Soku, a community in Akuku-Toru local government area of Rivers State, is an ancient repository of oil and gas exploration and exploitation, which started since 1958 after Oloibiri. Today, the community is host to three flow stations, Soku, Ekulama I and II, the Oil Ream Development project (ORD), and the over N25 billion Soku Liquefied Natural Gas Plant.
The politics of Soku oil wells, which pitched former Rivers State governor, Mr. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi and former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, against each other was resurrected recently when Governor Ezebunwo Nyesom Wike declared his readiness to go into dialogue with the federal government with the aim of having the oil wells returned to the state.
The Soku oil wells saga came to the fore again when Amaechi, not only accused President Goodluck Jonathan of being the brain behind the ceding of the oil wells, but went further to dump the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the All Progressives Congress (APC), in protest over the development.
Wike, who was speaking when the Committee on Review of Emoluments of Public Officials of the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) visited him in Government House, Port Harcourt, decried imbalances in the revenue allocation to the state.
The governor said, “There is the likelihood that the Rivers State government will battle the RMAFC over the revenue to Rivers State. We will dialogue with the federal government. We shall explore all avenues of dialogue to ensure that we get our due revenue.”
He urged the RMAFC to consider working on the imbalance in the revenue sharing formula between the federal, states, and local government areas, as well as consider the review of revenue that accrues to the different tiers of government to enhance the development of the country.
During the 2015 election campaigns, the governor was among supporters of Jonathan and were said to have denied the said loss of oil wells and even branded Amaechi as being disrespectful for daring to ask the former president to return the oil wells.
Speaking during his campaign tour to Abonnema, headquarters of Akuku-Toru local government area of the state, Wike who was the governorship candidate of the PDP, said he obtained a promise from Jonathan that a political solution would be reached on the disagreement between Rivers and Bayelsa states over the Soku oil wells.
He assured the people of Soku that he possessed the political will and capacity to resolve the Soku oil well conflict to the benefit of the people of the state, saying, “President Jonathan asked me to say directly to you that he is an Ijaw son; he is your brother and therefore, you should not allow people to carry false propaganda to divide two brothers.
“He has asked me to tell you that it is not correct to say that he took Soku oil wells and gave them to Bayelsa State. President Jonathan asked me to tell you that the Soku Oil well conflict started earlier between Bayelsa and Rivers states, but that it will be sorted out politically. We have the political will and capacity to resolve this conflict. I will not be a party to ceding any part of Rivers State to another state.”
But, the position of Wike did not go down well with some people in the state, especially, members of the All Progressives (APC), who believed that the governor supported the ceding of the Soku oil wells to Bayelsa State by the administration of former President Jonathan.
To Mr. Otiasa Christian, former chairman, Caretaker Committee of Akuku-Toru local government area, the plans by the governor to battle RMAFC over some oil wells in the state is deceitful, selfish and unpatriotic.
Otiasa stated that when Amaechi was shouting to the sky about the ceding of Kalabari oil communities to Bayelsa during the administration of Jonathan, Wike supported the ceding because of selfish reasons and the naked lust for power.
He said, “I advice Governor Wike to have the fear of God and be lavish with the truth of his intentions about the Soku oil wells. His intentions have remained that of denial. From Wike’s actions and body language, the only manifest intentions he has and he has always pursued is to balkanize the Kalabaris so as to plunge us into political obscurity, economic oblivion and annihilation.
“I find him lacking in sincere intentions, courage, morality, and requisite determination to genuinely pursue the oil wells from where his predecessor Rt. Hon. Chibuike Amaechi stopped. Rivers people should realise that the totality of the Soku oil well issues involves Akuku Toru, Abua/Odual, Ahoada West and Ogba Egbema Ndoni LGAs; and should these territories be ceded, the governor should be held responsible.
The former council boss, who urged Rivers people not to believe him as the governor is earnestly unpatriotic, said that the hallmark of a leader and statesman is to always say the truth and call a spade, a spade particularly on issues bothering his people.
He said, “Wike has gotten power he can now tell the truth. I expect him to send an official protest against the appointment of Surveyor Audu from Bayelsa State as the Federal Surveyor General by former President Goodluck Jonathan, few days to his exit from office, to actualize and validate the ill-fated administrative map; having sacked the former Surveyor General for refusal to do his bidding.”
However, Otiasa’s predecessor, Hon. Odimabo Torukwein, disagreed with him, saying the plans by Wike to dialogue with the federal government for the return of oil wells belonging to the state is in the best interest of Rivers people.
He said the statements credited to Otiasa where he said the governor has no right to dialogue with the federal government shows his ignorance on issues that affect the state. Torukwein advised the people of the area to ignore the antics of the APC chieftain and support Governor Wike in correcting the mistakes of Amaechi.
To Opunabo Inko-Tariah, special adviser on Media to the governor, what is paramount to the state government now is the recovery of the ceded oil wells, and pleaded with the people of the state to join in the battle.
Inko-Tariah said, “Let us get our oil wells back that is the paramount thing. The reason is that these oil wells have financial implications. Our revenue is dwindling. We need money for development. Anybody who has Rivers blood in him should join hands with the governor, Barr. Nyesom Wike to get these oil wells that were ceded to neighbouring states of Bayelsa, Abia and Akwa Ibom. It is genuine effort. Join the fight.”