Court did not secede Soku oil wells to Rivers – Bayelsa AG

The Bayelsa State Government has explained reasons why it earlier said the recent judgment of the Federal High Court transferring Soku oil wells in Oluasiri, a disputed boundary, to Rivers State, was an exercise in futility.

The government, in a statement signed by the Attorney-General of the State and Commissioner for Justice, Arthur Andrew, said the lower court’s judgement was contrary to a decision of the Supreme Court on the matter.

Andrew said despite the decision of the Supreme Court, the Rivers Government instituted an action against the National Boundary Commission (NBC) to justify its “false” claims on the Soku oilfields, which he said are located within Nembe Loval Government Area.

He said: “From Monday 16th December, 2019 the media had been awashed with reports that the Federal High Court, sitting at Abuja had delivered a judgment awarding the ownership of the said Oluasiri Oilfields/Oil wells to Rivers State purportedly pursuant to the judgment of the Supreme Court in Suit No. CS/106/2009 between Attorney-General, Rivers State v. Attorney-General, Bayelsa State & Anor.

“It was also reported that the judgment of the Federal High Court was made to give effect to the decision of the Supreme Court, and purporting to direct the NBC to fix the boundary between Rivers and Bayelsa State at Santa Barbara River.

“It is worthy of note that the Supreme Court in Suit No. CS/106/2009 struck out the action on the ground that it was futile and premature to determine the boundaries of the two states insofar as the NBC had not delineated the boundary between Rivers State and Bayelsa State.

“The Supreme Court never made a specific order directing the NBC to delineate the disputed boundaries. Albeit, it is part of the statutory function of the NBC to deal with, determine and intervene in any boundary dispute that may arise between any two States of the Federation with a view to settling such dispute”.

In the Supreme Court judgement, Andrew quoted Galadima JSC to have said: It is on account of the foregoing and because of the technical nature of the dispute and the claims of the parties this Court finds that the NBC as an authority vested with authorities and expertise know-how in dealing with this matter should have once and for all conducted an exhaustive exercise of delineating the disputed boundary.

“Hence the long-awaited 12th Edition of the Administrative Map when completed soonest would have been of tremendous assistance in settling this lingering dispute.

“In the light of the observations I have clearly expressed above I do not feel comfortable to grant the declarations sought until the NBC concludes its exercise of delineation of disputed boundary to finality.

“It will be futile and premature to determine the boundary of the two parties States in the present circumstances. However, the appropriate order to be made in the prevailing circumstance is that of striking out the Plaintiff’s suit, and I so order accordingly. Each party to bear its costs.”

Andrew said following the judgement, the NBC in exercise of its statutory functions commenced the efforts to exhaustively and finally resolve the boundary dispute between Rivers and Bayelsa State with the constitution of Joint Technical Committee on the Bayelsa/Rivers Interstate Boundary and the Deputy Governors of both States leading their respective delegation.

He said: “After a couple of meetings of the aforesaid Committee, on the 30th of January, 2013, the Rivers State delegation led by the then Deputy Governor, Engr. Tele Ikuru, formally announced the withdrawal of the State’s delegation from further deliberation and participation in the joint delimitation and demarcation exercises until certain conditions articulated by the Deputy Governor of Rivers State, are met, which amongst others, included the payments of all revenue from the disputed oil wells into an Escrow Account under the Accountant-General of the Federation.

“Given the background and the state of affairs necessitated by the voluntary withdrawal of Rivers State from further deliberation and participation in the joint delimitation and demarcation exercise in respect of the disputed boundary.

“It is therefore surprising that Rivers State could resort to instituting the action at the Federal High Court, Abuja against the NBC and without the knowledge and participation of Bayelsa State, and proceeded to obtain a judgment to the effect that the Oluasiri Oilfields/Oil wells, belong to Rivers State on the same unchanged facts and issues as was the case before the Supreme Court in Suit No. SC/106/2009.

“This to say the least, is highly unusual, curious, and clearly untenable and cannot be allowed to stand despite the media frenzy orchestrated and sponsored by the Government of Rivers State.

“Bayelsa State is confident of its historical claim of ownership over the lands on which the Oilfields/Oil wells in issue are situate and had always expressed its willingness to fully participate in any joint delimitation and demarcation exercise in respect of the disputed boundary”.