From Precious Werner Ahiakwo, Port Harcourt, Rivers State
Over 30 communities in Akuku-Toru LGA of Rivers state took to the streets of Port Harcourt in their hundreds to protest over the ceding of 90% of towns belonging to Rivers State to Bayelsa state by the federal government. This is according to the information available to 247ureports.com.
Protesters who carried placards with inscription, “for the sake of peace, return Soku to Rivers state“, Bakassi to Cameroun-good, Kalabari to Bayelsa-bad”, “we stand by the 10th Administrative map of Nigeria“,matched down to the government house accompanied by the council of chiefs of the kalabari kingdom to protest against the boundary adjustments.
The Amanayabo of Abonnema town, HRH Desreal Gbobo Bob-Manuel while presenting a document of the history and origin of the kalabari kingdom to the rivers State Governor, Rotimi Amaechi, pleaded to the government to wade into the matter.
“we are not ready to be under the Nembe traditional council, we are not ready to have our brothers be under Bayelsa while they are fed from Rivers State: we want to be together. There is no reason for the movement of the boundary and it was done illegal. We have come here as peace loving people to protest to the government and tell them to come and rescue us so that our peace won’t be taken for granted as this will result to the unknown. As you can see, the entire Kalabari nation is here because we know if we speak to His Excellency, the right thing will be done.”
Responding, the Rivers State governor who was represented by his deputy Tele Ikuru promised that the matter will be resolved amicably. He urged the national Assembly to review the boundary adjustments and restore lasting peace to the aggrieved Kalabari Kingdom.
“I say here as Chairman of the Boundary committee, that Asari-Toru and Soku have been a worrying issue to Rivers State. As a matter of fact, 17 billion naira rightfully accrue to Rivers State has been paid to Bayelsa State. As a State, we join voice with the Kalabari people to call on the National Assembly to please wade into this matter so that we will know where the truth is”, he said.
However, during an international press conference held after the peaceful protest, the Amayanabo of Kalabari, HRM, Professor J.T Princewill Amachree XI, described the move as politically motivated, “without mincing words, as inhabitants of the area under reference, that this position is totally unacceptable and it is clear manifestation of political manipulation intent on balkanizing Kalabari territory and ceding same to Bayelsa”, he said.
The Kalabari King called on Goodluck Jonathan to return the Kalabari kingdom back to Rivers State where it rightly belongs. “ We therefore unequivocally demand that whatever Administrative maps that has been issued that does not reflect the 10thEdition of the administrative map of Nigeria as it affects us, be withdrawn forthwith and status quo maintained as our known historical boundary with the Nembe Kingdom in Bayelsa State is the Santa Barbara River”.
The boundary dispute between Rivers and Bayelsa States started sometime in 1999 with the 11th Edition of the Administrative map of Nigeria unilaterally produced by the National Boundaries Commission and Federal Surveyor-General’s office in year 2000 but circulated in 2002, with boundary adjustments between the two States from the West of the Santa Barbara River to San Bartholomew River.
The Rivers State Government vehemently opposed the contraption seeking a total withdrawal of the map from circulation which they claimed no progress from the National Boundary Commission has being made to date.
It was however rumoured that, the 12thAdministrative map of Nigeria said to be under production will usurp 80% of Akuku-Toru Local Government Area in Rivers State by the shifting of the boundary line from San Bartholomew River to Sombererio River.
Meanwhile, the President of the federal republic of Nigeria, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan has denied allegations that his office is behind the unfolding development between the two states. In its response, it stated that “We consider these allegations irresponsible and most unfortunate considering the status of the persons who reportedly championed the protest. The statutory agencies being referred to by the protesters do not take orders from the President; they are independent bodies. Besides, there are laid down procedures for resolving inter-state boundary disputes”
It also went on to add that “the school-boy style protest is an attempt at cheap blackmail. We find the motive deplorable. It is all the more surprising that a man of Alabo Graham Douglas’s stature, a former Minister who ought to know what is right, will team up with a group intent on causing disaffection between the President and his Ijaw kinsmen”.
“We advise the Kalabari National Forum, its members and hidden sponsors, to avoid the temptation to instigate conflict between the Nembe and Kalabari people of Rivers and Bayelsa states, who are both of the same Ijaw stock. The statutory agencies assigned the responsibility of resolving boundary disputes should be allowed to do their work” – said the President through his spokesman, Dr. Rueben Abati