By Yemi Oyeyemi, Abuja
The Supreme Court on Tuesday in Abuja shifted the legal battle by Rivers and Imo states on ownership of 17 rich oil wells in their territories till November 1 for definite hearing.
The apex court fixed the date after the Attorney General of the Federation AGF as 1st defendant and Imo state as 2nd defendant formally made appearances through their lawyers, Dr Remi Peter Olatubura SAN and Chief Olusola Oke SAN respectively.
Justice Kudirat Motomori Kekere Ekun set the stage for determination of the suit instituted by Rivers State Government against its Imo state counterpart shortly after identifying some of the processes so far filed for and against the legal action.
The apex court had on Wednesday July 14 granted an order of injunction stoping the federal government and its agencies from ceding the 17 disputed oil wells located at Akri and Mbede to Imo state.
The order of injunction was granted to stop an alleged implementation of the ceding of the 17 oil wells to Imo state pending the determination of the suit brought before it by the Rivers state government.
In a chamber ruling by the Supreme Court in an ex-parte application argued by Emmanuel Ukala SAN, the apex court had restrained the Attorney General of the Federation AGF and the Attorney General of Imo state from taking any further action on the ownership of the disputed 17 oil wells till the ownership disputes surrounding them are resolved.
The apex court also barred 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 of July 1, 2021, which canceled the equal sharing of proceeds from the 17 oil wells by Rivers and Imo states.
However at Tuesday’s proceedings, Imo state through its lawyer Chief Olusola Oke informed the court that he had filed a motion on notice challenging the jurisdiction of the apex court to hear the suit as a court of first instance.
He predicated the challenge on the fact that the suit is instituted against actions of some federal government agencies and not the federal government itself and as such, the place to hear the matter is a federal high court and not the Supreme Court.
Counsel to the AGF, Remi Peter Olatubura, said he had filed a counter affidavit against the writ of summons of Rivers State.
Lead counsel to Rivers, Mr Joseph Bodunde Daudu SAN, in his response demanded for seven days to file reply on points of law to the motions of the two defendants.
Justice Kekere Ekun who led a panel of seven Justices of the court in a short ruling ordered parties in the suit to file and exchange fully their respective processes between now and November 1 when the suit would be heard.
At Tuesday’s proceedings, it was observed that Rivers State fortified its legal team with five Senior Advocates of Nigeria SANs comprising two former President of the Nigeria Bar Association NBA, Joseph Bodunde Daudu SAN and Chief Okey Wali SAN.
The rest are Chief Sebastin Hon, Chief Emmanuel Ukala and Sunday Ibrahim Ameh.
Rivers state through its Attorney General had dragged the AGF and the Attorney General of Imo state before the Supreme Court praying for declaration that the boundary between Rivers state 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.
Plaintiff also sought 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, cannot be relied on to determine the extent of the territorial governmental jurisdiction of Rivers state and to determine the the revenue accuring 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 that the Supreme Court declare that the correct instrument maps and documents, to be relied on determining the boundary between Rivers and Imo state, are those used by the plaintiff in delineating the boundary line between Rivers and Imo state.
Plaintiff also sought 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 and form part of Rivers state and that it is only the state that 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.
Rivers, therefore, sought 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.
The plaintiff also sought 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.
Rivers also applied for another order of mandatory injunction directing AGF to produce administrative map bearing the correct boundary between Rivers and Imo state.
A sum of N500,000,000 naira was also sought as cost of prosecuting the case.