Oil wells’ ownership: Supreme Court adjourns Rivers, Imo’s suit till Nov 1

The Supreme Court, on Tuesday, adjourned till November 1, 2021, for a definite hearing of a suit brought before it by Rivers  State against Imo State over ownership of 17 oil wells in their territories.

The seven-member Justices of the apex court headed by Justice Kudirat Kekere Ekun set the stage for a hearing of the suit filed by Rivers State against its Imo state shortly after identifying some of the processes so far filed for and against the suit.

The apex court had on Wednesday, July 14, 2021, granted an order of interim injunction stopping the Federal Government and its agencies from ceding the 17 disputed oil wells located at Akri and Mbede to Imo state.

The court granted the order of interim injunction to stop an alleged implementation of the ceding of the 17 oil wells to Imo state pending the determination of the suit brought before it by the Rivers state government.

In a chamber ruling by the Supreme Court in an ex-parte application argued by Emmanuel Ukala (SAN), the apex court restrained the AGF and the Attorney General of Imo state from taking any further action on the ownership of the disputed 17 oil wells till the ownership disputes surrounding them are resolved.

The court also barred the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and the Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) and the office of the Accountant General of the Federation from approving, implementing, or giving effect in any manner to a letter from the RMAFC office, with reference number, RMC/O&G/47/1/264 of July 1, 2021, which canceled the equal sharing of proceeds from the 17 oil wells by Rivers and Imo states.

However, when the matter came up on Tuesday, counsel to Imo state, Chief Olusola Oke (SAN) informed the court that he had filed a motion on notice challenging the jurisdiction of the apex court to hear the suit as a court of the first instance.

He predicated the challenge on the fact that the suit is instituted against actions of some federal government agencies and not the Federal Government itself and as such, the place to hear the matter is a Federal High court and not the Supreme Court.

In his submission, counsel to the AGF, Remi Peter Olatubura (SAN) said he had filed a counter-affidavit against the writ of summons of Rivers State.

Lead counsel to Rivers state, Mr. Joseph Daudu (SAN) in his response, asked the court for seven days to file a reply on points of law to the motions of the two defendants.

The Supreme Court, in a short ruling, ordered parties in the suit to file and exchange their respective processes before November 1, 2021, slated for a definite hearing of the suit.

Rivers State through its Attorney General had dragged the AGF and the Attorney General of Imo state before the Supreme Court praying for a declaration that the boundary between Rivers state and Imo state, as delineated on Nigeria administrative map, 10, 11 and 12 editions and other maps bearing similar delineations are inaccurate, incorrect and do not represent the legitimate and lawful boundaries between Rivers and Imo State.

Plaintiff sought a declaration that as far as Nigeria’s administrative map 10,11 and 12 editions and other maps bearing similar delineations relate to the boundaries between Rivers and Imo, the said maps are unlawful and void, cannot be relied on to determine the extent of the territorial governmental jurisdiction of Rivers state and to determine the revenue accruing to Rivers state from the federation account, including the application of the principle of derivation and other revenue allocation principles as contained in the 1999 Constitution.

It further applied that the Supreme Court should declare that the correct instrument, maps, and documents, to be relied on in determining the boundary between Rivers and Imo state, are those used by the plaintiff in delineating the boundary line between Rivers and Imo State.

Plaintiff also sought a declaration 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 form part of Rivers state and that, it is only Rivers that is entitled to receive the full allocation of the distributable revenue from the oil wells on the basis of the 1390 derivation as contained under section 162 of the 1999 constitution.

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

The plaintiff also sought an order of Injunction directing the AGF to withdraw from the circulation of its administrative map 10,11 and 12th editions and to refrain from relying on any of the said maps for the purpose of determining the boundary between Rivers and Imo states.

Rivers also applied for another order of mandatory injunction directing AGF to produce an administrative map bearing the correct boundary between Rivers and Imo states.

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