There is confusion and tension now at the location of Orient petroleum refinery at Aguleri-Otu. There is a renewed clash between the people of Aguleri and Echeno/Odeke in Ibaji local government area of Kogi State.
On July 20, 2015 four persons from Aguleri, Anambra East local government area were killed and seven others were seriously injured. That was the prize for oil at the backyard of Aguleri-Otu community in Anambra East local government area.
Prior to that attack, there was an earlier one where three staff of the oil company were killed,10 caterpillars burnt as gunmen invade Orient Petroleum refinery destroying property worth millions of naira, including houses while several others injured are receiving treatment in hospitals.
According to an eye witness, the armed men numbered about 200 stormed the petroleum facility at about noon, taking the workers and security men attached to the facility unawares. They maimed and looted property.
The two border communities have been laying claims to the oil deposits on the Omambala River basin especially since after the commissioning of Orient Petroleum Refinery at Aguleri Otu in Anambra State by President Goodluck Jonathan last year.
Sophisticated weapons were freely used even in the presence of security operatives guarding the buffer zone created by the National Boundary Commission in the area to forestall clashes between the warring communities.
It was also gathered that one of the mobile policemen guarding the buffer zone had allegedly informed Kogi people that Aguleri people were at the disputed area, adding that shortly after, Kogi people came in large numbers, armed with dangerous weapons, including automatic rifles usually handled by security operatives, an indication of a compromise yet to be established.
Monday’s attack came on the heels of a peace committee meeting held between the communities last week at Idah in Kogi State. Aguleri people expressed surprise at the attack wondering why some people at Odeke were not prepared to see peace return to the area.
Following the frequent clashes in the area, the National Boundary Commission had met with the deputy governors of the two states on many occasions for the purpose of finding a lasting solution to the border problem.
At the last meeting chaired by the Director General of the National Boundary Commission, Dr. M.B. Ahmad, with the deputy governors of the two states and a representative of the surveyor general of the federation in attendance, it was noted that the Anambra/Kogi interstate boundary was the boundary of the former Northern and Eastern regions described in the legal notice No 126 of 1954.
However, the people of Kogi were said to be insisting that despite the demarcated boundary between the old Kabba and old Onitsha provinces, the oil deposits in Omambala River belong to them.
This Anambra and Kogi Communities Bloody Clash got so messed that Omambala youths suggested for a solution which is blood Covenant, and Boundary Demarcation.
Addressing newsmen in Onitsha, the Chairman of the foundation, Comrade Simeon Okafor recalled that the foundation had severally visited the leaders and traditional rulers of the warring communities of Odeke and Echeno in Ibaji Local Government Area of Kogi State and Enugu Otu Agulueri, Eziagulu Otu, Mkpunando and Agulueri, Anambra East Local Government Area of Anambra State.
“The Traditional ruler of Igala, HRM Attah Agabaidu Michael Idakwo Anieh Oboni, HRH Rev JJ Agbata the Doga of Echeno community and the traditional ruler of Odeke, Dominic Urana, the Doga of Odeke, were among the traditional rulers who endorsed our call for covenant and boundary demarcation”, he stated further.
Accompanied by the coordinator of the Foundation, Comrade Tony Edochie and Chief Emmanuel C. Akubueze, Chairman of the initiative group that commenced the peace talk, comrade Okafor expressed surprise that while they have come to the verge of taking the covenant, some disgruntled elements who thrive in crisis went and attacked the Orient Oil site, killing three of its workers few days ago.
Condemning the killing just as governor Willie Obiano also condemned the attack and killing, the Foundation Chairman reiterated that both the Federal and State governments should ensure that the demarcation is done to restore everlasting peace which for years now has eluded the people.
Governor Obiano revealed that he contacted the Governor of Kogi State, Captain Idris Wada where the assailants were reported to have come from and that he has apologized and pledged to investigate the matter with a view to identifying the culprits to face the wrath of the law.
Since Anambra State was declared oil producing state in Augusts 2012 by His Excellency Mr. President Goodluck, Aguleri has known no peace.
First it was flood that laid ambush and swooped on them destroying farm lands and property worth several millions of naira. Their household property was not left out. They relocated to camps and to far relations only to return mid February to be invaded by the neighbouring communities from Igala in Kogi State.
