Rivers drag Bayelsa to court over contentious oil fields

06 April 2013, Port Harcourt – The battle between Rivers and Bayelsa states over ownership of some oil fields has shifted to the court.

This follows the filing of a suit at the Federal High by Akuku-Toru Local Government Area in Rivers State, asking that it be pronounced as the rightful owner of the Soku oil fields under contention between the two states.

The suit filed in by Chief Goddey Orusah and seven others, for themselves and as representing the chiefs and principal members of the Akuku- Toru Local Government Areas, has been fixed for hearing at the Federal High Court 7, Abuja, on March 10.

The battle for the oil fields follows dispute over boundary between Akuku-Toru and Nembe council areas in Rivers and Bayelsa states.

In the suit filed against the National Boundary Commission, NBC, and Attorney-General of Bayelsa State, the plaintiffs are asking the court to declare River Santa Barbara as the boundary between the Kalabaris in their domain and the Nembes in Nembe Local Government Area of Bayelsa State.

They also sought the disregard of the purported 11th Edition of the Administrative Map of Nigeria, arguing that it was done in error and that its adoption should be declared null and void.

Bayelsa State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Chief Francis Egele, however, argued that Rivers State erred in its demand because it has no locus standi.

Egele claimed that boundary matter is an issue between states and not local government areas or communities and describe the suit as an abuse of the judicial process.

The Attorney-General recalled that the Supreme Court had earlier adjudicated on the matter and there wrong of any individual, group, or state to flout the order of the apex court.

Quoting copiously from the ruling of the Supreme Court as read by Justice Suleiman Galadima, Egele said the boundary between the two states could not be determined until after the completion of the NBC assignment as contained in the Supreme Court judgment in a suit.

The judgement reads: “I have set out the function of the NBC above and from the provision of the NBC Act, it cannot be seriously suggested that before the jurisdiction of this court is invoked in a boundary dispute between states, the NBC should have determined the dispute or completed its exercise in delineating the disputed boundary.

“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.

“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 the disputed boundary to finality. It will be futile and premature to determine the boundary of the two states in the present circumstances.”

According to Egele, despite the fact that Bayelsa government was not properly served the writ of summon, the state will file its defence at the hearing.

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