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Editor's note: In this piece, Samson Ezea, who writes from Independence Layout Enugu, explains about the oil-producing status of Enugu state.
Recently, Enugu state governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, made a passionate appeal to the leadership of the Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) to expedite action on the process to formally designate Enugu state as an oil-producing state in the country.
Ugwuanyi made the request when he received Commissioners and top management team of RMAFC led by the Chairman, Indices and Disbursement Committee, Chris A. Akomas, who paid him a courtesy visit at the Government House, Enugu.
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The delegation from RMAFC was in Enugu for an interactive session with members of the Enugu State Executive Council (EXCO), 17 local government chairmen and other stakeholders in line with the commission’s ongoing nationwide sensitization tour of the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) on the review of the existing Revenue Allocation Formula in the spirit of equity, justice and fairness.
Speaking, Gov. Ugwuanyi represented by his deputy, Hon. Mrs. Cecilia Ezeilo, stated that the request for the designation of Enugu as an oil-bearing state became imperative because of the volume of crude oil being harvested from its territory.
The governor drew the attention of RMAFC to the fact that “Enugu is about the only state in Nigeria which produces crude oil in commercial quantities without being formally accorded the status of an oil-bearing state”.
He pointed out:
“Years of oil exploration in the Enugu/Anambra/Kogi states joint border corridor have resulted in the successful exploitation of crude oil in the area which includes a large part of Enugu state’s territory. While stressing on a desirable allocation formula for the country, he noted that the Enugu state government, after considering all the relevant factors and parameters, is proposing 50-50 to the three states.”
It is quite disturbing, unfortunate and surprising that the leadership of RMAFC waited to be in Enugu and be reminded by Governor Ugwuanyi to accord Enugu state the enviable and deserved status of oil-producing state.
Whatever is the reason for the delay in according to Enugu state the rightful status of oil-producing state by the leadership of RMAFC and others cannot be tenable, explained or understandable to Nigerians. Be it politics or intrigues or Nigeria factor, the truth is that Enugu state, precisely Igga, Ojo communities in Uzo-Uwani local government area of the state bear crude oil in commercial quantity.
The controversy over availability of oil and gas deposits in commercial quantities in Anambra Basin which cut across Ibaji, Idah- 1, Alade-1 Atu- 1, Inni-1, in Kogi state, Eziagulu Otu, Nzam, Ezi- Anam, Anaku, Omor in Anambra state and Igga, Ojo Uzo-Uwani LGA of Enugu state was stirred on August 31, 2012, when the then president of the country, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, while inaugurating Orient Petroleum Resources Plc at Aguleri- Otu in Anambra East LGA of Anambra State declared Anambra state oil-producing state, without including Enugu and Kogi states that have oil deposits.
The pronouncement created tension and agitations at the Anambra Basin and border communities of Kogi, Enugu and Anambra. Normal activities were disrupted in the affected border communities.
Lives were lost and properties worth millions destroyed following opposition and agitations by the people and governments of Kogi and Enugu against the declaration of the then president Goodluck Jonathan.
As activities of the Oriental Petroleum Company were disrupted in the axis, I was sent by my employer then, The Guardian Newspaper Lagos to go and investigate the matter. I took the risk of my life then and embarked on the dangerous voyage to the crisis-ridden communities of Igga in Enugu, Otucha in Anambra and Odeke in Kogi.
We used a local boat to navigate the Anambra River Basin to enable me to have a clear view of the affected communities and activities surrounding the oil well location and exploration.
I took time to interact with the people in the affected communities of Enugu, Kogi and Anambra states. At the Igga axis, I saw heavy equipment used in the exploration of the oil wells, which were later abandoned when the major investors in Oriental Petroleum decided to explore from the Otuocha Aguleri axis of Anambra state.
At the Oriental Petroleum Plc office Awka, an insider and a friend obliged with a photocopied map of the OPL 915 and OPL 916.
From the map, it was clear that OPL 915 with a huge crude deposit is situated more in Kogi and Enugu with a small portion of it in Anambra state soil. The OPL 916 which is more of a gas deposit is situated in Anambra state.
Several attempts by the National Boundary Commission (NBC) and the Office of the Surveyor-General of the Federation to delineate boundaries among the contending states as directed by President Jonathan then were resisted by the affected states as they disagreed on processes and procedures.
In 2017, 10 man-technique Committee was set up by the governments of Enugu and Kogi to resolve the lingering border crisis between the two states. Also in 2017, the trio of House of Representatives members namely Dr. Tony Nwoye (Anambra) Dr. Patrick Asadu (Enugu) and Hon. Emmanuel Egwu (Kogi) jointly sponsored a motion on the floor urging the federal government to accord the three states-Anambra, Enugu and Kogi the status of oil-producing states.
The motion was opposed by some House members who made the whole session rowdy and the then Speaker of the House, Hon. Yakubu Dogara hurriedly stepped down the motion.
Since then, nothing much was heard about the matter again until recently when I perused through a letter on social media platforms written by RMAFC to the governments of Anambra and Kogi according to them the status of oil-producing states with the exclusion of Enugu state.
Initially, I took the letter and its contents with a pinch of salt, taking into cognizance the deluge and prevalence of fake news on social media platforms. Findings have since revealed that the letter emanated from RMAFC leadership to Kogi and Anambra state governments. What happened and what is happening? What did Kogi and Anambra states did differently since then to deserve the status of oil-producing states that Enugu state did not do or cannot do?
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Why was Enugu state excluded in the recognition when it has been established that there is a crude oil deposit in larger quantity in the state? What is Enugu state's offence that brought about this obvious denial of deserved status?
It is public knowledge that Anambra, Kogi Rivers governments and the 21 local government areas in Anambra state are major stakeholders in Orient Petroleum Company Plc, that does not vitiate the fact that according to the Oriental Petroleum Map OPL 915 is located and situated in Kogi, Enugu and Anambra states' land.
Legally, immediately oil well is discovered, located or situated within a state's territory in commercial quantities and exploration have commenced, the state will be conferred with the status of an oil-producing state and is entitled to the 13% derivation. Nothing says that the state must be a shareholder in the exploration company before it can be conferred with the oil-producing status.
To continue to delay or deny the people and government of Enugu state the status of an oil-producing state under any guise, even with the clarion call by Governor Ugwuanyi to the RMAFC leadership amounts to obvious and deliberate denial, injustice and marginalization.
Enugu Governor Ugwuanyi and the people of his state are peaceful people. They don't believe in a violent approach to issues. The Pacific Governor is a man of dialogue and peace. He will explore all peaceful and diplomatic means to resolve the issue. His proposal for 50-50 sharing formula among the three states of Enugu, Kogi and Anambra is a huge sacrifice and brotherly magnanimity.
Enugu state has for a long time now deserved and still deserves to be conferred oil-producing state status without further delay. This is considering the fact that what is good for the goose is also good for the gander.