The Bayelsa State Government has suffered a monumental set back at the Supreme Court in its quest to deny Rivers State of revenue accruing from the Soku Oil wells.
The Supreme Court Tuesday said the suit filed by the Bayelsa State Government lacked in merit and accordingly threw it out.
The Bayelsa state government has continued to dispute the ownership claim of the Rivers State over the Soku oilfield.
But the Sumpreme Court noted in the ruling that the move by Bayelsa to seek its pronouncement on a matter that the Court of Appeal is yet to rule on, amounted to abuse of court processes.
A Federal High Court in Abuja presided over by Justice Inyang Ekwo while delivering judgement in Suit N0. FHC/ABJ/CS/984/19, had ordered the Bayelsa State Government to refund funds accruing from the 13 percent derivation that it had received over the years from the disputed oilfield at Soku to Rivers State.
Justice Sylvester Ngwuta of the Supreme Court, who led a panel of 7, raised eyebrows over the decision of the Bayelsa State Government to file a suit at the apex court.
He said it was wrong for the State to approach the highest court in the land while it was still making frantic moves to challenge the judgement of the Federal High Court at the Court of Appeal.
Justice Ngwuta acknowledged that the Bayelsa state government had jumped the gun, saying its action was tantamount to an abuse of the judicial process.
The erudite judge further held that there was no way the Supreme Court could make any pronouncement on a judgment that was given by a Federal High Court when the appellate court has not done so.
Ngwuta pointed out that the Supreme Court would not exercise jurisdiction over the matter and advised the Bayelsa state government to take its grievances to the Court of Appeal.
Counsel to the Bayelsa state government, Kemsauode Wodu, according to a statement issued by Kelvin Ebiri, SA to the Rivers Governor on Media, applied for a formal withdrawal of the suit.
It is still not clear why Bayelsa continues to hang its ownership over Soku oilfield to a discredited map by the National Boundary Commission.
The 11th edition of the administrative map of Nigeria, which the Commission agrees was done in error, moved the official boundary between both disputing states.
That administrative map erroneously showed St Batholomew River instead of River Santa Barbara as the interstate Boundary between Rivers and Bayelsa States.
Recall that Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court, Abuja, while delivering judgement in Suit N0. FHC/ABJ/CS/984/19, filed by the Attorney-General of Rivers State against the National Boundary Commission, had declared that the Soku oilfields belong to Rivers State.
Ekwo noted in that ruling that the failure as well as the refusal of the National Boundary Commission to rectify the admitted mistake in the 11th edition of the administrative 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 10th July 2012 in Suit Number SC.106/2009.
The judge explained that 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 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 situate within Rivers State to the detriment of the State Government.
Justice Ekwo 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 judge said the National Boundary Commission cannot unilaterally 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 because it lacked merit.
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