Five local government areas in Akwa Ibom State have dragged Akwa Ibom State government before the Federal High Court in Uyo for failing to gazette the area as an oil-producing area, eight years after the National Assembly passed a resolution on the matter.
Coming under the aegis of Oro nation comprising Oron, Mbo, Udung Uko, Urue Offong/Oruko and Okobo Local Government Areas, they also sought an order of the court directing the State government to pay N4 trillion to them as compensation and damages for the wrongful and unconstitutional “exclusion of the Oro nation as an oil and gas producing community.”
In the suit no. FHC/ABJ/CS/215/2020 filed by one Dr. Celsius Ukpong, and two others for the Oro people, the Akwa Ibom State government and the Federal government, as well as the Attorney-General of the Federation are joined as 4th, 5th and 6th respondents, respectively.
The applicants are seeking the relief of Court for a declaration that Oro people are entitled to enjoy the same rights as other oil bearing communities in the State.
They also sought the relief of the court to declare that the Oro nation is entitled to the share of 13% derivation from their natural resources.
However, when the case was mentioned for hearing on Monday, the presiding judge, Justice AA Okeke adjourned the case to November, 28, 2020, for further mention.
Speaking with our correspondent on Wednesday, Dr Edet Ekerendu, a former Permanent Secretary, and chairman of the Oro Oil and gas committee, explained, “we decided to institute a case because the National Assembly resolution of July, 2012 mandated the Akwa Ibom State government to gazette the five LGAs as oil bearing Communities but the State government has kept mute since then.
“The State government is supposed to gazette the five LGAs and set up Akwa Ibom Oil Communities producing Committee as done by some other States and 13% derivation is supposed to go to the communities for development to mitigate the impact of Oil spills and other social effects suffered by the communities but that has not been done.”
Also speaking on Wednesday, Offiong Offiong (SAN), the applicant’s lead counsel, expressed confidence on the matter.
“When there is a case before the court, what you don’t do as a counsel is to be presumptive. A counsel does not bring a case before a Court without reasonable confidence that he has a good case.
“So, whether I have a good case or not is going to be determined by the Judge. I cannot outside the court give an opinion on the merits of the case before the court. That will be unethical. All I can tell you is that in bringing the case to the court, we have reasonable confidence that we have a good case but whether or not that confidence is justified will depend on the pronouncement of the judge,” he said.
Speaking with Straightnews publisher on Thursday, Chief Chris Abasi-eyo, an indigene of the area, said “The National Assembly reached a resolution in 2012 that Oron be accorded the status and documented as an oil-producing one. Early in the year, some Oro youths had protested over the non-inclusion of the area as oil-producing area.”
Abasi-eyo, a one-time Akwa Ibom Commissioner for Information and Culture, said “However, a technical Committee was set up and I served as a member of the committee. Our position was catalogued and cabled to Governor Udom Emmanuel in February 2020 for solution. Our elected representatives met, reached a decision and delivered a memorandum to the governor.
“Our grievance is receiving attention. I am not against those who have headed to the court, but I am sure that our request is receiving prior attention and our area will be recognised as one of the oil-producing areas in Akwa Ibom.”