Although he enjoyed
the massive support of Rivers women during the 2015 electioneering process, yet it was not quite obvious what the State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike’s intention for the women would be, given the attitude of previous political leaders towards the women even after using them to achieve their political ambitions.
However, Governor Wike’s choice of a female running mate in the first instance, signalled a ray of hope to women in Rivers State. This was further authenticated by his resolve, on assumption of office, to swear in two female judicial officers, Justice Daisy Okocha and Justice Christiana Nwankwo as the Acting Chief Judge of the State and Acting President of the Customary Court of Appeal, respectively
Nevertheless, his words, “Our blue print recognizes the roles of women and we will concretise that role and ensure that our women continue to grow and grow to prosperity”, still did not mean much to Rivers women. They were no different from the usual words of past leaders and politicians.
Surprisingly, the difference between Governor Wike’s statement to women and those of past leaders of the state, suddenly became glaring as his vision for the women took less than a year to unfold.
Fortunately, women development featured prominently in his priorities. His NEW Vision made obvious provision for empowering Rivers indigenous women as well as women resident in the state through concrete initiative to build strong families and play key roles in developing the state.
No doubt, His Excellency’s resolve to include women in his government is not only an acknowledgement of the feminist strength in governance, it is also a strong faith in the perceived women’s potential to deliver developmental dividends to the society.
Governor Wike is described at different spheres as a women-friendly governor. His commitment to the welfare and empowerment of women was captured in the 2018 budget for which he said “women empowerment is very key to the development of the state, that is why we are investing resources to uplift women”.
To match his words with visible actions, just within the year 2018, Governor Wike provided a business development scheme worth N500million for Rivers women. The fund, which is said to be domiciled at the state’s microfinance bank (RIMA), is managed by the Ministry of Women Affairs. The empowerment scheme, the governor stressed, was strictly to assist the women to develop small-scale businesses.
The Wike administration has continued to empower and work with market women in the state. On Friday, November 18, the Office of the Deputy Governor organised a market outreach programme for the Rivers East senatorial district at the Rumuwoji playground.
The Deputy Governor, Dr Ipalibo Harry Banigo has said that in this phase, traders drawn from markets in the Rivers East Senatorial District would be supported to boost their businesses while traders from the Rivers South East and Rivers West would have their turns soon. Free medical screening and presentation of gifts to over 300 women were highlights of the occasion.
In sustenance of its objective of empowering women in business, Access Bank Plc through its ‘W’ Academy in partnership with the office of the Rivers State Governor’s wife also organised a capacity building workshop for female business owners in the state within the period under review.
The ‘Womenpreneur Business Workshop’ was the second edition of Access Bank’s empowerment program in line with the other unique offerings and initiatives that are deployed to the Bank’s female customers under the ‘W’ initiative.
The objective of the ‘Womenpreneur Business Workshop’ was to provide a discounted and practical capacity building program that will equip female business owners to thrive, especially with the current economic realities in Nigeria. Interestingly, the Governor’s wife, Justice Eberechi Suzzette Nyesom-Wike, sponsored 238 women under the RivEthics Project.
Politically, the gender friendly disposition of the Governor Wike, was further highlighted in the local government elections held in June. He deliberately opened up the political space for women to participate actively and contribute their quota in the development of the state. Thus, in the last local government polls, 23 women emerged as vice chairmen which is unprecedented in our political history.
Wike has actually demonstrated that his administration holds women in high esteem, hence the need to use them as key players in governance. He sees the repositioning of Rivers women in three dimensions; economic, educational and political. One of the strategies he has mapped out for their eventual turnaround includes the construction of a state-of-the-art women development centre. The complex, he explained, is a way to encourage women capacity development and stamp their mark as major contributors to the governance of the state.
Meanwhile, at the dawn of the year 2018, Rivers women had trooped to the Government House in Port Harcourt to declare their support for the governor to continue for a second term in office. In their solidarity message, they declared to follow their endorsement with massive rural and urban mobilisation of all groups to vote overwhelmingly for Governor Wike in 2019.
