- Category: Law, Crime & Judiciary
- Published on Saturday, 19 March 2011 22:40
- Written by The Nation
- Hits: 2540
The Supreme Court yesterday ordered Akwa Ibom State to transfer 86 oil wells to Rivers State and all the revenues that accrued from them since April 2009.
Delivering judgment in a suit filed by Rivers State against the Attorney-General of Akwa Ibom State and the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), the apex court held that the two states were bound by a political resolution they had on the wells under the supervision of former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
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, reneged on the agreement in 2007 and persuaded the Federal Government to start paying Akwa Ibom State the accrued revenues.
Odili’s successor-in-office, Governor Rotimi Amaechi, in turn challenged the decision first at the Federal High Court, Abuja which ruled that only the Supreme Court could determine disputes between two states.
In the lead judgment, the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Aloysius Katsina-Alu, held: "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.
"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 realised 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 to 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 to the 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, the Akwa Ibom 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 powers-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 powers-that-be then decided to move against him by allocating most of the oil wells that belonged to Akwa Ibom 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 Akwa Ibom 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."
In his reaction to the judgement yesterday, Rivers State Governor, Rt. Hon. Rotimi Amaechi, said God has vindicated him on the matter.
He said: "I want to thank God, and please join me to praise God. For nearly two years, I’ve been fasting and fasting, praying God to disgrace Akwa Ibom State. And today, God disgraced Akwa Ibom State. I told the governor of Akwa Ibom State (Godswill Akpabio), ‘Do not take the oil wells that belong to Rivers State and Rivers people.’ I told him I will kneel down and call on the God that made me Governor of Rivers State to give me and Rivers people back the oil wells. But he went ahead and took the oil wells that belong to Rivers State and Rivers people.