AGULERI-OTU community in Anambra-East Council of Anambra State, led by the traditional ruler, Igwe Alex Edozieuno, the Eze Ndo, has urged the Enugu and Kogi State governments to call their respective indigenes to order over what they community described as their continued inflammatory public utterances over the actual location of the oil well recently commissioned by President Goodluck Jonathan.
But the Deputy Governor of Kogi State, Mr. Yomi Awoniyi, said: “There is a lot of misinformation about the crisis. The impression that war has broken out between the two groups is not true. Yes, there is tension on both sides, but this tension is borne out of the exercise being carried out by the National Boundaries Commission (NBC)”.
Igwe Edozieuno urged those who have issues with the location of the oil well or boundaries of his kingdom to follow it up with the NBC and or the office of the Surveyor General of the Federation in the Presidency, saying that it is the most reasonable thing to do in the circumstances, instead of causing tension in the area.
Reacting to comments and publications by some Kogi and Enugu indigenes, the monarch noted: “Our attention has been drawn to the spate of unnecessary and erroneous claims being made in the media by some elements in Kogi and Enugu States over ownership of the area of land in Aguleri-otu, where Orient Petroleum Resources Plc oil production facilities are situated.”
He is particularly worried that some individuals from Kogi have taken the matter even to the National Assembly, urging that their state be allowed to partake in the benefit of the 13 per cent derivation fund constitutionally reserved for oil producing states.
“The scenario being painted that the area of land where Orient is currently drilling for oil is theirs or at best, in contention. This impression is entirely false, tendentious and malicious,” the monarch insisted.
He said ownership and possession of the area by the Aguleri-otu people was from time immemorial and never in contention or doubt and that no one would cede the oil location or any portion of Aguleri-Otu land to anyone, community or state. He averred that the area was well defined from history of their ancestors, which was further reaffirmed by the court verdict in the suit instituted by Igga community of Enugu State.
He disclosed that in February 1932, the area was granted to the Federal Government of Nigeria, vide a formal agreement dated 14/2/32 between Aguleri-Otu people and the then Colonial Governor of Nigeria, Sir G. Thomson.
“In the said agreement, the northern boundary of the area, as granted, was clearly marked and defined. Subsequently, in 1936, by order made pursuant to the Forestry Ordinance, the Governor of Nigeria constituted this area into a Forest Reserve called Anambra Forest Reserve. Our people have since been receiving royalties for this area,” Edozieuno added.
He disclosed that their forebears who lived in the area were set apart in the Forest Reserve area in four enclaves – Oguejiofor, Menkiti, Chiozie and Obed enclaves, all Aguleri people.
He also pointed out that the Anambra State office of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has a polling centre, the Ngenejo polling centre, where his people always cast their votes during all national general elections and there were no Kogi or Enugu people or voters living there.
The monarch said that even the lone pontoon operating in the waterways linking his community with their feuding neighbours is owned by him, and he has used it to the serve of all peacefully for decades.
“Secondly, by the provisions of Northern Region, Western Region and Eastern Region (Definition of Boundaries) Proclamation 1954, the Northern boundaries of Eastern Region were defined to include this area.
“Specified landmarks defining our boundary include Lake Itolo and Rivers Odah and Inalo as stated in the said instrument. These features are well known to our brothers of Ibaji in Kogi State, more so, all the Federal Government gazettes of 1927, 1931, 1954 and those of 1967-73 clearly defined all the boundaries. We have all the records banked in very safe custody till appropriate moment of need.
“More importantly, and aside from the fore-going official instruments, the people of Aguleri-Otu and their neighbors and still do live in peace today. It is therefore callous for some agents of darkness to seek to stoke the fire of discord between us simply because of petroleum.”
The Aguleri monarch pointed out that with these facts, “we wish to remind our brothers on both divides that oil is a national resource, which the federal Government exploits and applies to the general good of all Nigerians, irrespective of the locus of the oil wells.
“Above all, Orient is still prospecting for more oil within the oil blocks allocated to it which, as we are made to understand, extend to neighbouring states, including Kogi and Enugu.
“Oil production, therefore, in the existing oil wells, which are located within Aguleri-Otu of Anambra State, should attract the felicitation of our neighbours, rather than their envy and indignity, since all our neighbours will reap whatever there are in terms of enhanced economic development in our community.”
He also urged them to sheathe their sword, stating that nothing should be done to disrupt the activities of the oil prospecting firm, as all of them stand to benefit from their activities.
Awoniyi told The Guardian that the President called the governors of the two states some months ago, following the oil find in Odeke area in Kogi State by a company owned essentially by Anambra citizens.
He said: “This led to the erroneous belief that the land is in Anambra. It is quite clear now that the oil well is in a disputed territory.
“Until the NBC is able to decide, using legal notices and ethnographic differences, where the oil well is situated, no clear declaration can be made as to the exact place the oil resides. This is the underlining issue.
“We in Kogi will continue to impress it on our people not to take laws into their hands. The scenario that is also causing the crisis is that Anambra says it has invested N4 billion and that asset is in the bush.
“To protect that investment from vandals and unwanted enemies – not necessarily from Kogi communities – Anambra State set up a joint patrol team to ensure the asset is protected.
“My point is when this patrol is moving around, our people see their movement as an impending attempt to take over and colonise their farmlands.
“On the other side, when the patrol team see our people, they are not sure whether they are moving towards their asset or going to their farmlands.
“The mutual suspicion that exists on either sides is a major source of tension, constantly. Because Kogi State does not have a similar patrol team along that area, because we don’t have any need for it, our citizens who see this Anambra patrol team and feel threatened now constituted a vigilante group to forestall an imagined invasion.
“Kogi State Government has appealed to them to leave the bushes. After hearing their concerns, a detachment of policemen from Kogi State Police Command has been deployed to the two communities within Kogi State and their presence gives the assurance that they will not be invaded.
“With this development, my boss, Governor Idris Wada, has sent top government officials from Kogi, who are in touch with our counterparts in Anambra. ”