Justice Taiwo Taiwo of the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court on Tuesday, ordered the federal government to pay a total sum of over $3.3 billion to both Rivers and Akwa Ibom States, being their share of revenue from crude oil sales.
Justice Taiwo made the order while delivering judgment in the suit jointly instituted by the two states to demand their share from the $62 billion the federal government had claimed it recovered from the sales of crude oil.
The judge, who held that the case of the plaintiffs was meritorious, ordered the federal government to pay the sum of $1,114,551,610 to Rivers State, while another sum of $2,258,411,586 be paid to Akwa Ibom State.
The amount represents what the two states separately claimed against the federal government as their share from the $62 billion recovered from the oil companies.
While the Attorneys General of Rivers and Akwa Ibom States are plaintiffs in the suit, the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice was the sole defendant.
In the judgment, which lasted over an hour, the court held that the federal government by its refusal to defend the case when served with the court processes, admitted the monetary claims of the two states against it.
According to him, 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, counter claim or controvert the claims of the two states on the oil revenue issue, the judge held that the federal government had admitted 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 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.
Justice Taiwo, in addition, 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 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 said.
The two plaintiffs had instituted their joint cade 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 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.