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17 Oil Wells: Whose Loss, Whose Blame?


17 Oil Wells: Whose Loss, Whose Blame?


The greatest insight I have got into the roots and resolutions over the issue of the contentious 17 oil wells which the Imo State Government and their Rivers counterpart lay equal claims to, came from Governor Nyesom Wike’s broadcast soon after the Supreme Court gave it’s judgement on the matter.

I may not be a fan of Governor Wike’s abruptness and even bombastic rhetoric, but you can’t take it away from him, that sometimes, he says things the way they are, without minding whose ox is gored. On this matter, I choose to go with his narrative, until the Imo State Government comes up with an alternative and maybe, more convincing narrative.

According to the Rivers Governor, the controversy over these oil wells at has always been there, with both States laying equal claims to them. But during the Governors Peter Odili and Achike Udenwa’s administrations, a political settlement was agreed on, which saw both States arriving at a 50-50 sharing formula for whatever proceeds are gotten from these wells. This political arrangement subsisted throughout the tenures of Achike Udenwa, Ikedi Ohakim and Rochas Okorocha. But, when His Excellency Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha became governor in 2019, he moved to take absolute control of these oil wells by writing the FG to pay all the proceeds to the Imo State Government and as well requesting a refund of some billions of Naira, being claims for the 50% share which the Rivers State Government has been receiving from these wells. The Federal Government promptly acceded to Chief Ihedioha’s request and started processes towards implementing his proposal or even already executed some of these proposals.

Dissatisfied with this turn of event, Chief Wike proceeded against the Imo State Government in court. The matter which started from the High Court, went all the way to the Appeal Court, and then the Supreme Court, which gave its judgement in favour of the Rivers State Government.

Before we proceed to determine the questions of this offering, I will want to say that both Governor Wike and Chief Ihedioha are great patriots who wanted the best for their States by, in the case of the former, challenging the move by the later to reduce the income of his State and in the case of the latter, taking steps to raise the revenue of our dear Imo State. Both men deserve commendations and not condemnations. They did what any responsible and well-intentioned leader would do for their States.

Now, to the question of whose loss this judgement of the Supreme Court is, assuming it is true that this judgement means that Imo has fully lost out on any chance to benefit from these oil wells.

The Attorney-general of Imo State, Chief COC Akaolisa has released a statement informing us that they are yet to get the full details of the judgement. Because we are yet to get these details, I will work with the information available in the public domain; that the Rivers State Government has been awarded full ownership of these oil wells. This information or impression has informed majority of the public commentaries on this issue.

I have read a few people mock the governor of Imo State, as if this judgement amounts to a personal loss to him or it has any political effect on him. I have also read some PDP affiliated groups and writers demanding the “governor’s resignation” over this loss, and I couldn’t but sigh at how mischievous or even silly some people can get, just because of politics.

The first fact on this part of the argument is that it is Imo people who lost on this count. If there is anyway Governor Uzodimma can be derided over this loss, it is strictly on the fact that he is an Imolite, not because he is governor. He is as much in a loss as every single Imolite. Governor Uzodimma inherited this fight, and like Governor Wike inferred in his broadcast, he could have gone ahead to try negotiating an out-of-court or political settlement, but he chose rather to follow up on Ihedioha’s action. This was because he wanted a higher revenue accrual to Imo State and not because he wanted an increment on personal wealth for himself or any of his cronies. So, instead of mocking the governor over this loss, we should mourn with him and as well praise him for his sincerity in pursuing this matter to its logical conclusion.

Now, let’s discuss about who should be blamed.

Someone told me that it was as a result of Ihedioha’s “tactlessness” and “over ambitiousness” that Imo lost the 50% it was getting from these wells. That if the Mbutu politician hadn’t sought to claim the entire proceeds, we wouldn’t have been in a situation where we are not currently getting anything from these oil wells. I don’t agree with this opinion. Ihedioha sought to do what was best for Imo State. He wanted more money for Imo State, and that was a patriotic act. That he failed doesn’t mean that he didn’t do the right thing. Those who are today castigating him for making the move to recover these oil wells would have sought to take all the credit for the recovery if this bid had succeeded.

Governor Uzodimma couldn’t have done anything better than what he did. He is not a Supreme Court Justice, and even if he has friends in the Supreme Court, he wouldn’t have been able to force their hands on this matter. These eminent justices came about their verdict based on the facts and arguments presented before them. And, mostly, these arguments were put forward, initially, by lawyers retained by Emeka Ihedioha. The truth is that if this judgement had gone in favour of Imo State, Ihedioha’s media team would have done everything possible to extract the most political capital from it. They would have got all the media houses in Nigeria to tell the story of how it was the shortlived Ihedioha administration that did every job that needed to be done, and dismissed the Uzodimma administration as merely benefiting from Ihedioha’s efforts.

If there is anyone to be blamed for this matter, it is the Federal Government. If the FG was been sincere, they would have taken steps to conclusively resolve the boundary dispute a long time ago. This would have removed any need to seek Court interpretation on the matter, as the facts of the matter would be laid bare before anyone and the location of Akri and Mgbede wouldn’t have remained contentious till now.

Going forward, the Imo State Government should prevail on the FG to get the Boundary Commission to expedite action on concluding the delineation of these disputed territories, given that the Supreme Court did not bar the agency from carrying out it’s legitimate responsibilities. However, if the governor and his advisers have any reason to explore the political option proposed by Governor Wike, I think that would be wonderful, especially, if it will speedily guarantee a return of at least the 50% we were enjoying, pending when the FG will do the needful.


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