- Gov Wike happy RMAAC pays revenue to Rivers
Ben Eguzozie, in Port Harcourt
The ownership of Soku oil bloc, located in a boundary area between Rivers and Bayelsa states, reverberated in Port Harcourt, Rivers capital last week when a Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) team arrived the state led by its chairman, Mohammed Kabiru Usman. Both states have been in courts to press home their ownership claims of the oil-rich area.
Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, while addressing the RMAFC team, said he strongly differed from his Bayelsa counterpart, Douye Diri, over which state owned Soku oil well. Kabiru Usman, leader of the RMAFC delegation, said they were on an advocacy and sensitisation tour to Rivers. He said their 2018 verification exercise was characterised by fraud because some data supplied by some states were very spurious. According to him, such over-inflated figures were to make those states get money that they do not deserve and deny others. He said the visit would afford them the time to sensitize the relevant financial officers in the state on the importance of providing correct data to the RMAFC.
Checks by Business A.M. showed that Soku, an ancient Ijaw community, is rich in hydrocarbon with substantial reserves of gas and liquids. The Soku LNG plant managed by NNPC/Shell Joint Venture supplies 80 LNG cargoes, each worth about $15 million (that is $1.2 billion in total or N428.4 billion by current exchange rate) to Shell’s multi-billion-dollar liquefied natural gas business. Soku is the only producing field of Oil Mineral Lease (OML) 23, located in a costal swamp about 40 km southwest of Port Harcourt.
Governor Wike has drawn the first sword against Diri, who is only 16 months in office in Bayelsa over ownership of Soku oil block. He described as unfortunate comments by the Bayelsa governor on Soku oil well. He had severally challenged Diri’s predecessor, Timipre Sylva, over Soku. Rotimi Amaechi, Wike’s predecessor, had also challenged Bayelsa’s claim on Soku oil well.
“Soku oil well belongs to Rivers State,” said Wike on Tuesday. According to him, “it is unfortunate that the Bayelsa State Governor told you (the RMAFC team) when you visited him that you should not pay us revenue from Soku Oil Well. The matter was at the Supreme Court when the National Boundary Commission admitted that they made an error in their 11th edition publication by situating Soku Oil Well in Bayelsa State.”
The Rivers governor said the National Boundary Commission was directed to correct the error in its 12th edition publication, stressing that when the boundary adjustment agency failed to effect the correction, the state went back to the Federal High Court where the court directed that all revenue accruing from Soku Oil Well be paid to Rivers State.
“That is the position. For Bayelsa State governor to come up to say that RMAFC should not pay us our money is unfortunate. If they have filed a matter at the Supreme Court, it is not an injunction to stop the implementation of the subsisting judgement,” the Rivers governor said.
Bayelsa is yet to get a Supreme Court ruling on the Soku oil well ownership matter it brought before the apex court.
Meanwhile, Governor Wike has commended the RMAFC to correct what he described as “fraudulent practices” adopted by some states in order to gain financial advantage. He assured that the state would continue to interface with the commission to make their work easy.