The Supreme Court, on Friday, resolved the ownership dispute over 17 oil wells in favour of Rivers State.
In the judgment prepared by Heleen Ogunwumiju but delivered by Emmanuel Agim, the court dismissed the counter-claim ownership put forward by 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.
According to Agim, Prayers 1, 3, 4, 5, and 6 sought by the Rivers State government were granted by the court.
But the court refused to grant reliefs 2, 7 and 10.
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 wells 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, Ogunwumiju refused to order the AGF to calculate and refund to Rivers State all revenues 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.
Attorney-General of the Federation and Imo State, who are the 1st and 2nd defendants respectively in the suit, had on February 7 when they had their final submissions prayed the court to dismiss the suit and order Rivers State to file it at the Federal High Court because it was a revenue matter.
They argued that the suit can be amicably resolved, witnesses, especially residents of the disputed areas needed to be called to give oral evidence on which side they belonged between Imo and Rivers.
The two defendants further demanded that the intervention of the National Boundary Commission would also be required to give evidence at the Federal High Court before an appreciable conclusion can be drawn.
The requests were, however, turned down by the court.