Business a.m.

Rivers keeps 43 oil wells on restrainin­g order by Supreme Court as Imo waits

Imo claims it’s resolved in its favour asked RMAFC for N15bn oil revenues in 2019

- Ben Eguzozie, in Port Harcourt

The jubilation by Imo State about the ceding of 43 oil wells from Rivers State to it have been put on ice as oil rich Rivers secured a Supreme Court order restrainin­g the attorney general of the federation (AGF), Imo state attorney general and the Revenue Mobilisati­on Allocation, and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) from taking any further actions in awarding oil revenues from the 43 oil wells located in Akri and Mgbede in Oguta and Ohaji/Egbema local government areas of Imo State.

The oilwells in Akri and Mgbede have been a source of boundary dispute between Rivers and its neighbouri­ng Imo.

Rivers is contesting Imo state’s claim to some communitie­s in its territory housing many oilwells in a substantiv­e suit marked SC/ CV/1037/2020, with the attorneyge­neral of the federation and Imo attorney-general as defendants.

Imo announced last week that that following resolution of the boundary dispute between it and Rivers State over ownership of the Akri and Mgbede oilwells, it (Imo) had recovered 43 oilwells from Rivers, thereby making it the 4th largest oil producer in the country.

But Rivers approached the supreme court, which in a sitting on last Wednesday granted the order contained in an ex-parte motion filed by Emmanuel Ukala (SAN) for the attorney-general of Rivers state, Zacchaeus Adangor.

The apex court specifical­ly made an interim order restrainin­g the attorney-general of the federation and Imo attorney-general and their agents, including the revenue mobilisati­on allocation, and fiscal commission (RMAFC) and office of the accountant-general of the federation (AGF) from giving effect to the letter from the office of the chairman of RMAFC, dated July 1, 2021, directing a departure from the current 50/50 sharing formula applied to Rivers and Imo states in respect of revenue accrued, accruing or derived from the Akri and Mgbede oilwells/ fields, subject matter of this suit and in its place, directing deductions to be made from the revenue accruing from the said oil wells to Rivers State and in favour of Imo state.

Rivers government would not comment on the court order. When our correspond­ent asked governor Nyesom Wike’s special assistant on media, Kelvin Ebiri, on the state’s reaction on the order.

The RMAFC letter asking the accountant-general of the federation to direct deductions from the revenues accruing from the oilwells in favour of Imo is referenced RMC/O&G/47/1/264.

The court documents said the order is to subsist pending the determinat­ion of the motion on notice for interlocut­ory injunction filed on June 16 this year by Rivers in a pending suit it filed.

Governor Wike is not new to oil war with his neighbouri­ng states. In 2019, he challenged former governor of Imo, Emeka Ihedioha’s request to the federal government to direct the RMAFC to undertake payment of N15 billion to the state (Imo) for oil wells allegedly belonging the state, but were being counted for neighbouri­ng Rivers.

He also challenged in court governor Udom Emmanuel over certain N5.6 billion allegedly deducted from Rivers federal allocation for Okoro oilwells said to be in Akwa Ibom State. He told newsmen in December 2019 that, though both governors were his “close friends,” he does not trade friendship with what belong to Rivers people.

“I am protecting what belongs to state. I was elected by Rivers people to protect their interest,” Wike had said.

“There are no oil wars between Rivers state and Imo or Akwa Ibom States, as claimed by the outgoing Bayelsa state governor. I went to court against Imo state to challenge the attempt by governor Ihedioha to take N15 billion revenue of oil wells belonging to Rivers State.

Also, I went to court against Akwa Ibom because of illegal deductions of N5.6 billion from Rivers by the agencies of the federal government. I still enjoy a good working relationsh­ip with the governors of Imo and Akwa Ibom states,” Wike said about two years ago.

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