By Abdul Aji.
Recently, Kogi Government received the first 13% derivation as oil-producing state. Eventually, Kogi has become the first state in northern Nigeria to join the league of oil-producing states in Nigeria.
Before now, southern states of Rivers, Bayelsa, Cross River, Akwa Ibom, Edo and Imo are the custodians of the country’s oil reserves.
Kogi State governor, Yahaya Bello, when announcing recently that the state had received the first tranche of 13 per cent derivation allocation as an oil producing zone in the country expressed his happiness, as he said “I am elated to announce to the good people of Kogi State that my administration has received our first derivation allocation as an oil-producing state.
The governor announced this on October 20, 2022.
It was a thing of joy all over the state as Kogi was declared an oil producing state after a long battle with Anambra state over the ownership of an oil field on Ibaji land.
Ibaji Local Government Area is located along the coast of River Niger, bordered by Edo, Enugu and Anambra states. It occupies 1,377km² land with a population of almost 180,000 people, according to the most recent National Population Commission’s data.
Kogi got its oil-producing status through struggle with Anambra and Enugu states over the ownership of the Ibaji oil well.
Governor Bello was right when he said, “We worked hard to make this history. But we would not have achieved it without the support of our people, who stood resolutely with us to make this see the light of the day. We also wish to express our gratitude to President Muhammadu Buhari for his leadership roles, as well as the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) for making this a reality.”
Former President Goodluck Jonathan’s declaration of Anambra as an oil- producing state in 2014 sparked off crisis between Ibaji and Anambra state.
The declaration particularly pitched the people of Ibaji land of Kogi against Aguleri-Otu community in Anambra over the ownership of an oil well said to be located in Ibaji.
Stakeholders deployed all kinds of tactics, including the use local militants, leading to bloodbath and destruction of properties for almost three years until voice of reason was allowed to prevail.
The hostilities between indigenes of both states began immediately after the commissioning with invasions and killings at both Aguleri and Odeke/Echeno, with each of the waring communities trading blame.
It was gathered that apart from the dead and injured, households as well as food items, buildings and economic trees belonging to Ibaji community were destroyed in the mayhem.
About 15 persons were killed at Echeno community, while 14 were killed at Odeke village. Among the injured, 25 were from Echeno, while Odeke has eight.
Igbo traders in the two villages relocated out of their homes and locked up their shops.
The spokesperson of Echeno community, Arome Joseph said the problem started as members of Omakogolo family went to their fishing pond to fish, but were driven away by some indigenes of Anambra State, who warned them not to return to the pond as it belongs to Anambra.
“Apart from that incident, our people went to Anaida fishing pond to carry out their fishing activities, but Anambra indigenes came to the pond and gave them three days ultimatum to leave the place and never to step there again as the land belongs to them. Since the pond belongs to us, our people ignored them and on the third day of the ultimatum, Anambra indigenes invaded the place with guns as well as other dangerous weapons and shot sporadically,” he alleged.
He said their people were taken unawares, so, they ran away, adding that two persons, Ojogbane Iwogba and Ikwoilor Odefi are missing till date.
The spokesman alleged further that the Anambra indigenes burnt all their property in the area, adding that people from the same tribe stormed a farm camp belonging to Iyagbe community at Echeno and shot sporadically, which made people run away for safety.
Some people were killed, while the assailants returned later to burn houses including a primary school in the settlement.
“Food items worth millions of naira were also destroyed,” he said.
He said the Anambra indigenes also invaded Igbogba Lake and killed some of the community members who were fishing there.
Joseph said after series of threats from the Anambra people, they wrote to the state government and copied the police area commander, State Security Service as well as the state commissioner of police, but nothing was done to protect them.
According to him, what ignites their worries was the attitudes of soldiers who came to the areas after the killings and destructions. He said the soldiers embarrassed them without assessing the destruction visited on them by Anambra people.
