Against the backdrop of recent claims by the people of Oron federal constituency of Akwa Ibom state, a Professor of Paleontology and Marine Ecology, Prof. Etie Ben Akpan has come out to maintain that the federal Constituency is non littoral and does not abort the Atlantic Ocean.
The former Head of Geology department, University of Calabar, in a letter to President Muhammadu Buhari, said it is absolutely false that the five (5) Oro Nation Local Government Areas are the largest oil/gas producing communities accounting for over eighty percent (80%) of Akwa Ibom State oil production figure to the federal purse”.
Recently, Ekid speaking people of Akwa Ibom State, comprising Eket and Esit Eket local government areas, had made a case to President Muhammadu Buhari for the appointment of their indigene into the soon to be constituted management board of the Niger Delta Development Commission,NDDC.
But the request by the Ekid People’s Union appeared not to have gone down well with the people of Oro as seen in their rejoinder on the matter. They Ekid people had appealed to President Buhari to respect existing arrangements in the NDDC Acts with regards to appointment of executive directors for the Commission.
In a letter dated 7th July, 2021, and addressed to President Muhammadu Buhari, the Ekid People’s Union had urged the President to judiciously respect the criteria for appointments into the NDDC Board as provided for by the Act establishing the Niger-Delta Development Commission, NDDC.
The act provides for rotation of the positions in the board among member States and also considers core oil producing Local Government Areas in the Niger-Delta region.
Making reference to the demise of Mr. Ibanga Etang from Esit Eket Local Government Area, who died in active service as Executive Director, Finance and Administration, EDFA, the Ekid people had asked the President to make a replacement to fill the lost seat as the tenure of the occupant of the seat had not elapsed.
But Oro Union in a reply dated, 14 July, 2021 and published in a state based weekly tabloid, Weekly Post is laying claim to 80% of oil produced in the state. The group says all the 5 local government areas that make up Oron Federal Constituency including, Oron, Okobo, Urue-Ofong Oruko, Udung Uko and Mbo are all oil producing local government areas and produces a bulk of the oil in the state, leaving Eket, Esit-Eket, Ibeno, Eastern Obolo, Onna, Mkpat-Enin, and Ikot Abasi with a paltry 20% production profile.
Countering this claim, Prof. Etie Ben Akpan in his submission faulted the position of the Oro Union on the matter, and kicked against the tagging of 5 Local Government Areas in Oron Federal Constituency as littoral or coastal when they do not directly abort the Atlantic coastline.
According to Etie Akpan, the five local government areas in Oron nation may be regarded as shoreline local government areas.
He accused the Oron Union of attempting to “cajole and mislead the public to believing that Ibeno Local Government Area, Eket Local Government Area, Esit Eket Local Government Area, Onna Local Government Area, Ikot Abasi Local Government Area, Mkpat Enin Local Government Area and Eastern Obolo Local Government Area that
are known and associated with the prolific oil wells of the Niger Delta Basin are accountable to only less than twenty percent (20%) of the Akwa Ibom State total oil output”.
Prof Akpan also punctured and described as uncharitable, the Oron Union’s portrayal of both Eket and Esit Eket as being landlocked Local Government Areas, maintaining that it is a known fact that the Ekid people of Eket and Esit Eket Local Government Areas are the bonafide owners of Akoiyak land of the then south eastern Nigeria.
“This land is also known as the Stubb’s Creek Forest Reserve. The ownership of this land
had long been settled and confirmed by the Privy Council Judgment of 1916 and 1918 in England.
“The Federal Government constituted Justice Akpata’s Commission of Enquiry of 1993 also re-affirmed the position of the Privy Council Judgment and the ownership of the Akoiyak land by Ekid people.
“Since the decisions by the learned judges in favour of the Ekid people, there has been no contradictory legal opinion and there will never be. For the benefit of those unfamiliar with the geography and the environmental set-up, Akoiyak is a strip of mangrove swamp and wetland forest of a few kilometers in width, stretching from the left of Qua Iboe River estuary eastwards to Okposo fishing settlements and it aborts directly the Atlantic Seaboard.
“Since the Ekid people are the owners of the Akoiyak land or Stubb’s Creek Forest Reserve, and this land is not only contiguous with the sea but directly aborts the Atlantic seaboard, how can and why would any right thinking person describe Eket and Esit Eket as being landlocked?
“Akwa Ibom State is classified as a littoral or coastal State only because of the stretch of this Ekid ancestral Akoiyak land which is in contiguity with the Atlantic Ocean.
“As Oron Union has rightly slated, over 90% of Akwa Ibom State oil output is from the off-shore environment in the continental shelf.
“A coastline must abort a community or a Local Government Area before the latter can be regarded as littoral, and hence be accredited with oil
production figures from the off-shore oil wells within its longitudinal coordinates. It is for this reason that the Supreme Court of Nigeria in
2012 held that Cross River State is a non-littoral and a non-oil producing state after the whole Bakassi Peninsula inclusive of Western Bakassi
which made Cross River State littoral was ceded to the Republic of Cameroon from Nigeria by the judgment of the International Court of Justice in 2002.
“Since Cross River State is not producing from any known on-shore well, it returns with zero allocation from the Derivation Fund.
“Cross River State is also not a Maritime State and it is doubtful if there is at the moment a maritime boundary between the Cross River State and Akwa Ibom State, after same was obliterated following the implementation by Nigeria of that ruling of the International Court of Justice. Meanwhile, the Oron Union is claiming that Oron Federal
Constituency is sharing a Maritime boundary with Cross River State.
