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A'IBOM, RIVERS FEUD OVER OIL WELLS LINGERS

By NBF News
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Amaechi pledges prudent use of new oil funds
IN its first full reaction to the Supreme Court ruling transferring 86 oil wells from Akwa Ibom State to Rivers State, the Akwa Ibom State government has denied that the state had at any time signed an agreement ceding any of its oil wells to Rivers State.

Akwa Ibom State government was last week ordered by the Supreme Court to hand over 86 oil wells to Rivers State government in a landmark ruling.

The apex court also ordered Akwa Ibom State to pay revenues plus interest accruing from the wells from April 2009 till date.

A political agreement was purportedly brokered by former President Olusegun Obasanjo for both states over the oil wells, with former Governors Victor Attah and Peter Odili signing for Akwa Ibom and Rivers states.

But at an interaction with reporters yesterday, Secretary to the Akwa Ibom State Government, Umana Okon Umana, denied knowledge of any pact between the two states.

Instead, he claimed that Rivers State was still owing Akwa Ibom a whopping N75 billion in arrears for the Akwa Ibom oil wells allegedly arbitrarily ceded to Rivers by former President Obasanjo.

Umana said: 'In 2004, former President Olusegun Obasanjo came up with what he called a 'political solution' by which 172 oil wells earlier arbitrarily taken from Akwa Ibom State were shared on 50-50 basis between Akwa Ibom and Rivers states.

'Though the so-called political solution which imposed a 50-50 sharing of the disputed oil wells was to come into effect in 2006, Rivers State kept the 172 oil wells and collected all derivation revenues accrued from them until 2009 when the current government of Akwa Ibom State appealed to late President Umaru

Yar'Adua to correct the injustice of the so-called political solution which had no basis in law or any technical consideration.

'If the political solution which the Supreme Court relied on for the judgment were to subsist, Rivers State would refund to Akwa Ibom State all arrears of all revenues accrued from 2006 to 2009 on the 50 per cent share of the oil wells, which are in excess of N75 billion.'

But Rivers State Governor, Chibuike Amaechi, has disclosed that the proceeds from the 86 oil wells returned to the state from Akwa Ibom State from the Supreme Court would be applied judiciously to complete some on-going projects.

Amaechi, who had prior to the Supreme Court judgment on Friday promised not to embark on new projects due to dwindling revenues, said with the return of the 86 oil wells, the revenue to be refunded by Akwa Ibom would be used to initiate new projects.

The governor stated this at a fund-raising dinner organised by his friends and associates in Port Harcourt.

Similarly, women in Rivers State have expressed optimism that the 86 oil wells returned to the state by the Supreme Court would fast-track development in the state.

According to the governor's wife, Mrs. Judith Amaechi, Rivers women received the news of the Supreme Court ruling with joy, as it would accelerate economic and infrastructural development in the state.

Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) senatorial candidate for Rivers South-East, Magnus Ngei Abe, has attributed alleged campaign of calumny against Amaechi to lack of development ideas on the part of opposition parties.

Speaking at an interactive session with Youths of Onne in Eleme Local Council, Abe said he has listened to the opposition candidates carefully but could not spot any concrete development-related plan proffered by any of them.

He said instead of the parties to say what they intend to do to outmatch what PDP has been doing, they have resorted to sentiments such as 'Amaechi is arrogant;' 'he talks to people anyhow,' stressing that if Amaechi had not been bold, he would have found it difficult to reach the present milestone in office.