The women, in their thousands, drawn from the 23 local government areas, marched from Mile One to Government House, celebrating Governor Wike and creating awareness on his achievements.
High point of the occasion was the presentation of gifts by the women to the Rivers State Governor.
Bread: Need For Affordability
Bread, food made by baking dough made from cereals, is an household name in Nigerians’ breakfast table. Taken with hot beverage, or sandwiched with fish stew, or the like, bread has remained the most common breakfast dish in most Nigerian homes. It is cherished and paronized by both adults and children, this takes its consumption beyond the breakfast table to meet even the lunch and supper needs of the people. It is quick and easy to throw together.
One good thing about this all- cherished food is its ability to maintain an affordable, stable price over the years, an attribute that had endeared it the more to every home. Therefore, given the place of bread in homes’ menu, there is no doubt that any decision taken on it will affect the generality of Nigerian homes and even beyond.
Last week, to the chagrin of Nigerians, bakers in Nigeria embarked on a withdrawal of services for four days. Basically, the move was aimed at drawing the attention of both the federal government, as well as the public to the crises in the industry. In addition, the National Association of Master Bakers and Caterers of Nigeria (AMBCN) said it was to ensure the survival of the bread industry in Nigeria. The National Secretary of the Association, Jude Okafor, explained that high production cost forced the bakers to close shop, as Onuorah, a baker, declared that the bakeries’ capacity has dropped to 70 percent, adding that they can no longer have the turnover required to be able to break even and some are closing down. “In my bakery, I used to have 150 staff, today I have only 45, because my output has dropped. I was doing three shifts in 24 hours before, now I am doing 12 hours.” “It has been very tough with us as businesses. We take loans from banks and default on repayments. But bankers are not willing to give us any lifeline any longer. That is why we want the federal government to look at our side.
Beyond the closing of shops for four days, came an increase in the price of bread, a situation that has sent jitters into the spines of many homes. Recall that about this same time last year, October precisely, Olufunmilola Olukomaiya, an acknowledged journalist, raised alarm on the rising cost of bread in the Nigerian market as it was gradually becoming an exclusive preserve of the rich. A loaf of bread earlier sold for N500 within the period under review, sold for N700 while the ones for N200, were sold for N300. Amidst reactions to this development, bread sellers insisted that the high cost of raw materials necessitated the increase. Nigerians across the nations complained bitterly about the high prices of bread.
Then, the Chairman of the Association of Master Bakers and Caterers of Nigeria (AMBCN), Abuja chapter, Mr Ishaq Abdulkareem, said that the 30 per cent increase in the price of bread was to avoid the shutdown of bakeries caused by the cost of ingredients and production. Abdulkareem stated that the prices of all ingredients used for baking were too high, especially flour and sugar. “The cost of business registration is on the high side, before now, the cost of registration was N32,500 but today it is N90,000” he said. Although the increases were hinged on increase in prices of raw materials, insecurity still stands out as a prominent factor which has given room to the attendant high cost of raw materials ocassioned by their inavailability, and by extension, the exchange rate of the Naira to the dollar. There were also insinuations that double taxation by the authorities as well as the high cost of purchasing diesel were also contributory.
Today, while the people yet grappled with the prevailing market realities, the same big loaf of bread that seemed to have settled for #700-800 for the past one year, now goes for a whooping sum of #1,000 only. Friday, a bread seller, said if the old price must stay, the manufacturers would run at a loss. And for Mrs Maria Cardillo, the Chief Executive Officer, Bon Bread, there was the need for an increase in the price of bread to avoid the collapse of the business. She said the price of bread needed to be increased because “we have had an increase in prices of raw materials and we don’t have alternatives.” Again, the people reacted, but what could their reaction birth?
Surprisingly, bakers are not even swayed by public outcry, they have resolved to take the courage to do this and ignore the fear of the unknown. According to the bakers leader, “All of us have strategies to keep customers to our sides but let not your price strategy bite you back; there are other things to give your customer to stay with you like giving them incentives.” The Secretary said: “We regret these hikes in prices, it is due to the economic indicators and we hope this does not stay for too long. However, these prices are valid for as long as the cost of input materials remain stable,” he said.
