Oil rich subnationa Rivers State on Friday got judgement in its favour over a much contested 17 oil wells which it had been in a long battle with Imo State.
Justices of the Supreme Court who ruled for Rivers State also brought to an end a political understanding that had seen the two states share the derivative revenue benefits from the wells.
The country’s apex court ruled that the 17 oil wells located in Ndoni and Egbema communities all belong to Rivers and are for Rivers State alone.
It had in February fixed Friday May 6, 2022 for judgement in this legal battle between the two neighbouring states over the ownership of the 17 oil wells in their territories after hearing arguments from lawyers to the parties.
Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, who led a panel of justices of the Supreme Court fixed the date after the adoption of the final written addresses by the lawyers.
The plaintiff in the matter, represented by Joseph Daudu, a senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and a former president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), while adopting his final address, asked the Supreme Court to give judgement in favour of Rivers State on the grounds that historical evidence right from 1927 till date clearly indicated that the oil wells belonged to the state.
Dauda had also drawn the attention of the Supreme Court to the boundary adjustment paper of 1976, where Ndoni and Egbema were confirmed to be communities belonging to Rivers State.
He disagreed with Abubakar Malami, the attorney general of the federation, in his claim that adjudication in the suit ought not to have originated from the Supreme Court but a Federal High Court, because oral evidence ought to be taken from the people of the areas.
Daudu said the Supreme Court had original jurisdiction and could conveniently use all available sufficient historical documents from the colonial era to determine the real owners of the oil wells.
In his own submission, Olusola Oke, also a senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN), representing Imo State, urged the apex court to dismiss the suit on the grounds that it ought to have originated from the Federal High Court.
He also argued that because of the nature of the matter, oral evidence ought to be called from the people of the area to confirm where they actually belong.
According to him, Rivers State ought not to have started the suit from the Supreme Court and he prayed the court to dismiss it.
In the same vein, Remi Olatubora, another senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN), who represented the AGF, aligned himself with the position of Imo State to the effect that proper procedure for such a suit was not adopted by Rivers State.
He insisted that witnesses, including officials of the National Boundary Commission, the surveyor-general of the federation and indigenes of the disputed areas ought to be heard for the court to make appreciable and acceptable findings.
Olatubora also noted that the AGF was neutral in the matter, adding, however, that scientific evidence must be considered along with open court hearings for the Supreme Court to make good findings.
It was after these submissions in February that Justice Ariwoola announced May 6, 2022 for judgement.