Soku Oil Wells: Akwa Ibom, Rivers Triumph At Supreme Court

Supreme Court of Nigeria straightnews
Supreme Court of Nigeria

Akwa Ibom and Rivers States, Tuesday, triumphed at the Nigerian Supreme Court as Bayelsa State after a long-drawn battle failed to reclaim the contentious Soku oil wells.

Earlier, the court had struck out two suits the Bayelsa State Government filed to reclaim ownership of disputed Soku oil wells, which it was earlier directed to hand over to Rivers State by the Federal High Court in Abuja.

Bayelsa State had approached the apex court to stop the Federal Government from further paying monthly statutory allocation from the oil wells to Rivers State.

In the suit marked: SC/SC649/2020, which had the Attorney-General of the Federation and Rivers State as Defendants, Bayelsa State, urged the Supreme Court to among other things, bar the Federation Accounts Allocation Committee, FAAC from deducting earnings due to it from the Soku oil wells.

It alleged that Rivers State Government surreptitiously obtained a judgment at the Federal High Court, without the knowledge of Bayelsa State Government, in respect of which Rivers State now laid claim to the Soku oil wells and earnings from it.

Bayelsa State told the apex court that it stands to lose billions of naira that ought to accrue to it from the oil wells, should the FAAC execute the High Court judgment that was in favour of Rivers State.

Later, Bayelsa State, in a second suit marked: SC/650/2020, also prayed the apex court to restrain the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission, RMAFC, from withholding its statutory allocation or deducting it in favour of Akwa Ibom State, with respect to disputed oil wells.

However, both suits were struck out by a seven-man panel of Justices of the apex court after counsel that represented Bayelsa State in the two matters- Biriyai Dambo, SAN, and Kemsauode Wodu- applied to withdraw them.

The panel headed by Justice Sylvester Ngwuta had after the case was called, stressed that the Supreme Court lacked the powers to exercise jurisdiction over a case relating to the judgment of a High Court, in respect of which the Court of Appeal has not made a pronouncement.

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The apex court panel said there was no way it could entertain the suits Bayelsa State brought before it, without considering issues that were earlier determined by the High Court, which the Court of Appeal has the jurisdiction to consider first.

It held that it would amount to abuse of judicial process for Bayelsa State to jump the Court of Appeal in its bid to set-aside the High Court verdict. Consequently, it persuaded Bayelsa State to withdraw the suit and approach the Court of Appeal to ventilate its grievances against the High Court judgment.

Recall that Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court in Abuja had in his judgment on December 16, last year, ordered Bayelsa State to hand-over Soku oil field to Rivers State.

The court said it was satisfied that the oil field rightfully belonged to Rivers State. It directed the National Boundary Commission, NBC, to rectify an error in its 11th Edition of Administrative Map, wherein San Bartholomew River was in 2002, designated as the boundary between Rivers and Bayelsa States, instead of River Santa Barbara.

Justice Ekwo ordered the commission to promptly produce the 12th edition of the Administrative Map and restore River Santa Barbara as the inter-state boundary between the two states, as it was in 1996 when Bayelsa State was carved from Rivers State.

According to the Court, NBC was duty bound to comply with a 2012 judgment of the Supreme Court that affirmed River Santa Barbara as the boundary between both states, by correcting its self-admitted error of designating River San Bartholomew as the boundary.

The judgment followed a suit Rivers State lodged before the court for an order of mandamus to compel the NBC to correct the error in its 11th Edition of Administrative Map that gave location of the disputed oil fields to Bayelsa State.

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The court noted that NBC had in a letter dated July 3, 2002, while responding to protest by Rivers State government, admitted its mistake and promised to rectify it in the 12th edition of the Administrative Map.