The Supreme Court on Tuesday struck out a suit filed by the Bayelsa State government over the disputed Soku oilfield belonging to Rivers State.
The apex court said the action of the Bayelsa State government, by seeking the nullification of the judgment of the Federal High Court delivered in favour of Rivers State, when the Court of Appeal has not even ruled on the matter, was an abuse of court process and forum shopping.
Bayelsa State government had filed Suit: SC/CV/649/2020 through its Attorney General against the Attorney General of the Federation and Attorney General of Rivers State, after the Federal High Court in Abuja ordered it to refund the 13 percent derivation it had received over the years from Soku oilfield, to Rivers State.
While leading a panel of seven justices to hear the suit, Justice Sylvester Ngwuta, wondered why the Bayelsa State government decided to file the suit at the apex court since steps were being taken to challenge the judgement of the Federal High Court at the Court of Appeal.
Justice Ngwuta observed that the Bayelsa State government was jumping the gun and its action was tantamount to abuse of court process.
He asserted that there was no way the apex court could make pronouncement on a judgment that was given by a Federal High Court when the appellate court has not done so.
He explained that the Supreme Court does not have jurisdiction on a matter relating to a High Court. To this end, he directed the Bayelsa State government to take its grievances to the Court of Appeal.
It was on the basis that the counsel to the Bayelsa State government, Kemsauode Wodu, applied for a formal withdrawal of the suit and it was struck out by the Supreme Court.
It will be recalled that Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court, Abuja, while delivering judgement in Suit Number FHC/ABJ/CS/984/19, filed by Attorney-General of Rivers State against the National Boundary Commission, based on documents from relevant government agencies, had declared that the Soku oilfields belong to Rivers State.
Ekwo had noted that the 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 and Bayelsa States, 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 10/7/2012 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 then 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.
He also dismissed an objection to the suit raised by the National Boundary Commission because it lacked merit.