The Supreme Court in Abuja on Tuesday confirmed Akwa Ibom as the owner of the 76 offshore oil wells claimed by Cross River.
Delivering the judgment, Justice Bode Rhodes-Vivour held that Cross River was stripped of its littoral status by the ceding of Bakassi to the Cameroon.
Rhodes-Vivour, who read the judgment written by Justice Olufunlola Adekeye, stated that the plaintiff (Cross River) could not be located on the main land and claimed oil wells located offshore.
``The suit has been unanimously considered weak and academic, it lacks merit and it’s hereby dismissed,’’ Rhodes-Vivour said.
In August 2008, The Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) converged on Kano for a retreat where the maritime boundary between Cross River and Akwa Ibom was purportedly redefined.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the entire maritime territory of Cross River was by that exercise ceded to Akwa Ibom.
The commission further decided on the declassification of Cross River State as a littoral state and the transfer of 76 oil wells from Cross River to Akwa Ibom.
After concerted efforts failed to persuade RMAFC to reverse the decision, Cross River took the matter to the Supreme Court for determination.
The plaintiff held that the International Court of Justice’s judgment that ceded Bakassi to Cameroon clearly established the baseline for the demarcation of internal waters from the territorial sea.
According to the plaintiff, the demarcation was meant to start at the mouth of the Calabar estuary using the outermost southern tips of the landmass on both sides of the estuary as co-ordinates.
The Cross River Government alleged that the National Boundary Commission (NBC), in a bid to show that the state was not a littoral state, moved the baseline inwards to the mouth of the Calabar River.
Chief Bayo Ojo (SAN), counsel to the Akwa Ibom Government, had urged the apex court to discountenance the issues canvassed by the plaintiff, adding that ``the Federal Government did the proper thing in the baseline demarcation which stripped the plaintiff of its littoral status.’’
``My Lords, the plaintiff never owned that portion of the waters and so could not lay claim to the oil wells located thereof; I urge the court to dismiss the suit for lacking in merit,’’ Ojo said.
Mr Paul Erokoro (SAN), counsel to the Cross River Government, argued that the sharing of the area was politically-motivated rather than geographical considerations.
Speaking with newsmen after the proceeding, Erokoro said that his client had filed an application to challenge the map which guided the decision of the court. (NAN)