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Periscoping Rivers/Bayelsa Face-Off

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Last week, no fewer than thirty respected chiefs and elders of Kalabari Kingdom in Rivers State took to the streets in protest against an alleged ceding of oil wells in their land to Bayelsa State.

Reactions that followed have not only produced a reverberating effect, but have also brought to the fore certain salient issues regarding the politics of oil derivation and key decision-making processes: at what point, for instance, have the benefits accruing from these communities been the legitimate right of Rivers State? From which point did it become Bayelsa’s? How/when/where was the change made?

Utterances made so far by various stakeholders have pointed to one direction – that neither of the States is prepared  to let go of the oil derivation from the stated communities (Soku, Kula, Elem Sangama, Idama and Abissa, all in Akuku-Toru Local Government Area).

The disagreement brewing could at best be seen as a time bomb if not properly handled. From all indications, it will amount to a chronic case of myopia to think of it otherwise. The symptoms are all there.

From being discussed in hushed tones, it gradually developed into declarations in selected areas, then, the landmark protest by no mean personalities than the crème de la crème of a respected segment of an ethnic nation Kalabari.

In a more civilized clime, this singular development is capable of attracting instant reaction from the government or other relevant authorities, regarding identification of the cause, knowing that such caliber of personalities must have a plausible reason for taking to the streets just to be heard.

That protest, one of its kinds in the history of Nigeria, has attracted various responses: denials, claims and counter claims, some of which sounded ridiculously spurious.

The first reaction expectedly came from the Bayelsa State Government. In a statement signed Daniel Iworiso-Markson, by the Chief Press Secretary to the State Governor, and titled “STOP THE CHEAP BLACKMAIL AND FACE THE FACTS”, the government made two very important declarations:

The first was that, “we assure our Ijaw kith and kin in the Kalabari clan of Rivers State that there is no such move to forcefully annex any territory or people into Bayelsa State.

“We further wish to state that the Ijaw strategic interest demands that the Ijaws, wherever they are, should be supported and strengthened and not to be forced into Bayelsa State”.

The second declaration was “that the purported claim is an attempt by the detractors of the Ijaw nation to creat unnecessary strife and hostility within the Ijaw ethnic family to our collective disadvantage”.

The statement thus explained what it christened “the true state of affairs” as: “that by the 11th edition of the administrative map of Nigeria published in 2000, Bayelsa State as a State was entitled to derivation and other claims from crude oil production in respect of oil exploration carried out within its territory as stated in the said map.

“It is important to note that the claim of a State to derivation on account of oil production within its territory is different from ownership of land by families, communities and even clans. Whereas the claim of a State is based on territorial boundaries contained in the administrative map, that of a clan, family and community is based on traditional history, possession and other forms of ownership.

“Therefore, it is very common in the Niger Delta, owing to the way and manner states were created, for communities or clans to be in one state while part of the ancestral land is in another. The family, clan or community does not cease to be traditional owners of such lands, while the states in which the land forms a part exercise administrative control over such land and, therefore, entitled to derivation”.

The statement continued that “by the said 11th edition of the administrative map of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, dated 2000, Bayelsa State is entitled to derivation in respect of all the oil wells within the state’s territory.

 “The Government of Rivers State has been receiving derivation revenue over several oil facilities and installations which are clearly within Bayelsa territory from 1999 till date in spite of the clear boundary delineation in the said map”.

While acknowledging the long standing dispute between the Ijaws in Bayelsa in Nembe clan and the Ijaws in Kalabari clan in Rivers State over traditional land boundaries, which predates the creation of Bayelsa State, the statement noted that the present one is beyond such disputes.

“Rather, the present claim is about the right of Bayelsa State like any other state, to derivation revenue in respect of activities within its territory as stated in the administrative map of Nigeria. Even if any land in question in Bayelsa State is found to be the ancestral of any family, community or clan in Kalabari clan, it does not detract from the right of the state to receive derivation.

“In the same vein, it does not also detract from the ownership or title to such land by the family, clan or community which must be acknowledged and treated as such. Derivation revenue is not paid to families, clans or communities but to State Governments, exercising administrative control over the territory where production takes place.

“The government of Bayelsa State has through its consultants verified and computed all such derivation monies wrongly paid to or received by Rivers State over the years.

