By Eric Ikhilae
The Supreme Court has scheduled hearings for November 1 in the dispute between Rivers and Imo States over the ownership of 17 oil wells, otherwise referred to as the Akri and Mgbede oil wells.
A seven-member panel, led by Justice Kudirat Kekere-Ekun, chose the date on Tuesday after hearing preliminary applications intended by parties to regularise some of the processes already filed.
Lawyers to the two defendants – Remi Peter Olatubora, SAN (for the Attorney General of the Federation) and Olusola Oke, SAN (for the Attorney General of Imo State) had their already filed processes regularised.
Oke said he equally filed a motion to challenge the court’s jurisdiction to hear the suit as a court of first instance.
He added that his client’s contention was that since the suit was against the actions of some agencies of the Federal Government, but not the government itself, the proper venue to initiate such suit should be the Federal High Court 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.
Lawyer to the Attorney General of Rivers State (the plaintiff), Joseph Daudu (SAN), sought for seven days to respond to the counter-affidavit filed by Imo State against the plaintiff’s motion for interlocutory injunction.
Ruling, Justice Kekere Ekun ordered parties to file and exchange necessary processes between now and November 1 to which the suit has been adjourned.
In the suit, marked: SC/CV/1037/2020, filed by Rivers State, through its Attorney General (with the AGF and Imo AG as defendants) the plaintiff is contesting Imo State’s claim to about 37 Akri and Mgbede communities in its territory, housing about 17 oil wells.
Rivers argued that the correct maps and documents to be relied on in determining the boundary between Rivers State and Imo State are those used by the Plaintiff in delineating the boundary line between both States, including Decree No14 of 1967, Decree No. 12 of 1976, the White Papers/Conclusions of the Federal Military Government on the Irikefe and Nasir Boundary Commission/Boundary Adjustment Commission, the Eastern Nigeria Map, the Provincial Maps of Owerri Province, Warri Province, Onitsha Province, Rivers Province, the Ahoada District Map and Aboh Division Map.
It is praying the court to among others, declare that all the oil wells within Akri and Mbede communities usually identified with the names Akri (for the Akri community) and Mbede (for the Mbede community), including the oil wells identified on the plaintiff’s map, showing the location of oil wells wrongly attributed to the second defendant, 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, Mgbede 018, Mbede 002, Mbede 009 and Mbede 005 are all oil wells within the territory of Rivers State and form part of the state.
It wants the court to also declare that it is only the Rivers State, (not Imo State) that is entitled to receive the full allocation of the distributable revenue derived from the oil wells on the basis of the 1390 derivation principle as provided for under Section 162 of the Constitution.
The plaintiff is also seeking a declaration that the its map No, 2020/0303 – LD of 22/12/2939 showing the boundary line between the plaintiff and the defendant represents the correct boundary between both states.
Rivers wants an order mandatory injunction directing the AGF to calculate, to its satisfaction and refund to it, all revenue that have been wrongly denied the plaintiff and wrongly attributed to or paid to Imo State on account of the limit or extent of their territories, including earnings due to the plaintiff from distributable revenue derived from the Akri and Mbede oil wells.
The plaintiff, which wants N500million as cost of prosecuting the suit, equally wants the court order the AGF to “withdraw from circulation its Administrative Map 10th edition, 11th edition and 12th edition and to refrain from relying on any of the said maps for the purpose of determining the boundary between the plaintiff and the second defendant.
It further wants the court to order the AGF to produce the Administrative Map bearing the correct boundary between both states as contained in the plaintiff’s Map No. 2020/0303 — LD.
On July 14 this year,the court, in an ex-parte ruling, restrained the defendants from taking any further steps in relation to the disputed boundary and the ownership of the Akri and Mgbede oil wells.
The court made an interim order restraining the first and second defendants (AGF and Imo AG) and their agents, including the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation, and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) and the office of the Accountant-General of the Federation (AGF) from giving effect to the letter from the office of the Chairman of RMAFC, with Reference Number RMC/O&G/47/1/264 dated July 1, 2021 directing a departure from the current 50/50 sharing formula applied to Rivers and Imo state in respect of revenue accrued, accruing or derived from the Akri and Mgbede oil wells/fields, subject matter of this suit and in its place, directing deductions to be made from the revenue accruing from the said oil wells to Rivers State and in favour of Imo State.
The court said the orders are to remain in force pending the determination of the motion on notice for interlocutory injunction filed on June 16 this year by the plaintiff.