Of Unclaimed Oil-wells and Deprived Rivers People!

Nigeria, since amalgamation in 1914, is suffering from several ethnic struggles and conflicts of varying magnitudes. The most devastating is the 30 month civil war between 1967 and 1970. Consequent upon these destabilizing ethnic conflicts, various public policy measures have been enunciated as remedies to the nagging problem of ethnic diversity. These include the public policies of National Youth Service Corps, Unity Schools, Federal Character and Rotating Presidency. The implications of these public policy measures to nation building are a noteworthy issue.

We have not the least pretension that our advocacy constitutes the magic wand to the Nigeria socio-economic and political problems. The problems are multi-dimensional. It takes a combination of antidotes to penetrate its deep seated fabrics. The primary cause of the socio- political and economic instability in Nigeria is the issue of resource agglomeration and distribution at the centre. The presidency as the unique national institution has not spread to the south-east not to talk about the south-south. The authority to perform presidential (federal) function in this zone becomes biased. Federal roads were disregarded, even the old road, between Mbano junction to Mbano camp where I’m living is a death-trap; thousands of vehicles have sunk-deep into the road-turn mud deconstructed federal road in Oyigbo town.

To complete this make-believe world of a non-existent road-map against the Niger Delta communities that has been destroyed, the quartet, comprising the RMAFC, The EFCC and the Federal Ministry Of works, in addition to the Presidency, solemnly meets and accepts NDDC’s evacuation plan with reservations. Nigerian administrations, including the present, have always made it clear that others can play bit parts in the resolution of the Militants-JTF confrontation but the presidency is the lead player while exercising the veto.

If such conflict in the Niger Delta can be presented as war between the Muslim North, and the Christian South. However, although religious and ethnic differences provide leaders with rhetoric for mobilization, they do not sufficiently explain the role of political and economic factors in civil conflict formation. In an attempt to discover the origins of Nigerian civil wars, it is therefore necessary to consider the roots of culturally and regionally imposed political marginalization and its economic effects leading to grievances and instability in the periphery.

But before the advent of colonialism indigenous nations and ethnic groups such as the Igbo,Yoruba, Ikwere, Afizere, Angas, Ndokwa, Bini, Gusu etc, existed as separate societies. Colonialism brought these disparate geo-political entities together in a new nation for political, administrative and economic purposes. It is where the ethnically diverse society of Nigeria with the corollary inter-ethnic relations, particularly of exploitation resulting in struggles and conflicts emerged. The Nigerian ethnically diverse society has witnessed several cultural units involved in the building of alliances and various strategies in the struggle for limited resources in the state. Ethnicity has become vehicular in the attainment of the ethnic group’s fair share of the national cake, catalyzing serious conflicts and truncating the sustainability of socio-political development in Nigeria.

As at political independence in 1960, Nigeria, a fledging democracy, was identified with structural imbalances. The circumstances which led to the creation of states in 1967 centered on the national question, specifically, on the structural imbalances of the federal system. State creation was construed to be a strong move to address such imbalances. But the move raised new national issues, particularly that of administrative boundaries. The boundaries between given political units became uncertain and contentious. Some ethnic communities considered themselves highly disadvantaged by being located in a particular state. Others felt strongly that boundaries within a given state should be redrawn in order to ensure convenience and ease of development.

Altogether, fifty-five boundary disputes were identified. Out of this total number, fifty were inter-state boundary disputes in nineteen states, while five were intra-state. Ndoki was one of the fifty disputes. These led to the creation of the 1976 Boundary Adjustment Commission to identify all boundary disputes with regard to creation of states and to make recommendations to the government accordingly. Because its Chairman was Justice M. Nasir, it was known as the `Nasir Commission.

In almost all of these cases, boundaries were demarcated based on such variables as ‘stability’, ‘oil’, `national interests’, ‘security’ and `good government’. These reasons are, essentially, tenuous. They failed to address basic economic issues that caused political disabilities on the basis of which agitations were made for boundary adjustments. The effort to emphasize geographic features, such as rivers, as appropriate demarcations of frontiers, has not served the intended purpose. The emphasis appeared to be the creation of viable centers of regional economic development, rather than the creation of ethnic strongholds.

Even so, the problem has persisted unresolved. There have been rival claims to farmlands between different ethnic groups on both sides of the Cross River and Benue, Akwa Ibom and Abia, and Cross River and Enugu States. Within the Rivers State, inter-communal disputes and bloody clashes have continued which entailed police and military actions, and even refugee problems in areas in which the Nasir Commission was assumed to have created conditions for peaceful coexistence. The situation questions the rationale behind the various boundaries, raises old feelings, and arouses new sentiments, all reflecting the crisis of Nigerian pluralism, and the continuity and dynamism of the national question.

But conflict in Nigeria is ethnic pluralism, in which diversity of culture and institutional practice occur, and where divergences cluster to demarcate distinct and closed social sections. By 1914, more than 300 ethnic groups had been brought together to create one political and economic unit under British administration and control. From the 1952-53 censuses, Nigeria had a population of 31 million people, made up of Hausa-Fulani, 8.5 million; Ibos, 5 million; and Yorubas, 4.5 million. The `big three’ indigenous groups accounted for about 18 million people or 58% of the colony’s total population. These three groups outnumbered 297 other ethnic groups which were transformed into the ‘minorities’. As shown by Fapohunda, ten ethnic groups (Hausa, Fulani, Yoruba, Ibo, Kanuri, Tv, Edo, Nupe, Ibibio and Ijaw) accounted for nearly 80 percent of Nigeria’s population in 1963. The then Eastern Region of Nigeria had a population of about 8 million in 1953. The majority of the people of the Eastern Region were Ibos (5 million); the rest of the region was made up of the Efik, Ibibios, Ijaws, and Ogonis. The Ibos, thus, formed a regional majority.. Good-ridden Oyo and Lagos is heading to census tribunal right away, to redress the 2003 census miscalculation.

