06 November 2012, Sweetcrude, Yenagoa – As the controversy over ownership of the disputed Soku Oil wells rages, Bayelsa State government yesterday said there was no iota of truth in Rivers State government’s claim that Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission wrongly paid N17bn from escrow account to her.
The government also called on the law abiding people of the affected communities, Nembe and Kalabari kingdoms not to allow the unity of the Ijaw nation to be affected by the antics of the people who want to play politics over the disputed oil wells.
Speaking at the inauguration of a 14-man State Boundaries Committee, Governor Seriake Dickson in a statement issued by Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Daniel Iworiso-Markson, said at no point in time did RMFAC wrongly pay any amount from escrow account to Bayelsa State government.
“It is not true that Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission paid any amount of money to the government of Bayelsa State wrongly from an escrow account. That is wrong, that is not true. No N17bn was ever kept in any escrow account; no such money was ever paid to the Government of Bayelsa State.
“That is deliberate falsehood that has been put out there to create an impression of bias on the part of a hardworking, impartial Federal Agency that is doing their work. The truth, however is this, last year, the government of Bayelsa state in the last administration made some claims against Rivers state on the account of revenue collection due Bayelsa in respect of some disputed wells.
“The government of Rivers State and its officials duly defended this claim and at the end of it there was a reconciliation of figures. At the end of the reconciliation it was found and agreed upon by all parties including officials of the government of Rivers, that Rivers state government had wrongly collected the sum of N17bn that was due Bayelsa State.
“That was determined and found to be a fact at the reconciliation. Therefore an agreement was reached by all parties including the representatives of the Government of Rivers state for a refund to be made. Government of Rivers state also made a counter claim of wrongful payment of some other wells in its territory to Bayelsa state and other neighbouring states.
“The appropriate Federal Agencies looked at this claims, heard from all the parties and found that as a fact that Rivers state government was entitled to refund of close to N15-N16bn again as in defence, there was an agreement reached for refund, as a result of which all the states affected were made to refund that money. Refund was agreed upon to be made to Rivers state. It is either all the states affected have paid or in the process of doing so. The government of Bayelsa state was made to pay about N2bn as refund to Rivers state based on that consensual understanding.
“The government of Bayelsa state consequently, after paying our refund to Rivers state got about N15.1bn. in line with our transparent regime in this state, we duly declared this earning to the people of Bayelsa state. As I am talking to you, this sum is safely kept in the account of the government of Bayelsa state and when the flood and rain subside, we shall direct it into putting back our critical infrastructure. Meanwhile the government of Rivers state got its own refund.
“It is mischievous for anybody to allege and create an impression that the sum of N17bn was ever kept in an escrow account and that a federal agency paid it out to Bayelsa state during the pendency of litigation. That is a lie that has been fed to the public to create the impression that the Federal Agencies are bias.
“These are the same Agencies that ensure that appropriate refund was paid to the government of Rivers state. No complaint at that time. What happened is that because the process of reconciliation is ongoing between states and Federal Agencies, once there is a complaint of wrongful payment or wrongful disbursement to any state, the normal practice is for the state to make such submission to the Federal Agencies; the National Boundaries Commission, Revenue Mobilization and Allocation and Fiscal Commission, the Federal Ministry of Finance.
“That is the procedure and that is why we are convinced that the issue of derivation are best left for states to handle and not communities but since my counterpart from Rivers state has made it a communal affair, I believe that he will help us to tell the people of Rivers state, particularly, the people of Kalabari kingdom who he claimed to be fighting for. The basis of our recent claim is that the government of Rivers state in the past couple of years has wrongly received about N120bn that shouldn’t have been paid to Rivers state.
“I hope, he will also tell the people of Rivers state, particularly the people of Kalabari about the refund that was consensually agreed upon and effected in favour of Rivers state to the tune of about N15-N16bn which he got about a month ago. We feel that this matter are best left for states and other stakeholders at the Federal level to resolve in accordance with laid down rules.”
Responding, the Chairman of the committee, the Deputy Governor, Gboribiogha John Jonah said the task given to the committee was not an easy one but expressed belief that with the quality of members on board, the committee will do its best and will not disappoint the government and the people of the state.