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Soku Oil Wells: Wike, Okocha, Peterside Hail Judgement

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A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and former President of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Onueze C.J. Okocha has hailed the judgment of the Federal High Court in Abuja which granted ownership of Soku oil wells to Rivers State, saying justice has been done.
Similarly, a senior lecturer, Department of Sociology and Acting Director of Prof. Claude Ake School of Governance, University of Port Harcourt, Dr. Sofiri Peterside, described the ruling as a welcome development, saying it is a wake-up call to government agencies involved in such processes.
Speaking to The Tide in separate telephone interviews in Port Harcourt, yesterday, Okocha and Peterside were unanimous in their stand in support of the judgment.
“It is a welcome development. I believe that justice has been done because long ago I participated in the Commission of Inquiry that settled the issue that the boundary between Rivers and Bayelsa States is where it should be.
“And this victory shows that that boundary indicated that Soku, Oluwasiri and those outlying areas are in Rivers State. So, I am happy that justice has been done”, Okocha said.
On what the judgment portends for Rivers State, the former NBA President said, “Clearly we will be earning what our rightful dues and entitlements are from the Federation Account. For so long there has been a distortion.
“Our Governors, from the former governors to the present one (Wike), have consistently said that boundary commission should ensure that the proper thing is done and all those oil wells should be put where they rightfully belong.
“We still have issues with our neighbours in Akwa Ibom, but thank God that the one in Bayelsa, which is really our immediate neighbours, has been finally resolved. So I am happy about it”, he said.
As far as Okocha is concerned, whether the judgment was coming late, having suffered some delay, “Government is a continuum. It is the State Government that has been in Court regardless of who was heading the administration at the time the suit was instituted. Government moves from day to day and you know our wheels of justice, as they say in Nigeria, turns very slowly.
“If things had been properly done, this ought to have been entered a long time ago. Supreme Court had settled and said the boundary commission should do the needful. So, it is better late than never,” he stated.
On his part, Dr. Peterside, while commending the State Government for taking the legal action, noted that the Federal Government was partly to be blamed for the dispute and that the ruling is a wake-up call to government agencies involved in such processes.
According to the university Don, “the core issue in that case, the ownership of those oil wells that was in Rivers State, Soku, specifically, which was ceded to Bayelsa State, from a judgment of the Court, from what I was informed by my friends who are lawyers in that matter, is that part of the problem derive from the Federal Government.
“If you say you have created new local governments and created State and the boundaries of the States have not been clearly demarcated, the implication is that until that is done by the National Boundary Commission, those oil wells belong to Rivers State.
“So you don’t just say because you have created new states, created local governments that this areas belong to…there has to be clearly demarcated boundaries, and that is the responsibility of the National Boundary commission, and so the Court ruled that so long as that has not happened, Rivers State is the true owners of those oil wells.
“I think that it is a wake-up call to government agencies that are involved in some of this process. They need to do what they need to do and they need to it properly. Let me also say that this lack of demarcation of boundary or improper demarcation of boundary also create its own problems such as inter-communal crisis; Community A fighting with Community B, one local government also fighting another local government.
“So, what needed to be done is that once States are created, local governments are created. It is the responsibility of the National Boundary Commission not to waste time to demarcate these boundaries and let things happen and happen properly.
“For instance, if these oil wells that were ceded to Bayelsa State and compensation or whatever revenue is paid to that State, it means that Rivers State has been losing revenue and all that. So these are issues that needed to be taken into consideration and very seriously.
“But for me, kudos to Rivers State Government for taking legal action because that is what democracy is about and that is what representation of the people is also about, for protecting the interest of the people who you govern. I give credit to the Government (State) for taking this legal line of action”, he concluded.
It would be recalled that in a judgment in Suit Number FHC/ABJ/CS/984/19, the Attorney-General of Rivers State, versus National Boundary Commission, Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court declared that after examining all the documents from relevant Government agencies and facts before the court, the Soku Oil Wells/fields belong to Rivers State.
The Federal High Court made an order compelling the National Boundary Commission to rectify forthwith in the 12th Edition of the Administrative Map of Nigeria the erroneous interstate boundary between Rivers State and Bayelsa State as contained in the extant 11th Edition of the Administrative Map of Nigeria.
The Court declared that the continued failure and refusal of the National Boundary Commission to rectify the admitted mistake in the 11th Edition of the Administrative Map of Nigeria since 2002, which erroneously showed St Batholomew River instead of River Santa Barbara as the interstate Boundary between Rivers State and Bayelsa State, is a breach of its statutory duty and a flagrant disobedience of the order of the Supreme Court contained in its judgment delivered on 10/7/2012 in Suit Number SC. 106 /2009.
Justice Ekwo declared that the continued reliance on the said defective 11th Edition of the Administrative Map of Nigeria by the other Government Agencies/Statutory Bodies, especially the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission, and the Accountant General of the Federation in the computation of revenue accruable to Rivers State from the Federation Account, has resulted in the continued unjust denial of derivation funds accruing from the Soku Oil Wells/fields situate within Rivers State to the Detriment of the State Government.

