Oil Wells : ‘You Can’t Turn Against Supreme Court That Made You Imo Governor’ – Wike Tells Uzodinma

The Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, has asked the Imo State governor, Hope Uzodinma, to abide by the Supreme Court decision which held that the disputed 17 oil wells located in territories bordering Imo and Rivers States belong to the latter.

Wike also urged Uzodinma to recall that it was through the intervention of the same Supreme Court that he was declared governor of Imo and it would amount to double standards if his body language is against the verdict of the court.

The apex court had in 2020 quashed the election of Emeka Ihedioha (of the Peoples Democratic Party) and declared Uzodinma as Imo governor having agreed that 388 polling units which the latter won was not counted when votes were collated.

On Friday, the apex court stated that historical documents showed that the affected oil wells belong to Rivers State even though Imo had earlier challenged the court’s jurisdiction.

Reacting to the verdict, Wike maintained that the supreme court has laid to rest the issues of ownership but advised his counterpart to play by the rules.

“In approaching the Supreme Court in this (oil wells) matter, we believed that the dispute between the two states and the contentious issues are such that the Court can judicially, justly and expeditiously determine with the available facts and supporting evidence, including valid administrative maps, subsisting judgments, and other relevant documents.

“And so, the Supreme Court has finally and conclusively resolved the dispute and granted full and exclusive ownership of all the disputed oil wells in Akiri and Mbede oilfields, to Rivers State much to everyone’s relief.

“Although Governor Hope Uzodima was not the mastermind of the impulsive trajectory that compelled us to seek the intervention and protection of the Courts, he nevertheless participated fully in the litigation process to the end without engaging the Rivers State Government for a possible a political solution.

“However, his reactions to the judgments of the lower courts on this matter were clearly uncalled for. “Indeed, it was rather unfortunate that for someone who became Governor through the instrumentality of the judiciary could turnaround to castigate the very institution that made him ruler over the good, peaceful and progressive people of Imo State.

“Now that the Supreme Court has spoken, we hope Governor Hope Uzodima will accept the outcome in good faith, refrain from his usual diatribes against the judiciary and explore possible pathways to accommodation and compromise from the Rivers State Government,” Wike said in a statement.

Wike further accused Ihedioha and agencies of the federal government of conniving to deprive Rivers State of its dues.

The statement partly reads:

“ Let us recall that following the disputed claims to the location and ownership of some oil wells at the Akiri and Mbede oilfields between Imo and Rivers States in 1999, the Governors, Their Excellencies, Achike Udenwa and Dr. Peter Odili respectively, worked out a political settlement and mutually settled for a 50:50 percent beneficial sharing of the derivation proceeds accruing from these wells pending the proper demarcation of the boundaries between the two States by the National Boundary Commission (NBC).

“While the dispute lingered, nothing was done by the NBC to demarcate the boundaries of the two States and establish the proper location and title to the disputed oil wells.

“However, instead of instigating the NBC to do the right thing, Governor Emeka Ihedioha of Imo State, shortly after assuming office, repudiated the subsisting 50:50 percent sharing formula and made provocative claims to the exclusive ownership of the entire Akiri and Mbede oil wells.

“In order to actualized this spurious claims, he stealthily wrote a letter dated 9th August 2019 to President Mohammadu Buhari and requested for the refund of the sum of N15, 000,000.00 (fifteen billion naira) from Rivers State to Imo State as backlog of accrued proceeds from the 13% derivation revenue of the said oil wells.

“Acting on Governor Ihedioha’s letter, Mr. President warranted a letter to be written to the Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMFAC) through his late Chief of State, Mr. Abba Kyari, to alter the status quo against in favour of Imo State without reference to the subsisting dispute and agreement between the two States.

“Surprised by the surreptitious plots and collusive actions of the Government of Imo State and the NBC to overreach the legal interest of Rivers State in the disputed oil wells, the Rivers State Government opted to approach the Court for a just and lasting resolution.

“Accordingly, we first applied to the Federal High Court, Abuja and among other reliefs, successfully challenged the powers and authority of Mr. President to give directives to the RMFAC and or interfere in any manner whatsoever with the distribution of public revenues from the distributable pool account, including the Federation Account.

“Not satisfied with the positive ruling of the Federal High Court, the Imo State Government appealed to the Court of Appeal and lost. We then proceeded against the Government of Imo State at the Supreme Court in a fresh suit for a final and conclusive determination of the boundary dispute between our two States.

“In approaching the Supreme Court in this matter, we believed that the dispute between the two State and the contentious issues are such that the Court can judicially, justly and expeditiously determine with the available facts and supporting evidence, including valid administrative maps, subsisting judgments, and other relevant documents.”

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