Jonathan Fights Back As Bayelsa/Rivers Land Grab Row Deepens

President lashes protesters who accused him of backing Bayelsa against Rivers

President Goodluck Jonathan The tension between Rivers and Bayelsa states over allegations of land grab and oil royalties boiled over yesterday, with the President joining the fray.

President Goodluck Jonathan denied backing the alleged move to cede Soku oil wells in five Kalabari communities of Rivers State to his home state, Bayelsa.

Community elders under the auspices of Kalabari National Forum, on Monday, alleged that there were moves by some Federal Government agencies with presidential acquiesce, to cede Kula, Soku, Ehem-Sargama, Idama and Abose Rivers communities whose oil well produces 300,000 barrels of crude daily, to Bayelsa.

The Kalabari leaders’ protest was led by former Minister Alabo Graham-Douglas. They marched on Abuja on Monday with placards.

Chairman of the Akukutoru Local Government Area Traditional Council of Rivers State, Emmanuel Awoyesuau-Jack, who spoke for the forum, said: “The self-explanatory effort was perceived to assuage the initial provocation of the Rivers State government. While Rivers State government patiently awaited the promised correction, of the error-laden 11th edition of the Administrative map of Nigeria, which ordinarily should have redressed the acknowledged fundamental misrepresentations, the RMAFC surreptitiously released all revenue accruing from Soku Fields and Wells, previously kept in an Escrow Account, to Bayelsa State without recourse to Rivers State.”

But the President denied being part of any plot to cede the communities to Bayelsa. Besides, the Bayelsa State government also accused Rivers State of illegally collecting revenue due to it since 1999.

It said there are outstanding issues of derivation between the two states.

In a statement by presidential spokesman Reuben Abati last night, Dr. Jonathan decried Monday’s protest by Kababari leaders. He urged them and their “hidden sponsors” to avoid “the temptation to instigate conflict between the Nembe and Kalabari people of Rivers and Bayelsa states – who are of the same Ijaw stock”.

The statement said: “Our attention has been drawn to a publication in some newspapers today about a protest staged by the Kalabari National Forum and some monarchs in Abuja, in which the so-called protesters accused President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan of interfering in a boundary dispute between Rivers and Bayelsa states.

“The protesters alleged directly and through innuendoes, that there are plans to cede five Rivers State oil communities to Bayelsa with the connivance of various Federal Government agencies under the watchful eyes and supervision of his Excellency, Mr. President whose home state, most ingloriously, is the direct beneficiary.

“We consider these allegations irresponsible and most unfortunate, considering the status of the persons who reportedly championed the protest. The statutory agencies being referred to by the protesters do not take orders from the President; they are independent bodies.

Besides, there are laid down procedures for resolving inter-state boundary disputes. 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 at any time 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 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 Nation

Leave a Reply