 

By: Dennis Naku

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RSHA Donates One-Month Salary To Fight COVID-19 …As FG, Govs Agree On More Palliatives For Nigerians

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Members of the Rivers State House of Assembly, yesterday, resolved to collectively donate their one-month salary to assist the state government fight the spread of the novel Coronavirus pandemic in the state.
In a press conference in Port Harcourt, yesterday, the Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly, Rt Hon Ikuinyi-Owaji Ibani, said that the members arrived at the decision after an interface with officials of the Ministry of Health on the concerted fight against Coronavirus.
He said: “Based on this feedback so far received from the joint committee on the proactive and preventive measures put in place by the State Security Council headed by the Rivers State governor, and bearing in mind that as responsible representatives of our various constituencies, we resolved that one month salary of all members of the Rivers State House of Assembly be deducted by the Ministry of Finance and remitted to the committee set up to fight Coronavirus in the state.
“This sacrifice by members is not to the exclusion of other individual contributions of members in their respective constituencies to ameliorate the shocks associated with the pandemic.
“We restate our commitment to the fight against Coronavirus pandemic and our full support of all efforts and actions taken by the Rivers State Government to keep our people safe and healthy.”
The speaker further added that members took the decision bearing in mind that as responsive and responsible representatives, they cannot turn their back on the yearnings of the people.
He also clarified that the decision was based on the feedback from Standing Committees on Health and Information mandated to interface with the Ministry of Health and other agencies set up by the state government.
Ikuinyi-Owaji was flanked by principal officers of the House, including the Deputy Speaker, Hon Edison Ehie, and other prominent members at the briefing.
Meanwhile, the Special Committee of the National Economic Council on COVID-19 has its second meeting as it continues its task of coordinating the federal and state governments’ responses to the impact of COVID-19 on Nigerians.
The NEÇ Committee meeting, presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, agreed to finalise its work towards developing additional measures to alleviate the challenges being faced by Nigerians because of the implications of the global pandemic in the country.
Present alongside the Vice President at the meeting held via videoconference anchored from the Presidential Villa are Governors Kayode Fayemi, Ekiti; Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, Kaduna; Abdullahi Sule, Nasarawa; Mohammed Abubakar, Jigawa; Godwin Obaseki, Edo; David Umahi, Ebonyi; Dapo Abiodun, Ogun; and Atiku Bagudu, Kebbi.
According to the VP’s Spokesman, Laolu Akande, the meeting was also attended by the Finance Minister, Hajiya Zainab Ahmed; and the Director-General of the Budget Office, Mr. Ben Akabueze; among several other top officials.
The NEC Committee received the report of its Technical Working Group which proposed an array of policy options and recommendations on how federal, state and local governments can bring relief to the people and take other adequate measures in containing and responding to the adverse economic effects of the pandemic.
Speaking at the meeting, the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, emphasized the importance of the assignment and the urgency required, asking that public enlightenment and sensitization on the seriousness of the pandemic should be further intensified at all government levels so that more and more Nigerians would become aware of the compelling and critical dimensions of the situation.
He assured the governors that the Federal Government is already packaging further resources for a comprehensive economic response to alleviate the challenges of the pandemic, support the states and provide succour to Nigerians in a timely and effective manner.
He disclosed that the newly created Economic Sustainability Committee (ESW), constituted by the President will also be meeting this week to start its work and respond to the situation appropriately.

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IPMAN Kicks Against Fuel Price Reduction To N123.50