Yinka Kolawole & Providence Ayanfeoluwa, writing for the Vanguard Newspaper, revealed that Prices increased by 50% this year, out of which, 25% was witnessed last month. According to them, Available data has shown that Nigeria imported about 99 percent of its wheat requirement in the first quarter of 2022 (Q1’22), and with the attendant foreign exchange (forex) demand pressure, this has been fingered as one of the major factors responsible for the ongoing bread crisis in Nigeria. Report also shows that bakers and other confectionary industry operators have marked up their product prices about four times this year. As at last week the series of price mark ups have seen the average retail price of bread go up by as much as 50 percent this year.For how long this intermittent increase in the price of bread will continue, has remained a puzzle many Nigerians are yet to solve
The Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development estimated Nigeria’s national wheat requirement at 5 million metric tons, and the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) reported that the country produced only 36,943 metric tons of wheat in 2021, representing less than one percent of the country’s total annual demand. According to NBS, wheat was Nigeria’s second most imported goods in Q1’22, accounting for N258.3 billion of the value of total imports in the period. A 50kg bag of flour now goes for about N30,000 as against N12,600 in January 2021, representing an increase of 138 percent. Onuorah corroborated this. He said “In bread making, our inputs are 100 percent imported because the wheat flour that we use majorly comes from Russia. It is not us but the millers because we don’t deal with wheat, we deal with their finished product. And from what we got from them, they are getting most of the wheat from Russia, Ukraine and some part of Argentina”..
From the given analysis, it is obvious that the huge differential between import and in-country growing in the nation’s wheat requirement, can only be bridged by importation and the foreign exchange (forex) needed to prosecute that can only be imagined. Who knows if the government has any provision for forex concessions. Definitely, the danger in sourcing from the parallel market outside the government’ s window, is the possibility for exorbitant rate. Unfortunately, bakers in addition, still complain of a levy they call 15 percent wheat development levy. This levy, said to have been initiated by the Jonathan’s administration, was supposed to be a stop- gap measure for two years.
Onuorah maintained that the essence of this 15 percent wheat development levy was to help grow wheat in the country, but revealed that.”Apart from that, the government also puts 15 percent duty on wheat import”. Cumulatively, what they are seeing as wheat import duty is 30 percent, which makes it a a problem compounded by the abnormal rise in the price of diesel. Eventually, what one sees is a spiraling costs of production. According to reports, currently, “flour is going for between N29,000 and N30,000, the same thing with sugar, softener, and egg that used to go for N800 per crate, is now N2,200 depending on the size, smaller size is N2,000. Yeast that was between N5,000 and N7,000 is now N21,000, the Calcium Sulfate of N29,000 is now about N54,000, and the list goes on.”
Listening to bakers relate their contention with regulatory agencies, NAFDAC and SON , including touts too who allegedly go to bakeries to disturb, breaking bakeries’ vehicles windscreen and side mirrors when the drivers decline their requests, you will conclude that it is indeed a mixed bag for the bakers. But for how long will this trend last.? If a levy is instituted for a certain purpose, which has a time frame, would it not be proper for such initiative to be evaluated within the confine of the given time? From former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration which birthed the ‘wheat development levy’, to seven years into President Buhari’s administration, it is questionable to have such levy still running unguarded. If the aim was to help grow wheat in the country, then there is the need to evaluate the initiative with a view to ascertaining the extent of progress made in that regard. A review of that levy is eminent
Again, bakers have registered their dislike over N154,000 penalty charged to bakeries on late renewal of certificates by NAFDAC. While no sane person would encourage any investor towards late renewal of business documents, it is important authorities take into consideration the hitches before investors that lead to delay in renewal of statutory business documents. The said N154,000 penalty charge on bakeries on late renewal of certificates by NAFDAC, will eventually be borne by the consumers. Thus NAFDAC may need to reconsider alternative measure of penalty or better still, make a downward review of the existing sum.
Bakeries as are obtainable in Nigeria, fall under Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), having multiple taxation in the form of every agency coming to regulate, will only bloat their cost of production. For serving the need of the common man, let’s make bread accessible by making it affordable.
