Supreme Court verdict on 17 oil wells not final, says Imo govt


It is too early for Rivers State to celebrate the Supreme Court verdict upholding its claim to the 17 oil wells in Akri and Mbede communities, Imo State Governor Hope Uzodimma said yesterday.

In a judgment on Friday, a seven-member panel unanimously held that the oil wells belong to Rivers.

The Supreme Court further declared that all the oil wells within Akri and Mbede communities and those identified on the Rivers map are all within the territory of Rivers.

It added that only Rivers was entitled to receive the full allocation of the distributable revenue derived from the oil wells based on the 13 per cent derivation principle.

But, Uzodimma said Rivers should not celebrate yet because the issue was still before the National Boundary Commission (NBC) for determination.

According to him, some of the oil wells in contention were in Oguta, which is part of Imo.

The governor said he had not yet seen a copy of the judgment and that the government would study it and apply for a review.

Uzodimma said: “I know that some of the oil wells are in Oguta in Imo State. Does it mean that they are ceding Oguta to Rivers State?

“We are waiting for the NBC to come out with their report on the matter.

“Based on that, we can apply for a review of the Supreme Court judgment. So, it is too early to celebrate.”

Rivers Governor Nyesom Wike yesterday accused the NBC of creating problems between states.

“They (NBC) will abandon their function and create problems between states when there are not supposed to be problems.

“They will not do the right work so that the states can live in harmony,” he said.

He spoke at Paul’s Anglican Cathedral in Port Harcourt at a special thanksgiving to celebrate the court victory.

The governor also made a broadcast at the weekend, urging Uzodimma to accept the judgment in good faith.

He promised a soft landing for Imo, saying the state was open to possible compromise to accommodate Imo.

The governor accused former Imo Governor Emeka Ihedioha of taking steps that led to the conflict.

Wike said: “It bears repeating that the quest to defend our ownership rights through the courts over the Akiri and Mbede oil wells was not intended to claim victory over Imo or any other state.

“We also deplore the collusive actions of the NBC, which, unfortunately, has become notorious as one of the most corrupt national agencies, which has functioned more in causing confusion than resolving boundary disputes.”

Wike said while the dispute lingered, the NBC failed to demarcate the boundaries to establish the proper location and title to the disputed oil wells.

He said instead of ensuring that NBC did its work, Ihedioha repudiated the subsisted 50:50 per cent sharing formula and also made claims as exclusive owners of the oil wells.

He said: “To actualise these spurious claims, he (Ihedioha) stealthily wrote a letter dated 9th August 2019 to President Muhammad Buhari and requested for the refund of the sum of N15billion from Rivers State to Imo State as a backlog of accrued proceeds from the 13 per cent derivation revenue of the said oil wells.

“Acting on Governor Ihedioha’s letter, Mr. President warranted a letter to be written to the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMFAC) through his late Chief of State, Mr. Abba Kyari, to alter the status quo in favour of Imo State without reference to the subsisting dispute and agreement between the two states.”

He said the letter directed the deduction of N15billion from Rivers and the handover of the disputed oil wells to Imo as requested by Ihedioha.

Wike said: “But because of the sharp and very focused and honest Commissioner for Finance that we have in Rivers, the letter bearing the instruction to take N15billion from us and the oil wells to be taken away from us, was intercepted.”

Wike said the Rivers government was surprised by the action because, since 1999, the states under Dr Peter Odili and Achike Udenwa had agreed on a 50:50 per cent sharing of proceeds from the oil wells.

The governor said: “Accordingly, we first applied to the Federal High Court, Abuja and among other reliefs, successfully challenged the powers and authority of Mr. President to give directives to the RMFAC or interfere in any manner whatsoever with the distribution of public revenues from the distributable pool account, including the Federation Account.

“In approaching the Supreme Court in this matter, we believed that the dispute between the two states and the contentious issues are such that the court can judicially, justly and expeditiously determine with the available facts and supporting evidence, including valid administrative maps, subsisting judgment, and other relevant documents.”

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