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The Independent Petroleum Marketers Association (IPMAN), yesterday, kicked against the N123.50 new fuel pump price announced by the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) effective April 1, saying that its members would not comply with the adjustment until they have exhausted their old stocks.
This was as it says that its members incurred losses to the tune of N5.5billion from the N125.50 price adjustment from N145 per litre barely two weeks ago.
The Chairman, Kano branch of IPMAN, Alhaji Bashir Danmalam, stated this while speaking with newsmen in the state on the development of the new N123.50 pump price.
It would be recalled that the Federal Government reduced the price from N145 to N125 and now to N123.50, yesterday.
Danmalam said, “the last time the Federal Government reduced the pump price of the product from N145 per litre to N125 per litre, our members nationwide lost over N5.5billion as a result of the sudden reduction.
“We called on the government to compensate or support our members who incurred the huge losses due to the sudden reduction in fuel pump price but nothing was given to us.
“But to our surprise, the private depot’s owners were paid but none of our members was supported to cushion the losses they incurred. This time around we will not sell our product at that price until the old stocks are exhausted. We will not continue to operate at loss.
“Apart from the Federal Government, IPMAN is the largest employer of labour in the country and we cannot afford to continue to support the government at this trying time while as business people we are operating at loss.
“Even though we are happy with the new development and the Federal Government should be commended for the gesture but the government should consider the fact that no sane marketer or businessman will continue operating his/her business at loss.
“Before the last announcement, many of our members have already bought and loaded their vehicles with the product at old prices from Lagos, Port Harcourt and Warri and we spend five to seven days before reaching our destinations. So, we are not going to sell the product at the new price until we sell the old stocks.
“The management of the PPPRA should be accused of trying to sabotage the Federal Government’s efforts to ensure sustained fuel supply and distribution across the country through some policies that could plunge the sector into a serious crisis.
“We would not hesitate to ask our members to withdraw their services should any filling station of its member is closed for not selling at the new pump price of N123.50 per litre.
“We hope the Federal Government will see reason and come to the aid of our members as it supported private depots because our members will not continue to operate at loss,” Danmalam stated.
Earlier, the Federal Government, had further slashed the price of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), also known as petrol, to N123.50 per litre, with effect from April 1, 2020, from N125 per litre. The new price, which would last throughout the month of April, was coming on the back of a continuous decline in the price of crude oil in the international market.
In a statement in Abuja, Tuesday night, Executive Secretary of the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA), Mr. Abdulkadir Saidu, stated that the new price was in line with the approval of the Federal Government for a monthly review of the price of petrol.
He said, “PPPRA, in line with the government approval for a monthly review of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) pump price, hereby announces Guiding PMS pump price of N123.50 per Litre.
“The Guiding price which becomes effective 1st April, 2020, shall apply at all retail outlets nationwide for the month of April, 2020.
“PPPRA and other relevant regulatory agencies shall continue to monitor compliance to extant regulations for a sustainable downstream petroleum sector. Members of the public and all oil marketing companies are to be guided accordingly.”
The Federal Government had on March 18, announced a reduction in the price of fuel from N145 per litre to N125 per litre.
Hours after the announcement of the reduction, the PPPRA explained that there is the possibility of a new price regime for the commodity from April 1, noting that the new N125 per litre pump price would last till the end of March, 2020.
Addressing newsmen in Abuja, Executive Secretary, PPPRA, Mr. Abdulkadir Saidu, had stated that the agency would be undertaking a review of PMS price, and would announce a new price for the commodity, April 1, 2020, if there is a change in the parameters used in determining the current price.
He noted that the price announced Wednesday, March 18, 2020, would apply till March 31, 2020, and a new price might come into effect after the review, adding that henceforth, PPPRA would be undertaking a review of petroleum products prices on a monthly basis.

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We Won’t Allow COVID-19 Spread Into Prisons -FG

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The Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, has assured that the ministry is doing everything necessary to see to it that the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) does not spread into Nigerian prisons.
He also explained the reason for the disruption at the Kaduna State Prison on Tuesday, assuring that it was effectively managed and that it would not repeat itself in the system.
The noted that while making efforts to keep people in detention safe from the disease, government was also being careful not to resort to a measure that might put the larger society in danger, specifically speaking about the suggestion being made that the custodial centres be decongested.
”The congested custodial facilities are in some of our urban centres – not all urban centres though – they are in areas where you have a huge population of people and understandably those who have the cause to be detained are more than the facilities we have, particularly the awaiting-trial persons.
“I can assure you that all efforts, all actions required to ensure that there’s no occurrence or spread of COVID-19 in any of those custodial centres, are being made.
“I spoke about Kaduna yesterday (Tuesday); there was a mild disturbance in Kaduna yesterday (Tuesday) and it was put under control. It happened because the inmates in the condemned section were anxious to know the outcome of our efforts to decongest some of the centres and they became agitated.
“It was put down without any casualty and I want to believe that, having been handled, information has gone round the commands to appraise the inmates of the efforts we are making, to see that the approval given by the president is effected very soon.
“I must add that what we are trying to do cannot be done by us as the Federal Government alone. More than 80% of the inmates in the awaiting trial group are from the states; they are state offenders.
“We are, therefore, working with the state governments, along with our own system, to break down the profile basis of incarceration in terms of detention and several other factors to ensure that if at all people will be released, they will be released without jeopardising the security of the nation. We are, therefore, careful and sensitive on the steps we take, even with the threats of COVID-19.
“I must add this because it is important, the NJC has been of tremendous help. By the middle of last week, NJC issued a directive to all courts in Nigeria to suspend trials that could lead to any detention in the custodial service.
“I must equally commend the directive from the IGP to all police formations in the country to release offenders or suspects detained on minor offences and that will go a long way in ensuring social distancing and reduction of detainees in those centres so as to ensure that occurrence of COVID-19 infection and the spread will be reduced, if not eliminated.”
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, while addressing some questions raised by journalists, said the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC) had directed all cable television service providers to leave all local channels as free service to their subscribers, even when subscriptions had yet to be renewed during this period. He said this was meant to make the public adequately informed.
He also said he had been informed, after consultations with coordinators of bankers services, that all banks had been permitted to open for services across the country while the restrictions last.
On the operations of construction companies, he said the Minister of Works and Housing had approved the suspension of all ongoing construction works across the country till April 20th, explaining that the suspension was meant to allow for social distancing.

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