By: Sylvia ThankGod-Amadi
Boundary Commissions And Peaceful Co-Existence (II)
This is the concluding part of the article published on Wednesday August 3, 2022) Rivers State is one state
that is proactive on the issues of boundary disputes because more often than not, disputes arising from boundary have degenerated to crisis situation with colossal loss of lives and property.To address boundary disputes in Rivers State, the State Boundary Commission (Establishment) Act, 2006 which empowers the Deputy Governor of the State to serve as the Chairman, was established. The Act also makes provision for other statutory members to serve in the commission. According to the official website of the New Rivers State on Boundary matters, the State Boundary Commission is empowered by the act to carry out the following thirteen functions:
“To deal with inter and intra-Local Government Boundary disputes within the State; to define and delimit inter and intra-Local Government Area or Area Council Boundaries in accordance with the delimitation instrument or document established for that purpose; to liaise with the zonal liaison officer of the commission in the State and the Federal; To identify and intervene in areas of potential disputes in the State; to hold meetings at least once in every quarter, to ensure maintenance of peace and order in the border areas; To liaise with the State Boundary Commission of neighbouring States with a view of taking joint measures that shall promote good inter-community relationship; to arrange with other State Boundary Committees for joint utilisation of shared resources and facilities along their common borders.
Others include; to encourage and support peace organs within the State for the purpose of promoting peace and harmony between communities involved in boundary disputes; to monitor the activities of the Local Government Boundary committees within the State, and deal with disputes which cannot be settled by the Local Government Boundary committees; to evolve measures for joint utilisation of amenities along Local Government Boundary within the State; to encourage negotiated settlement of boundary dispute in preference to litigation; and to carry out awareness and enlightenment campaigns among the people in the State on the essence of boundaries in order to foster peace and harmony among the people living along boundary lines”. Before the inception of the present administration in Rivers State, boundary disputes accounted for majority of the crises in the State.
Consequently, the present administration headed by Chief Nyesom Wike, through the Office of the State Deputy Governor, Dr Mrs Ipalibo Harry Banigo, has left no stone unturned in ensuring that communal and local government areas boundary disputes are promptly addressed. The State Boundary Commission interfaces with Communities and other stakeholders that are enmeshed in crisis through regular meetings.
The Commission set up Technical Committees to consider critical areas, hold meetings with those affected and submits their findings/report to the State Boundary Commission who makes recommendation to the State Governor based on the report of the committees inaugurated to look at the issues in dispute. No doubt in a determined efforts to maintain peace in the State, the present administration has committed so much money into this project. This is because the government believes that peace is sacrosanct and a sine qua non for holistic development.
Dr. Ipalibo Harry-Banigo, whose office is saddled with the responsibility of handling boundary matters has kept faith with the confidence reposed in her. And she has proved beyond reasonable doubt that she is intentionally and passionately committed to the resolution of boundary related disputes. Some of the intra-State disputes under consideration, according to information obtained are: Barako/Nweberra, two border communities in Ogoni ethnic nationality. A technical committee to demarcate the boundary of Barako and Nweberra Communities in line with the Supreme Court Judgement was set up on 18th of August, 2016 by the State Boundary Commission. The technical committee was headed by HM King Kaleh Obuge and its report was presented to the Rivers State Boundary Commission on the 8th of June, 2017. The technical reports after due consideration by the commission were retrieved by the technical committee for amendments. The reports were resubmitted on the 1st of August, 2019 for consideration.
Bukuma/Tombiaare Communities in Degema Local Government Area have incurred human and material losses from border related crises even with subsisting competent judicial pronouncements. The Bukuma and Tombia boundary dispute also received consideration by the Rivers State Boundary Commission. A technical committee was set up to demarcate the boundary in line with the Supreme Court Judgement in Suit No. SC/97.1919 using plan Nos. SL/25/74 and UR/433/74 as a guide. However, the Technical Committee found it difficult to demarcate the boundary because a point identified on the footpath cannot describe the entire length of the boundary. The Committee, therefore, recommended that a Dispute Resolution Committee be set to negotiate an acceptable boundary. The committee inaugurated on 11th February, 2016 was headed by HM. King Dandeson D. Jaja, Jeki V to look into the dispute as recommended by the Technical Committee.
