Femi Folaranmi, Yenagoa
The Bayelsa State Government has accused the Rivers State Government of lying over the ownership of the Soku Oilfields/ Oil wells.
The Rivers State government had recently said it has been given the ownership of the oil wells based on a judgment by Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja which ordered the National Boundary Commission (NBC) to effect an error on its Administrative map and marked the boundary between Rivers and Bayelsa State at Santa Barbara River.
The Attorney- General and Commissioner for Justice, Bayelsa State, Mr Andrew Arthur Seweniowor who stated that Rivers State government made false claims over the ownership of the oil wells said the Rivers state government were being economical with the truth.
According to him the Supreme Court in Suit No. CS/106/2009 had struck out the action of Rivers State claiming ownership “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”.
Seweniowor noted that on the case of the ownership of the oil well, 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”.
According to him 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.”
He explained that as a result of the decision of the Supreme Court Suit in 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.
Seweniowor stated however that 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 he articulated which included the payments of all revenue from the disputed oil wells into an Escrow Account under the Accountant-General of the Federation are met.
The Commissioner slammed Rivers State for instituting a legal action against NBC without putting Bayelsa in the know adding Rivers State laying claiming to the Oil wells cannot stand.
“ 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. Bayelsa State is 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.”