The people of Kogi State who share boundary with Anambra State where there have been lingering boundary disputes have once again disclosed that they are more concerned about access to their farmlands and fishponds and not the presence of oil as is being insinuated.
Kogi State Deputy Governor and Chairman State Boundary Commission,Yomi Awoniyi,made the disclosure at a presentation to the House of Representative Joint Committee set up to interface with parties involved in the alleged encroachment of some parts of Kogi State by Anambra State and to carry out investigation into activities of oil companies in the disputed area.
The Joint Committee meeting was sequel to a motion brought before the House and referred to the Committee’s of Petroleum Resources (upstream) and that of Special Duties.
While noting that oil was only discovered somewhere in the present day Bayelsa in 1956, disclosed that as far back as 1922, documentary evidence of colonial times showed that the first crisis between Kogi and Anambra was over the disputed areas where forest reserves under the Kabba province were being encroached upon to establish Anambra Forest reserves.
The Deputy Governor also said as far back as 1994 there were already efforts between communities in Kogi and Anambra states to use ethnographic references to resolve the areas of dispute in favor of Kogi State,said the inability for the people to access their farmlands and fishing ponds is the state’s concern and not oil.
Awoniyi,called on the committee to do all it can to ensure that the on going peace talks and existing peace currently being enjoyed by the bordering communities is sustained.
While noting that the state government is aware of the unitisation oil policy which will benefit the state by reason of the OPLs 915 that straddles the state when the issues of oil exploration is decided,said the people of the state will not want to let their farmlands and fishing ponds go unhindered.
The Deputy Governor commended the peace that existed between Kogi and its Anambra neighbors until early this year called for it to be sustained,said since the crisis began eleven persons have been killed while sixteen others are currently recuperating in the hospital from gunshots injury.
The Deputy Governor urged the National Boundary Commission not to rely only on the Legal Notices in its judgment of determining the boundaries but on historical proofs and ethnograhic evidence that are gazetted and are in the archives.
In his opening remarks to declare the session open Hon Aminu Tambuwal,Speaker of the House of Representatives who was represented by the Deputy Leader of the House,Rt Hon Leo Ogoh,urged People living around disputed boundary areas of Anambra and Kogi State to strive towards settling their dispute amicably,noting that the nation already has enough security challenges in its hands.
While noting that the stakes certainly are high following the premium placed on revenue sharing as a result of the presence of oil that makes states rich or poor, Tambuwal,urged parties involved not to be selfish in finding solution but should put the interest of the nation as paramount.
The Speaker said the Parliament took the decision to intervene and mediate because it is concern about the dispute and to forestall breakdown of law and order.
Speaker Tambuwal said the two issues being investigated are critical to the economic and peaceful growth of the nation,led to instituting the public hearing. The Speaker added that the hearing is to help determine the ownership of the disputed land and curb the activities of oil companies as well as check the activities of corrupt oil companies as many of them don’t adhere to laid down procedure.
The Speaker said the Committee’s findings will help restore peace to the disputed communities and in curbing corruption in the oil sector which has now become a menace.
In his remarks,Hon Ajibola Muraini,Chairman,Joint Committee on the public hearing,said the hearing was called to examine the activities of Orient Petroleum and to scrutinize whether Anambra has in any way encroached into Kogi State Land.
He said the country cannot afford another security challenge that will lead to breakdown of law and order.
High point of the public hearing was the submission of oral and documentary evidences by Kogi State Government,Nigerian Boundary Commission, and Orient Petroleum Resources PLC.
A 21 day grace period was given by the committee for interested persons who are yet to appear before it to still submit there submissions.
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