Ogun State Governor Prince Dapo Abiodun has vowed that his administration would not allow Tongeji Island, which shares boundary with the Republic of Benin, to be taken away from Nigeria. Abiodun said this when he received the Nigerian Ambassador to Benin Republic Ambassador Emmanuel Kayode Oguntuase and the Flag Officer Commanding [FOC], Western Naval Command Rear Admiral Oladele Daji.
Prince Abiodun said the island, which has a huge deposit of petroleum resources, was of huge interest to his administration. He said the Ambassador’s visit would only make his administration to act even quicker and ensure that the Republic of Benin that shares boundary with the state does not take possession of the island located in Ipokia Local Government Area of the state. The governor also said his administration would immediately set up a team to visit the island to find out what could be done to assure the people of the area that they have not been forgotten.
Governor Abiodun further disclosed that his administration had informed the Ministry of Petroleum that the island was of huge interest to the state government, adding that his government had also began discussions with investors. “It is a place where we do have valuable reserve and I had mentioned to the Federal Ministry of Petroleum that Tongeji Island and Ogun Waterside are areas of interest to the state government and we have begun discussions with others to explore partnership agreements under a Public Private Partnership to see what we can do in terms of prospecting the opportunities that lay beneath the soil in Tongeji Island and Ogun Waterside,” he said.
The governor said he would also engage the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria Commission (DAWN) and involve Lagos and Oyo State governors that also share border towns with the Republic of Benin. Abiodun, while thanking the FOC the Western Region, Rear Admiral Oladele Daji for ensuring that the water ways were free and devoid of anarchy, also urged the FOC not to hesitate to bring to his notice issues that are germane to the security of the region.
Nigerian Ambassador to the Republic of Benin Ambassador Emmanuel Kayode Oguntuase said his visit to the governor was to intimate him on happenings in the area as the closet to the Island; adding that it was important to let the over one thousand inhabitants of the island feel government’s presence. He said the Republic of Benin was presently trying hard to lure the people and take over the island because of the huge petroleum resources beneath the ground.
While we commend the efforts of Governor Abiodun for promptly raising alarm and for cautioning Beninois authorities against any tactical take-over of the oil-rich island, we advise him to exercise restraint in his comments and actions. Besides being a friendly neighbour, Benin Republic is fellow member of ECOWAS, AU and the UN. Disputes involving international boundaries go beyond the jurisdiction of a state government. Ogun state government is not in a position to unilaterally handle a boundary dispute involving two sovereign nations; more so as it involves oil resources.
The federal government through the Foreign Ministry and the National Boundary Commission has the statutory responsibility to take and follow up the matter to the letter including seeking redress at the Internal Criminal Court at The Hague. Similarly, the Nigeria National Petroleum Resources (NNPC), not Osun State government, is statutorily in charge of oil exploration. We urge Governor Abiodun to liaise with NNPC on matters concerning oil exploration in the island.
We encourage Governor Abiodun to do that which is within the purview of Ogun State government such as providing (where they are not available) and taking control of the management of existing infrastructural facilities including schools, hospitals, markets etc. Abiodun could further express his commitment by mounting pressure on the federal government to wisely and carefully resolve the Tongeji Island matter. He should however refrain from getting into a solo tangle with a friendly neighbour.