• Friday, July 12, 2024
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Disputed oil wells: Rivers’ interest wasn’t victory over Imo – Wike

Governor Nyesom Wike has said that victory over Imo was never Rivers State’s objective of approaching the Supreme Court in the disputed 17 oil wells, but the need to defence Rivers’ ownership of the wells.

The Supreme Court on Friday, May 6, 2022, ruled that the oil wells belong to Rivers State.

In a brief broadcast, while reacting to the court’s verdict, Wike said he was not in court with Imo State to claim victory, but to defend Rivers’ ownership of the oil wells in Akri and Mbede communities.

He said: “It bears repeating that the quest to defend our ownership rights through the courts over the Akiri and Mbede oil wells was not intended to claim victory over Imo or any other state.”

The governor deplored what he called the collusive actions of the Nigerian Boundary Commission (NBC), which he accused of being notorious. He used strong words to describe the NBC, saying the agency has functioned more in causing confusion than resolving boundary disputes.

Governor Wike pointed out that while the dispute lingered, the NBC did nothing in demarcating the boundaries to establish the proper location and title to the disputed oil wells.

He also tongue-lashed former governor of Imo State, Emeka Ihedioha, saying instead of ensuring that the NBC did its work to continue with the subsisting 50:50 percent sharing formula, Ihedioha rather made provocative claims as exclusive owners of the oil wells.

“In order to actualise this spurious claim, he (Ihedioha) stealthily wrote a letter dated August 9, 2019, to President Muhammadu Buhari and requested for the refund of the sum of N15bn from Rivers to Imo State as the backlog of accrued proceeds from the 13 percent derivation revenue of the said oil wells.

Read also: Wike, Masari insist on Nigeria’s unity

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

Wike said the Rivers State government was surprised by that action because, since 1999, Peter Odili and Achike Udenwa, both former governors of the respective states had agreed to 50:50 percent sharing of derivative proceeds from those wells.

“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.

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

The Rivers State governor expressed delight that the Supreme Court has spoken and hoped that Imo State governor, Hope Uzodima, would accept the outcome in good faith while exploring ways to accommodate any possible compromise from the Rivers State government.

“This, we may readily oblige, despite the betrayals and back-stabbing by Emeka Ihedioha, who in spite of the extensive support and goodwill he received from the government and people of Rivers State to become governor, led the onslaught and created a wedge between two brotherly states that have been living at peace and in friendship with each other.”

Wike thanked the lawyers who prosecuted and secured the landmark success for Rivers State. He announced the conferment of state’s honours on each of them as ‘Distinguished Service Stars’ of Rivers State.

Speaker of Rivers State House of Assembly, Ikuinyi-Owaji Ibani, noted that a good leader like Wike makes history from which useful lessons can be learned like defending Rivers’ interests and also extending hands of fellowship to Imo State.

On his part, chairman of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) Elders’ Forum, Ferdinand Alabraba, described Wike as a useful instrument God has used to take Rivers State to greater height of success.