The committee however, could not reach an amicable settlement and consequently recommended that the two communities should return to the Supreme Court for proper interpretation of the judgement, The two communities were made to enter into an undertaking to keep the peace, among others. A recommendation was also made to the Governor for the State Government to acquire the area in dispute for the purpose of development project. Tema and Ifoko Communities in Asari Toru Local Government Area were also locked in a protracted land dispute. The Boundary Commission inaugurated a technical committee on 10th May, 2018. The Committee was headed by Pst. Paulinus Nsirim, then Permanent Secretary, Rivers State Ministry of Information. It submitted its report on the 20th of December, 2018. The Tai/Ogu-Bolo (Norkpo/Ogu). The Norkpo is a community in Tai Local Government Area while Ogu is headquarters of Ogu/Bolo Local Government Area. This inter -Local Government Area Boundary dispute of Norkpo/Ogu had a Technical Committee headed by Chief Dr Silas Eneyo. The committee was inaugurated on 14th September, 2017, to resolve the dispute. A technical committee also headed by Chief (Dr) Silas Eneyo was inaugurated on 13th October, 2016 and re-inaugurated on the 22nd February 2018 to consider the Eleme/Oyigbo Boundary Dispute.
The Committee has concluded its assignment. For Obete/Seme-Leuku Boundary Dispute, the Rivers State Boundary Commission, set up a technical committee on the 12th of April, 2018. The committee was headed by Chief Sir Fynface Ihunwo JP. The committee concluded its assignment and submitted its report to the commission on the 20th of December, 2018.
Another boundary dispute that was considered was that of Oyigbo/Tai (AfamUkwu in Oyigbo Local Government Area and Korokoro community in Tai Local Government Area). A Technical committee was set up on the 13th of October 2016, to resolve the dispute. The committee chaired by Chief Sir Fyneface Ihunwo submitted its report on the 23rd of February, 2017 with a recommended boundary for demarcation. No doubt the Rivers State Boundary Commission under the leadership of the State Deputy Governor, Dr Mrs Ipalibo Harry Banigo has intentionally and consistently worked to ensure the resolution of the boundary disputes to keep the peace. Other States’ Boundary Commissions are doing their best to live up to their purpose of creation, but their best may not have been good enough, hence the cases of incessant violence culminating in loss of lives and property.
Local government area chairmen should ease the burden of disputes resolution on State Boundary Commissions by constituting the Local Government Boundary Committee in their domain. Dr Hamzat, of Lagos State was right for making the clarion call for local government areas to inaugurate the committees. Another crux of the matter is the status of technical committee on matters already decided by courts of competent jurisdiction, even the Supreme Court with clear judgement. Do technical committee have the locus to set aside and make recommendations which pre-suppose a setting aside of the subsisting judgement of court of competent jurisdiction as alleged by a people of Aguleri in their dispute against Umulere? An effective and functional boundary committee at the national, state and local government levels holds the wands for peaceful resolution of boundary disputes if matters were considered dispassionately, with the fear of God and without favour.
By: Igbiki Benibo
Boundary Commissions And Peaceful Co-Existence
Literally, “boundary disputes” which is conflict over how to draw border lines; or “territorial dispute” which covers conflicts over larger tracts of land or water have been a pain in the neck of many States and communities in the country.
In fact, boundary disputes account for a significant proportion of conflicts, and wars between Communities and States with attendant loss of lives and properties.
Boundary and territorial disputes are products of materials and/or cultural claims, sometimes they may also emerge as a result of fundamental changes in domestic and international environments.
In certain circumstances, boundary and territorial disputes may evolve into geographical power rivalry and competition.
To stem the unpleasant challenges that characterise boundary disputes, the Federal Government established the National Boundary Commission to look into disputed areas. And the commission was replicated in the other two tiers of Government: State and Local Government Areas.
