The Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) yesterday said that Anambra, Enugu and Kogi states can only join the list of oil producing states after meeting necessary conditions.
In a letter to the Senate Committee on Petroleum (Upstream), the DPR said that the three states could only be declared oil bearing states if the oil firm in the area, Orient Oil, scales up its operations from oil prospecting to oil mining lease.
The Department insisted that the states cannot be categorised as oil producing states for now because they have not met the necessary requirements.
Chairman of the Committee, Senator Tayo Alasoadura, said the issue at stake has to do with a referral to the committee on the contentious boundary between the three states.
He noted that a report that said “the Federal Government confirms Anambra oil producing status” threw up the matter to the front burner.
Alasoadura said his committee lacked the power to declare an oil-producing status on a state.
He said that the committee believed that the agency is in the best position to settle the matter with the National Boundary Commission (NBC).
The Ondo Central senator said the committee wrote to the DPR “but their response was not quite satisfactory.”
That is why we want to hear from your commission.
He noted that the committee decided to hear from the National Boundary Commission because “when we had a similar issue in Ondo State in the past, it was your commission that resolved it.”
Senator Chukwuka Utazi (Enugu North) noted that the issue of OPL 915 and 916 dated back to antiquity.
Utazi 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 states 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.”
He added that Orient Oil, within seven years, moved from 3,000 to 10,000 barrels a day.
According to him, “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 said that they would go to the DPR to find out why Orient Oil refused to move from oil prospecting to oil mining lease.”
Senator Alfa said there was no contention on the desire to recognise the affected communities as oil producing communities.
Acting Director-General of the National Boundary Commission, Adamu Adaji said that the issue is a tripartite one involving the three states.
He 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.”
Senator Magnus Abe noted that from what the commission said, “it’s 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.
“Now that there is oil there, the next thing you may have is that the people will start acquiring guns and start shooting themselves.”
Senator Gershom Bassey said that the National Boundary Commission cannot completely be exonerated from the blame. He noted that in his state, Cross River, “there have been communal clashes because the commission has not done its job.
Philip Gyunka said that it appeared the commission does not want to hurt some communities.
“I want to advise here that whatever you think can solve the problem, please try and do it.”
Alasoadura, however, explained that the Boundary Commission cannot do anything without the cooperation of the states.
States, he said, should also establish their own boundary commissions so that they can work directly with the NBC.