Akwa Ibom loses 86 Oil Wells to Rivers State
The Supreme Court yesterday ordered the Government of Akwa Ibom State to transfer to Rivers State 86 oil wells with revenues which accrued from the wells beginning from April 2009.
In a unanimous judgment, seven justices of the apex court with the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Katsina-Alu presiding held that Akwa Ibom was bound by an agreement which it signed with the government of Rivers States.
With the judgement, Akwa Ibom will have to refund money running into billions of naira to the River State Government.
The agreement which was supervised by former President Olusegun Obasanjo saw the states agreeing to a political solution to the dispute. The agreement was supposed to provide a lasting solution to the recurrence dispute among the three states.
Former governors Obong Victor Attah of Akwa Ibom State and Peter Odili of Rivers State were the signatories to the agreement.
Attah's successor-in-office, Governor Godswill Akpabio had kicked against the political arrangement in 2007 and persuaded the Federal Government to return the 86 oil wells to Akwa Ibom.
Akwa Ibom unilaterally repudiated the agreement and started receiving the revenues accruing from these oil wells.
Odili's successor-in-office, Governor Rotimi Anechi cried foul and challenged the return of the oil wells to Akwa Ibom first at the Federal High Court and latter at the Supreme Court.
Delivering judgement in the suit yesterday, Justice Katisna-Alu held that Akwa Ibom was bound by the agreement because its former governor was a signatory to the agreement of 31st October, 2006 yielding the 86 oil wells to Rivers.
In Katsina-Alu's lead judgement, he held that: “It is not in dispute that this agreement was reduced into writing and dated 31st October 2006. It is exhibit AMBI. It is indeed embodied in the letter written by the then President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo “It can be seen clearly from this letter that the parties have voluntarily jettisoned Technical and Historical Solutions. This is so because these Solutions were considered at the meeting before opting for the Political Solution. The parties faithfully implemented the terms of the agreement till the tail end of 2007 when Akwa Ibom unilaterally sought to rescind the agreement and commended its agitation for the application of the Historical Solution."
Defendants in the suit are the Attorney General of Akwa Ibom and the Attorney General of the Federation.
Katsina-Alu further held that “The plaintiff avers that it accepted the Political Solution Method Agreement. So did the defendants. The parties are bound by the agreement. The parties are estopped by their conduct from disclaiming their acts. In the present case, the defendant must accept the legal relations as modified by them in the agreement they voluntarily entered into with the plaintiff. Surely it will be inequitable to permit the defendants to walk out of the agreement which on the evidence before me was not obtained by fraud, misrepresentation or deception.
“It does not matter that in the instant case the defendants have suddenly realized that the terms of the agreement they had entered into with the plaintiff are not favourable to them.
He further held that “The plaintiff (Rivers) is the owner of the 86 oil wells by virtue of the political solution agreement between the plaintiff and the 1st defendant (Akwa Ibom), the terms of which are contained in exhibit AMBI and therefore entitled to be paid revenue derivable therefrom under the provisions of section 162 of the 1999 Constitution from April, 2009 till date and subsequently.
“The defendants are hereby directed by themselves and/or their appropriate agencies to forthwith compute and calculate all such sums of money accruing from 86 oil wells belonging to the plaintiff by virtue of the subsisting and biding political solution agreement which sums had since been unlawfully paid to the 1st defendant (Akwa Ibom) with effect from April, 2009 till date of this judgement and payment of all such sums to the plaintiff by the 1st defendant forthwith.
“There shall be interest at the prevailing commercial rate per annum on the total sums calculated as due to the plaintiff from April 2009 till date of this judgement and thereafter at 8 percent interest per annum on the judgement debt until full liquidation of the judgement sum and interest."
Reacting to the judgment Akwa Ibom State said that Attah sold out AkwaIbom oil wells for political reasons.
The state blamed the administration of former governor Attah for signing off the fortune of the people of the state when he had the opportunity to fight for their right.
speaking with newsmen shortly after the supreme court judgment, the state commissioner for Information and Re-orientation, Mr. Aniekan Umanah, stated that "the political solution which the supreme court hinged its judgment was entered into by the government of Obong Attah and that was because he wanted to be in the good books of the government at that time.. It was a decision that sold the future and fortune of the people of the state to its neighboring states because of the ambition of one man. Now the people of the state are the ones suffering because of the selfish desire of one man.
We have it on good authority that former governor Attah accepted the political solution offer because he wanted to please the power that be, and as proof that he was not supporting the presidential ambition of former vice president Atiku Abubakar, who was angling to succeed former president Olusegun Obsanjo in 2007.
It was a selfish way of finding solution to the an issue that would have a direct effect on the lives and development of the people of the state, without any consideration."
"It was because of Attah's alleged sponsorship of the presidential bid of Alhaji Atiku that the power that be then, decided to move against him by allocating most of the oil wells that belonged to AkwaIbom State to Rivers as a way of cutting down his revenue, which he allegedly used in sponsoring Atiku's presidential ambition." he disclosed.
According to him" the current administration will not be a party to any move by anybody to deny the people of AkwaIbom State their rights and entitlements. we are currently studying the judgment and at the appropriate time, the position of government would be made public. We will surely go back to see how the political solution that was arrived at in 2004 was implemented before this judgment which is hinged on the 2004 political solution."