The unending dispute between Cross River and Akwa Ibom states over ownership of 76 Oil Wells, resumed at the Supreme Court on Monday. Both states had been at each other’s throats over the sharing of the multi-billion naira proceeds accruing from the oil wells.
Cross River state dragged Akwa Ibom state and the Federal Government to the Supreme Court challenging the decision of the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission, RMAFC, transferring the 76 oil wells which originally belonged to it to the Akwa Ibom State Government.
At today’s proceedings, lawyers representing the state led by Mr. Yusuf Ali, a senior advocate of Nigeria, urged the court to compel both the Federal Government and Akwa Ibom State to pay it N15.5 billion being the 13 per cent derivation that ought to have been paid to the state since November 2009 to 10 March, 2010.
According to Cross River state, the N15.5 billion is made up of N9.2 billion for the state and N6.3 billion for the local government councils of the state. The state asked for an order of perpetual injunction restraining the Federal Government from excluding it from its entitlement to 13 per cent derivation in relation to the sharing of revenue from the Federation Accounts as a littoral state, based on the 76 oil wells which it claimed had earlier been attributed to it.
Mr. Ali contended that following a boundary dispute between Cross River and Akwa Ibom State, that the then President Olusegun Obasanjo, summoned the two states and amicably resolved the dispute for the two states. He argued that upon a demarcation of the boundary dispute between the two states, 90 oil wells were found to be in the territory of Cross River State.
“By negotiation however, for the sake of peace, 14 of these oil wells in the territory of Cross River State, were attributed to Akwa Ibom state for the purpose of application of derivation. Akwa Ibom state received and still receives revenue on derivation for the 14 oil wells which are physically in the territory of Cross River state but which are attributed to Akwa Ibom. This benefit is sequel to the boundary settlement between the two states which Akwa Ibom now seeks to rescind or renege on”.
However, Akwa Ibom state represented by Chief Bayo Ojo, former Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice under whose tenure in office the first phase of the handing over of a section of the Bakassi Peninsula was relinquished by Nigeria to Cameroun took place, told the court that Cross River which used to be a littoral state when the Bakassi Peninsula was part of Nigeria, lost that status with the handing over of the Peninsula to Cameroun and contended that Cross River is no longer entitled to what the state is claiming.
“By virtue of the judgment of the International Court of Justice, Cross State became landlocked and no part of its territory lay or lies contiguous to nor about the sea. Cross River qualified as a littoral state because it had access to the sea through Bakassi Peninsula and the estuarine part of the body of water (inland waters) called cross river.
“Bakassi Peninsula lies contiguous to the sea while the Cross River estuary empties into the sea. The fact of Bakassi Peninsula and the Cross River estuary being part of Cross River State was the sole qualification and basis for Cross River state being adjudged as a Nigerian Littoral State prior to the ICJ judgment.
“However, the International Court of Justice’ judgment excised the entirety of the Bakassi Peninsula from Nigeria and gave it to Cameroun, as a result, Cross River state ceased thenceforth to be a Nigerian Littoral State,” Chief Ojo argued.
In support to the position of Akwa Ibom in the matter, the Federal Government represented by Mr. Damian Dodo and Mamman Usuma, both senior advocates of Nigeria, argued that Cross River state was not entitled to their claims.
The FG supported the argument canvassed by Akwa Ibom state and asked the court to dismiss the suit.
The court presided over by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Dahiru Musdapher, subsequently adjourned till 10 July to deliver judgment.