Also commenting on the attack, spokesperson for Odeke community, Ojadeh Johnson, alleged that the presence of soldiers in the area compounded their problems, as he accused them of taking side with the Anambra people.
“The soldiers guarding the oil wells and refinery in the area allow only Anambra people access to such places, while our people are prevented,” he said.
The communities in Kogi State then constituted vigilantes or militant groups to keep vigil in the areas, while the Anambra people also had their own militant group that keeps vigil in their territory.
There was security presence in the area, tension was very high in the area with police stationed about four or five kilometers where the killings and destructions were carried out.
The crisis between neighbouring communities in border villages between Kogi and Anambra States, emanating from oil discovery in Kogi State rendered about 201 families homeless in Anambra State.
The victims lived in shanties and make shift houses and the people of Achonwo /Odeke in Ibaji Local GTovernment Area of Kog State also lament the unrest in the area.
The refuges from Anambra Aguleri said they were more in danger to attacks by Kogi militants. An eye witness, Alphosus Obigwe said “what we saw was a war. We did not expect such an ugly situation, so we had to run for our dear lives. They came with guns, machetes and attacked so many buildings and before we could realise what was going on, there was fire everywhere. We had to run away with entire families for safety. So many families were rendered homeless. In fact, we had about 200 or 250 families that were rendered homeless. We dared not step outside and we moved our families to the houses of some of our people not affected.”
Mr. Tony Okeke, the youth leader of Ezi Agulu-otu community said the level of what happened in the community was more than it was reported.
He said the number of houses burnt were more than 50 to 60. Several farm lands were destroyed by Kogi people. We lived in fear and people left their houses to their kinsmen in far places. People sleep in bushes. Lives had been lost and people sustained various levels of injuries from gun shots. Ibaji killed our people every day.”
Okeke said he was not happy with the presence of joint police and military task force, saying “the military came and told us to be calm and not to take laws into our hands and we obeyed, but immediately they left the Ibaji people came back and continued the killings”
“In the bush where we ran to, there was no security, no government or police presence. Some of our relatives are missing till this day and we do not know if they are dead or alive.”
The Publicity Secretary of ASATU Youths, Mr. Ebuka Okeke Nri said the youths of Anambra State were advised not carry out reprisal attacks on Kogi people, that the aim of the Ibaji people was to destroy the Orient Petroleum site.
Kogi State Government, particularly indigenes of Ibaji, where the oil was allegedly drilled, felt shortchanged over the declaration of Anambra as an oil-producing state. It was also reported that the oil well at Igah, which feeds Orient Petroleum Refinery is on Ibaji land in Kogi.
Today, Anambra and Kogi states, political office holders and members of the opposition parties are basking in the euphoria of the recent inclusion of the two states as the latest entrants into the group of Nigeria’s oil-producing states by the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC).
The new status was confirmed by the recognition of their oil wells by the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC).
Anambra see oil wells at Nzam -1, Alo-1, Ogbu-1, Ameshi 1, 2, 3 and 4, as well as Enyie 1, 2, 3, and 4, in addition to River 1, 2 and 3 oil wells, as theirs. The Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission, had, in a letter by its Secretary, M.B. Shehu, dated August 24, 2021, approved the attribution of Oda River oil well- 1 wholly to Kogi State.
The commission, in a confirmation letter to Kogi State governor, said Kogi State would start to benefit from the fund as soon as the proceeds from the operating ODA River 1 oil well and Anambra River 1, 2 and 3 oil wells start contributing revenue into the Federation Account.
Anambra State shares the proceeds from the oil wells equally (50: 50) with Kogi which Anambra shares a boundary at Aguleri – Ibaji area.
Kogi State Governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello said President Buharis’ decision has brought peaceful resolution of the dispute.
The disputes between two communities of Odeke in Ibaji local government area of Kogi and Aguleri in Anambra State, eventually, has come to an end.
The Ibaji oil crisis has been on for a while and has led to large scale destruction of property with the loss of many lives.