“We condemn the deliberate and mischievous attempt to link the President to what is clearly an exercise of Bayelsa State Government’s right.”

The Bayelsa State Government’s response was followed by prompt twin reactions: first from the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), and another by the Rivers State Governor, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Amaechi.

For RMAFC, in response to the allegation by the Kalabari chiefs that the agency in alliance with the National Boundary Commission (NBC) and other Federal agencies were instrumental to the ceding of their oil wells to Bayelsa, its Chairman, Elias Mbam, said the oil wells belong to Bayelsa, “for now”.

His reason was that the RMAFC “is not doing anything differently until the NBC completes its assignment and the Supreme Court gives a final ruling on the matter”.

On his part, Governor Amaechi noted, among other things, that the Bayelsa State Government’s claim to have been given the right to derivations accruable from the stated Rivers communities by the 11th edition of the administrative map of Nigeria was wrong.

While demanding to know when such decision was reached, Amaechi said “they didn’t talk about the 1st edition to the 10th edition; they chose to avoid that and went to the 11th edition, but the question they should answer is, why avoid the previous editions?”

He stated that the Federal Government had accepted, in the court, that it had made “a mistake” in the 11th edition of the administrative map of Nigeria in ceding the stated oil wells to Bayelsa State and had promised to “correct it”, hence “all we (Rivers State) want is for the Federal Government to go back to the 10th edition and not an imaginary 11th edition”.

On the face of it, the RMAFC boss also accepts in principle that there is a misrepresentation; hence he will not do “anything differently until the NBC completes its assignment (of correcting the misrepresented 11th edition) and the Supreme Court gives its ruling on the matter”.

The question, therefore, is should a party in such a matter be benefitting in the face of such an acclaimed mistake on the part of the Federal Government? This is the crux of the matter, and also gives the impression that the decision to give to Bayelsa State derivations hitherto accruable to Rivers State couldn’t have been possible unless the President is signatory to it, not just because President Goodluck Jonathan happens to come from Bayelsa.

A look at part of the vision of the Service Charter of the NBC as it relates to such matters will make this clearer. It states:

“The vision statement of the Service Charter shall be as stated in the Act establishing the Commission as follow: (i) To advise the Federal Government on issues affecting Nigeria’s border with   any neighbouring country; (ii)        To deal with, determine and intervene in any boundary dispute that may arise between Nigeria and any of her neighbours or between any two states of the federation with a view to settling such dispute. (iii)   To do such other thing connected with boundary matters as the President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Force may from time to time direct”.

From item (iii), it can easily be deduced that though the 11th edition of the map was produced in 2000, long before the President attained his present status, it took his ascention to the  status of President and being a native of Bayelsa State for the execution of paying derivations from Rivers communities to Bayelsa, knowing the mistake of the 11th edition of the map.

The alternative explanation would be that somebody has usurped the powers of the President to effect the payment. This which would mean that unless the President wants to confirm that anything goes in his Government, somebody has to pay for such arrant  unilateral usurpation of the right of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

The earlier something is done to avoid imminent rumble in the Niger Delta, the better for the aspirations of the region.

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Anambra:Bill To Abolish Open Grazing Passes Second Reading

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A bill seeking to regulate animal grazing and establish cattle ranches in designated areas of Anambra has scaled second reading in the House of Assembly.
The Majority Leader of the house, Dr Nnamdi Okafor (APGA-Awka South I), said the bill would promote peace and ensure safety of lives and property in the state.
The bill is entitled, ‘Open Grazing of Cattle and other Livestock Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Bill 2021’.
He said that when the bill becomes law, it would help to curb the incessant herders/farmers clashes and generate business opportunities in the state.
“The bill will be part of the efforts to address the incessant clashes between livestock owners, herders and farmers in the state, which has often led to loss of lives and properties over the years.
“The bill will also prevent the destruction of farms and farmers’ crops brought about by open rearing and grazing of cattle,” Okafor said.
Also, Dr Timothy Ifedioranma (APC-Njikoka l) said the bill would promote the production of healthy breeds of livestock and boost job and investment opportunities in livestock farming.
Mr Chuka Ezewune (APGA-Idemili South) said the bill would also promote modern techniques of animal husbandry and international best practices in the dairy and beef industry.
“The old form of cattle rearing is very destructive to the nation and it is time we embraced change,” Ezewune said.
Contributing, Dr Pete Ibida (APGA-Njikoka II) said his constituents had long clamoured for the law.
“Open grazing has constituted security and safety hazards. It messes up our roads and my constituents have been displaced from their farms.
“I believe the bill will also help to manage the environmental impact of open grazing and protect the environment from degradation and pollution,” Ibida added.
Mr Obinna Emeneka (APGA-Anambra East) said that open grazing contributed to disease transmission and described animals as carriers of parasites transmitted to humans.
Emeneka said the bill required accelerated passage to promote agriculture, security and stability in the state.
The Speaker, Mr Uche Okafor, described the bill as everybody’s business, adding that it bothered on food security, economic development and security of of lives and property.
The bill was later committed to the Committee on Agriculture, headed by Mr John Nwokoye, for further deliberation and the committee was expected to report back on September 30.

