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16 Dec 2019

Jubilation In Rivers As Court Grants State Ownership Of Disputed Soku Oil Wells

There was jubilation in Port Harcourt and other parts of Rivers State on Monday following a Federal High Court Abuja ruling on the disputed Soku Oil Wells/Fields located in Akuku-Toru Local Government Area of the state.
The oil wells ownership had led to rising tension between the states, with Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike accusing his Bayelsa State counterpart, Seriake Dickson of plotting a takeover of Rivers oil wells.

In a judgment in Suit Number FHC/ABJ/CS/984/19, the Attorney-General of Rivers State versus National Boundary Commission, Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court declared that after examining all the documents from relevant Government agencies and facts before the court, the Soku Oil Wells/fields 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 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 Fedetal High Court in Abuja through Suit Number FHC/ABJ/CS/984/19 to ensure the enforcement of the declarative judgment.

A statement made available to The Nation in Port Harcourt on Monday morning by Mr. Simeon Nwakaudu, media aide to Governor Wike, stated that the 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 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 percent derivations 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.

It would be recalled that the Soku oil field is located within the OML 23, and it is the only producing field with substantial reserves of gas and liquids, and is a key supplier to NLNG.

The field is located in an expansive swamp land, just about 24 miles from Port Harcourt, and is only accessible by water or air (helicopter).

The Soku gas processing plant is a vital feeder plant for Nigeria Liquify Natural Gas.

The ownership of the field, located between Bayelsa and Rivers, which used to be one state (Rivers) before October 1, 1996 when Bayelsa was created, has been raging for years.

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