The Odeke and Aguleri communities of Kogi and Anambra, laid exclusive claim to the ownership of the oil in the disputed areas that has been finally resolved in favour of both states.
By history, the exploration of crude oil in Ibaji Local Government Area which comes under the Anambra Basin in geological terms started in 1952. In the villages of Odeke, Echeno, Unale, Ihile, Anocha/Uchuchu, Omabo, Ikah, Iregwu, and Ujeh all in Ibaji community of the present-day Ibaji Local Government Area of Kogi.
Between 1952 and 1986 three companies namely; Shell BP (now SPDC), ELF (now Total Fina Elf), and AGIP Energy have drilled 25 exploration wells, 2 appraisal wells, and eight-core drill wells in the entire basin out of which majority of the wells fall into Kogi.
The chairman of Ibaji oil and Gas Committee, Engr. Dan Omatola, affirmed that, “The exploration of crude oil in Ibaji started in 1952 in the villages of Odeke, Echeno, Ihile, Anocha/Uchuchu, Omabo, Ikah, Iregwu and Ujeh all in Ibaji community of the present day Ibaji local Government Area of Kogi State”.
“The Ibaji Local Government lies along River Niger and shares boundaries with Enugu and Anambra States to the East, Edo and Delta to the West. The history of oil exploration in Ibaji LGA which comes under Anambra Basin in geological terms dated back to 1952, when villages in this area formed the then Ibaji district of the Old Igala Native Authority in Kabba Province of the Northern Protectorate. It later fell into Kwara and Benue States at one time or the other and now a Local Government Area in Kogi State. Between 1952 and 1986, three companies namely; Shell BP (now SPDC), Elf (now Total Fina Elf) and AGIP Energy have drilled 25 exploration wells, 2 appraisal wells and 8-core drill wells in the entire Basin out of which majority of the wells fall into Kogi State”.
“The NNPC/NPDC on its own carried out seismic activities in the Anambra Basin in which Ibaji Local Government Area of Kogi East was largely involved between 1976 and 1983; about 4,500km of 2D seismic were acquired. From the report of NNPC, Oil and Gas was found to be in commercial quantity in Kogi State”.
According to a former chairman of Ibaji Local Government Area, Hon. Dave Ogwu; “During the exploration activities which includes among other things like cutting, shot holes drilling and exploration wells, compensation was paid to the people of Odeke, Echeno, Ihile, Anocha, Omabo, Ikah, Iregwu and Ujeh in Ibaji local Government Area of Kogi State respectively for damages caused on the farmland, economic trees, fishing ponds and shrine area as a mark of ownership of the land.
However, the exploration of Oil activities in Kogi State part of Anambra Basin was later abandoned until 18th July, 2001 when the executive governor of Kogi State, Late Prince Abubakar Audu wrote to the Group Managing Director of NNPC Abuja to remind him of earlier discovery of crude oil at Odeke, Echeno, and Anocha communities in Ibaji Local Government of Kogi State which was abandoned”.
“As a follow up to this call, on 25th July 2001, a team of Geo-Scientist/Engineers was drafted to the area to carry out a very preliminary investigation on the claims of Kogi State Government.
The resuscitation of these productive core wells in the area among other areas prompted the granting of an Oil License now known as Oil Prospecting License (OPL) 915 and 916 to an indigenous company known as Orient Petroleum Resources PLC. Orient Petroleum Resources PLC has been taking Crude Oil from OPL 915 since 2012 till date. The percentages of crude oil in the OPL 915 among the three contesting states are as follows; Kogi State- 53%, Anambra- 23%, Enugu- 17% and Edo-3%. No drilling activity from the OPL 916 which belong to Kogi, Anambra and Delta States”.