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Obaseki Names Cabinet 10 Months Later

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The Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, on Friday released a list of nominees for post of commissioners in the State Executive Council.
This decision is coming close to a year after Obaseki and his deputy, Philip Shaibu, were inaugurated for a second term into office on November 12, 2020, following their victory in the September 19 governorship election under the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The governor had re-appointed Osarodion Ogie as the Secretary to the State Government after his inauguration with no other appointment since then.
This led to criticism from the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) in Edo State that accused Obaseki of presiding over the affairs of the state like a sole administrator.
“There are some policies and actions of a state that legally and constitutionally should not be undertaken without the approval of the State Executive Council. As we speak, some of those actions are being taken solely by Godwin Obaseki as a sole administrator. He has not displayed the tendencies of a democratically elected governor,” Chris Azebanmwan, the Edo APC spokesman said.
Nonetheless, the Governor has finally released the list of his nominees. They are: Barr. Osamudiamen Wole-lyamu (Oredo); Mr. Chris Nehikhare (Orhionmwon); Mr. Richard Edebiri (Uhunmwode); Barr. Andrew Emwanta Adaze (Egor); Mr. Tony Aganmwonyi (Ikpoba Okha); Mr. Ethan Uzamere (Ovia South West); Ms. Efosa Uyigue (Ovia North East).
Others are, Barr. Donald Okogbe (Akoko Edo); Barr. Anthony Innih (Etsako East); Mrs. Omo Otse Omorogbe (Etsako West); Hon. Damian Lawani (Etsako Central); Mr. Jimfred Obaidiku (Owan West).
Also in the list are, Barr. J. O. Braimah (Owan East); Hon. Felix Akhabue (Esan West); Fred Emefiele (Igueben); Mrs. Anehita Ojezua-Emeya (Esan Central); Dr. Olu Ayewoh (Esan North East) and Mrs. Magdalene Ohenhen (Esan South East).

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Speaker Lauds Wike On Infrastructure

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The Speaker, Rivers State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Ikuinyi-Owaji Ibani has commended the Governor of Rivers State, Chief Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, for the rapid development of Rivers State.
He made this statement when he played host to members of the Council For the Regulation of Estate Surveyors and Valuers of Nigeria recently.
Rt. Hon. Ibani assured the Council that the State Assembly would continue to do that which was beneficial to their constituents. He noted that as a public servant, his door was open to all.
He said: “As a public servant, my door is open to all, and at all times. We work in the interest of the State and for the interest of our people….”
Earlier, the Chairman of the Council For The Regulation of Estate Surveyors and Valuers of Nigeria, Gersh Henshaw, commended the efforts of the Speaker as the Head of Rivers State Legislature.
He stated that Rt. Hon. Ibani had continued to maintain a cordial relationship with the Executive arm of Government and the result of such collaboration was the developmental strides in Rivers State.
The Chairman stated that the essence of the visit was to seek partnership with the Rivers State House of Assembly on any new legislation concerning Estate Surveyors and Valuers in Rivers State.
He expressed appreciation to the National President of the Council, Sir Emmanuel Wike for his immense contributions to the success and progress of the profession.
The delegation which was on a courtesy visit to the Rt. Hon. Speaker, was led by its National President, Sir Wike.

By: Kevin Nengia

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