That was a time well targeted as the people were already famished and dependent on others to wine and dine without luxury. Aguleri people want Aguleri land to be theirs and claimed Kogi people have been paying them royalties for granting them fishing and farming rights since the colonial administration in Nigeria.
It was reported that the federal government invited the Governors of Anambra, Enugu and Kogi States and traditional institutions for a parley with the leadership of the National Assembly with a view to finding an amicable solution to the land.
And the National Boundary Commission was also mandated to visit the area and make recommendations but the floods last year made it impossible. Even during the flood then Governor Peter Obi played host to Igala people from Kogi state that took refuge in Aguleri land at the biggest refugee camp in Anambra State located at Fr. Joseph Memorial Secondary School Aguleri and when His Excellency, Dr Goodluck Ebere Jonathan visited Governor Obi accompanied him to the camp in Aguleri to see things for himself.
But this time around President Muhammadu Buhari may have a better option, now Aguleri people and Governor Obiano have petitioned him requesting for his intervention.
NNPC/NPDC carried out seismic activities in Anambra Basin between 1976 and 1983, and about 4,500km of 2D seismic were acquired. Between 1952 and 1986, three companies – SHELL BP, Elf and AGIP drilled 25 exploration wells, two appraisal wells and eight core-drill wells in the entire basin. At the end of the exercise, oil and gas were discovered in Anambra River-1 well, while gas and condensate were found in Anambra River-2 well, which fall within Kogi State.
On July 18, 2001, the then governor of Kogi State, Prince Abubakar Audu wrote to the Group Managing Director of NNPC intimating him of the discovery of mineral substance suspected to be crude oil at Odeke and Echonwa in Ibaji Local Government Area of the state.
“The discovery of this substance has generated widespread public interest and anxiety in Kogi State and I wish to request your organization to carry out a thorough investigation of the substance to determine its nature and extent of deposit,” the letter reads in part. The NNPC promptly sent its men to the affected sites for “a very preliminary investigation of the claims.” The efforts also confirmed the existence of crude oil in the area. In fact, the NNPC’s earlier report confirmed that some “exploratory work has been done in the Anambra Basin with reports of oil show…Our programme in Anambra Basin therefore, are well founded, and we are very optimistic about the petroleum potential of this basin,” it had stated.
May 2008 trouble started
It was in May 2008 that the documents that would have nailed Enugu and Kogi states over the boundary adjustments were burnt in a mysterious inferno.
The then Deputy Governor of Anambra state, Dame Virgy Etiaba lamented that the inferno destroyed the office of the Boundary Committee and that it has set the state back as the over 60 years documents and records in the office were burnt. She prayed they would be reclaimed.
Dame Etiaba said,” The incident is a huge set-back to the Anambra State government as invaluable documents and records, some dating back to over 60 years on inter-state and local government boundary matters were completely destroyed in the inferno”.
The Executive secretary of the Board, Mr. Austine Alor attributed the fire to lightening the night before.
Kogi and Anambra peace deal
On 4th April, 2014 following the wanton destruction, the then Anambra State governor, Mr. Peter Obi and his Kogi State Counterpart, Capt. Idirs Wada resolved to work more for peace, progress and good neighbourliness of their two States.
They made this resolution at the Kogi State Governor’s Lodge, Asokoro Abuja after a closed door meeting on the recent dispute between Odeke in Kogi and Agulueri-Otu in Anambra State.
They signed a joint communiqué regretting the dispute between both states and assure that adequate measures have been put in place through the collaboration of both Governors for the border dispute between both States not to continue. They affirmed faith in the Steps already taken by the President, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan towards the settlement of the border dispute and called on their people to be patent for the Boundary Commission to do its work.
They said that the border crises did not result to any loss of life as the media reported and that only 5 houses and not 57 as well as only 4 motorcycles were destroyed. They gave assurances that the Governor of both States would come to the aid of their people affected by the dispute. They also said they would continue to explore the option of peace as the country does not need crisis of any type at this time.
The president approved deployment of a combined team of the military and mobile policemen to Enugu-Otu Aguleri people in Anambra East local government area of Anambra state and their Ashonwo/Odeke neirghbours in Ibaji Local government area of Kogi state.
