ADDRESS PRESENTED BY HIS EXCELLENCY, THE DEPUTY GOVERNOR OF RIVERS STATE, ENGR. TELE IKURU, FNSE, TO THE JOINT MEETING OF OFFICIALS ON BAYELSA/RIVERS INTERSTATE BOUNDARY, HELD IN YENAGOA, BAYELSA STATE ON 30TH JANUARY, 2013.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. Let me join my Brother, the Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State to welcome the Director General, National Boundary Commission (NBC), the Surveyor General of the Federation and the members of their respective Technical teams, to the joint Meeting of Officials on the Bayelsa/Rivers Inter State Boundary holding today in Yenagoa. Let me also extend my due regards to all Participants from the two sister States, particularly those of you who have been here since yesterday, preparing the grounds for this meeting.
2. As we settle down to the business of the day, let me quickly observe that virtually all of us on the saddle today – the Director General (NBC), the Surveyor General of the Federation, the Deputy Governor of Bayelsa who chair the Bayelsa State Boundary Committee and of course the
Surveyor-General/Permanent Secretary of Rivers State, are attending this meeting for the first time in our respective capacities. The implication is that we shall prepare our minds to learn from one another and accommodate one another, as we painstakingly study what our predecessors have done, with a view to addressing the matter in the most professional, peaceful and transparent manner.
3. From the records, let me state that the request for demarcation of the inter-state boundary between our two States was made to the National Boundary Commission in October 1999 by the Bayelsa State Government. Memoranda with delineation documents submitted by Bayesla State Government claimed that the boundary between the Brass (Nembe) people of BaYELSA State and the New Calabar (Kalabari) people of Rivers State was the San Bartholomew River.
4. Rivers State Government, through its Boundary Committee, in response submitted two volumes of Memoranda and delineations on the 20th and 30th of March, 2000 to the National Boundary Commission.
5. A Joint Meeting of Officials comprising the National Boundary Commission, Federal Surveys and officials of Rivers and Bayelsa States was held on 29th and 30th March, 2000 during which a Joint Field Team (JFT) was constituted to carry out the field tracing and provisional demarcation of the boundary. The Team Leader was the Surveyor General of the Federation.
6. The Joint Team met in Abuja on 4th and 5th May 2000 and studied the delineation documents submitted by the two States to be used on the field. As a follow up, officials of the National |Boundary Commission, Federal Survey and the two States, met again in Port Harcourt on 16th October 2001 and constituted a Screening Committee to screen all delineation documents.
7. The screening exercise took place in Abuja on 3rd and 4th December 2001 with all parties in attendance. Documents screened were categorized, namely: primary, secondary and those to be accepted for information purposes only.
8. The Joint Field Team headed by the Federal Surveyors was formally inaugurated in Yenagoa on 11th December, 2001 and agreed to commence work on 21st January 2002. A Technical Sub-Committee headed by the Chief Project Surveyor (a staff of Federal Surveys) was also set up to work out modalities and requirements for the field exercise with the Surveyor Generals of both States.
9. The Technical Sub-Committee commenced the plotting of the instruments for the tracing of the boundary to enable the field exercise begin in April 2002 before it was discovered by Rivers State that there was already in circulation the 11th Edition of the Administrative map of Nigeria, which to our amazement, was totally at variance with the last edition, as the existing Boundary between Rivers and Bayelsa States had been surreptitiously altered by the shifting of the well known boundary from Santa Barbara River to Saint Bartholomew River. More so, there had been no any known boundary adjustment exercise carried out along that corridor.
10. Rivers State Government through its Boundary Commission promptly protested the errors in the 11th Edition to the National Boundary Commission vide its letter NO. RSBC/002/37 of 20th June 2002. In the response of the National Boundary Commission dated 3rd July 2002 and addressed to Governor of Rivers State, the Commission noted the inadvertent
mis-representation of the Bayelsa/Rivers State inter State boundary at the Saint Bartholomew River as shown in the map (11th Edition). The Commission further stated that ‘The error was as a result of the delay in the inputs from the Rivers State during the production of the Edition
and the pressure to quickly publish the long overdue 11th Edition of the Administrative map of Nigeria’.
11. The Commission went further to assure His Excellency, the Governor of Rivers State ‘that necessary corrections shall be reflected on the 12th Edition currently under
production’ and ‘that the boundary line as reflected on the said (11th) Edition of the Administrative map shall in no way have any bearing on the current efforts of the National Boundary Commission to determine the correct boundary between Bayelsa and Rivers States’.
