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Why court judgement ceding Soku Oil Wells to Rivers cannot stand – Bayelsa Govt.

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The Federal High Court judgment transferring Soku oil wells in Oluasiri, a disputed boundary, to Rivers State, cannot stand, Bayelsa State government said on Thursday.

The state said the ownership of the land on which the oil fields are located is yet to be determined.

Besides, it said the judgment was contrary to a Supreme Court verdict that the National Boundary Commission (NBC) should be allowed to determine the land ownership.

In a statement by its Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Arthur Andrew, the state said the high court judgement cannot stand.

Andrew said that despite the Supreme Court verdict, the Rivers government instituted an action against the NBC to justify its “false” claims on the Soku oilfields, which he said are located in Nembe Local Government Area.

He said: “From Monday, 16th December 2019, the media had been awash 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”.

Andrew quoted the Supreme Court as saying: “It is on account of the foregoing and because of the technical nature of the dispute and the claims of the parties that this court finds that the NBC as an authority vested with authorities and expert 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 constituted a Joint Technical Committee on the Bayelsa/Rivers Interstate Boundary.

The statement adds: “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.

“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 proceeding 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 situated and had always expressed its willingness to fully participate in any joint delimitation and demarcation exercise in respect of the disputed boundary.”

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