BY KINGSLEY OMONOBI
ABUJA— FOLLOWING the Supreme Court judgment of Friday, March 18 ordering Akwa Ibom State to transfer to Rivers State, 86 oil wells with revenues that accrued from the wells from April 2009 to date, former Governor of the state, Obong Victor Attah, has denied ever entering into or signing any agreement ceding the oil wells to Rivers State.
It will be recalled that the administration of Governor Godswill Akpabio had through the State Commissioner for Information, Mr. Aniekam Umana accused the former governor of mortgaging the state’s oil wells because of his political ambition of wanting to become President in the 2007 general elections.
Explaining his own side of the story, Obong Attah said: “Until I read in various newspapers the judgment handed down by the Supreme Court in respect of the 86 oil wells, I did not know that there was such a dispute between my state, Akwa Ibom and Rivers State.
“Whatever may have happened to the oil wells in Akwa Ibom State today must be seen as the sole responsibility of the government of Governor Godswill Akpabio. If he has lost our oil wells, it would be yet another testimony to how he has through fumbling ineptitude negated the gains that I had won and the development that I had put in place for Akwa Ibom state, Attah said.”
Speaking on occasions where “Governor Akpabio and members of his government had sought to shift blame for their numerous failures on me”, Obong Attah said, “It is only a bad worker that constantly blames his poor performance on his tools and I think Governor Akpabio should own up to his monumental failures and stop seeking to heap the blame on me”.
He gave instances with an article published on the 4th October 2008, titled ‘Commissioner Blames Attah over 10th Anniversary Hotel Saga’ prompting him to write to Governor Akpabio to warn that “I shall no longer accept the position of the whipping boy for every inept act of your government or continue as the butt of every ridicule”.
“Sadly, the government of Governor Akpabio continues to fumble and continues to fumble and continues to look for who to blame”, he said.
On his resource control fight with former President Olusegun Obasanjo while in office, Attah said, “For those who may want to be reminded, the first front in the resource control battle was the issue of the offshore-onshore dichotomy.
The Supreme Court went along with Chief Obasanjo and decided that the boundary of littoral states is the low water mark. This was at a time when Nigeria was struggling at the United Nations to register its Exclusive Economic Zone”.
“I rejected the Supreme Court ruling and pointed out that it is the aggregate boundaries of the federating units that define the boundary of any federation. The seaward boundary of Nigeria therefore must be the low water mark as no country can have two maritime boundaries and that our application at the UN was bound to fail”.
“This is what brought about the first “Political Solution” by which the littoral states were allowed to extend their boundaries, for the purpose of derivation payment, to 200 meters isobaths. Incidentally, all of Akwa Ibom State ’s offshore wells are within the 200 meter depth”.
Continuing, Attah said, “Quite suddenly and totally inexplicably the former President, Olusegun Obasanjo then turned around and arbitrarily seized some oil wells to the east from Akwa Ibom state and gave them to Cross Rivers state and as many as 172 wells to the west which he gave to Rivers state”.
“In total frustration, I went to court. I was threatened and was told that the matter will not receive any more presidential consideration unless I withdrew the case from the court. Rather than withdraw totally, I asked the lawyers to apply to suspend further prosecution to allow for possible out of court settlement.
That was when former President Obasanjo proposed the second “political solution”, to give back to Akwa Ibom state 50% of the 172 oil wells that had been taken from it and given to Rivers State ”.
“Following upon this, the boundary commission was ordered to go and produce a boundary between the two states that would reflect this decision. I do not believe that till today, it has been possible for such a boundary to be drawn because it would zigzag between the oil wells.
I may also add that we did not go back to the court to file any terms of settlement because all these arbitrary seizure and release were considered as interim”.