Review the ceding Cross River’s 76 oil wells




The current agitation by the Governor of Cross River state, Professor Ben Ayade, for the review of the 2012 Supreme Court decision which transferred ownership of 76 oil wells from the state to neighbouring Akwa Ibom state is not only germane but also quite justified. This is even more so considering the fact that the state evidently suffered a double jeopardy in the ceding of its oil wells and Bakassi to Cameroon at the behest of the federal government.

Speaking during the visit of the Commander of the Joint Military Taskforce, Operation Delta Safe (ODS), Rear Admiral Akinjide Akinrinade, the governor said the ceding of the oil-rich peninsula was illegal and, therefore, the loss of oil wells was an act of gross injustice.
He said: “Even the implementation of the Supreme Court judgement that emphasised clearly that Cross River must continue to enjoy stabilisation support in perpetuity for the loss of its oil wells has since been stopped.

We are tired and so we want our oil wells back”.
Similarly, the Leader of the Cross River State House of Assembly, Rt Hon Peter Odey, while addressing indigenes of Bakassi, who led a protest to the assembly complex to express their displeasure over the loss of 76 oil wells to Akwa Ibom state, said the ceding of the oil wells remained a mystery to the people of Bakassi. He said the loss of the wells did not just put economic hardship to the indigenes of the area alone but brought hardship to the entire state.

Odey, who spoke to the indigenes of Bakassi alongside Elizabeth Ironbar, member representing Bakassi in the assembly, and Hon. Mathew Olory, said, “The issue of the 76 oil wells remains a mystery to even us as lawmakers, and I want to quote the governor of Cross River state when he said that he was going to ask the Supreme Court of Nigeria to review their own judgment because it is only the Supreme Court of Nigeria that can upturn that judgment.

“The 76 oil wells were not only taken from Bakassi but taken from Cross River state and all the local government areas of the state are suffering from the injustice that was done and like they say, injury to one is an injury to all. So we support your movement and thank you for remaining peaceful”.
Earlier in his remarks, the group spokesperson, an indigene of Akpankaya ward in Bakassi local government area, Mr. Kingsley Asuquo, stressed that they took the decision to take to the street because of the suffering they are going through as a result of ceding the oil wells, a situation that forced them into destitution.

Asuquo said, “Why we are protesting today is that the Bakassi people have been neglected, what belongs to us has been taken away from us, talking about the 76 oil wells. We have been rendered refugees in our country and the economic benefits of the youths have not been given to us. So we want government to revisit the 76 oil wells and the marine boundary of Cross River and Akwa Ibom states.

“Please send this message to Mr. President, that we want to know what Cross River has done wrong, particularly now that you have noticed that some camps are coming back to life again after the disarmament and demobilisation.

“Ordinary amnesty, Cross Riverians cannot benefit from it. Have oils well become everything? If it is oil wells, we have also issued a report showing oil deposits in Cross River both inland and offshore. How can a state that has a very extensive maritime boundary be told that it is not a littoral state?”

It is instructive that the Supreme Court of Nigeria had in 2012 settled the controversy over the loss of Cross River littoral status. The seven justices of the court headed by the then Chief Justice of Nigeria, Dahiru Musdapher, in their ruling, submitted that the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMFAC) was right in attributing the Cross River oil wells to Akwa Ibom at the inter-agencies meeting.
Before delivering the lead judgment, the court dismissed Cross River’s application, pointing out that the agreement which initially gave the state rights to the 76 oil wells was frustrated by the handing over of Bakassi to Cameroon.

However, the Goodluck Jonathan administration had in October 2012 set up a committee to look into the options available to Nigeria following the judgement of the International Court of Justice ceding the oil-rich Bakassi Peninsula to Cameroon in 2008 and the consequential loss of the status of a littoral state by Cross state, which was affirmed by Nigeria’s apex court.
Unfortunately, not much was heard of the committee as the status quo has remained to date. Consequently, it is now incumbent on the Buhari administration to set the relevant machinery in motion with a view to addressing the injustices adumbrated by Governor Ayade. This has become a matter of utmost national importance, bearing the fact that Nigeria, which is being plagued by a variety of challenges bordering on insecurity, cannot afford to exacerbate the situation.

Unfortunately, not much was heard of the committee as the status quo has remained to date. Consequently, it is now incumbent on the Buhari administration to set the relevant machinery in motion with a view to addressing the injustices adumbrated by Governor Ayade. This has become a matter of utmost national importance, bearing the fact that Nigeria, which is being plagued by a variety of challenges bordering on insecurity, cannot afford to exacerbate the situation.




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