Supreme Court Strikes out Bayelsa Suit against Rivers on Soku Oilfield


By Davidson Iriekpen

The Supreme Court has struck out a suit filed by the Bayelsa State Government against Rivers State over the disputed Soku oilfield.

The court said Bayelsa was liable to abuse of court processes by asking it to make judicial pronouncements on a matter that the Court of Appeal had yet to adjudicate on.

Bayelsa State had approached the Supreme Court after a Federal High Court in Abuja ordered it to refund the 13 per cent derivation it had received over the years from the disputed Soku oilfield to Rivers.

The Special Assistant to Rivers Governor on Media, Mr. Kelvin Ebiri, in a statement, said at the resumed hearing of the matter yesterday, Justice Ngwuta, who led a panel of seven justices, wondered why Bayelsa decided to file a suit at the apex court bypassing the Court of Appeal.

Justice Ngwuta observed that Bayelsa jumped the gun, insisting that the apex court could not make pronouncement on a judgment that was given by a Federal High Court when the appellate court had not entertained the matter.

He explained the Supreme Court lacks the jurisdiction to make orders on a matter directly coming from the High Court and asked to take its grievances to the Court of Appeal.

The Bayelsa State government through its lawyer, Kemsauode Wodu, applied for a formal withdrawal of the suit and it was struck out by the Supreme Court.

Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court, Abuja, had while delivering judgment in a suit filed by the Attorney-General of Rivers State against the National Boundary Commission, had declared that the Soku oilfields belonged to Rivers.

Ekwo noted the failure and refusal of the National Boundary Commission (NBC) 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 and Bayelsa States, was a breach of commission’s statutory duty and a flagrant disobedience of the order of the Supreme Court contained in its judgment delivered on October 10, 2012.

The judge explained the continued reliance on the said defective 11th edition of the administrative map of Nigeria by the other government agencies/statutory bodies, particularly, the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) and the Accountant General of the Federation in the computation of revenue accruable to Rivers from the Federation Account resulted in the continued unjust denial of derivation funds accruing from the Soku oil wells situate within Rivers State to the detriment of the state government.

Ekwo directed that notice be served of the decision of the Court on the RMAFC and the Accountant General of the Federation.

The judge said the NBC could not unilaterally delineate boundaries between Rivers and Bayelsa after the Supreme Court judgment on the matter and also dismissed an objection to the suit raised by the NBC.