They equally visited the Federal Ministry of Transport where they made case for the inclusion of Onitsha through Ayamgba to Abuja in the Railway master plan. Obi said that Onitsha is very critical considering the volume of trade traffic the town carries. He said that whatever equitable criteria for determination of towns to benefit, that he was sure Onitsha would be eligible.
Responding, the Minister, Sen. Idris Umar who thanked them for working together in seeking the welfare of their people and by extension of Nigerians said that their request would be given due consideration and a reply given to them in two weeks.
Another peace deal between communities
On May 23rd , 2013, the Eziagulueri Otu in Anambra East council area of Anambra state and Echeno/Odeke in Ibaji council area of Kogi state agreed to sheath their swords and embrace dialogue.
In a communiqué reached at the meeting between stakeholders of the affected communities in the federal capital territory, Abuja the two communities agreed to ceasefire completely pending the final resolution of the issues.
The then chairman of Anambra East council area and now Special Assistant to Governor Willie Obiano on Youth mobilization and his Ibaji council counterpart, Comrade Chinedu Obidigwe and Hon David Ogu respectively led stakeholders from their affected communities including traditional rulers to the peace talk meeting conveyed by Hon Emmanuel Akubueze and leaders from the Igala speaking communities.
Part of the communiqué read “following the intervention of Chief Emmanuel Akubueze in conjunction with Orient Petroleum Company on the crisis between Echeno/Odeke and Aguleri communities, the following resolutions were made. That there should be total and immediate ceasefire between the warring communities and withdrawal of the fighting troops and their weapons from the bush”
“That the leaders of each of the communities should go back and sensitize their people on the resolution reached in Abuja meeting on or before the end of this month and that there should be enlarged meeting of each side at their respective local government areas to educate their people on the track of peace”
Comrade Obidigwe said the success recorded in the meeting was made possible by the peaceful disposition of Governor Peter Obi whom he said had since the beginning of the crisis opted for peace.
He thanked his Ibaji council area boss, Hon David Ogu for making his people available during the peace talk and maintained that the two council chairmen had been on the path of peaceful resolution of the misunderstanding while calling on the boundary adjustment commission to urgently look into the matter to avoid further occurrence.
Peace deal failed
Ibaji people invaded Anambra East burning over 400 homes and property worth millions, kidnapping two persons.
Obidigwe then accused Kogi state government and Ibaji local government of sponsoring the invasion but warned that peaceful disposition does not mean weakness.
The traditional ruler of Aguleri , Igwe Christopher Idigo called for peace as his people are not ready for another war. He met with the town union leaders of the two invaded communities—Okpali and Okpeze.
Jonathan’s meeting failure
Sequel to that attack and reaction of Kogi state after President Jonathan met with then Gov. Peter Obi of Anambra and his Kogi counterpart, Idris Wada, and the then Deputy Gov. of Enugu State, Mr Sunday Onyebuchi, the peace deal degenerated more.
But in a broadcast then to the people, Gov. Obi had expressed shock over the claims on the oil field discovered in his domain.
Tracing the formation of Orient by Anambra and the efforts of his state so far, he said: “It is pertinent to recall that Orient Petroleum Resources Plc was formed during the Government of Dr. Chinwoke Mbadinuju in 2001 and allocated oil fields domiciled in Anambra State. “The board is peopled by prominent Nigerians of Anambra extraction such as Chief Emeka Anyaoku (Chairman), Dr. Alex Ekwueme (Vice-Chairman) and Chief Arthur Mbanefo, among others.
Its management is led by Engr. Emeka Nwawka, “Though Dr. Mbadinuju did not make any direct monetary contribution, under Dr. Chris Ngige (2003-2006), Anambra State Government invested the sum of N100 million naira in the project.
“Under our government (between 2006-2009), Anambra State, with the vision and belief in the positive impact of the project on the economy of the state and country, invested, directly and indirectly, the sum of N4.4 billion, which bolstered the confidence of other investors to invest in the venture that made its commissioning a reality.
“Whilst my predecessors never visited the site, I personally laid the foundation of the refinery. I have also visited the site severally since 2006, without any group or state interfering in its ownership as is now the case following the announcement of drilling of oil there. “It is also pertinent to note that till date, neither the group nor the states laying claim to the oil field have, directly or indirectly, invested a kobo in the project, while Anambra State and her people have invested several billions.
