Finally the Supreme Court has ruled in favour of Akwa Ibom on a legal battle over the ownership of 76 oil wells located in the Atlantic Ocean between Akwa Ibom and Cross River states. Meanwhile some groups in Cross River have threatened to move to Bakassi in Cameron Republic over what they described as unfair judgement.
In an unanimous decision, the court held that the claims of ownership of the disputed oil wells by Cross River state was lacking in merit and substance and maintained that the ceding of the Bakassi Peninsula to Cameroun by the government of former President Olusegun Obasanjo terminated the access of Cross River to the Atlantic.
The court insited that the maritime territory where the disputed oil wells were located belong to Akwa Ibom State which it ordered to continue to enjoy the benefits revenue accruals from the oil wells as determined by the Revenue Mobilization and Fiscal Allocation Committee (RMAFC) and National Boundary Commission.
While the suit was filed by Cross River, the Economic Confidential gathered that the state would remain the only state in the South-South that would receive lesser monthly revenue from the Federation Account. Out of the 36 states of the Federation, Cross River is one of the seven least recipients of the monthly allocation from Abuja.
The Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) had in 2008 redefined the maritime boundary between Cross River and Akwa Ibom where the entire maritime territory of Cross River was by that exercise ceded to Akwa Ibom.The commission also declassified Cross River as a littoral state and allegedly transfered some oil wells from Cross River to Akwa Ibom. After failing to persuade RMAFC to reverse the decision, Cross River took the matter to the Supreme Court for determination before the eventual judgement.
Meanwhile before the judgment, a group known as Cross River Forum of Local Government Chairmen had warned that ceding the 76 oil wells to Akwa Ibom might result in automatically ceding parts of the state to Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea and Sao Tome and Principe.
Addressing journalists on the implications of ceding the 76 oil wells to Akwa Ibom few days to the judgement, chairman of the forum, Dr. Emil Inyang, said the awaited judgment had created distrust between the two sister states “as to whether one is not the other’s Brutus”.
According to Inyang, the implications of short changing the state through another seizure of its land would be devastating and could have security implications.
He warned the Federal Government and its agencies that the on-going litigation between the two states might lead to tensions that could forever destroy brotherly relations between them.
He wondered why after Cross River lost Bakassi Peninsula to Cameroon, the Federal Government and its agencies were bent on denying it the ownership of the said oil wells just to please certain interests.
Inyang argued that though they have faith in the integrity of the Supreme Court judges, “rumors in the streets, small talks at joints, corners and sit outs point to the fact that the Supreme Court is bent on overruling itself.”
He stated that the case was similar in every aspect to the one between Akwa Ibom and Rivers States, in which the Supreme Court had ruled in favour of the latter.
Speaking further, the chairmen accused the Federal Government of conspiring to deny Cross River State the ownership of the oil wells that is now the subject of litigation between the state and Akwa Ibom.
They wondered how Cross River with a sea port in Calabar could be declared a non-littoral state, adding that should that be the situation, Nigeria would have on its own ceded “a good part of her internal waters to Cameroon, Equitorial Guinea and Sao Tome and Principe”.
“Nigeria will by this judgement (if our land is taken again) cede a good part of her internal waters to the Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea and Sao Tome and Principe. The Nigerian Navy shall have to seek and get consent from Cameroon to access her Eastern Naval base,” they said.
Likewise, the forum stated, “The Cameroonian Navy without the consent and permission can navigate Nigerian waters up to Calabar River and beyond the platforms now operated by Moni-Poli and Adax Petroleum.”
The forum further insisted that the manner in which the Akwa Ibom vs Rivers States case was resolved by the court should also be adhered to as both cases dwelt on similar jurisdiction as it concerns littoral states.
The group also argued that the position of former President Olusegun Obasanjo in working for a political solution remained the best option to address the injustice meted out to Cross River, given that both states are one.
Inyang also explained that it would amount to an act of disservice and injustice if the court relies on the map being circulated as the authentic one, adding, “The map being relied upon never emanated from the Surveyor General of the Federation’s office, as he has denied knowledge of the map,” he said.