11 July 2012, Sweetcrude, UYO – AKWA-IBOM State Governor Godswill Akpabio has applauded the Supreme Court for awarding the dispute between it and Cross River State over 76 offshore wells in its favour.
Akpabio stated that he was ready to make peace with Cross River State because of ‘our common history and other values that our people share.”
He urged Cross River, as a pre-condition for peace, to apologise for the malicious tales it spread about persons in government and judicial officers.
Also reacting to the ruling, Liyel Imoke, the Cross River State government, Tuesday, in an emotion-laden statewide broadcast, sued for calm and asserted that the matter was not over yet.
Imoke maintained that the state had hoped to win the matter “but that was not to be. Nor is it over yet, dear Cross Riverians. With today’s (yesterday) Supreme Court judgment, our hope has just been differed. We shall take solace in the legal maxim that ‘justice can only be delayed and not denied.”
He further stated: “The commonsensical, logical and legal background of our case were such that we expected the Supreme Court to, once again, give fillip to the saying that the Judiciary is the last hope of the commonman via a judicial pronouncement restoring those oil wells to our state.
“We expected a judgment grounded on equity. Alas, that was not to be.”
Prominent indigenes of the Akwa Ibom State, who applauded the Supreme Court ruling, included the Chairman of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Dr. Amadu Attai, former Secretary of the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), Ekanem Ekanem, Uwemedimo Nwoko, and Obong Ime Okon, a member of the state House of Assembly representing Ibiono Ibom Constituency.
The Cross River State Deputy National Secretary of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), Chief Okoi Obono-Obla, said: “I had no doubt that the Supreme Court will not rule otherwise.
“We lost it in 2002 when the ICJ held that Bakassi belonged to Cameroun. Without Bakassi, Cross River State cannot be regarded as a littoral state. The elite of the state were too busy pandering to the former governor Donald Duke. The reality has just dawn on us now.”
Mr. Uqua Itu, director of Administration in the Ministry of Information, said: “The people they call Bakassi are here and being catered for by Cross River State and they are supposed to be part of Nigeria.
“Akwa Ibom people should not be over-stressing this issue because a large number of Akwa Ibom are in Cross River doing their businesses, going to school, doing so many things so they should think about it.”
Delivering the lead judgment on Tuesday, Justice Olufunlola Adekeye maintained that the political agreement, which initially bequeathed the oil wells to Cross River collapsed with the ceding of Bakassi to Cameroun.
According to her, the 13 per cent derivation revenue on the oil wells between Akwa Ibom and Cross River must continue to be attributed to the state on whose maritime territory they were found by the relevant government agencies.
The apex court ruled that “Cross River no longer has any maritime boundary. It is landlocked. The plaintiff not being a littoral state and not having a maritime boundary or abutting the sea, the 76 oil wells, which are the subject matter of the suit, which lie offshore and within a maritime territory, cannot be attributed to it.
“The plaintiff has no maritime territory since the cessation of Bakassi Peninsula and the Cross River estuary which used to be part of the state prior to August 2008.
“The present position of the plaintiff cannot be blamed on any government agency, particularly the National Boundary Commission and the RMAFC. The two statutory bodies must perform their statutory duties based on facts and realities to compile the indices for the payment of the derivation revenues to entitled states.”
The agreement upon which Cross River based its claim for entitlement to the oil wells had been discharged by frustration, that is the handing over of Bakassi to Cameroun, Adekeye said.
She said that the court could not close its eyes to the existing situation and declare that the plaintiff should continue to enjoy the benefits and privileges of a littoral state when it was no longer one by subsequent legal changes.
“This court cannot because of the influx of refugees from Bakassi into Cross River State give a legislative judgment. The government of Nigeria has a means of providing for the social needs of the people of Cross River State faced with the social problems thrust on the state due to the cessation of Bakassi Peninsula to Cameroun,” she added.
Justice Adekeye advised the government of Cross River State to explore the avenue of getting the Federal Government to provide for the social needs of the people of the state.