According to the Director – General of the Commission, Mr. Adamu Adaji, the National Boundary Commission has intervened in 86 interstate boundary disputes presently with a determination to create a peaceful atmosphere within the boundary corridors.
“The Director – General who made this known at a Forum in Abuja also reiterated the commission’s commitment to ensure a peaceful boundary regime among communities, States and between Nigeria and its neighbouring countries”.
“We have been intervening in them (boundary disputes), and we can say we have been able to resolve about 30 of these cases though in some cases not fully.”
The resolutions may be partly, some grey areas are still pending and we will look into them as we make progress.
Several States and communities are locked in age-long boundary conflicts that have resulted in loss of lives and properties. Some border communities in disputed areas have been displaced and the inhabitants refugees.
In the words of Adamu Adaji, “there are so many other boundaries that are still in dispute and we are trying our best to ensure that these disputes are reduced to the barest minimum by trying to resolve them as quickly as possible”.
He listed the interstate disputed boundaries flashpoint as: Between Abia and Cross River, Abia and Akwa Ibom, Cross River and Ebonyi, Benue and Taraba, Benue and Ebonyi, Ebonyi and Enugu, Anambra and Kogi, Anambra and Abia.
While disclosing the commission’s efforts to show limits through its Integrated Boundary Management System, Adaji emphasised the need to demarcate the boundaries physically on ground to become visible.
According to him, the definition and demarcation of these boundaries physically on ground is important so that it can be very visible.
“Our aim is to ensure we have a very peaceful boundary regime to have people appreciating boundaries for what they are: there are near administrative arrangements to show limits”.
“Over the years, we have been trying to define these boundaries in such a way that it can be understood but for people to appreciate it properly; it has to be physically established on ground”.
“We have an integrated System of management of these boundaries and at the Federal level is the National Boundary Commission, boundary committees at the State and Local Government levels to determine the local government boundaries”.
“They should work in synergy towards establishing and determining our boundaries and resolving all boundary issues that may arise.”
On the cooperation of States to the activities of the National Boundary commission, the Commission’s helmsman said, “The states have been cooperating so far but not without some obstacles.
There are some uncooperative attitudes from time to time occasioned by the communities’ resistance to some of our activities because of their wrong perceptions of what boundaries really should be. So, we try as much as possible to sensitise these communities through the state boundary committees for them to buy into our activities and appreciate the extent and essence of boundaries, generally”,
On the basis for effective, and result -oriented demarcation, the Director – General stated that the commission relied on legal instruments inherited from the colonial masters, records, gazettes, treaties, agreements, maps, chats, inscriptions among others to define the boundaries.
According to him, “where some of these instruments are deficient, we resort to the principle of ground to paper.
It is a principle we had to create whereby we go on ground and rely on the communities and the states to show us what is agreeable.
We take it from the ground and transfer it to paper, try to make recommendations, analysis and description for the government to accept as a boundary between affected communities and States, as the case may be”.
However, a conflict resolution therapist, Dr. Soibim MacGregor commended the essence of the creation of the Boundary Commission. He expressed disappointment on the Commission’s lack of will to enforce boundary demarcation and adjustment in as some cases.
According to MacGregor, the commission seem to not have substantial independence from the government as those close to government involved in boundary influence the commission to do their bidding.
“Another issue that seems to dent the credibility of the Commission is the covert move to work against subsisting judgements of competent courts of law.
“No Technical Committee on Boundary dispute nor Boundary Commission has the locus to make recommendation or act in any manner that is repugnant to the judgement of any competent court in Nigeria on a disputed area.
“But, in some cases because of corruption or interests some boundary commissions have taken decision, made recommendation that undermines court judgement. In fact, when a matter is in court it is subjudice and contempt for the commission to act on such matter,” he said.
He decried what he described as crisis situation arising from the Commission’s lack of will to address dispute because of interest or financial inducement, even in the face of substantial facts on the matter.
The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria provides for the creation of Local Government Boundary Committees, most local governments have no boundary committees.
The unfortunate situation cuts across most States of the Federation. The absence of the functional committee at the Local Government level has heightened the challenges associated with boundary disputes in Local Government Areas.
