Akwa Ibom, Rivers may opt for political solution over payments on disputed oil wells

Minister of state for Finance Yerima Ngama

Akwa Ibom and Rivers state governments have been advised to find a way of reaching a consensus over the lingering controversy over payments on the 86 disputed oil wells to enable the presidency consider a political solution to the problem.

Following the Supreme Court ruling early last year transferring 86 oil wells from Akwa Ibom State to Rivers State, the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) had, on April 13 of the same year, constituted a panel of inquiry to study the judgment and make appropriate recommendations towards an amicable resolution of the dispute.

In carrying out its assignment, the panel said it reviewed various documents, data and technical information provided by different government agencies and institutions, including the National Boundary Commission (NBC), the Office of the Surveyor General of the Federation (OSGF), the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), Office of the Accountant General of the Federation (OAGF) and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for its conclusions and recommendations.

In its report, the panel recommended that Akwa Ibom State government should refund about N10.91 billion to its Rivers State counterpart on the basis of the existing revenue indices, excluding the prevailing commercial interest expected to be charged by the CBN.
The Akwa Ibom State government had criticized the Supreme Court for basing its ruling on a controversial 2004 political solution by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, which arbitrarily shared 172 oil wells belonging to the state to Rivers on a 50-50 basis, pointing out that if that arrangement were to have been allowed to stay, Rivers State should rather refund to it over N75billion.
The report of the panel, which showed the computation of the amount due to Rivers State covering the period between April 2009 and April 2011, was however forwarded to President Goodluck Jonathan for consideration and further action.
Since the submission of the report, it was gathered that the Presidency has been inundated with calls for a political solution to resolve the dispute.

However, at the monthly Federation Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC) meeting last week in Abuja, the Minister of State for Finance, Yerima Ngama, who is also the Chairman of the committee, appealed to the two states, which have already resolved to forward separate memos to the president on the issue, to work towards a consensus on the issue of over/under payment, to guide the president on his final decision.

“Let me appeal to the states to jointly reach an agreement on their decisions on the overpayment/underpayment issue prior to forwarding their memo to Mr. President,” Mr. Ngama said.

The Akwa Ibom State Commissioner for Finance, Bassey Akpan, in his contribution at the meeting reiterated the position of the FAAC technical sub-committee, which requested during its meeting, that all members, particularly the debtor states, should be made to be aware of the issues involved, to enable them make their inputs prior to the commencement of the deductions from their monthly allocations.

Mr. Akpan pointed out that it was important that the basis upon which the RMAFC took its decision recommending a refund of N10.91billion by Akwa Ibom to Rivers State should be also be made available to all parties to enable them effectively articulate their positions on the issue.

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