“Let me at this juncture state that Anambra State believes in good neighbourliness and will, in conformity with our nature, always admire and celebrate other states which may become producers of oil or any other mineral resource in the future. However, we believe that people’s hard work, sacrifices and investment should be allowed to match their opportunities. Anambra State will remain a good neighbour and will continue to pray for oil to be discovered in other states so that Nigeria will emerge an economic giant in the comity of nations in the world,” Obi concluded.
The scenario is a replica of what happened between Akwa Ibom and neighbouring Cross River states since the latter lost ownership of 76 oil wells to the former in a major Supreme Court decision in July. Reports from the National Boundary Commission showed that the boundary between Anambra and Kogi states was last delineated in 1924, during the colonial era
And on the meeting with Jonathan , Obi spoke thus, “The outcome of the meeting is very amicable. The issues regarding to areas where the oil wells are located will be settled amicably. We will work together as states of this federation”.
President Jonathan had in August declared Anambra State the 10th oil bearing state in the country after Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Rivers, Bayelsa, Abia, Imo, Ondo, Delta and Edo. And this will enable Anambra to receive extra revenue from the 13 per cent derivation fund as soon as proceeds from oil produced from the state begins to go into the federation account.
A team of the Nigerian Police led by CSP Emmanuel Sunday of the Divisional police Office, Otuocha was handy, but could not do much in such volatile situation. Two trucks of the Nigerian Army and some ratings of the Nigerian Navy were there but not for the war. They were there to protect the Orient Oil facilities. They had no brief to quell the invading war mongers. The Nigerian Police were helpless either, so alleged the villagers.
Efforts to contact Hon David Ogwu, who some called the Liaison officer 1 of Ibaji Local Government Area and some others called him the Chairman of Ibaji local government area proved abortive.
But a woman who claimed to be an indigene of Echonwa but married to Anambra man in anonymity said the war mongering is unnecessary and uncalled for as the two states have mutual relationship from time immemorial. She called on the Kogi state Governor Idris Wada and local government Chairman of Ibaji to call their people to order as war will not pay anybody any good.
Twenty minutes after this reporter left Okpali , he was called to return and witness things himself as gun boomed and Aguleri-Otu people scampered for safety. The youths being mobilized for defense were asked to return and fire no gun. This reporter was determined to return but good counsel by elders and women prevailed.
GOVERNMENT ADIMINISTRATIVE ACTIONS
Given the topography of the entire West Bank of Anambra River basin, which presently consists of Anambra West LGA and Aguleri-Otu in Anambra East LGA, the lands were acquired by the Government to establish the Anambra Forest Reserve in 1931. Consequent upon this Government action, an Agreement dated 28th April 1931, made in that behalf, and in accordance with the provisions of Section 5 (ii) of Cap. 95 of the Forestry Ordinance 1931. The communities that entered into the Agreement with the Government were eight ( – namely: Nzam, Inoma, Nnani, Obodolu, Mmiata, Umuoba, Enugu-Otu and Oroma-Otu (now Eziagulu-Otu) Aguleri – all in the present day Anambra State. Another Agreement was made in that behalf on 12th Day of February 1932, also by the same eight ( communities aforesaid. The Forestry Ordinance was published in Nigeria Gazette N0. 20 Vol. 20; notice N0.316, dated 30th March 1933. An ADO of the then Onitsha Division was appointed the Reserve Settlement Officer, to supervise the Forest Reserve, on behalf of the Government of Eastern Nigeria.
It is also important to note that the Oil Wells under discussion i.e. Anambra River 1,2&3 inside OPL 915 is located within the Anambra Forest Reserve, which is in Aguleri.
The boundary of Anambra Forest Reserve is very clear and unambiguous. Whereas Enugu State communities of Igga, Ojor and Ogurugu are on the Eastern Bank of Anambra River, the Anambra Forest Reserve is on the Western Bank of the river (Anambra River) up to opposite Ogurugu community. So, Anambra River has always been and is still the natural boundary between Enugu State communities and Anambra Forest Reserve.
