From JULIANA TAIWO-OBALONYE, Abuja
President Goodluck Jonathan has waded into the crisis which led to two communities in Anambra and Kogi states laying claim to Orient Oil. He commissioned the facility in August this year. Since the commissioning of the first oil refinery built by Orient Petroleum at Aguleri Otu in Anambra East Local Government Area which makes Anambra, an oil producing state, some of her neighbours, including Kogi and Enugu states have been claiming ownership of the well.
The President after meeting with Gov. Peter Obi of Anambra and his Kogi counterpart, Idris Wada, is said to have directed the National Boundary Commission to expedite action and ensure all the matters are resolved early enough to forestall any violence. Speaking to State House correspondents after the meeting, Wada said, “the President has given the necessary directives. We are very happy with the meeting, we are going back very happy to tell our people that Mr. President is handling this matter in an expeditious manner according to laid down procedures and at the end of the day, the matter will be resolved amicably”.
Obi said: “The outcome of the meeting is very amicable. The issues regarding to areas where the oil wells are located will be settled amicably. We will work together as states of this federation”. Wada had in an official statement, said that “Kogi will be a major stakeholder in the refinery, considering the fact that the oil wells that will supply crude to the refinery are in Odeke community in Ibaji Local Government Area of the state.”
The governor was backed by a group called Ibaji Development Association (IDA) which says that oil wells OPL 915 and 916 are located in Kogi, not Anambra State, as claimed by Orient Petroleum which is carrying out exploration in the area. In a message to President Jonathan, the ID had said: “The area where the current productive oil well is located is in Odeke community in Ibaji Local Government Area of Kogi State and not in Anambra state.
“Oil exploration activities leading to the successful access to crude oil were carried out in Kogi State within Odeke, Echeno, Ehile, Anocha and Omabo communities by Orient Petroleum Plc. Workers of this company actually rented houses in these communities as quarters for the final phase 1 of the testing of these wells”, the group had said.
They called on President Jonathan then to officially declare Kogi, an oil producing state, saying, “our non-resistant stance should not be misconstrued to mean cowardice, even in the face of glaring provocation from Anambra State whose communities are already head over heels fighting to corner the benefits of the oil wells that do not belong to them.” But in a broadcast to the people, Gov. Obi had expressed shock over the claims on the oil field discovered in his domain.
Tracing the formation of Orient by Anambra and the efforts of his state so far, he said: “It is pertinent to recall that Orient Petroleum Resources Plc was formed during the Government of Dr. Chinwoke Mbadinuju in 2001 and allocated oil fields domiciled in Anambra State. “The board is peopled by prominent Nigerians of Anambra extraction such as Chief Emeka Anyaoku (Chairman), Dr. Alex Ekwueme (Vice-Chairman) and Chief Arthur Mbanefo, among others.
Its management is led by Engr. Emeka Nwawka, “Though Dr. Mbadinuju did not make any direct monetary contribution, under Dr. Chris Ngige (2003-2006), Anambra State Government invested the sum of N100 million naira in the project. “Under our government (between 2006-2009), Anambra State, with the vision and belief in the positive impact of the project on the economy of the state and country, invested, directly and indirectly, the sum of N4.4 billion, which bolstered the confidence of other investors to invest in the venture that made its commissioning a reality.
“Whilst my predecessors never visited the site, I personally laid the foundation of the refinery. I have also visited the site severally since 2006, without any group or state interfering in its ownership as is now the case following the announcement of drilling of oil there. “It is also pertinent to note that till date, neither the group nor the states laying claim to the oil field have, directly or indirectly, invested a kobo in the project, while Anambra State and her people have invested several billions.
“Let me at this juncture state that Anambra State believes in good neighbourliness and will, in conformity with our nature, always admire and celebrate other states which may become producers of oil or any other mineral resource in the future. However, we believe that people’s hard work, sacrifices and investment should be allowed to match their opportunities. Anambra State will remain a good neighbour and will continue to pray for oil to be discovered in other states so that Nigeria will emerge an economic giant in the comity of nations in the world,” Obi concluded.
The scenerio is a replica of what happened between Akwa Ibom and neighbouring Cross River states since the latter lost ownership of 76 oil wells to the former in a major Supreme Court decision in July. Reports from the National Boundary Commission showed that the boundary between Anambra and Kogi states was last delineated in 1924 , during the colonial era.