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Disputed 17 Oil Wells: Supreme Court Gives FG, Imo State 15 Days To File Defense

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The Supreme Court of Nigeria on Monday, gave the Federal Government fifteen days to file its defense to the suit instituted by the Rivers state government meant to stop it from ceding 17 disputed oil wells to Imo State
The Supreme Court also directed Imo state to within the same period of days, file and exchange necessary processes with the Plaintiff (Rivers State).
Before adjourning the matter till January 17, 2021, a seven-man panel of justices of the court led by Justice Kekere Ekun, said it would hear the substantive matter alongside all objections the defendants might have filed against the plaintiff’s suit.
The Federal Government had in a counter affidavit filed against the Rivers State’s suit urged the Apex Court to dismiss the suit for lack of merit.
According to the processes filed through the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, the Federal Government prayed the apex court to vacate an order of injunction that stopped the process of ceding the oil wells located at Akri and Mbede, to Imo state
The apex court had in a chamber ruling it delivered on July 14, ordered the Federal Government and its agencies to halt all actions concerning to the alleged plan to cede the oil wells to Imo state, pending the determination of the substantive suit filed by Rivers state government.
The ruling was sequel to an ex-parte application Rivers State argued through its lawyer, Mr. Emmanuel Ukala, SAN.
The Supreme Court specifically restrained the Attorney General of the Federation, and the Attorney General of Imo state from taking any further step on the ownership of the disputed 17 oil wells, pending hearing and determination of the suit.
The ruling also stop 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 RMAFC office, with reference number RMC/O&G/47/1/264, dated July 1, 2021, which cancelled the equal sharing of proceeds from the 17 oil wells by Rivers and Imo states.
At the resumed hearing of the matter on Monday, counsel to the Federal Government, Dr Remi Olatubura, SAN, and that of Imo state, Chief Olusola Oke, SAN, who are 1st and 2nd defendants in the suit, drew the attention of the court to their pending motions.
The defendants were granted leave of the court for an extension of time to file their defence and for an order deeming all their pending motions as duly filed.
While the FG said it has filed a counter affidavit against the Writ of Summons filed by the Rivers State government, Imo state on its part, said it filed a motion on notice to challenge the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court to hear the case as a court of first instance.
The defendants said their motions were not only praying the court to strike out the suit, but to also vacate the ex-parte order that stop process for ceding of the oil wells to Imo state.
On his part, counsel to Rivers State, Ukala, SAN, said he filed a motion for the apex court to give direction on how the hearing would be conducted.
After the panel of Justices had listened to all the parties, they adjourned the case till January 17, 2022 for hearing.
The Rivers State Government had in the suit marked SC/1037/2020, is seeking for a declaration that the boundary between it 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.
The Plaintiff is further seeking 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 and can not 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 for a declaration of the Supreme Court 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.
Besides, Plaintiff is also seeking 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.
It added that only Rivers State 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.
The Plaintiff is urging the court to issue an order of mandatory injunction, directing the AGF to calculate, to its satisfaction, and refund to it all revenue that have 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.
It further wants an order of injunction directing the AGF to withdraw from circulation 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 state.
The plaintiff is also seeking for an order of mandatory injunction directing AGF to produce administrative map bearing the correct boundary between Rivers and Imo state and the sum of N500million as litigation cost.

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