…Rivers Govt Instituted action without participation of Bayelsa – Govt

Clement Ovokeroye Paul 

YENAGOA – The Government Bayelsa State has described as “false claim” the ownership of Oluasiri Oil field/ oil wells situated in Nembe Local Government Area of the State, an area referred to as Soku oil field/ oil wells, by the Rivers State Government.

In a Press statement signed by the Commissioner of Justice, Arthur, Andrew Seweniowor, the Bayelsa State Government said it is surprising that Rivers State resort to instituting the court action at the Federal High Court, Abuja against the National Boundary Commission (NBC), without the knowledge and participation of Bayelsa State, and proceeded 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.

The Bayelsa State Government noted that after the decision of the Supreme Court Suit No. CS/106/2009, the NBC in exercise of its statutory functions commenced the efforts to exhaustively and finally resolve the boundary dispute between Rivers and Bayelsa State with the constitution of Joint Technical Committee on the Bayelsa/Rivers Interstate Boundary, the Deputy Governors of both States leading their respective State’s delegation.

But, 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, after a couple of meetings, on the 30th of January, 2013.

The statement reads:

“Following the false claim of the Rivers State Government to the ownership of the Oluasiri Oil fields/Oil wells situate in the Nembe Local Government Area of Bayelsa State, an area referred to by the Rivers State Government as Soku Oilfields/Oil wells, the Rivers State Government instituted an action against the National Boundary Commission (NBC) at the Federal High Court, Abuja to give effect to its false claim.

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“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.

“For the avoidance of doubt the Supreme Court in the lead judgment delivered by Galadima JSC held as follows:
“It is on account of the foregoing and because of the technical nature of the dispute and the claims of the parties this Court finds that the NBC as an authority vested with authorities and expertise 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.”

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“Going further the learned Justice of the Supreme Court concluded thus: “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.” This was the unanimous decision of the Supreme Court which can be verified by anyone.

“It is worthy to note that after the decision of the Supreme Court Suit No. CS/106/2009, the NBC in exercise of its statutory functions commenced the efforts to exhaustively and finally resolve the boundary dispute between Rivers and Bayelsa State with the constitution of Joint Technical Committee on the Bayelsa/Rivers Interstate Boundary, the Deputy Governors of both States leading their respective State’s delegation.

“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.
Given the background and the state of affairs necessitated by the voluntary withdrawal of Rivers State from further deliberation and participation in the joint delimitation and demarcation exercise in respect of the disputed boundary. 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 proceeded 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.

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“Bayelsa State iss confident of its historical claim of ownership over the lands on which the Oilfields/Oil wells in issue are situate 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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