The Supreme Court in Abuja on Friday ruled in favour of the Rivers State government over the ownership of 17 oil wells.
Justice Heleen Ogunwumiju dismissed the counterclaim ownership by Imo State Government. Though she resolved the matter in favour of Rivers, she refused to grant the N500 million cost requested by Rivers State.
The Rivers State government had instituted a suit against the Imo State government and the AGF seeking a declaration that the oil wells within Akri and Mbede communities are wrongly attributed to Imo state as they fall within the territory of Rivers State and form part of Rivers state.
- Rivers state claimed that the boundaries as delineated on the administrative map, do not represent the legitimate and lawful boundaries between both states.
- On July 14, 2021, the apex court issued an order restraining the federal government from ceding the 17 oil wells located in Akri and Mgbede communities to Imo State.
- However, the Federal Government through the AGF prayed the apex court in its filed processes to vacate the order of injunction stopping the processes of ceding the oil wells to Imo State.
- On September 21, 2021, the Federal Government prayed the apex court to dismiss the suit by the Rivers State government seeking to stop it from ceding the 17 oil wells to Imo state.
- In November 2021, counsel to AGF and counsel to the Imo State government challenged the jurisdiction of the court. They submitted that the competence of the suit ought to take precedence over the main suit.
- They argued that the Rivers State government was supposed to file the suit at a Federal High Court and not the Supreme Court since the suit is challenging the action of some federal government agencies and not the Federal Government itself.
Rivers State government in response submitted that their summons for direction by the court in streamlining the various applications is supposed to take precedence.
What happened in court
Delivering the judgement on Friday, Justice Emmanuel Agim granted reliefs 1, 3 4 5 and 6 sought by Rivers State Government.
However, reliefs 2, 7 and 10 were not granted.
The Supreme Court held that the boundary between Rivers and Imo as delineated in Nigeria administrative map 10th edition, 11th, 12th edition and other maps bearing similar delineation are inaccurate, incorrect, and do not represent the legitimate and lawful boundaries between Rivers and Imo state.
The apex court aligned with the submission of the Rivers State government that the correct instruments, map and documents to be relied upon in determining the boundary between Rivers and Imo states are those used by Rivers in delineating the boundary line between the two states.
Which includes Decree No. 14 of 1967, Decree No. 12 of 1976, the White papers/conclusion of the Federal Military government on the Irikefe and the Nasir Boundary Commission/Boundary Adjustment Commission, the Eastern Nigeria map, the Provincial map of Owerri province, Warri Province, Onitsha Province, Rivers Province, the Ahoada District map and Aboh Division map.
The Court declared that, “based on the correct instruments, maps and documents for determining the boundary between Rivers and Imo states, including Decree no. 14 of 1967, Decree No. 12 of 1976, the White papers/conclusion of the Federal Military Government on the Irikefe and the Nasir boundary Commission/boundary Adjustment Commission, the Eastern Nigeria map, the Provincial map of Owerri Province, Warri Province, Onitsha Province, Rivers Province, the Ahoada District map and Aboh Division map, the Rivers State communities wrongly attributed to Imo State among other communities are communities within the territorial boundaries of Rivers State and therefore communities in respect of which Rivers State is entitled to exercise governmental and administrative powers including entitlement to benefits derivable from mineral or other resources within the communities.
The court also declared that, “All the oil wells within Akri and Mbede communities usually identified with the names Akri and Mbede including the oil wells identified on Rivers map showing the location of oil wells wrongly attributed to Imo State 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, Mbede 018, Mbede 002, Mbede 009, and Mbede 005 are all oil wells within the territory of Rivers State and form part of Rivers State and that it is only Rivers State that is entitled to receive the full allocation of the distributable revenue derived from the oil wells on the basis of the 13 percent derivation principle as provided for under Section 162 of the 1999 Constitution as amended, among others.”