Kogi/Anambra Oil Well Feud: Between Truth and Fallacy by Mike Abu
The lingering violent clashes involving the people of Ibaji in Kogi State and Aguleri-Otu in Anambra State over the ownership of a disputed oil well, which has left several people dead and properties destroyed assumed another dimension penultimate week.
It is remarkable that Anambra East Local Council Chairman, Chinedu Obidigwe, shifted the blames to Kogi State Government, when he accused the latter of encouraging violence in the dispute. The accusation came with resumed hostilities in the disputed area and signaled a tacit drawback to the recent measures commenced on both sides to maintain calm, pending the demarcation exercise by the National Boundary Commission (NBC) ordered by President Goodluck Jonathan.
Asked if Anambra people did not carry out reprisals, Obidigwe replied, “If somebody invades your place and starts burning your houses, what will you do? Of course, you will defend yourself.?”
On the other side, officials from Kogi State have denied all the allegations, with a counter accusation that Anambra officials are the real aggressors who continue to victimize Kogi people, unprovoked. As far as they are concerned, it is a case of victims being made to look like the aggressors.
. “All they accused us of doing is what they are doing exactly. Harassment, intimidation, provocation and abduction of Ibaji people,” alleged Daniel Omatola, Kogi State Liaison Officer for Oil and Gas at Ibaji.
Kogi Deputy Governor Yomi Awoniyi described as “unfortunate” reports that a government official of the standing of a council chairman in Anambra has continued to make comments that are capable of undermining the peace effort and urged Anambra State Government to call Obidigwe to order.
Ibaji communities in Kogi have been living along the borders of Anambra East and West council areas and had co-existed peacefully with their neighbours until the commencement of oil exploration by Orient Petroleum Resources, believed to be owned by Anambra indigenes.
Ibaji people, on whose land the oil is situated, alleged illegal encroachment by Anambra people into their land with a view to taking over their oil rich fields. The Anambra government was believed to have set up a security team comprising soldiers, policemen and vigilante groups to protect the vital area and assets at the refinery.
“The oil find is in Odeke area in Kogi State, which is being processed by a company owned essentially by Anambra citizens. This led to the erroneous belief that the oil well is in Anambra. It is quite clear now that the oil well is in a disputed territory,” declared Awoniyi in an interview.
He added, “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 State will continue to impress it on our people not to take laws into their hands.”
Reported arrest of two Kogi indigenes from Odeke community by the police in Anambra on account of the burning of thatched roofs in a farm in Anambra area may have sparked a vicious reaction from Anambra people. Before then, there were incidences over fishing rights around some ponds close to both boundaries. Kogi government had appealed to its counterpart in Anambra for the release of the arrested person, which the latter obliged.
The other scenario that is also causing the crisis is the claim by Anambra that it had invested N4 billion on assets in the bush. To protect that investment from vandals and unwanted enemies, it was gathered that Anambra State decided to set up a joint patrol team to ensure the assets are protected.
The feeling is that about three weeks ago, when the directive of the President was to be carried out, some people from Anambra decided to raise the false alarm that their houses were burnt by our people so that this will thwart what the National Border Commission wanted to do. This was part of their game plan.
David Ina Ogu, immediate past Acting Charman of Ibaji has downplayed the drumbeats of war and given an insight to peace.
*Mr. Abu is the Chief Press Secretary to the Deputy Governor of Kogi State
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