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Nigerians go to court over oil and gas money

Nigeria's Supreme Court on Monday began a hearing...

Nigeria's Supreme Court on Monday began a hearing over who gets control of the country's vast oil and gas wealth, court officials said.

In early February, Justice Minister Bola Ige launched a lawsuit on behalf of the federal government asking the country's highest court to rule on the constitutionality of federal claims to oil revenues.

Most of the resources are in southern states, and they want to keep the money.

The case opened in Abuja with representatives of the federal government and some states making appearances, a court official revealed.

He said 10 of the 36 states - Abia, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Ebonyi, Edo, Ogun, Ondo and Rivers - have challenged the jurisdiction of the court to hear the case.

Chief Justice Mohammed Uwais adjourned the hearing to May 21 to enable the 10 states to file preliminary objections.

"On this issue of jurisdiction, there has to be legal argument," Uwais said.

Calls by the oil- and gas-rich southern states for more control of their natural resources have fanned tensions in the country.

Their demands are strongly opposed by the administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo and, until now, by the poorer, northern states which depend on oil revenues. The industry accounts for 95 percent of foreign earnings