Lagos State Deputy Governor, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat decried the absence of functional committees to curb the incessant cases of communal clashes.
While stressing the importance of the National Boundary Commission while receiving a delegation of the commission on a sensitisation and advocacy visit to the State, Hamzat said creating boundary committees at the Local Government levels would aid easy identification of boundaries and go a long way in attending to communal boundary matters before they degenerate into crisis.
“There is no need for communal clashes if all States and Local Government Areas in the country know their boundaries”, Dr. Hamzat said.
He stressed the need for a functional pillar emplacement on interstate boundaries by the commission for proper identification to stop communal clashes among States.
On the Rivers and Imo States boundary, the Director – General of the commission, Adamu Adaji said the Commission had already commenced field work on the border communities of the two States following the judgement of the Supreme court on ownership of 17 oil wells located in boundary communities between the two States.
The National Boundary Commission had in the Nigeria Administrative map, 10th, 11th, 12th and other maps delineated the two communities in which the 17 oil wells were located in Imo State.
But Rivers State citing decree No.14 of 1967, Decree No.12 of 1976, the White papers/conclusion of the Federal Military Government on the Irikefe and Nasir Boundary Commission/Boundary Adjustment Commission, amongst others claimed ownership of the disputed communities.
Some of the local government areas in Imo and Rivers being affected by the field work, according to the Director – General are: Oguta, Ohaji/Egbeme, Owerri West, Ngor-Okpala, Ndoni, Emuoha, Ikwerre, Etche, Egbema, respectively.
“They will pass through the affected local government areas of Oguta, Egbema and Ngor-Okpala in Imo State, and in Rivers State will be Egbema, Ndoni, Emohua, Ikwerre and Etche”, he said.
Boundary related disputes are identified as one of the causes of deep seated resentment, crisis and wars among border Communities and States across the country. The Aguleri and Umuleri boundary disputes, the protracted border dispute between Ebonyi and Enugu States communities that have resulted in occupation of the disputed areas by the Nigerian Army, the Ebonyi and Cross River, etc are instances where development has stalled as a result of absence of peace.
Recently, about 15 bodies were recovered as Benue and Ebonyi communities located at the boundaries clashed over farmland.
According to media reports, the Ojiogu and Okpochiri Ukwagba Ngbo in Ohaukwu Local Government Area of Ebonyi State suffered loss of properties worth millions of naira, “Many people were found dead, many missing and injured”.
Similarly, Effuim and Ezza-Effium in Ohaukwu Local Government Area have also claimed many lives and created a refugee situation.
Unconfirmed reports said at least four persons were killed and over five houses were burnt.
To address boundary disputes in Rivers State, the State Boundary Commission (Establishment) Act, 2006 which empowers the Deputy Governor of the State to serve as the Chairman, was established.
The act also makes provision for other statutory members to serve in the commission. According to the official website of the New Rivers State on Boundary matters, the State Boundary Commission is empowered by the act to carry out the following thirteen functions:
To deal with inter and intra-Local Government Boundary disputes within the State; To define and delimit inter and intra-Local Government Area or Area council Boundaries in accordance with the delimitation instrument or document established for that purpose; To liaise with the Zonal Liaison officer of the commission in the State and the Federal; To identify and intervene in areas of potential disputes in the State; To hold meetings at least once in every quarter, to ensure maintenance of peace and order in the border areas; To liaise with the State Boundary Commission of neighbouring States with the view of taking joint measures that shall promote good inter-community relationship; To arrange with other State Boundary Committees for joint utilisation of shared resources and facilities along their common borders; to encourage and support peace organs within the State for the purpose of promoting peace and harmony between communities involved in boundary disputes; To monitor the activities of the Local Government Boundary committees within the State, and deal with disputes which cannot be settled by the Local Government Boundary committees; To evolve measures for joint utilisation of amenities along Local Government Boundary within the State;
To be cont’d.
To encourage negotiated settlement of boundary dispute in preference to litigation; And to carry out awareness and enlightenment campaigns amng the people in the State on the essence of boundaries in order to foster peace and harmony among the people living along boundary lines.
