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Soku oilfield: S’Court declines jurisdiction in Bayelsa’s suit

The Supreme Court yesterday declined to hear a suit filed by Bayelsa State against Rivers State over the disputed Soku oilfield. Bayelsa State government was seeking to stop the Federal Government from further paying monthly statutory allocation from Soku oil wells to Rivers. Justice Sylvester Ngwuta, who led the sevenman panel of justices of the apex court, declined hearing the matter on the grounds that the court lacked jurisdiction to entertain the matter.

The Bayelsa 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 per cent derivation it had received over the years from Soku oilfield, to Rivers State. During yesterday’s judgement, the apex court described as an abuse of court process the move by Bayelsa State government seeking the nullification of the judgement of the Federal High Court delivered in favour of Rivers State, when the Court of Appeal has not even ruled on the matter.

The court, presided over by Justice Ngwuta, wondered why Bayelsa filed the suit at the apex court. Ngwuta observed that the Bayelsa State government was jumping the gun and its action was tantamount to abuse of court process, noting that there was no way the Supreme Court can make pronouncement on a judgement 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, thus directing the Bayelsa State government to take its grievances to the Court of Appeal.

It was on this basis that the counsel to 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.

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