There was jubilation in Port Harcourt and grumbling in Yenagoa on Monday, following the judgment which ceded the Soku Oil Wells/fields to Rivers State.
Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja declared after examining the documents from government agencies and facts before the court, that the Soku Oil Wells/fields belonged to Rivers State.
He ordered the National Boundary Commission (NBC) to rectify in the 12th Edition of the Administrative Map of Nigeria and the erroneous inter-state boundary between the two states as contained in the extant 11th Edition of the Administrative Map of Nigeria.
The judge declared that the continued failure of the boundary commission to rectify the mistake in the 11th edition of the administrative map since 2002 which showed St Batholomew River, instead of River Santa Barbara as the interstate boundary between the two states was a breach of its statutory duty and a flagrant disobedience of the order of the Supreme Court as contained in its October 10, 2012 judgment.
The court held that the continued reliance on the defective 11th edition of the map by other government agencies/statutory bodies, especially the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) and the Accountant-General of the Federation in the computation of revenue accruable to Rivers State from the Federation Account, had resulted in the unjust denial of derivation funds accruing from the Soku Oil Wells/fields to the Rivers State Government.
It granted the two reliefs sought by the Rivers State Government and directed that notice of the judgment be served on the RMAFC and the Accountant-General of the Federation.
It said that the boundary commission could not unilaterally delineate boundaries between Rivers and Bayelsa states after the Supreme Court judgment on the matter.
The court also dismissed an objection to the suit raised by the boundary commission, which it said, was lacking in merit.
Counsel to the Rivers State Government, L.E. Nwosu (SAN,) described it as a victory for the rule of law. He said the declarative judgment would check any resort to self-help over the injustice.
There was jubilation at the Rivers State Government House, where Wike and some top officials of his administration expressed joy that the matter had been resolved in the state’s favour.
But in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital, the government flayed the verdict, which it said would not stand.
At the Government House, Wike welcomed the verdict and vowed that his administration would continue to defend the interest of Rivers State in order to promote the welfare of her people.
The governor said it was a known fact that the Soku Oil Wells/fields belonged to his state before they were appropriated by the Federal Government for Bayelsa State.
Wike said: ”The judgment is very proper. I have said it severally that we must fight for whatever belongs to Rivers State. That is what we are doing .
”Everybody knows that it is wrong for the Federal Government to collect our oil wells and cede same to Bayelsa State. So, we took the right step by going to court. We are happy for what happened today (Monday).
“We don’t believe in fighting. We only believe in following due process. Thank God the Federal High Court has affirmed and they should pay us our money which they have collected. The revenue derivation should continue to be paid into Rivers State coffers. We are happy.”
But Bayelsa State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Andrew Arthur, said the judgment would be upturned.
Arthur said the application by the Rivers State Government was cunningly hidden from the Bayelsa Government, adding he only got to know about it on the judgment day (yesterday).
He said although he would restrain from making further comments until he received a copy of the judgment, Rivers had brought similar applications on about four occasions but lost all.
The commissioner urged the people to remain calm since the government would challenge the order of the court at the appeal.
He said: “Don’t forget that we were not party to the said action that was brought by the Rivers State. We were not even aware of the pendency of the action up to the stage of this morning.
“I had to call the governor to intimate the governor of the fact that there was a judgment. I have not seen the hard copy of the judgment apart from what I read from papers. I can’t be making a comment on the basis of what is written in papers.
“But I will be in Abuja and I can assure you that Bayelsa State will have a robust defence by way of an appeal as an interested party. It is quite unfortunate. Rivers State had brought similar applications on about four occasions before the Federal High Court.
“Bayelsans should remain calm. We understand that this government is almost at its terminal point, but we still owe a duty to protect the interest of Bayelsa State and the government will not shelve that responsibility at this stage.”