The Presidency has debunked claims by the Rivers State Governor, Chibuike Amaechi Rotimi that President Goodluck Jonathan was deploying oil revenues meant for the state to his (Jonathan) native Bayelsa State.
It said Governor Amaechi was mischievously packaging a personal interest as group interest in his desperate move to justify his defection from the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, under which he was elected, to the All Progressives Congress, APC.
In what he described as “a classic case of robbing Peter to pay Paul,” the governor, while explaining why he left the PDP for the opposition APC in a statement on Wednesday, alleged that the Jonathan-led federal government had been paying Bayelsa State the revenues due to Rivers State despite a decision reached that the monies derived from the disputed Soku oil well should remain in an escrow account till all matters were resolved.Bayelsa State was excised from Rivers State in 1996.
While Mr Jonathan hails from the former, his wife is an indigene of the latter. Mr. Amaechi also noted that his administration had made several representations formally and informally on the matter while chiefs and elders from the state had held several meetings and protested the injustice to no avail, adding “as your governor entrusted to keep guard over your commonwealth, we could not keep quiet and allow this grave injustice.
”Mr. Amaechi also revealed that apart from Bayelsa State, oil wells belonging to Rivers State had also been ceded to Akwa Ibom and Abia. According to him, even after the state got judgement that the oil wells were wrongly ceded to Akwa Ibom state and should be returned, only dry wells that were no longer producing oil were returned.Mr. Amaechi listed other reasons why he left the PDP, on whose platform he was elected twice as governor and twice as a member of the State House of Assembly, to include lack of federal presence in Rivers State, refusal of the federal government to reimburse the state government the N103 billion it expended fixing federal roads and alleged discouragement of investments in the state.
But responding to the allegations in a telephone interview with PREMIUM TIMES, the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Reuben Abati, said Mr. Amaechi was merely pretending to be defending the interest of Rivers people to justify his defection to the APC.
Speaking specifically on the governor’s allegation that Mr Jonathan was paying Bayelsa state revenues derived from the disputed Soku oil wells, Mr. Abati said Mr. Amaechi was engaging in blackmail, insisting that the president only acted as a peacemaker in the matter.“That is a wrong allegation,” he said. “I am sure he too knows that the matter is between Bayelsa and Rivers and that what the President did was to act as a peacemaker in the matter.
“To say that the president favours Baylesa is sheer blackmail. The president is the father of everybody. If he is going to APC that is fine, but for him to package a personal interest as group interest is utterly mischievous.”
Mr. Abati explained that the matter was now before the National Boundary Commission, NBC, adding that the Commission would be willing to give details on that if contacted.The president’s spokesperson said Mr Amaechi was exaggerating his importance and pretending to be the messiah of Rivers people, wondering if those celebrating his exit from the ruling PDP were not indigenes of the state.
“Those who danced on the streets of Port Harcourt, carrying placards condemning him, are they not Rivers people?” he said.“How can he now say he is protecting the interest of Rivers people? He is pretending to be a messiah. To package a personal desire in a messianic way is a show of insincerity.“It amounts to exaggerating one’s importance. Why is he bringing this up now? Anyway all I will like to say is that the President is a Rivers man as well as a Bayelsa man and he does not take sides on matters like this.”
Mr. Amaechi and four other governors elected on the platform of the PDP, but who styled themselves G7 Governors, defected to the opposition APC on Tuesday alongside other leaders of the splinter New PDP.The other governors who left the ruling party with him were Musa Kwankwaso (Kano), Murtala Nyako (Sokoto), Abdulfatah Ahmed (Kwara) and Aliyu Wamakko (Sokoto).Mr. Wamakko was not in the country when the New PDP, to which all the governors belonged, formally sealed an alliance with the APC.
Two others, namely Sule Lamido (Jigawa) and Babangida Aliyu (Niger), said they would remain in the PDP.