The Supreme Court of Nigeria has laid to rest all issues relating to the controversial oil well disputes between two South Eastern State, Rivers and Imo.
In its verdict delivered yesterday, Friday, May 6, 2022, the apex court decided that the oil wells located in Ndoni and Egbema communities belong to Rivers.
The judgment which was prepared by Helen Ogunwumiju but delivered by Emmanuel Agim, the court dismissed the counter-claim ownership put forward by the Imo State government.
The oil wells located in disputed territories of Rivers and Imo states have been a subject of litigation at the Supreme Court which served as a court of the first instance being a dispute between two federating units. The court’s full panel of seven justices sat on the case.
The oil wells became a dispute in 2019, when a presidential memo directed that all the revenue should go to Imo State against the existing political arrangement put in place by the federal government for the revenue from the wells to be shared equally between the two states
Rivers state government in swift reaction to register it’s displeasure filed a suit against the presidential directive.
Counsel to the Rivers State government, Joseph Daudu, SAN, prayed the court to give judgment in favour of the state on the grounds that historical evidence from 1927 to date clearly indicates that the oil wells belong to the state.
He drew the attention of the court to the boundary adjustment paper of 1976 in which Ndoni and Egbema were confirmed to belong to Rivers State.
The lead counsel also disagreed with the Attorney-General of the Federation’s contention that the dispute should have been heard in a Federal High Court rather than the Supreme Court because locals should have testified orally in the matter.
According to the Senior Silk, the Supreme Court has original jurisdiction and may easily examine all accessible historical documents dating back to the colonial era to identify which state owns the oil wells.
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In resolving the dispute, the court held that the boundary between Rivers and Imo states as delineated in Nigeria’s administrative map 10th, 11th and 12th editions as well as other maps bearing similar delineation “are inaccurate, incorrect and do not represent the legitimate and lawful boundaries between the two states.”
The court agreed with the plaintiff that as far as the Nigerian administrative map 10, 11 and 12 editions and other maps bearing similar delineations of the boundaries between Rivers and Imo, are unlawful and void, they “cannot be relied on to determine the extent of the territorial governmental jurisdiction of Rivers State”.
The Supreme Court declared that the correct instrument, maps and documents to be relied on in determining the boundary between Rivers and Imo states are those used by the plaintiff in delineating the boundary lines between the two states.
It also held that all the oil wells within Akri and Mbede communities are wrongly attributed to Imo State and that they are all oil wells within the territory of Rivers State and formed part of Rivers State.
It said it is only Rivers State that is entitled to receive the full allocation of the distributable revenue from the oil well on the basis of the 1390 derivation as contained under Section 196 (2) of the
But the Supreme Court refused to grant the N500 million cost prayed for by Rivers State.
In the lead judgement, Mrs Ogunwumiju refused to order the AGF to calculate and refund to Rivers State all revenue that have been wrongly denied the state and wrongly paid to Imo State on account of the extent of the distributable revenue derived from the Akri and Mbede oil wells.
At a brief jubilation ceremony with high ranking stakeholders and top government officials at Government House, Port-Harcourt, Governor Nyesom Wike, overwhelmed by the joy of the court victory conferred the highest honour of the state on the lawyers that handled the matter, particularly the lead counsel, Mr. Joseph Daudu, who is a former Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) president.