Oil wells: President, Dickson accuse Rivers of blackmail

Rotimi Amaechi and Seriake Dickson

Rotimi Amaechi and Seriake Dickson

The ‘oil battle’ between Bayelsa State and neighbouring Rivers State took a twist on Tuesday with Governor Seriake Dickson accusing Rotimi Amaechi’s government of disparaging President Goodluck Jonathan.

Dickson also accused the Rivers State Government of making statements capable of creating a crisis between the two states.

He requested the government of Rivers State to tender an unreserved apology to the 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.”

The Presidency also said that Rivers State had been engaged “in school-boy style protest” with “an attempt at cheap blackmail.”

This was contained in a statement by Jonathan’s spokesman, Reuben Abati, in Abuja.

There have been protests by communities in Rivers State against an alleged plan to cede oil wells in the state to neighbouring Bayelsa State.

The Kalabari Traditional Forum in Rivers, led by a former Minister of Aviation, Alabo Graham Douglas, on Monday staged a protest against an alleged plot to transfer oil producing communities in Kalabari area to Nembe Local Government Area of Bayelsa State.

Reacting to the protest, Dickson said Rivers was “always attempting to blackmail President Jonathan in a bid to gain unnecessary advantage.”

But Rivers said on Tuesday that a legitimate protest as staged by the Kalabari chiefs constituted no blackmail to the President.

Dickson, in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Daniel Iworiso-Markson, denied the allegation that the state had planned to annex Kalabari for the purpose of claiming derivation entitlements.

Bayelsa is the home state of Jonathan.

Dickson’s statement reads, “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 assure 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 claming derivation entitlements or any other purpose whatsoever.

“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.”

But the Rivers State Government on Tuesday said it did not make any statement suggestive of blackmail against the President.

The State Commissioner for Information and Communications, Mrs. Ibim Semenitari, described Jonathan as a worthy in-law to the state.

“The government of Rivers State has not made any statement suggestive of blackmail against President Jonathan who is both a bona fide Port-Harcourt boy and a worthy in-law.

“However, I am aware that the people of Akuku-Toru lga have protested the redrawing of the geographical map of Rivers State that attempts to tear them away from their kith and kin in the Kalabari Kingdom of Rivers State.

“I doubt that this exercise of their constitutional right can be viewed as blackmail against our brothers in Bayelsa not to mention Mr. President.”

But Abati’s statement reads in part, “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 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.”

Punch

Leave a Reply