by Stanley Azuakola What God joined together, the Federal Government first put asunder in 1987 when it divided Old Cross River State into two –Akwa Ibom and Cross River. Now crude oil is becoming another major source of friction between the two sister states.
On July 10, the Supreme Court will give its ruling in the case between the two states concerning the oil wells belonging to the both states.
Cross River is upset that the Federal Government now excludes it from the 13 percent derivation all littoral oil producing states are entitled to. They are demanding through their counsel, Mr Yusuf Ali (SAN) that the FG and Akwa Ibom State pay them N15.5 billion being the 13 per cent derivation which ought to have been paid to the state from November 2009 to March 2010, but wasn’t.
The two states were embroiled in a boundary dispute which was resolved by Olusegun Obasanjo, the president at the time. According to Yusuf Alli, when the boundaries were demarcated, 90 oil wells were found to be in the territory of Cross River State. However, after negotiation, and “for the sake of peace, 14 of these oil wells in the territory of Cross River State, were attributed to Akwa Ibom State for the purpose of application of derivation. Akwa Ibom State received and still receives revenue on derivation for the 14 oil wells which are physically in the territory of Cross River state but which are attributed to Akwa Ibom.”
The Cross River State counsel wondered how Akwa Ibom can still receive 13 per cent derivation on oil wells in Cross River territory, but Cross River cannot receive same because it supposedly isn’t a littoral state.
Akwa Ibom state however, made a counter argument through its attorney, Chief Bayo Ojo, SAN, a former Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice. Ojo said Cross River lost the status of being a littoral state when the Bakassi Peninsula was handed over to Cameroun. Hence, they weren’t entitled to receive 13 per cent derivation anymore.
“By virtue of the judgment of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), Cross State became landlocked and no part of its territory lay or lies contiguous to the sea. Cross River qualified as a littoral state because it had access to the sea through Bakassi Peninsula and the estuarine part of the body of water (inland waters) called cross river. Bakassi Peninsula lies contiguous to the sea while the Cross River estuary empties into the sea. The fact of Bakassi Peninsula and the Cross River estuary being part of Cross River State was the sole qualification and basis for Cross River state being adjudged as a Nigerian Littoral State prior to the ICJ judgment,” he said.
It would be recalled that Bayo Ojo was the Attorney General of the Federation when the International Court of Justice gave its ruling which excised the entirety of the Bakassi Peninsula from Nigeria and gave it to Cameroun.