12. The Commission went further to ‘re-iterate that as agreed at (our) previous meetings, the status quo on the boundary shall be maintained until the correct boundary is
determined after the completion of the current demarcation exercise’. Instructively, this letter was endorsed to the Governor of Bayelsa State.
13. On the 16th of November 2001, members of the Joint field Team met with the Joint Meeting of officers in Yenagoa where the Progress Report of the preliminary aspect of the project was presented by the Surveyor General of the Federation. The meeting resolved ‘that the 11th edition of the Administrative map of Nigeria shall not be used in the demarcation exercise of the boundary because of the observed defects in the placement of the boundaries and that the status quo shall be maintained by all parties until the determination of the final boundary dispute’.
14. Again on the 11th of December 2002, the Joint Technical Committee met and screened 22 additional documents/instruments to be used for the demarcation exercise and classified them using agreed parameters.
15. On the 12th December, 2002, representatives of Bayelsa and Rivers State met at the Federal Survey under the Chairmanship of the Ag. Surveyor-General of the Federation, Surveyor I. A. A. Adewole, to plot the delimitation instruments screened and accepted for use by the Field Team for the demarcation exercise.
16. Furthermore, Stakeholders Forum on this same Boundary was held on 24th March 2005 where it was resolved that the States and NBC could search for and submit additional materials that may be relevant to the exercise. This was done in good fate to allow all available material evidence to be brought in by all parties to assist in the successful discharge of the assignment.
17. By letter NO. NBC.SEC.4/S.75/IV of 18th May, 2005 the NBC re-scheduled the Joint Field Team programme as follows: (i) Joint Enlightenment Campaign to be held from 13th to 27th June 2005; (ii) Commencement of Field work from 30th June to 30th September, 2005.
18. The Joint Meeting of Officials meeting on 25th July, 2007 in Yenagoa where a communique was issued, after the Director General NBC commended the two States and the Joint Field Team for their untiring commitment. Resolutions reached covered all Sectors of the exercise which was considered to be progressive and professional guided. That was the last
known effort to move the project forward.
19. Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, it is now public knowledge that the 11th Edition of the Administrative map of Nigeria, which was admitted by the National Boundary Commission to be erroneous, particularly along the boundary line of the two States, is not only
in circulation under the very watch of the National Boundary Commission, but is used by various Agencies of the Federal Government, including the Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission for the purpose of distributing revenue accruals to States. Rivers State Government as a result, has been short-changed and its people denied their rights to their God-given resources.
20. In the interest of peace, fairness, equity and justice, Rivers State Government resorted to the Courts, which judgment identified the National Boundary Commission’s responsibility to conclusively carry out its statutory and constitutional responsibility of determining the inter State boundary, before deciding on the matter of appropriation of derivable
21. As we speak, Bayelsa State is unilaterally enjoying the full benefits of all revenue accruing from the Soku Oil field, which is in dispute. Until 2007, the two States
reached an agreement that revenue from the Soku field should be in an escrow account pending the determination of the boundaries. We have all known now that all the funds in the Escrow Account have been unilaterally given to Bayelsa State along with every monthly accrual from this field without the National Boundary Commission completing its assignment.
22. Under the circumstance, the commitment to speedy and transparent resolution of this potentially and protracted boundary issue cannot be guaranteed.
23. Rivers State Government has strongly argued that the most effective and transparent way to make all parties genuinely focus on the settlement bid, is by the immediate intervention of the Federal Government to:(i) direct the payment of all revenue proceeds from the disputed oil wells into an Escrow Account under the Accountant General of the Federation; (ii) direct that all withdrawals hitherto made and given to Bayelsa from the erstwhile Escrow Account maintained by the two State Governments be returned; (iii) direct the return to ‘status’ quo with regards to the 11th Edition of the Administrative Map of Nigeria, as re-iterated by the National Boundary Commission vide its letter No. NBC.SEC.4/S/75 of 3rd July addressed to His
Excellency the Governor of Rivers State.
24. To allow Bayelsa State Government to Continue to take full benefit of the revenue proceeds from this disputed well, while the National Boundary Commission is in the middle of the delineation exercise is blatant injustice and therefore most unacceptable to Rivers State. We are in the circumstance constrained to announce our withdrawal from the delineation process unless and until we see semblance of fair play, sincerity and honesty in the action of the arbitrators, in this case the NBC and the office of the Surveyor General.
25. Consequently, we do not deem it fit and proper to continue the delineation exercise under the present most unfortunate circumstance, where one party, in this case Bayelsa State, enjoying the proceeds of the disputed field.
DEPUTY GOVERNOR, RIVERS STATE.