Rivers, not Bayelsa Owns Soku Oil Field, Court Rules

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By Alex Enumah in Abuja

The Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, on Monday held that the disputed Soku Oil Wells/Fields rightfully belongs to Rivers and not Bayelsa State.

Justice Inyang Ekwo, who in a judgment declared Rivers State as the rightful owner of the oil well located in Akuku-Toru Local Government Area of Rivers State, accordingly ordered transfer of ownership from Bayelsa State to Rivers State.

Delivering judgment in the suit with number: FHC/ABJ/CS/984/19, Justice Ekwo, held that all the documents from relevant government agencies and facts before the court, proved that the Soku Oil Wells/fields belong to Rivers State.

The judge noted that the issue of contention arose from an error in the boundary demarcation between the two states and ordered the National Boundary Commission to rectify the error in its 11th Edition of Administrative Map which designated San Bartholomew River as the boundary between the two states, instead of River Santa Barbara.

The error was said to have surfaced in the 11th Edition of Administrative Map produced by the NBC in 2002.

In its letter dated July 3, 2002 in response to Rivers State government’s protest, the NBC was said to have admitted the mistake and promised to rectify it in the 12th edition of the administrative map.

However, following the failure of the NBC to rectify the mistake as promised earlier, the Rivers State government then proceeded to file a suit against the Attorney-General of Bayelsa State and the Attorney-General of the Federation before the Supreme Court in 2009.

Delivering judgment in the matter in 2012, the apex court granted the prayers of Rivers State and ordered the rectification of the error.

Again the NBC failed to rectify the error as ordered by the Supreme Court, forcing the Rivers State Government to file a fresh suit before the Federal High Court in Abuja solely against the NBC in August 2019.

The suit specifically prayed the court for an order of mandamus compelling the NBC to correct its error.

However, delivering judgment on Monday, Justice Ekwo while granting the reliefs sought by the plaintiff, ordered the commission to immediately produce the 12th edition of the Administrative Map restoring River Santa Barbara as the inter-state boundary between Rivers and Bayelsa states, as it was in 1996 when Bayelsa State was carved from Rivers State.

The court further held that the commission was duty-bound to obey the July 10, 2012 judgment of the Supreme Court which had affirmed River Santa Barbara as the boundary between the states, by immediately correcting its self-admitted error of designating River San Bartholomew as the boundary.

He also ordered that the judgment be served on the relevant statutory bodies, especially, the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission and the office of the Accountant-General of the Federation for them to immediate recompute the amount of oil revenue accruable to it with the transfer of the Soku oil field to it.