Historically, lack of equity and justice in economic relations, in the distribution of socio-economic resources and in locating facilities has resulted in ethno-regional imbalances, social inequalities and exclusions. These differential variables add up and worsen existing ethnic rivalry at the frontier zones. The justification of this study is, therefore, underscored by the crisis of federalism in Nigeria, the continuity of the problem of conflict between groups and the almost intractable quest to formulate a desirable model of coexistence, equity and tolerance.

Currently the struggle in the Niger Delta is taken dramatic turns as the youths still insist on the implementation of true federalism and resource control, while some criminal gangs, parading under the cloak of militant youth groups kidnap expatriate workers

of oil companies and their children for ransom. All these have made the once pristine tropical paradise to become a jungle of mayhem, desolation, and deprivation in the midst of plenty.

The recent emphasis on economic agendas causing the Niger Delta insurgency has resulted in greed versus grievance dichotomy, which has since been debated. The economic approach surfaced due to the ancient hatreds and failed states arguments’ inability to fully explain the prevalence of economic imperatives in contemporary civil wars. Although the commonness of the economic agendas in today’s strife may seem puzzling, the significance of the economic aspects to wars has been demonstrated and insurgencies have been described as rational behaviour that generates profits from looting.

Recently,the Akwa Ibom state commissioner for information, Mr Aniekan Umanah has stated recently in a press briefing through the state Surveyor-General Okokon Essien, the commissioner gave a graphic explanations surrounding the oil wells which Cross River and Rivers states were still laying claims to. Is Akwa Ibom ready and willing to hand over any “illegally owned” oil to Rivers State? The governor should be very explicit and firm in this matter that if there is any oil well that does not belong to his state, it should be taken away. He can not wish to take any oil well that does not belong to other state.the effect of the judgment of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) dated 10/10/2002 on the land and maritime boundary case between Nigeria and Cameroun is that it has wiped out what used to be the estuarian sector of Cross River State as a result of Cameroun.

That being the case, there seems to be no longer any estuarine boundary between Akwa Ibom State and Cross River State. If the ‘median line’ or ‘thalweg’ principle is adopted drawing the boundary line along the Cross River between Akwa Ibom and Cross River States, the line must intersect the new maritime line between Nigeria and Cameroun with the result that Cross River no longer has a seaward boundary.it’s a national issue based on laws and all the international maritime conventions. Abia State has also been given back its oil wells from Rivers; Delta State got theirs from Ondo State. So, it’s not Rivers State that can lose theirs just like that. The Federal government should correct imbalances of the previous administration on the matter.

About 172 oil wells belonging to Rivers State was ceded to Akwa Ibom State during the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo. The ceding of oil wells in Cross River State to Akwa Ibom State had split governors in the Niger Delta. Relocating about 76 oil wells from Cross River State to Akwa Ibom had left tons of galls in RMAFC’s wake. The allocation of the oil wells to Akwa Ibom State having resulted in the delisting of Cross River State from oil-producing states gives Rivers State, a course to wrestle for her oilwells in diasporas.

Since the resultant action has turned Cross River state into non-oil producers as well as crediting here with a zero allocation from the 13 per cent derivation fund exclusive to oil-producing states, Rivers State has a clear case..

The number of the Rivers people who are in favour of the “resource utilization, good governance” and peaceful resort have been going up dramatically and the Rivers economy has become more and more reliable despite the EFCC’s extortion, frequent harassment and exploitation. It is clear that Gov. Amaechi’s effort to develop the state has not been receiving federal recommendation and compensation. Come to Rivers State; you will marvel, see Eleme junction Fly-over standing defined, tall and excellent. Rivers Dental Clinic turning into a world class, Link roads and peripheral construction everywhere. Arizona-Ogwu is never a praise-singer, but moved to exclaimed.

Under such circumstances, a handful of people who dare “Amaechi’s style of governance” have become more crazy and unconscious to these unpublished achievement. Whereas his predecessors go to media houses to ring -bell. He stays success-thirst! Yar’Adua’s GOVERNMENT should try every means to instigate people in the EFCC who extorts Rivers’ resources confront with people in the region, and set obstacle to the peaceful reconciliation of Rivers people.

The Rivers Straits could by no means serve a water threshold that separate the cultural links of the Akwa Ibom people and split the region. The Akwa Ibom claim of “Cross River 76 wells” without restitution of Rivers own-oil wells and “referendum” shows this government lack of history knowledge. Nigeria does not only belong to the 23 million Akwa Ibom compatriots in the presidency, but also to the 130 million Nigerian people, and both sides of the Straits belong to an integrated country, which is not allowed to separate. The National Boundary Commission must draw lessons from history, and realize that there is no way to split the natural resources than to compliment the regional long decade of lost.

Written by
L.Chinedu Arizona-Ogwu
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