by Stanley Azuakola
The discovery of oil is the beginning of crisis. In recent years, there have been various court cases and exchange of words between some states as a result of oil. The most famous cases involve that between Rivers and Akwa Ibom, as well as that between Akwa Ibom and Cross River.
Now, following the recent commissioning of the oil exploration facilities belonging to Orient Petroleum Resources (OPR) at Aguleri-Otu Aguleri in Anambra East Council Area of Anambra State by President Goodluck Jonathan, another controversy has begun brewing. This time it involves the states of Anambra, Enugu, and Kogi.
At the commissioning of the Orient Petroleum refinery, Nigeria’s president Goodluck Jonathan had declared that Anambra State is now officially the 10th oil-producing state. That statement did not go down well with the neighbouring states of Kogi and Enugu which are arguing that the oil deposits being explored by the company were domiciled in their territories and not Anambra State.
Last week, in Asaba, Delta State, the chairman of the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), Mr. Elias Mbam, highlighted the controversy at an Economic Workshop on Diversification. Mbam said that production of crude oil in Anambra doesn’t automatically entitle the state to 13 per cent derivation.
He said: “The derivation fund is clearly defined in the constitution. The law does not say you must start benefiting when we discover oil in your place.
“You benefit when that mineral resources contributes to the Federation Account and what you benefit is the value of the contribution to Federation Account.”
“We have agencies of government charged with the responsibility of ensuring that boundary issues are settled. We have National Boundary Commission (NBC) and Surveyor General of the Federation, who are charged with responsibilities of delineating boundaries.
“There is no need to dissipate energy now, because once they start contributing to the Federation Account, the Commission will request the boundary commission and Surveyor General to go and establish where the oil wells belong,” he said.
His statement has done little to calm the simmering tension.
The Kogi State Deputy Governor, Mr. Yomi Awoniyi recently spoke on the matter, saying: “As you know, Orient is operating on OPL 915 and this oil field straddles many states, including Kogi and one of the oil wells that have been explored and capped by ELF that have now been re-developed by Orient is actually in Ibaji Local Government of Kogi State.
“I don’t see how one can explain the president’s statement. The oil well is in Anambra River basin, which is a very large expanse of land with an overlay of several states on that basin and even that basin has been divided into several OPL. Orient has 915 and 916. Now, one of the wells is in Kogi State, while other wells are in Anambra and Enugu States. You can drill as many holes as you want in this basin and for every hole you drill, it is a well.”
Also weighing in on the matter, the Chairman of Uzo-uwani Council Area of Enugu, where the oil wells are allegedly situated, Cornel Onwubuya, argued that from historical and documentary evidence, the oil wells are situated in Iggah, a suburb of the council area.
“The distance of the oil wells to Iggah is eight kilometers and seven kilometers from Echenwo community in Ibaji Council Area of Kogi State. The nearest Anambra State migrant settlement, Otu, to the Oil well is 50 kilometers.”
He faulted President Jonathan for declaring Anambra State as an oil producing state, when the National Boundary Commission had not made a definitive statement on where the oil wells are located.
But faulting the claims, chief press secretary (CPS) to Anambra State Governor, Mr. Mike Udah said that:
“There is no truth in the claim by some neighbouring states that Orient Petroleum is in their land. This clearly is an afterthought and an unnecessary distraction. If their claims are true, why weren’t their governors around on August 30 when President Jonathan commissioned Orient Petroleum Resources?
“Only Governor Peter Obi was there to receive the president. Anambra State is not opposed to the idea of the Boundary Commission determining her boundaries with any of her neighbours,” Udah said.
All eyes are now on the National Boundary Commission to make a clear statement and prevent the tension from escalating into a full blown crisis.