The Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) has cleared the air on why Anambra, Enugu and Kogi States cannot be declared oil-producing states.
DPR said all three states could not, for now be categorised as oil-producing states “because they have not met the necessary requirements.”
The oil regulatory body was responding to a letter by Senator Tayo Alasoadura (APC), Ondo Central Led Senate Committee on Petroleum Upstream, which demanded its position on whether or not the affected states should be included on the list of oil producing states.
DPR explained that the states could only be included as oil states when the oil firm in the area, Orient Oil, “scales up its operations from oil prospecting to oil mining lease.”
Meanwhile, Alasoadura who noted that his committee lacked the power to declare a state oil producing, said the matter could best be resolved by the National Boundary Commission, NBC.
The senator expressed regrets that his committee’s letter to NBC did not elicit a satisfactory response.
He appealed to all three states to exercise patience until their contentions including boundary dispute are finally resolved by the relevant government agencies.
The senator noted that “when we had a similar issue in Ondo State in the past, it was your commission (NBC) that resolved it.”
He however, noted that NBC could not achieve anything without the cooperation of the states, adding that States should also establish their own boundary commissions to enable them work directly with NBC.
Senator Alasoadura said his committee would write to DPR to find out why since 2012, the license given to Orient Oil to test-run the exploration of oil in the area had not been approved for permanent exploration .
In his contribution, Senator Chukwuka Utazi, PDP, Enugu North who noted that the issue of OPL 915 and 916 dated back to antiquity, said, “I didn’t know that this motion would come up, because we had already resolved the issue when Senator Isaac Mohammed Alfa was away.
“Kogi and Enugu State do not have problem; the two are in agreement. But Enugu and Anambra are not in agreement.
“We in Enugu want to be declared as oil producing state too. Let that be done pending when the boundary commission finishes its work.”
Senator Utazi who noted that Orient Oil within seven years moved from 3,000 to 10,000 barrels a day, said, “an oil company that had been able to move from 3,000 to 10,000 barrels per day should have graduated from oil prospecting to oil mining lease.”
He added that they would go to the DPR to find out why Orient Oil refused to move from oil prospecting to oil mining lease.”
Utazi who suggested that a political solution should be a way out of the problem, said, “Anambra State has serious stake in Orient Oil, so it would be difficult. If we have another company that Anambra doesn’t have interest in ,that will be better.
“People are suspicious of the company. The governors in the three states should use political solution to resolve the issue.”
Also in his contribution, Senator Isaac Alfa, PDP, Kogi East explained that there was no contention on the need to recognise the affected communities as oil producing communities.
Alfa asked, “If Orient Petroleum didn’t meet the requirements, who gave them the license to operate? The government should ask itself questions. This issue should be put squarely to DPR.”
On his part, the Acting Director General, National Boundary Commission, Adamu Adaji who that the issue is a tripartite one involving the three states, said that the commission had been on the issue for some time, adding that the challenge they have were related to legal framework.
Adaji said, “We carried out preliminary field work on Kogi-Anambra boundary, but the challenge we have is the document we are using, which was produced before independence.
“We had to use a provincial boundary map produced by the colonial masters. We discovered that the descriptions on the map are not too clear.
“We scaled out seven points, and about five of them were discovered, but the remaining two resisted.
“Some youths from Ibaji community accosted our staff at some point that they will not agree with the legal document we were using. We are relying on Legal Instrument of 1954.
“The work was stalled because the people of Ibaji were of the view that we must identify the points between Anambra, Kogi and Enugu before we could do anything.
“When we made an attempt in 2015, our effort was aborted.
“We met with the then governor of Kogi State and he promised to talk to the community to cooperate with us. What we want now is to get the states to cooperate so that we can work.
“The three states were not quite forthcoming for us to do the job. That is what we have been trying to do now.
“If we cannot rely on the map, we plead that the states should cooperate for us to come to a boundary that is acceptable to all.”
On his part, Senator Magnus Abe, APC, Rivers said that from what the commission said, “it is already doing something, but the problem is except the commission does what some people want, the work can’t be done. Except there is the right atmosphere for them to work, nothing can be done.”
Abe suggested that the only way the issue could be resolved is for the committee to invite the states to come and “we set up a joint team with the boundary commission so that we can have adequate security before they can go and do their job.”
According to him, the states must be prepared to accept the realities on the ground, adding, “Now that there is oil there, the next thing you may have is that the people will begin acquiring guns and start shooting themselves.”
Also in his remarks, Senator Gershom Bassey, PDP, Cross River said that the National Boundary Commission cannot completely be exonerated from the blame, adding that in his state, Cross River, “there have been communal clashes because the commission has not done its job.
“It appears to me that the commission has been doing one job for 10 years. You can’t convince me on that.
“The commission has to be held responsible for what is happening. You must do your job no matter what.”
On part Senator Philip Gyunka Nasarawa State said that it appeared the commission does not want to hurt some communities, adding, “I want to advise here that whatever you think can solve the problem, please try and do it.”