Godwin Tsa, Abuja
Abuja division of the Federal High Court, yesterday, ordered the National Boundary Commission (NBC), to transfer the ownership of Soku oil field/wells from Bayelsa State to Rivers State.
Justice Inyang Ekwo made the order in his judgment in a suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/984/19 filed by Rivers State against the NBC.
Ekwo frowned at the altitude of the NBC in disobeying the judgment of the Supreme Court in suit SC/106/2009, delivered on July 10, 2012 that ordered the NBC to rectify the error in its 11th edition of Administrative Map, which designated San Bartholomew River as the boundary between the two states, instead of River Santa Barbara.
He said rather than complying with the seven years judgment of the Supreme Court, the NBC was busy holding meetings in an attempt to negotiate the decision of the Supreme Court, an act which he said was condemnable.
Before delving into the substantive issue, the court had dismissed the objections raised by the commission, challenging the competence of the suit on the grounds that it offends the provisions of order 16 (2) of the rules of the Federal High Court.
While holding that the defendant did not meet with the requirement of order 12(2), Justice Ekwo said the proper method of challenging the suit was not followed and therefore, rendered the objections defective and incompetent.
On the substantive matter, the court held that while the defendant accepted its mistake as contained in the 11th edition of Administrative Map produced by the NBC in 2002, but failed to rectify it in breached of its undertaking to do so in its 12 edition of the document.
He held that non of the averments of the defendant has contradicted the case of the plaintiff, rather, “it only gives reasons why it has not comply with the judgment of the Supreme Court.
“All the defendant needs to do is to comply with the judgment of the Supreme Court and this action would not have arisen.
“The failure to rectify its mistake in the 11th edition of the Administrative Map of Nigeria constitute a breach of the statutory duty of the defendant,” Justice Ekwo said.
The NBC was said to have, in its letter dated, July 3, 2002 in response to Rivers State Government’s protest, admitted its mistake and promised to rectify it in the 12th edition of the administrative map.
Failure of the NBC to rectify the mistake as promised made the Rivers State Government to file a suit against the Attorney General of Bayelsa State and the Attorney General of the Federation before the Supreme Court in 2009.
The Supreme Court in 2012 ruled in favour of Rivers State and ordered the rectification of the error.
By August 2019, when the mistake had yet to be corrected, Rivers State Government instituted a suit before the Federal High Court in Abuja solely against the NBC, seeking an order of mandamus compelling it to correct its error.
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 (RMAFC) and the Accountant General of the Federation (AGF) 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 NBC deeming the administrative boundary between Rivers and Bayelsa states to be River Santa Barbara in accordance with the admission of the NBC as per letter of July 3, 2002 and the definitive order of the Supreme Court made on July 10, 2012.
Justice Ekwo granted the two reliefs and directed that notice be served of the decision of the Court on the RMAFC and the AGF.
The court said the NBC cannot unilateral delineate boundaries between Rivers and Bayelsa states after the Supreme Court judgment on the matter.
He also ordered that the judgment be served on the relevant statutory bodies, especially, the RMAFC and the office of the AGF for them to immediate recompute the amount of oil revenue accruable to it with the transfer of the Soku oil field to it.