Earlier in 1927, the boundary between Aguleri and Kogi State was settled through an Arbitration jointly chaired by Captain Joel and Mr Macabe, both Assistant Divisional Officers representing the then Onitsha Division and the then Idah Division respectively. HRH Eze R. A. Idigo II represented Aguleri, while Chief Ocholo of Olu Ibaji represented the Ibaji Clan. At the end of the sittings, the Arbitrators adopted the boundary lines as represented in the Map of Nigeria in 1927 as the boundary between Aguleri and Ibaji land in the present Kogi State. It is instructive to note that far back in 1927, the official Map of Nigeria recognized the Anambra Forest Reserve as part of Eastern Nigeria. And so, as the Chairman of the Orient Petroleum Resources Plc, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, said, the “misconception that the Oil Well was not entirely in Anambra State has been resolved through the Map of Nigeria”
The boundaries are also contained in Anambra Forestry Reserve (Amendment) Order, 1950, and Legal Notice N0. 126 of 1954; the Northern Region, Western Region and Eastern Region (Definition of Boundaries), 1954 Appendix ’B’ and ‘E’.
It is also pertinent to mention here that the Tripartite Point of intersection at the mouth of Inalo River which is the boundary between Kogi and Anambra State is quite far away and clearly long after the Anambra Oil Wells location.
ACTS OF OWNERSHIP AND POSSESSION
All the settlement and people in possession before the establishment of Anambra Forest Reserve were named after the Aguleri people who were in possession, which explains why till date what you have are such enclaves as Oguejiofor’s Enclave, Chizua’s Enclave, Menkiti’s Enclave, etc; reflecting the founders of these settlements. Also, the fishing ponds scattered all over the entire land are owned by Aguleri people and they fish in them till date.
Other acts of ownership include the establishment of Migrant School at Okpeze which is well beyond the location of the Oil Wells by the Anambra State Government, to serve the primary education needs of the people. For long, a number of church groups have been established in the area. They include St. Philip’s Anglican Church of Anambra/Niger West Diocese, the Catholic Church of Onitsha Archdiocese Outstation Parish, just as a number of Pentecostal Churches are also located in the area. For the pagan community, their ‘Aro’ deity is prominently located there. Above all, the Forest Quarters built for the Forest Reserve Staff by the Eastern Nigeria Government, now maintained by the Anambra State Government is at the heart of the Settlement.
For all Federal Elections in Nigeria, INEC Polling Booth located at Ngene Ejo which is part of the Anambra Forerst Reserve, administered by Anambra Office of the Commission, supervised the conduct of such elections for Aguleri people living in the area.
It is also pertinent to mention briefly that Royalties accruing from the products of the Anambra Forest Reserve have continued to be paid as agreed by the people of Aguleri and the then Governor of Nigeria, Sir Thompson, in 1932. Till date, Aguleri Community have been collecting the said Royalties from the Forestry Department.
In 1967, the Igga Community of Enugu State brought an action against SAFRAP Nigeria Limited – an Oil Company & 2 others; and Chief A.E.Idigo & 3 Others (For and on behalf of the people of Aguleri), claiming, among other things, a declaration of title to the land and an injunction restraining the aforesaid company and the people of Aguleri from committing further acts of trespass and waste of economic trees and crops on the land in question. The Igga Community, being Plaintiffs in the suit filed a Motion of Discontinuance, after they had finished their evidence and Aguleri Community opened their defence. In the Court’s Ruling, their application was refused. The case dragged on from 1967 to 1973 and all subsequent appeals made by the same community were similarly refused. This means, as per the Court Order, that the Igga Community cannot bring any action on this matter again in any Court of competent jurisdiction – per res judicata. The implication of that Ruling is that the Igga community has been estopped and cannot go to Court over the radical title or ownership to Anambra Forest Reserve. See the case of Chief Fabian Ukuta v. SAFRAP (Nigeria) Limited & 2 Ors and Chief A.E.Idigo & 3 Ors – Suit No. E/50/67.
It is also instructive to note that some Odeke indigenes of Kogi State testified as witnesses in this suit in favour of Igga Community, supporting the claim that the disputed land belonged to Igga Community. Is not a contradiction that today, same Kogi people are claiming ownership of the said land? Also, Kogi people never came against SAFRAP Nigeria Ltd or Elf when the two companies were prospecting for Oil in the area.