“The activities of Orient Petroleum Resources PLC after acquiring the license to operate OPL 195 and 196 in Ibaji communities are well documented in their communication with Kogi State Government. These documentation span from letter of notification of commencement of exploration activities in Ibaji area, request for appointment of a Liaison officer who would interface between the company, the communities and Kogi State Government on the issue of their activities, request for purchase of shares, report to Kogi State government on the disruption of activities by miscreants which clearly show that Orient Petroleum Resources PLC know the Oil belong to Kogi State”.
According to Kogi State Former Commissioner for Information, two-time chairman of Ibaji Local Government Area and the indigene of Odeke community in Ibaji, Simon Egwaba, “The unilateral declaration of Anambra state alone in 2012 as oil producing state led to uprising in the disputed area.
Controversy broke out when President Goodluck Jonathan commissioned a refinery built by Orient Petroleum at Aguleri Otu in Anambra East local government area of Anambra State. Anambra was designated as an oil producing state. Indeed, even while the commissioning was taking place, youth groups across Kogi boarders with Enugu and Anambra, where the disputed oil wells are located, were moblising their members for a meeting on the matter.
“What I can refer to as a presidential endorsement, ceding our land to Anambra State, heightened tension in Odeke and some parts of Ibaji land where Orient Petroleum Resources Plc were prospecting crude oil. I was prevailing on the youth to be patient in the past, but with the pronouncement, the youths became uncontrollable,” Chief Dominic Unane, the Onu of Odeke narrated what transpired.
A youth leader in Odeke, Ibe Abah, also mentioned how it all started. He said, “while a meeting was going on, the news of the President’s endorsement came, foreclosing all entreaties for the peaceful resolution of the lingering controversy over ownership of the oil wells. There was therefore collective resolve to protect our resources.”
Abah said it was wrong for the President to ‘jump to conclusion” on the matter even when the ownership of the oil wells that would feed the refinery was still in dispute. “If you check around the refinery, you will notice that giant pipes supply its crude from several kilometres. The Anambra Well (1), which currently feeds the refinery, is on Odeke land in Ibaji local government area of Kogi state. It was wrong for anybody, much more Mr. President, to give Anambra the status it does not deserve,” he noted.
Abah added “the mere fact that Anambra indigenes are the owners of the companies which are involved in the oil exploration activities, it is now claiming ownership of the land within which the oil wells are located and that Anambra State Government has demonstrated this wrongful claim both in print and electronic media. This was despite the fact that all the three states, Kogi, Enugu and Anambra, were awaiting the final report of the National Boundary Commission in respect of the demarcation between these three states.
He drew attention to the report on the “Field Tracing and Provisional Demarcation of Anambra – Kogi Interstate Boundary” produced in March, 2008, by the Joint Field Team, constituted by the National Boundary Commission for Anambra and Kogi Inter -State Boundary, stating that from the report there was no way Anambra State could jump over Enugu State to own location one (1) in Kogi State.
The youth leader’s position was buttressed by the Kogi State Government that also claimed the ownership of oil wells in dispute. Few hours after the President’s pronouncement, the Kogi State Government stepped forward to stake a claim to the oil wells in contention.
The then deputy governor, Mr. Yomi Awoniyi mentioned in a daily that wells in contention were first prospected by ELF and that compensation were paid to the host communities which were all in Kogi state.
He said since the ELF operation, there have never been any boundary adjustment and that the contentious wells are in Kogi state.
“It is just a matter of making sure that proper documents are checked to further prove that the genesis of that oil well resided with Kogi state in terms of compensation and to even access it”, he noted.
The controversy surrounding the ownership of the oil wells and indeed land within the border communities of the contending states has been age-long. Tension has been building between communities around the borders since the boundary demarcation between Northern and Eastern regions in 1927. The tension degenerated into serious bloodbath in 1994 between the people of Aguleri Out and Unale.
The Orient refinery is located at Unale in Ibaji local government area. While protracted war between Aguleri in Anambra and Umuleri in Enugu had rages for years.
