Controversy is brewing among groups and communities in Bauchi and Gombe states over the ownership of the well site where the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) recently announced the discovery of hydrocarbon (oil and gas) deposits.
The site is in the Kolmani River II well, near the border of Gombe and Bauchi states.
The NNPC had, on October 10, announced the discovery of hydrocarbon deposits in the area, a development that sparked celebrations in both Gombe and Bauchi states.
A former governor of Gombe State, Senator Muhammad Danjuma Goje, was the first to hint of an imminent row between both states when he called on President Muhammadu Buhari to intervene in a looming dispute between Gombe and Bauchi over the ownership of the oil wells.
He made the statement last Monday during a retreat organised by Governor Muhammad Inuwa Yahaya for commissioners-designate, special advisers and permanent secretaries.
He appealed to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, who was the special guest of honour at the retreat, to convey to the president the need to urgently intervene and resolve the emerging dispute about the actual location of the well.
The contentious issue raised by various groups in the two states is on the actual location of the oil wells. While the people of Bauchi claim that the Kolmani River, where the well was drilled is in Alkaleri Local Government Area of the state, the indigenes of Gombe State claimed that the actual location is at the Pindiga Emirate in Akko Local Government Area of the state.
Daily Trust on Sunday learnt that this development is generating heated debate among communities within the well site.
The Bauchi State Government, on its side, said it would not join issues with anyone, including former Governor Goje over the location of the recent hydrocarbon discovery.
The state Commissioner for Information and Communication, Dr Ladan Salihu, in a chat with Daily Trust on Sunday said, “First of all, the former governor of Gombe State is a well-respected figure in the old Bauchi, the present Bauchi State, as well as Gombe. The Bauchi State Government will not want to join issues with him in a matter that is already sought out by the NNPC.
“I only need to refer you and the former governor to the press release the NNPC made public when they discovered oil. It was explicit and very clear that the NNPC has found hydrocarbon deposits in Kolmani River II in Alkaleri Local Government Area of Bauchi State.
“So there is no dispute whatsoever over where the NNPC found oil. The NNPC said it’s not for anyone from Gombe or Bauchi to tell it to rewrite what it actually made public. As far as we are concerned, there is actually no controversy on this matter. Controversy exists in the minds of those who generate it for their own selfish end.
“We in Bauchi State are certain and not worried. We don’t lose sleep over the fact that the two oil wells that have so far been found by the NNPC are in Alkaleri Local Government Area.
“Let me add that Bauchi State gave birth to Gombe, so Gombe will not determine the boundary of a state it was excised from. Any controversy to that effect cannot go to the level that people are not talking about. There is history, there is boundary, and I think history takes precedence of a boundary. Even at that, there is no controversy in respect to boundary, that is the position of the Bauchi State Government.’’
He added that the NNPC was undertaking exploration in two oil wells in the Gombe area, and if they found oil in commercial quantity, Bauchi State will be the first to congratulate Gombe.
Salihu explained that the NNPC had finished the one in Bauchi State, adding, “Information reaching us is that the NNPC is now undertaking exploration in Gombe, and if that is true, we pray that oil would be found in the area. We will be the first to congratulate them. We expected that they would congratulate us instead of confronting us.’’
In support of the position of Bauchi State, a group called the Alkaleri Development Foundation, in a statement by its chairman, Muslim Maigari, a lawyer, said the former governor’s statement was needless because the wells are situated in Barambu village of Maimadi ward in the Alkaleri area of Bauchi although the Kolmani river is the territorial demarcation of the border between Akko in Gombe State and Alkaleri.
“We are confident that the area has significant oil and gas prospects that may extend to some areas in Gombe State. It suffices to say that the host communities of the drilling activities are indigenous communities to Alkaleri. It is Alkaleri Local Government that provides them with basic amenities like hospital, water, school, security, market, polio and immunisation programmes. In fact, when they vote during elections, their votes are collated at the office of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Alkaleri.
“The area was part of my constituency during the last general election when I contested to represent Alkaleri/Kirfi federal constituency. I was in those communities for campaign several times. I still visit in order to sustain my structures. This statement becomes necessary to clear the air and put things in correct perspectives,’’ he stated.
But the Gombe State Government is yet to take a position on the ongoing debate over the location of the oil wells. However, when contacted, Ismaila Uba Misilli, the senior special assistant on media and publicity to Governor Muhammad Inuwa Yahaya of Gombe State said the oil wells were clearly located within the territories of both Gombe and Bauchi states, “going by history of oil exploration in the area.”
He said the area where the NNPC made the discovery is a border town between Gombe and Bauchi states, adding that the Kolmani River has its tributaries in both states.
“The Kolamni river has its tributaries in both Gombe and Bauchi, so it doesn’t matter where the oil rig is located, we believe both states will benefit when the actual exploration starts. However, the NNPC should resolve the misunderstanding about the exact location of the oil wells to prevent crisis between the two states,” Misilli said.
When contacted for clarification on the situation, the acting spokesman of the NNPC, Mr. Samson Makoji, did not respond to calls and text message sent to his phone.