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OIL FIELD TUSSLE: OBI DARES WADA

By NBF News
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Two weeks after President Goodluck Jonathan declared Anambra as Nigeria's 10th oil-producing state following his inauguration of the state's first oil refinery, the Kogi State government has amplified its claims to the oil wells that will serve the refinery.

This position has provoked a war of words between governors Peter Obi of Anambra and Idris Wada of Kogi. The standoff reached a belligerent crescendo yesterday.

Meanwhile, the federal government yesterday called on politicians and legal practitioners to avoid overheating the polity by resurrecting the debate on the abrogation of the onshore-offshore dichotomy in the allocation of derivation proceeds.

In a statewide broadcast yesterday at the Governor's Lodge, Amawbia, Governor Obi disputed the claims by Kogi State, alleging that it was trying to spoil the joy of indigenes of his state.

But Obi's position has cut little ice with Wada who maintained that the field belongs to Kogi and that Anambra was being unduly desperate.

Obi said the state had invested N4bn in the venture and that the oil field is rightly located in Anambra State, adding that activities that led to the discovery did not receive any financial contribution from those claiming to own it.

'Under my government, with the vision and belief of positive impact of the project on the economy of the state and country, we invested N4.4billion in the project, which bolstered the confidence of other investors to invest in the venture that made the commissioning a reality.

'It is pertinent to note that, till date, neither the group or states laying claims to the oil fields have directly or indirectly invested a kobo in the project, while Anambra State has invested several billions.'

The governor stated that Anambra believes in good neighbourliness and would in conformity with its nature pray for other states to discover oil or other minerals in their areas. People's hard work, sacrifices and investments should match their opportunities, he added.

Though the governor did not mention the names of the states or groups contending the oil fields with the state, he called on such states to work hard to explore their states for mineral deposits as the oil field in question is rightly embedded in Anambra's soil.

In his own reaction yesterday, Governor Wada told LEADERSHIP that the oil in question belongs to the Kogi State.

Governor Wada, who spoke through his special adviser, media and strategy, Jacob Edi, said: 'Look, make no mistakes about it; the oil in question belongs to Kogi State. I can understand the desperation of Anambra State. You can only be seen to be struggling for what does not belong to you.

The mere location of the refinery outside Kogi doesn't make the location site of the refinery an oil-producing state. Otherwise, Kaduna should have been declared an oil-producing state a long time ago. For purposes of emphasis, the oil is found in Ibaji local government area of Kogi State.

Onshore, offshore dichotomy
On the onshore-offshore dichotomy in the allocation of derivation proceeds, the federal government has called on politicians and legal practitioners to avoid overheating the polity by resurrecting the debate on the abrogation.

The attorney-general of the federation and minister of justice, Mr. Mohammed Bello Adoke (SAN), stated this in an address he delivered yesterday at the valedictory session held in honour of Justice Francis Fedode Tabai at the Supreme Court.

Adoke said that some people now want to resurrect the issue and elevate it to the level of an urgent national matter with all its potential to generate acrimony within the polity, a matter determined by the Supreme Court a long time ago.

The AGF asked politicians and legal practitioners to respect the sanctity and constitutional role of the Supreme Court as the apex court in our polity and halt the current debate of the abrogation of the onshore-offshore dichotomy.

'The court, in a well-reasoned judgement, after benefitting from the submissions of  some of our country's finest legal minds, reached the reasoned conclusion that the Act was not in conflict with the 1999 Constitution and was indeed properly made by the National Assembly to place the implementation of Section 162 of the constitution on a more certain and predictable basis.

'In the light of the unanimous position of the Supreme Court on this issue, expressed since 2005, it behoves on us all to promote the sanctity of our judicial system by recognising that the pronouncement of this court should neither be treated with levity nor be subjected to undue politicisation in the name of politics or the pursuit of particular interests.'.

Adoke however noted that, in the current democratic setting in the country, it is only a credible and truly independent judiciary that remains the best guarantee for political stability and social cohesion.

The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) president, Okey Wali (SAN), called for the repeal of the provisions of Section 292 (a) of the 1999 Constitution that bars former retired judges and other judicial officers from appearing in courts and tribunals in Nigeria. He said: 'The regulatory bar is also in the Rules of Professional Conduct. These institutional restrictions have the odious odour of covenants in restraint of trade. They constitute denials of former judges' fundamental right to freedom of private enterprise.

Wali said that the much-touted fear that if former judges are allowed to practise at the bar it might overwhelm their serving colleagues  before whom they appear have been defeated by the prevailing condition at the bar now.

The NBA boss argued that there are so many wealthy and powerful lawyers as well as several judges who are so bold that they could no longer be cowed by the retired judges in the country.

Besides, according to Wali, if the fear is the deciding factor, why are spouses at the bar allowed to appear before their spouses at the bench when the judgement might be written in the bedroom.

Wali however insisted that nobody should be appointed a judge until the input of NBA is sought. According to him, it is all in view of having good and quality bench to ensure efficient and speedy dispensation of justice.

The chief justice of Nigeria, Mariam Aloma-Mukthtar, described Justice Tabai as a great judge.

She stated: 'As a brother and colleague with whom I have worked for several years, I would like to say that Justice Tabai is a great judge, an accomplished learned gentleman who is richly endowed by the almighty God with a sharp analytical mind and enormous capacity for research which he never failed to bring to bear on his numerous judgements.

'Justice Tabai had been a justice of this court for six years. In those years I had the privilege of sitting with him in so many cases. He was diligent, quick to capture the intricacy of the cases and was of great assistance to the court.

'His many judgements are the subject of references by judges and counsel alike. He is certainly going to be missed by us all.'

Justice Tabai thanked former CJN Mohammed Uwais for appointing him a justice of the Supreme Court.