Governor Rotimi Amaechi
Tokunbo Adedoja and Chuks Okocha
There seems to be no end in sight yet in respect of the raging dispute between Rivers and Bayelsa states over some oil wells as the meeting called by President Goodluck Jonathan to find a peaceful resolution to the dispute could not hold on Friday as scheduled.
Though, no reason was given by the State House for the cancellation, it was learnt that the meeting was called off due to the absence of Rivers State Governor Rotimi Amaechi who was said to have travelled out of the country.
While the Bayelsa delegation led by Governor Seriake Dickson, was said to have arrived in Abuja for the meeting, the delegation from Rivers State was not in the capital city.
Governor Amaechi's spokesman, Mr. David Iyofor, said "the governor travelled outside the country earlier in the week on official assignment and I am aware that he delegated the deputy governor to represent him."
Iyofor said Rivers delegation did not come to Abuja at all because the state's liaison officer received a letter dated November 8, 2012 from the Chief of Staff to the President Mike Oghiadomhe, stating that the meeting had been shifted and a new date would be announced.
It could, however, not be confirmed if similar letter was sent to Bayelsa as it was gathered that Dickson was at the Villa Friday evening.
It was feared the meeting was called off because Presidency felt slighted that Governor Amaechi had delegated his deputy to attend the meeting.
Special Adviser to the President on Public Affairs Doyin Okupe said he was not in Abuja and could not speak on the issue.
He, however, promised to give THISDAY details when he returns to Abuja today.
The dispute between the two states, which have had a running legal battle over the location of the oil-rich communities, became public when some Kalabari monarchs in Rivers State staged a protest in Abuja alleging that Soku oil well had been ceded to Bayelsa, the President's home state.The oil-bearing communities of Elem Sangana and Soku - the areas in dispute - are said to collectively produce about 300,000 barrels of crude oil daily.
Rivers also alleged that N17 billion of revenue accruing to it was erroneously paid to Bayelsa, but Bayelsa insisted that the said amount was the outcome of reconciliation of figures in respect of funds due to the state that had been wrongly credited to Rivers.
In the heat of claims and counter-claims by the two states, Amaechi had said: “Other federal agencies are not helping matters at all. From all indications, all federal agencies we have approached over this issue have all kept deaf ears. The whole world knows that Soku has been part of Rivers State from time immemorial.”
Shortly after the protest by the Kalabari monarchs and the media war that ensued between the two states, Jonathan met with leaders of Rivers State led by Amaechi at the State House.
His Deputy, Mr. Tele Ikuru, who is also the chairman of the Rivers State Boundary Commission, was at that meeting held in the first week of November.
That meeting, which one of the Kalabari monarchs, Chief Disrel Gbobo Bob-Manuel II, the Amanyanabo of Abonnema, said "was fruitful, cordial, and like a family discussing," was to be a prelude to an enlarged meeting involving key stakeholders in the two states, which did not hold on Friday.
Apart from the presidency that was initiating peace moves, the National Boundary Commission (NBC) had also waded into the media war, saying it was working to resolve, once and for all, the lingering boundary disputes between the two states.
Its Director-General Dr. MB Ahmad said it had scheduled some lines of activities to be jointly undertaken with officials of the two states in order to resolve the dispute once and for all, which it said had been on since the creation of Bayelsa out of Rivers in 1996.
It even recalled that the commission had at different times intervened to resolve the dispute, but regretted that such interventions had encountered various challenges culminating in the Supreme Court judgment of July 10, 2012, wherein the court directed the commission to conclude the exercise of delineation of the disputed boundary.
Meanwhile, it emerged at the weekend that this is not first time a state would be refunded monies erroneously credited to other oil producing states as has been done to Bayelsa in respect of the Soku oil wells.
A letter from the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), which THISDAY obtained last night, showed that in January this year, all the oil producing states were ordered to refund N17, 566,394,965.18 to Rivers being accrued 13 per cent derivation fund from April 2009 to January 2011. The letter signed by the Chairman of the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) and dated January 17, 2012 with reference number RMC/O&G/34/Vol. II/263 was addressed to the Accountant-General of the Federation.
The order was in response to a letter from Rivers State dated October 3, 2011 for the payment of all the 13 per cent derivation revenue due to the state from Nda and Okori oil fields.
Seven states were affected by the order with Akwa Ibom, Delta and Bayelsa states refunding the highest sums of N9,567,732,283.95; 4,142,271,632.95; and 2,071,164,678.46 respectively.
Also yesterday, a group, Rivers Truth Movement, in a release cited Governor Dickson's claim that Rivers State Government wrongly collected about N120 billion as derivation fund accruing from the Soku Oil fields over several years. The release signed by its President, Charles Douglas Jack, and Secretary, Comrade Steven Amachere, said: "From all accounts, the said money was wrongly credited to Rivers State and the collection of the money spans several years.