A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, on Monday, ruled that Rivers State owns the disputed Soku Oil Wells located in Akuku-Toru Local Government Area of Rivers State.
Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court, in a judgment in Suit Number FHC/ABJ/CS/984/19, between the Attorney-General of Rivers State versus National Boundary Commission, declared that after examining all the documents from relevant Government agencies and facts before the court, the Soku Oil Wells belong to Rivers State.
The Federal High Court made an order compelling the National Boundary Commission to rectify forthwith in the 12th Edition of the Administrative Map of Nigeria the erroneous interstate boundary between Rivers State and Bayelsa State as contained in the extant 11th Edition of the Administrative Map of Nigeria.
The Court declared that the continued failure and refusal of the National Boundary Commission to rectify the admitted mistake in the 11th Edition of the Administrative Map of Nigeria since 2002, which erroneously showed St Batholomew River instead of River Santa Barbara as the interstate Boundary between Rivers State and Bayelsa State is a breach of its statutory duty and a flagrant disobedience of the order of the Supreme Court contained in its judgment delivered on 10/7/2012 in Suit Number SC. 106 /2009.
Justice Ekwo declared that the continued reliance on the said defective 11th Edition of the Administrative Map of Nigeria by the other Government Agencies/Statutory Bodies especially the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission and the Accountant General of the Federation in the computation of revenue accruable to Rivers State from the Federation Account has resulted in the continued unjust denial of derivation funds accruing from the Soku Oil Wells/fields situate within Rivers State to the detriment of the State Government.
The Court also ordered that pending the formality of compliance by the National Boundary Commission deeming the administrative boundary between Rivers State and Bayelsa State to be River Santa Barbara in accordance with the admission of the National Boundary Commission as per the letter of 3/7/2002 and the definitive order of the Supreme Court made on 10/7/2012.
Justice Ekwo granted the two reliefs and directed that notice be served of the Decision of the Court on the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission and the Accountant General of the Federation.
The Court said that the National Boundary Commission cannot unilateral delineate boundaries between Rivers State and Bayelsa State after the Supreme Court judgment on the matter.
The Court also dismissed an objection to the suit raised by the National Boundary Commission, which it said is lacking in merit.
Following the failure of the National Boundary Commission to obey the Supreme Court judgment on the Soku Oil Wells, the Attorney General of Rivers State filed an originating summons at the Federal High Court in Abuja through Suit Number FHC/ABJ/CS/984/19 to ensure the enforcement of the declarative judgment.
Counsel to the Rivers State Government, L.E. Nwosu (SAN) described the judgment as a victory for the rule of law in Nigeria.
He noted that there was an admission of error by the Surveyor-General of the Federation and the National Boundary Commission, wherein in the 11th Edition of the Administrative Map of Nigeria, the boundary between Rivers and the Bayelsa States were wrongly relocated from River Santa Barbara to St Batholomew River.
He said the Supreme Court based on the admission of the National Boundary Commission declared that it was an error and ordered the Commission to rectify that error. He regretted that by that error, the 13 per cent derivation meant for Rivers State were wrongly paid to Bayelsa State.
He stated that the declarative judgment of the Federal High Court is in the right direction, as it will check any resort to self-help over the injustice.
The Senior Advocate of Nigeria said that the Soku Oil Wells/fields have always belonged to Rivers State as admitted in writing by the National Boundary Commission.
Counsel to the National Boundary Commission, Titilayo Ibironke acknowledged the judgment of the court.
The Bayelsa State Government had said that “by the 11th edition of the administrative map of Nigeria published in 2000, Bayelsa state as a state was entitled to the derivation and other claims from oil production in respect of oil exploration carried out within its territory as stated in the said map.”
Bayelsa state government said it has conveniently left out is the fact that from colonial times up till the 10th edition of the administrative map of Nigeria, the boundaries between the Kalabari communities in Rivers State and the neighbouring Nembe communities of Bayelsa state had been clearly delineated with the boundary clearly marked as the Santa Barbara River.
The state government claimed that the 11th edition of the administrative map prepared by the National Boundary Commission and the Federal Surveyor General’s office in 1999, but published in 2000, strangely shifted the boundaries between Rivers and Bayelsa states from the initial boundary between Kalabari and Nembe, west of the Santa Barbara River, to San Bartholomew River, contrary to the delineation by all preceding administrative maps of Nigeria and all historical records.