued that Cross River State “had qualified as an oil producing state with littoral status when Bakassi was an integral part of the state and thereby enjoyed the 13% derivation fund which accrued to other states of similar status.”

The High Chief noted that after losing Bakassi, the state has been battling with the issue of resettling Bakassi indigenes and it has not been easy because the state also lost revenue even as it lost Bakassi  and “one would have thought that with those deprivations arising from causes not created by the state, the state would have attracted tremendous sympathy and support,” and here comes the loss of 76 oil wells which has further depleted the revenue of the state.

Responding, the Cross River Commissioner for Information, Ntufam Edet Okon Asim said “let me inform you that we are not and we will not surrender our territorial integrity and sovereignty to anybody.

The tension is already being heated in some segments of the Niger Delta and Cross River is a cross roads society. We are known internationally as the most diplomatic community. We are not terrorists.”

Another Calabar-based legal practitioner, Barr. Utum Eteng said Cross River has lost a lot. According to him, “Calabar was the capital of Nigeria , then we lost it to Lagos .

Bakassi belonged to Cross River , then we lost it to the Camerouns and now our 76 oil wells has been given to Akwa Ibom. Our fear now is that one day someone might wake up and declare that we are not part of Nigeria .”