By Ikechukwu Nnochiri – Abuja
The Supreme Court, on Monday, ordered the Federal Government to within 15 days, file its defence to the suit that Rivers state government filed to stop it from ceding 17 disputed oil wells to Imo State.
The apex court equally directed Imo state to within the same period of days, file and exchange necessary processes with the Plaintiff (Rivers State).
Before it adjourned the matter till January 17, 2022, a seven-man panel of justices of the court led by Justice Kekere Ekun, said it would hear the substantive matter, alongside all objections the Defendants have against it.
FG had urged the Supreme Court to dismiss the suit which it argued was bereft of merit.
In processes it filed through the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, FG, further prayed the apex court to vacate an order of injunction that stopped the process of ceding the oil wells located at Akri and Mbede, to Imo state.
It will be recalled that the apex court had in a chamber ruling it delivered on July 14, ordered FG and its agencies to halt actions pertaining to alleged plan to cede the oil wells to Imo state, pending the determination of the suit by Rivers state government.
The ruling followed an ex-parte application Rivers State argued through its lawyer, Mr. Emmanuel Ukala, SAN.
The Supreme Court specifically restrained the AGF and the Attorney General of Imo state from taking any further action on the ownership of the disputed 17 oil wells, pending resolution of legal issues surrounding its ownership.
It further 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, dated July 1, 2021, which cancelled the equal sharing of proceeds from the 17 oil wells by Rivers and Imo states.
At the resumed proceedings in the matter on Monday, FG’s lawyer, Dr Remi Olatubura, SAN, and that of Imo state, Chief Olusola Oke, SAN, who are 1st and 2nd Defendants in the matter, drew the attention of the court to their pending motions.
The Defendants secured leave of the court for an extension of time to file their defence and for an order deeming all their pending motions as duly filed.
While FG said it filed a counter-affidavit against the Writ of Summons Rivers State lodged with respect to the disputed oil wells, on its part, Imo state, said it filed a motion on notice to query the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court to hear the case as a court of first instance.
The Defendants said their motions were not only praying the court to strike out the suit, but to also vacate the ex-parte order that halted process for ceding of the oil wells to Imo state.
On his part, counsel to Rivers State, Ukala, SAN, said he filed a motion for the apex court to give direction on how the hearing would be conducted.
After it had listened to all the parties, the apex court panel adjourned the case for hearing.
Rivers state is in its suit marked SC/1037/2020, seeking a declaration that the boundary between it 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.
The Plaintiff is further seeking 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 revenue accruing 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 for a declaration of the Supreme Court that the correct instrument maps and documents to be relied on in determining the boundary between Rivers and Imo state, are those used by the Plaintiff in delineating the boundary line between Rivers and Imo state.
Besides, Plaintiff is also seeking a 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.
It maintained that only Rivers State 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.
The Plaintiff is urging the court to issue an 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.
It further wants an 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.
As well as an order of mandatory injunction directing AGF to produce administrative map bearing the correct boundary between Rivers and Imo state.
Rivers State is equally praying the apex court to award it the sum of N500million as litigation cost.