Worried by its inability to take decisive actions to resolve inter-state boundary disputes in the region, the government of four states in the South-South has berated the National Boundary Commission (NBC).
The governments of Bayelsa, Delta, Akwa Ibom and Edo states while recounting their challenges, strongly condemned the lay-back attitude of NBC and charged it to embark on fieldwork with a view to verifying claims made by parties to border disputes.
This, they believe would enable the commission to settle boundary disputes in the geopolitical region in real time as against its current practice of holding mere seminars and signing of communiques from time to time.
The boundary committees of the South-South states chaired by their respective deputy governors made this known at a 2-day interactive session organised by the National Boundary Commission at the Unity Hall, Asaba in Delta State.
Speaking at the event, the Bayelsa State Deputy Governor, Senator Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo, wondered why the NBC had failed to implement the Supreme Court order of 2012.
The order, according to Senator Ewhrudjakpo, mandates the Commission to properly delineate the boundary between Rivers and Bayelsa especially in regards to the Oluasiri/Soku dispute.
Describing Bayelsa and Rivers people as brothers and sisters, he urged NBC not to allow any party involved in the dispute to slow down its efforts, but rather take practical steps towards resolving the issue in the interest of justice and peace.
His words, “We in Rivers and Bayelsa are brothers more mingled than Delta and Edo. We want our dispute settled as quickly as possible now. Like the Attorney General presented earlier, we don’t have any problem in the borderline of Sagbama and Ekeremor LGAs which were part of the then Mid-western region.
“The only one that came up on that axis was the Beniseide and since the resolution of 2002/2003 that boundary has been quite. The only one that has refused to be quite is this Rivers/Bayelsa Boundary.
“It is quite pathetic in the sense that since 2012 when the Supreme Court gave its judgement, nothing has been done. I think the NBC needs to be a little bit more decisive.
“On issues where court has given an order, ‘go and do this’ and the other party is not forthcoming, what I expect the NBC to do is to go to the ground (field), act as a neutral body, do the right thing and then ask the Federal Government to help you enforce your decision.”
Presenting the state position, the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr Biriyai Dambo (SAN) gave a historical perspective to the unresolved boundary dispute between Bayelsa and Rivers.
According to Mr Dambo, the Nembe people in Bayelsa have always had boundary with Bille and not the Kula (Kalabari) people who migrated from Duke Town in Calabar to settle in Rivers State.
He said the Nembe people gave the area called Saka, which is erroneously called Soku to the Elem-Sangama Community also known as New Calabar (Kalabari) in 1918 with an agreement duly signed between chiefs of the two areas in 1919.
Dambo said,” An agreement made on the 4th day of July, 1919 between the Chiefs of Nembe and Sangama (Kalabari) people ceded the land along Oluasiri River (San Bartholomew) to the Sangama people as tenants for a term of six years at the pleasure of the Chiefs of Nembe.”
On his part, the host deputy governor, Barrister Kingsley Otuaro, identified lack of will as the cause of NBC’s inability to exercise its statutory responsibility, which he noted, had caused incalculable damage in border communities.
While calling on the Commission to live up to its billing, he expressed readiness on the part of both Delta and Edo state governments to pull resources together for NBC to go into fieldwork and settle their boundary dispute.
Otuaro said, “NBC seem to be lacking the strong will to do what they are statutorily empowered to do. Series of meetings have been held in both states and many communiques signed, some of which the NBC was also part of. But from then till now, we have not seen any tangible results.
“We are calling on you (NBC) to put modalities in place for us to go to the field, than for us to be gathering everyday and be speaking grammar and signing communiques. Please let us not allow these disputes to degenerate to a point where it will become too difficult for us to handle.”
Edo and Akwa Ibom states also made presentations at the event while Rivers and Cross River were absent.
Responding, the Director General of National Boundary Commission, Surveyor Adamu Adaji, promised to use more of what he described as “Ground to Paper Approach, which emphasizes synergy between the Commission and other stakeholders in resolving boundary disputes.