Consequently, the present administration headed by Chief Nyesom Wike, through the Office of the State Deputy Governor, Dr. Mrs. Ipalibo Harry Banigo, has left no stone unturned in ensuring that communal and local government areas boundary disputes are promptly addressed through meetings with affected communities and other stakeholders, setting up of Technical Committees to consider critical areas and making recommendations to the State Governor.
Dr. Banigo, whose office is saddled with the responsibility of handling boundary matters has kept faith with the confidence reposed in her. And she has intentionally committed to the resolution of boundary related disputes.
Some of the intra-State disputes under consideration, according to information obtained are: Barako/Nweberra.
A technical committee to demarcate the boundary in line with the Supreme Court Judgement was set up on 18th of August, 2016. The committee was headed by HM King Kaleh Obuge and its report was presented to the Rivers State Boundary Commission on the 8th of June, 2017. The technical reports after due consideration by the commission were retrieved by the technical committee for amendments. The reports were resubmitted on the 1st of August, 2019 for consideration.
Bukuma/Tombia boundary dispute also received consideration by the Rivers State Boundary Commission. The technical committee setup to demarcate the boundary in line with the Supreme Court Judgement in Suit No. SC/97.1919 using plan Nos. SL/25/74 and UR/433/74 as a guide found it difficult to do so because a point identified on the footpath cannot describe the entire length of the boundary and therefore recommended that a Dispute Resolution Committee be set to negotiate an acceptable boundary. The committee inaugurated on 11th February, 2016 was headed by HM. King Dandeson D.Jaja, Jeki V to look into the dispute as recommended by the Technical Committee.
The committee however, could not reach an amicable settlement and consequently recommended that the two communities should return to the Supreme Court for proper interpretation of the Judgement, even as they were made to enter into an undertaking to keep the peace, among others.
The Tema/Ifoko Communities in Asari Toru Local Government Area Technical Committee was inaugurated on 10th May, 2018. The Committee was headed by Pst. Paulinus Nsirim, then Permanent Secretary, Rivers State Ministry of Information. It submitted its report on the 20th of December, 2018.
The Tai/Ogu-Bolo (Norkpo/Ogu) Boundary dispute Technical Committee headed by Chief Dr. Silas Eneyo was inaugurated to resolve the dispute on 14th September, 2017.
A technical committee also headed by Chief (Dr) Silas Eneyo was inaugurated on 13th October, 2016 and re-inaugurated on the 22nd February 2018 to consider the Eleme/Oyigbo Boundary Dispute. The Committee has concluded its assignment.
For Obete/Seme-Leuku Boundary Dispute, the Rivers State Boundary Commission, set up a technical committee to resolve the disputes on the 12th of April 2018. The committee was headed by Chief Sir Fynface Ihunwo JP, the committee concluded its assignment and report submitted to the commission on the 20th of December, 2018.
Another boundary disputes that was considered was that of Oyigbo/Tai (Afam Ukwu in oyigbo Local Government Area and Korokoro community in Tai Local Government Area). A Technical committee was set up to resolve the dispute, on the 13th of October 2016. The committee chaired by Chief Sir Fyneface Ihunwo (JP) submitted its report on the 23rd of February, 2017 with a recommended boundary for demarcation.
No doubt the Rivers State Boundary Commission under the leadership of the State Deputy Governor, Dr Mrs Ipalibo Harry Banigo has intentionally and consistently worked to ensure the resolution of the boundary to keep the peace.
Other States Boundary Commissions are doing their best to live up to their purpose of creation but their best may not have been good enough, hence the cases of incessant violence culminating in loss of lives and properties.
Another crux of the mitter is the status of technical committee on matters already decided by courts of competent jurisdiction, even the supreme court with clear judgement.
Do technical committee have the locus to set aside and make recommendations which pre-suppose a setting aside of the subsisting judgement of court of competent jurisdiction as alleged by a people of Aguleri in their dispute against Umulere?
An effective and functional boundary committee at the national, state and local government levels holds the wands for peaceful resolution of boundary disputes if matters were considered dispassionately, with the fear of God and without favour.
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