Supreme Court stops Imo’s Access to 17 Oil Wells

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The Supreme Court yesterday restrained the Federal Government from ceding 17 disputed oil wells located at Akri and Mbede in Rivers to Imo State.

It barred the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), the Imo Attorney-General and others from taking any further step on the boundary dispute between the states which touches on the ownership of oil wells.

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The apex court, in a chamber sitting yesterday, granted the order contained in an ex-parte motion filed by Emmanuel Ukala (SAN) for the Rivers Attorney-General.

The court granted an interim order restraining the first and second defendants (AGF and Imo AG) and their agents, including the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) and the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation (OAGF), from giving effect to a July 1 letter from the RMAFC chairman.

The letter directed a departure from the current 50/50 sharing formula applied to Rivers and Imo states on the revenue accrued, accruing or derived from the Akri and Mgbede oil wells/fields, subject matter of the suit.

It directed that deductions be made from the revenue accruing from the oil wells in favour of Imo State.

The order, according to court documents obtained yesterday, is to subsist pending the determination of the motion on notice for interlocutory injunction filed on June 16 by Rivers in a pending suit.

In the substantive suit with the AGF and Imo AG as defendants, Rivers is contesting Imo’s claim to about 37 Akri and Mgbede communities in its territory, housing about 17 oil wells.

Rivers argued that the correct maps and documents to be relied on in determining the boundary between both states are those used by the plaintiff in delineating the boundary between both states.

These include Decree Number 14 of 1967, Decree Number 12 of 1976, the White Papers/Conclusions of the Federal Military Government on the Irikefe and Nasir Boundary Commission/Boundary Adjustment Commission, the Eastern Nigeria Map, the Provincial Maps of Owerri Province, Warri Province, Onitsha Province, Rivers Province, the Ahoada District Map and Aboh Division Map.

It prayed the court to, among others, declare that all the oil wells within Akri and Mbede communities, usually identified with the names Akri (for the Akri community) and Mbede (for the Mbede community), including the oil wells identified on the plaintiff’s map, showing them wrongly attributed to the second defendant, including Akri 012, Akri 009, Akri 010, Akri 004, Akri West 002, Akri 001, Akri West 001, Akri 003, Akri 002, and Akri South 001. Mbede 017, Mbede 010, Mbede 019, Mgbede 018, Mbede 002, Mbede 009 and Mbede 005, are oil wells within the territory of Rivers State and form part of the state.

It also prayed the court to declare that it is only the Rivers that is entitled to receive the full allocation of the distributable revenue derived from the oil wells based on the 1390 derivation principle as provided for under Section 162 of the Constitution.

The plaintiff is also seeking a declaration that its map number 2020/0303 – LD of 22/12/2939 showing the boundary line between the plaintiff and the defendant, represents the correct boundary between both states.

Rivers sought an order of mandatory injunction directing the AGF to calculate, to its satisfaction and refund to it, all the revenues that have been wrongly denied the plaintiff and wrongly attributed to or paid to Imo on account of the limit or extent of their territories, including earnings due to the plaintiff from distributable revenue derived from the Akri and Mbede oil wells.

The plaintiff, which wants N500million as cost of prosecuting the suit, prayed the court order the AGF to “withdraw from circulation its Administrative Map 10th edition, 11th edition and 12th edition and to refrain from relying on any of the said maps for the purpose of determining the boundary between the plaintiff and the second defendant”.

It further urged the court to order the AGF to produce Administrative Map bearing the correct boundary between both states as contained in the plaintiff’s map number 2020/0303 — PD.

Rivers Finance Commissioner Isaac Kamalu, who told reporters that the court granted his state’s ex parte motion, added that Imo State failed to file response since the suit was filed last year.

“We hope that with this order of the court asking parties to maintain status quo and refrain from taking any steps that could alter the subject of the substantive suit, Imo State would have no option than to file its response if it has any,” he said.

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