When he received on Tuesday, August 31, a letter from the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission pronouncing Anambra a petroleum-bearing state with all the benefits like entitlement to the 13% derivation principle in the sharing of national revenue, Governor Willie Obiano read the letter twice. Convinced it is real, he passed it to three aides around him and recited a scriptural passage which reads:
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who loved his appearing” (2 Timothy 4: 5-8).
He quickly explained: “This fight has not been a one-man show, but the collective effort of Anambra people, especially those in my administration who have defied all the odds to fight for their beloved state. For instance, the chairman of the Anambra State Oil and Gas Committee, Engineer Frank Edozie, and chairman of the our Technical Committee, Professor Chares Ofoegbu, as well as Professor Solo Chukwubelu who is the Secretary to the State Government and such persons as Arinze Awogu, chairman of the Ogbaru Local Government Transition Committee and Mrs Patricia Igwebuike, the Special Adviser on Legal Matters and Petroleum Resources, have not for once rested on their laurels.”
The struggle took years and grit to prosecute. Lives were even sacrificed. Immediately Orient Petroleum Company, a private company supported since 2001 by the Anambra State government, began to produce crude oil in the Aguleri area of the state, neighbouring Kogi State began to lay claim to the ownership of the hydrocarbon. People in Ibaji, Kogi State, and Aguleri Otu in Anambra East Local Government Area fought, lives were lost and properties lost. This was in the first part of 2013, a year before Obiano became Anambra governor.
The next year, Sterling Oil Exploration and Energy Production Company, an Indian hydrocarbon firm, secretly moved to the neighbouring communities of Ogwuaniocha and Ogwuikpele in Ogbaru Local Government Area of Anambra State, and started to produce oil. The Anambra State government was not aware of this enterprise until 2019 and quickly moved into action when it received a report about the oil drilling, investigated it and found it true.
For some reason, the oil produced in Ogbaru LGA was attributed to Delta State, and not Anambra State. Worse, there was no environmental and social impact assessment by either the Anambra State government or the Federal Government, resulting in enormous environmental degradation. Efforts by the state government to engage Sterling Oil Exploration and Energy Production Company (SEEPCO) did not yield tangible results.
Obiano was left with no choice than to escalate the matter to the Directorate of Petroleum Resources (DPR), Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and the Federal Ministry of Justice. He then turned attention to the Federal Ministry of the Environment, with which it last November organized a conference at Golden Tulip Hotel, Agulu Lake in Anambra State, on the profound environmental implications of SEEPCO activities. All stakeholders criticized the energy firm.
With incontrovertible evidence showing that the oil wells in question belong to Anambra State, coupled with Obiano’s persistent letters and visits to relevant government agencies in Abuja, the Revenue Mobilization and Fiscal Allocation Commission had no choice than to write a letter to Governor Obiano on August 24 confirming that the governor is right about the ownership of the oil wells.
The oil wells are Nzam -1, Alo-1, Ogbu-1, Ameshi 1, 2, 3 and 4, as well as Enyie 1, 2, 3 and 4. In addition, there are River 1, 2 and 3 oil wells with proceeds to be shared equally between Anambra and Kogi states until the boundary dispute between the two states is resolved. The 50: 50 sharing ratio may not go down with some people in Anambra State because, apart from the fact that much of the oil in these parts comes from Anambra, it is the state that developed the three oil wells in the first place.
What may be the outcome, it has been a glorious fight. The struggle to get Anambra officially and formally designated oil-producing has ended in praise.
Things are shaping up for Anambra State. From building one of Africa’s most modern and largest international airports to building Africa’s largest international conference to exploits in education, security, health, agriculture and now oil and gas, it has been good news all the way. Truly, the state is up to its reputation as the Light of the Nation. God bless Anambra State.
Adinuba is Commissioner for Information and Public Enlightenment, Anambra State.