Former Minister of Aviation, Alabo Tonye Graham-Douglas
By Muhammed Bello
President Goodluck Jonathan has dissociated himself from the boundary dispute between his home state, Bayelsa and the neighbouring Rivers State.
This also came as the Bayelsa State Government equally described allegation as misleading and demanded an unreserved apology to the state and President Jonathan over the unguarded, and mischievous statements, aimed at disparaging the Presidency and incite violence between the sister states.
A socio-political group, the Kalabari National Forum, led by former Minister of Aviation, Alabo Tonye Graham-Douglas, and other eminent traditional rulers from Kalabari Kingdom had on Monday protested the alleged surreptitious moves by the Federal Government, excise their five oil producing communities and give them to Bayelsa State for political reasons.
A statement signed by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, described the allegation as “irresponsible and most unfortunate considering the status of the persons who reportedly championed the protest.”
The Presidency said the federal agencies being referred to by the protesters were independent bodies, which do not take orders from the President.
It noted that there were laid down procedures for resolving inter-state boundary disputes, which the protesters should have explored before jumping into conclusion.
“In this particular case, the dispute between Rivers and Bayelsa States predates the Jonathan administration, and has been a matter for consideration by the National Boundary Commission, the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) and other relevant agencies, long before now. The matter has never been brought before either the President or the Vice President.
“The school-boy style protest is an attempt at cheap blackmail. We find the motive deplorable. It is all the more surprising that a man of Alabo Graham-Douglas’s stature, a former Minister who ought to know what is right, will team up with a group intent on causing disaffection between the President and his Ijaw kinsmen.
“We advise the Kalabari National Forum, its members and hidden sponsors, to avoid the temptation to instigate conflict between the Nembe and Kalabari people of Rivers and Bayelsa States, who are both of the same Ijaw stock. The statutory agencies assigned the responsibility of resolving boundary disputes should be allowed to do their work.
“President Jonathan appeals to the good people of Rivers and Bayelsa State to refuse to be dragged into the politics of conflict being orchestrated by individuals pursuing a hidden agenda.
“The Federal Government, under President Jonathan’s watchful eyes and supervision, remains committed to the promotion of fairness and justice in the interest of all parties concerned,” the statement added.
The Bayelsa State government in a statement signed by the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Daniel Iworiso-Markson, dismissed the alleged move to forcefully annex any territory or people into Bayelsa State, saying Ijaw strategic interest demands that Ijaws wherever they are should be supported and strengthened and not to be forced into Bayelsa State.
It described the purported claim as an attempt by detractors of the Ijaw nation to create unnecessary strife and hostility within the Ijaw ethnic family to their collective disadvantage.
The statement which was issued Tuesday in Yenagoa reads, “the attention of the Bayelsa State Government has been drawn to media reports credited to chiefs and elders of some Ijaw clans of Kalabari extraction in Rivers State, alleging attempts by some persons to forcefully annex communities and ancestral lands as well as oil facilities and installations in Kalabari land to Bayelsa State for the purpose of claiming derivation entitlements.
“The government of Bayelsa State wishes to react as follows: Firstly, 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 Ijaws wherever they are should be supported and strengthened and not to be forced into Bayelsa State.
That the purported claim is an attempt by detractors of the Ijaw nation to create unnecessary strife and hostility within the Ijaw ethnic family to our collective disadvantage.”
The true state of affairs is as follow “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 state in which the land forms a part exercise administrative control over such land and therefore, entitled to derivation. 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 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.
“We acknowledge 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. The claims predate the creation of Bayelsa State However, the present issue is not about Nembe people laying claim to Kalabari land or of people trying to annex Kalabari land and communities as part of Bayelsa State.
“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 land 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 government of Rivers State itself has made several such claims of wrongful payments of derivation monies and has severally received refund in deserving cases.
“The questions to be answered by Rivers State government are as follows: Is the Rivers State government saying that because the President is from Bayelsa State, it therefore means that the state should sleep over its rights and entitlements? Or was Dr. Goodluck Jonathan Vice President and President of Nigeria in 1992 and 2000 when these maps were produced?
“What about the refunds received by the Rivers State government from other states that such funds were wrongly paid to? Should we then associate the refunds with the Presidency?
“We take serious exception to the antics of the Rivers State government in its attempt to always blackmail the President in a bid to gain unnecessary advantage.
“The facts remain that all the relevant maps - the administrative map of Nigeria 10th edition produced in 1992 and the 11th edition produced in 2000 were clearly produced long before Dr. Goodluck Jonathan became the Vice President and later President.
“It is therefore pertinent to state that no amount of blackmail or propaganda will deter the government of Bayelsa State from pursuing its legitimate rights and entitlements under the law.
“We wish to urge our good brothers in Rivers State not to allow themselves to be used for cheap blackmail or any form of propaganda against the President and Bayelsa State.
“Let it be clearly stated that the government of Bayelsa State is not interested in annexing Kalabari clan, as it is being alleged, for the purpose of claiming derivation entitlements or any other purpose whatsoever.
“We therefore request the government of Rivers State to tender an unreserved apology to Mr. President and the government of Bayelsa State over its unguarded, mischievous and misleading statements, which clearly are calculated to disparage the Presidency and incite violence between the two states.”