The Supreme Court on Friday ruled in favour of Rivers State and against Imo State in a legal dispute over ownership of 17 oil wells in Akri and Mbede communities.
In the judgment prepared by Justice Heleen Ogunwumiju but delivered by Justice Emmanuel Agim, the apex court dismissed the counter-claim of ownership put forward by the Imo State Government.
The oil wells had been a subject of litigation at the apex court which served as a court of first instance with seven Justices on the panel.
Justice Agim, in the lead judgment, granted reliefs 1, 3 4 5 and 6 sought by Rivers State Government but dismissed reliefs 2, 7 and 10.
The apex court upheld Rivers State’s argument that the boundary between Rivers and Imo as delineated in Nigeria administrative map 10th edition, 11th, 12th edition and other maps bearing similar delineation were inaccurate and did not represent the legitimate and lawful boundaries between the states.
The court also agreed with Rivers State that the correct instruments, map and documents to be relied upon in the determining the boundary between Rivers and Imo states were those used by Rivers in delineating the boundary line between the two states including Decree No. 14 of 1967, Decree No. 12 of 1976, the White papers/conclusion of the Federal Military on the Irikefe and the Nasir Boundary Commission/Boundary Adjustment Commission, the Eastern Nigeria map, the Provincial map of Owerri province, Warri Province, Onitsha Province, Rivers Province, the Ahoada District map and Aboh Division map.
The plaintiff’s counsel, Joseph Daudu (SAN), had told the court that historical evidence right from 1927 till date indicated that the oil wells belong to Rivers State.
But counsel for Imo State, Chief Olusola Oke (SAN), had asked the apex court to dismiss the suit on the grounds that it ought to have originated from the Federal High Court.
Oke argued that the nature of the matter required that oral evidence to be taken from the people of the area to confirm where they belong.
The counsel for the AGF, Dr Remi Olatubora (SAN), aligned himself with the position of Imo State, saying witnesses, including officials of the National Boundary Commission, the Surveyor-General of the Federation, and indigenes of the disputed areas ought to be heard by the court to make appreciable and acceptable findings.
However, the Supreme Court, in its Friday verdict ruled in favour of Rivers State.
Reacting to the verdict, the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, in a statement by his Special Assistant on Media, Kelvin Ebiri, said the aim of the legal battle was to defend the state’s ownership rights over Akiri and Mbede oil and “not to claim victory over Imo or any other state.”
He added, “We also deplore the collusive actions of the National Boundary Commission which unfortunately, has become notorious as one of the most corrupt national agencies, which has functioned more in causing confusion that resolving boundary disputes.”
Wike said he hoped that the Imo State Governor, Hope Uzodima, would accept the outcome of the legal battle in good faith, “while exploring ways to accommodate any possible compromise from Rivers State Government.”
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