The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja yesterday ordered the Federal Government to pay the sum of over $3billion to Rivers and Akwa Ibom states, as their revenue share from crude oil sales. The amount formed the shares of the two sales from the $62 billion said to have been recovered from some oil companies by the Federal Government.
The judgement was premised on separate suits filed by the two state governments against the Federal Government. Delivering judgment, trial Judge, Justice Taiwo Taiwo 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. The court further held that the Federal Government admitted the monetary claims of the two states against it by its refusal to defend the case when served with the court processes. Justice Taiwo noted that 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.
The court held that by refusing to debunk, counter claim or controvert the claims of the two states on the oil revenue issue, the Federal Government had admitted that all the averments of the two states to be 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 the additional $62billion by the plaintiffs was never controverted by the defendant, in spite of several correspondences hence, the law deems unchallenged claims as true.
The Court, however, 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 bona fide 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 or- der 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 two plaintiffs had instituted their joint case based on a press statement from the office of the AGF and published by Thisday 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’s 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 judgment.