From Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The Abuja division of the Federal High Court has ordered the federal government to pay over $3 million to Rivers and Akwa Ibom States as their revenue share from crude oil sales.
The judgment debt is derived from the shares of the two sales from the $62 billion said to have been recovered from oil companies by the federal government.
Justice Taiwo Taiwo, who passed the judgment on Tuesday, ordered that $1,114,551,610 be paid to Rivers State, while another sum of $2,258,411,586 be paid to Akwa Ibom State, being the amount separately claimed against the federal government from the share from the $62 billion recovered from the oil companies.
Plaintiffs in the suit are the Attorney Generals of Rivers and Akwa Ibom States while the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, was the sole defendant.
The judge held that the federal government admitted that the monetary claims of the two states against it by its refusal to defend the case when served with the court processes.
Justice Taiwo said that the mere notice of intention to defend the case without joining issues with the plaintiffs was a fatal error on the part of the federal government and was not enough in any court matter.
By refusing to debunk, counterclaim or controvert the claims of the two states on the oil revenue issue, the judge held that the federal government had admitted that all the averments of the two states are true.
Justice Taiwo further held that the suit of the two states was founded on a Supreme Court judgment on how proceeds from sales of crude oil should be shared, adding that the claim of the two states on the recovery of an additional $62 billion by the plaintiffs was never controverted by the defendant, in spite of several correspondences hence, the law deems unchallenged claims as true.
The court rejected the assertion of the federal government that it cannot pay the money it did receive from crude oil sales, adding that the defendant ought to have filed a bonafide defence to explain its position in respect of the $62 billion oil earnings as required by law, “By not filing defence to challenge the claims of $62 billion oil earnings of the two plaintiffs, I have no option than to hold that the federal government has no defence to the issue and I have no discretion to give judgment in favour of the plaintiffs.
‘I hereby make an order that $1,114,551,610 be paid to Rivers State as its share from the $62 billion oil revenue and another $2,258,411,586 be also paid to Akwa Ibom as its own share from the oil proceeds,’ the judge ruled.
The two plaintiffs had instituted their joint cade based on a press statement from the office of the AGF and published by This day newspaper to the effect that another $62 billion was recovered from foreign oil companies as proceeds of crude oil sales.
Justice Taiwo held that although the AGF office attempted to withdraw the press statement, the issue of the huge revenue generation was not addressed.
The judge, subsequently held that the federal government actually recovered the said $62 billion as contained in the press statement and ordered it to release the shares of the two states to them in compliance with a Supreme Court judgement.