Several wells were discovered in an area referred to as Anambra Basin, which includes the expanse of land accommodating the present Ibaji Local Government Area, even up to Olamaboro Local Government area of Kogi State. The place has a river as its boundary with part of Anambra North-West and Enugu State.
While Orient said the bulk of the deposit are in Anambra state, Committee on Oil and Gas Exploration in Ibaji land contended that the area the company is refereeing to as part of Anambra, is indeed in Kogi state.
Orient Petroleum Chairman Chief Emeka Anyaoku said the controversy over ownership of the oil deposits had been resolved and that the ‘bulk’ of the deposits were within Anambra territory. He however added that any state where oil was found and drilled by Orient Petroleum would be accorded due recognition.
“There was misconception that the oil well was not entirely in Anambra, that has been resolved through the map of Nigeria. Let me quickly state that the two oil blocks encompassed parts of Enugu, Kogi, Delta and Edo states but bulk of it is in Anambra,” Anyaoku said.
He said in addition to the private shareholders, other bodies that have shares in the company include Anambra, Rivers, Kogi and the 21 local government areas of the state.
The dispute revolved around the continued refusal of the company to acknowledge that it has oil wells in Enugu State and not Anambra state alone and the need to reflect the existence of oil wells in the three communities in all its communications and instruments.
Engineer Daniel Omatola, the oil gas committee chairman in Ibaji land accused Orient of merely trying to re-draw the boundary between the affected states by alleging that two of the oil wells are in Anambra and Enugu states.
“On our visit to these oil wells, it was discovered that Location one (1) that was regarded as Anambra River one (1) and purported to be in Anambra state is traditionally owned by Odeke community in Ibaji Local Government Area of Kogi State. It should also be noted that Anambra River (which is known as Umabolo River in Iglala land) takes its course from Ankpa in Kogi State and run through Igala land before running into River Niger at Onono.
The committee drew attention to the communiqué issued jointly by His Royal Majesty, the Attah Igala, Late Alhaji Dr. Aliyu O. Obaje, the Eze of Aguleri, Eze Igwe Chukwudi Madukasi, the Igwe of Ogurugu, Igwe Chukwuemeka Ogbasi in respect of the Obale/Aguleri crisis on 13th April 1994 at the Atta Igala’s Palace, Idah, which the Eze of Aguleri categorically admitted that the area in dispute is Atta Igala’s territory.
Paragraph five (5) of the communiqué, further stated that “the Forest Reserve which is one of the areas then in dispute is shared amongst Obale, Igah, Ojoh, Ogurugu and Odeke. No mention was made of any community belonging to Anambra State.
Orient obtained licence for blocks it referred to as OPLs 915 and 916, which it said include a “small portion of Kogi State,” in a letter to the former governor of the state, Alhaji Ibrahim Idris, dated August 8, 2011. The company had in the letter intimated the state of its intention to commence the production testing of already drilled wells and acquisition of about 640 square kilometers of high resolution 3D seismic data in its oil blocks within the period.
It, therefore, urged the government to “kindly inform the local government authorities and the communities at the border of Anambra and Kogi States that as stakeholders, they are expected to establish and maintain a warm and cordial relationship with the seismic survey contractor throughout the survey.” The company also requested for large expanse of land from Kogi State Government where it would establish a depot that will serve the northern part of the country. The Kogi State Government has since allocated the land for the proposed depot in Lokoja, the state capital.
Omatola said, what the people of Ibaji local government area and indeed the Kogi State Government feared most was to be forced to play the second fiddle in the benefit drivable from the resources that belong to them.
In an obvious bid to avoid unnecessary pressures, and to stave off avoidable bickering, especially from politicians in both states, the commission did not fail to state it clearly that for the states to benefit from the 13% Derivation Fund, the proceeds from the operation of the oil wells should be contributed into the Federation Account. Today, oil drilled from Kogi State is contributing to the nation’s revenue.
– Abdul Aji is Editor with Kogi State Newspaper Corporation