“It is the opinion of Oron Union that the 76 off-shore oil wells that the court decision went against Cross River State in favour of Akwa Ibom State are now owned by the latter because they are in Oro waters. This does not sound logical in anyway.
“To know whether those off-shore oil wells are in Oro waters and can be credited to Oron Federal Constituency, the coastline (not shoreline) must be projected or
extended from the point at Qua Iboe River estuary, straight eastward to see which land of the 5 Local Government Areas the projected or extended coastline has aborted in order to give it a littoral status.
“Longitudinal coordinates of the off-shore oil wells should also be taken into account in deciding where the wells belong.
“Oron Union must first and foremost find out how littoral the Oron Federal Constituency is and if on the positive; the length of its coastline (not shoreline) compared to the stretch from Ikot Abasi axis in the west to Okposo settlement in the east to justify the claim of having the majority (over 80%) share of production of the over 90% of the Akwa Ibom State oil that is derived from the off-shore environment. It is important we keep these records straight for posterity.”
Prof Akpan’s letter reads; in part, “why was it necessary for Oron Union to use the Federal Constituency as the basis for reporting on the quantum of oil production in Akwa Ibom
State whereas the DPR reports with the Local Government Area as the basic unit?
“If we were to go by this logic, it can as well be stated that Uyo Federal Constituency is oil bearing, because Uruan Local Government Area, a component part of the Constituency, is oil bearing.
“It is therefore untrue and misleading for Oron Union to describe all the five Local Government Areas of the Oron Constituency as oil/gas producing.
“The record with the DPR does not say so. The report of the Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC, 2000) recognized the following Local Government Areas as oil producing in Akwa Ibom State, they are: Ibeno, Eket, Esit Eket, Onna, Ikot Abasi, Eastern Obolo, Mkpat Enin and Mbo Local Government Areas.
“Each entity has her quantum of oil production attached, and it would be ridiculous to
think or expect any sensible person to believe that Mbo Local Government Area alone would have an oil production figure higher than the figures of the other seven(7) Local Government Areas combined, as Oron Union has repeatedly stated.
“It is also very unfortunate that the Oron Union believes that the Resolution of the National Assembly as the one passed on 16th May, 2012 can turn an oil bearing or a non oil bearing
community to an oil producing community.
“The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999) as amended has not given the Legislative body the authority to do so. The powers to decide on the status of a community as to whether such is oil producing or not reside with the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) and Nigerian
National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), who are working in concert with the Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC).
“What purpose did conveying the Resolution passed by the National Assembly recognizing Oron Federal Constituency as oil producing community to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, the Governor of Akwa Ibom State and MD, NDDC on 9th July, 2012 serve?
‘Wouldn’t it have saved time and energy to channel any complaint about
the oil producing status of the Oro 5 Local Government Areas through
the NNPC and DPR that have authority on this matter than engage the
services of the National Assembly?
“Oron Union knows and has listed the oil companies currently operating within the region in question, to include Moni Pulo, Addax, Universal Energy, Oriental Energy, Shell Petroleum, Amocon, Total E&P and ExxonMobil. It is a known fact that these companies were assigned their acreages for operation by NNPC and DPR, so the latter know the owners of the territory that these companies are operating from.
“It is mandatory that the oil companies report to the Joint Venture or Regulatory Partner, the NNPC and DPR the oil production figures on a regular basis. It is therefore the DPR and NNPC that know which communities are oil producing as well as their quantum of production.”
“Eight Local Government Areas in Akwa Ibom State are currently recognized by DPR as oil producing and they are: Ibeno, Eket, Esit Eket, Onna, Ikot Abasi, Eastern Obolo, Mkpat Enin and Mbo Local Government Areas. Out of these, only Eket and Eastern Obolo Local Government Areas are yet to get appointments into the NDDC Board.
‘It is only the DPR and NNPC
that have the records and authority to decide on the oil producing status of any community. The idea of dragging in the National Assembly to play this role is abnormal and must be discouraged.
The letter further urged that the records of appointments into the NDDC Board since inception in 2000 as presented in the write-up by Oron Union should be kept in view and judged with the provision in the NDDC Act (2000) on Appointments in mind.
“It is to be noted that Okobo Local Government Area is not reflected on the DPR record as an oil producing community.
“The Oron Union tabulation of appointments on the Board of NDDC has clearly shown that Eket Local Government Area, one of the leading oil producing communities in Akwa Ibom State has not enjoyed any NDDC Board appointment since its inception in 2000, thus justifying the complaints in that letter to Mr. President.
“The other oil producing community that has so far also not been considered in the NDDC appointment is Eastern Obolo Local Government Area.
“In conclusion, it is a well known fact that oil companies like Universal (Savanah) Energy and Moni Pulo are producing oil from the on-shore environment of Mbo Local Government Area in the so called marginal field. But this field is in no way as prolific as the off-shore counterparts.
The on-shore wells at Mbo, Esit Eket and others account for less than 10% of the Akwa Ibom State total oil output, while the major production is from the off-shore wells scattered about on the continental shelf.
Secondly, only those littoral Local Government Areas can rightly claim
the share in the production from the off-shore wells. Eket Local Government Area and Esit Eket Local Government Area are littoral and
cannot be described as land locked because their ancestral Akoiyak land is in direct contact with the Atlantic seaboard.
Prof Akpan held that “further exchange of hot words between the two respectable Unions of Ekid and Oro over this issue of pending NDDC Board appointments for Akwa Ibom State may not be necessary”, hopong that the guideline in the NDDC Act on appointments is respected.
“The Government has the record and knows from where it should normally make the appointments”, he added.