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Rivers: Soku Oil Wells - The Sacred Facts

Soku oil wells have been a major theme of discuss in the political terrain of Rivers State.
From 2012 during Amaechi's second tenure as Governor of Rivers State to Wike's nearly two years as Governor, Soku Oil wells have remained a matter of serious concern to both the government and people of Rivers State. The stories of Soku and its oil wells have had variant versions but one fact that has remained immutable in all the versions is that Soku is an oil rich community situated in the Kalabari area of Rivers State.

Issues of Boundaries and boundary adjustments leading to loss or gain of oil wells in Rivers State is a situation that most government  administrations in the State have had to grapple with, including the Dr. Peter Odili's administration. At one time the National Boundary Commission, NBC, under the Chairmanship of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, in the 11th edition of the Administrative map, prepared by the National Boundaries Commission and the Federal Surveyor General’s Office in 1999, but published in 2000, erroneously shifted the boundaries between Rivers and Bayelsa states from the initial boundary between Kalabari and Nembe, west of the Santa Barbara River, to San Bartholomew River, contrary to the delineation by all preceding administrative maps of Nigeria and all historical records.

The Rivers State government under Dr. Odili petitioned the Chairman of the National Boundary Commission. Consequently, the Director General of the NBC acknowledged the error in the misrepresentation of the Rivers/Bayelsa interstate boundary in the map, apologised accordingly and promised the correction would be effected in the 12th edition.

When Amaechi became governor of Rivers State in 2007, he obviously inherited same boundary issues. However, in 2012 the boundary adjustment came in the spotlight again as the error in the 11th edition which was corrected in the 12th edition of the boundary administrative map, became a perfect avenue for what was described as a grand theft of oil wells belonging to Rivers State under the Goodluck Jonathan led Federal Government.

The  administration capitalised on the errors in the 11th edition of the boundary administrative map to cede oil wells in Soku a settlement in Akuku-toru local government area of Rivers State to Bayelsa State without considering the corrections in the 12th edition of the map. This was considered a grave injustice against Rivers State and her people. Consequently, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, being the Governor of the State deployed all resources at his disposal to legally ensure that the oil wells belonging to the State was not taken away on account of a minor oversight in the boundary administrative  map, which had already been corrected. As such, Amaechi challenged the decision of the federal government in Court.

Surprisingly, while the issue was yet to be decided in Court, via the instrumentality of might, the proceeds from the oil well which were hitherto paid into an escrow account were transferred arbitrarily into the account of the Bayelsa State Government. An act that has left an indelible mark on the economy of Rivers State till date; an act intended to pauperise Rivers State and her people; an act that was borne more out of politics than sincerity and rectitude.

At that time, when the federal government unjustly ceded the Soku oil wells to Bayelsa State, being the home State of the then President, two prominent sons of Rivers State where majorly in the picture and played chief roles in the Soku oil well saga. They were Amaechi and Wike.

Amaechi fought tooth and nail with all resources available to him, including endangering his life both politically and otherwise  to ensure that what belonged to Rivers People was not taken away on political grounds. He was labelled all, manner of demeaning epithets  for daring to rise against the use of federal might to strip Rivers State of her natural resources. In the process, he was blacklisted as an enemy of the government at the centre. The stolen oil wells belonging to Rivers State that were ceded to Bayelsa State, remains one of the notable reasons for the face-off  between Amaechi and the Presidency from 2013 to 2015.

Conversely, while Amaechi fought for Rivers People, Wike was on the opposite side favouring the ceding of the Soku oil wells to Bayelsa State, perhap to undo Amaechi and frustrate his government. Wike who as at that time was the Minister of State for Education and a kitchen cabinet member of the Goodluck Jonathan administration, rather than support the fight by Amaechi to secure the oil wells, gave support to the federal government against his home State. In clear terms, Wike openly supported the ceding of Soku Oil wells to Bayelsa State.

It is no secret that that Wike's support for the ceding of the Soku Oil wells to Bayelsa State was solely motivated by political gains. It was more a politically convenient act than a morally just or right act.

It is also necessary to try to uncover a possible reason as to why former President Jonathan favoured the ceding of oil wells belonging to Rivers State to Bayelsa State. I must State that within this period, Amaechi's political clout and national  acceptance soared. especially, being the Chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum, NGF, his political influence was a force to reckon with. Also, Amaechi had indicated a strong interest to return as Chairman of the NGF, an interest President Jonathan overtly opposed.   Amaechi's insistence to exercise his right irked the President who apparently resorted to all means possible to stop him.

In Nigeria's political system money increases influence. Possibly guided by this line of thinking, measures to whittle Amaechi's rising  political influence were put in place, one of which may have included drastically cutting down the amount of money that came into the State, and the quickest way to achieve this was to take advantage of the error in the Rivers/Bayelsa interstate boundary map to cede oil wells belonging to the State to the contending Bayelsa State.

By the Nigerian derivation policy, more oil wells implies more money, hence, loosing oil wells means loosing money. So it was obviously, expected  that by taking away the oil wells Amaechi's access to funds as Governor would have been reduced and consequently his political influence.

This was how Rivers State was made to pay the price that has grievously affected her economy and consequently developments. Rivers State was the sacrificial lamb that was used to avenge a political difference. Our oil wells were sacrificed simply because the powers that be as it were sought to get at Amaechi and his government. Today, the people of Rivers State are paying steeply for it. The actors of that ignoble act  are rarely affected, the masses continue to suffer the wickedness done against Rivers State.

Wike has become the governor of Rivers State and has now turned around to solicit Amaechi's help and  that of the federal government presently under President  Buhari to reclaim the Soku oil wells, which he aided President Jonathan cede to Bayelsa some years ago.

Had Wike known he would be governor, he probably wouldn't have supported the ceding of Soku oil wells to Bayelsa. Little did he know that by supporting that move, he had mortgaged his own government.
Now the State government must go about the Herculean task of recovering the Soku oil wells from Bayelsa State. How Wike does this remains an interesting part of the Soku drama.

Whether Governor Wike will swallow his words and fight for the oil wells to improve the fortune of Rivers people and increase  the oil based revenue of the State, is yet to be seen.

For now, Bayelsa State continues to enjoy the proceeds from those oil wells.

Priestley Nna,