The Supreme Court has struck out two suits filed by the Bayelsa State Government against the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Akwa Ibom and River states over earnings from disputed Soku oil wells.
A seven-man panel of the court, headed by Justice Sylvester Ngwuta, struck out both suits, marked: SC/SC649/2020 and SC/650/2020 after lawyers to the plaintiff – Biriyai Dambo (SAN) and Kemsauode Wodu – applied for withdrawal.
At the mention of the first suit, marked: SC/SC649/2020, which had the AGF and Rivers State as defendants, Wodu told the court that his client chose to approach the Supreme Court to among others, to stop the Federation Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC) from deducting earnings due to Bayelsa State from the Soku oil wells.
Wodu claimed that the Rivers State Government surreptitiously obtained a judgment at the Federal High Court, without the knowledge of Bayelsa State Government, in respect of which it (Rivers) now lay claim to the Soku oil wells and earnings due from it.
He said his client has applied for the leave of the lower court to enable it appeal, as in interested party, the judgment allegedly got behind it by the Rivers State Government.
After listening to him, the Supreme Court panel insisted that there was no way the court could exercise jurisdiction over a case relating to a judgment given by a High Court, in respect of which the Court of Appeal has not made a pronouncement.
Justice Ngwuta particularly, noted that it was impossible for the Supreme Court to determine the suit by Bayelsa, without touching on the issues determined by the Federal High Court, which would form part of the appeal to be filed at the Court of Appeal.
Justice Ngwuta added: “What we are saying is that you should withdraw this suit.”
Another member of the panel, Justice Amina Augie said: “Your best bet is to go to the Court of Appeal.” Realising that the court was unmoved by his explanation and that it was unwilling to alter its disposition on the matter, Wodu applied to withdraw the suit, an application lawyers to the defendants, including Tijani Ganzali (for the AGF) did not oppose.
In a ruling, Justice Ngwuta said: “Suit number, SC/649/2020 having been withdrawn, is hereby struck out.”
At the mention of the second case, marked: SC/649/2020, lawyer to Bayelsa, Biriyai Dambo (SAN) – who is also the state’s Attorney General – elected to withdraw in view of the court’s position in the earlier case. The panel then proceeded to strike out the suit, which had the AGF and Akwa Ibom State as defendants.
Bayelsa had, in the suits filed earlier this year, prayed the Supreme Court to stop the Federal Government from further paying monthly statutory allocation from Soku oil wells to Rivers State.
It argued that it stands to lose billions of naira accruable to it should FAAC complies with the demand made by Rivers State, relying on the Federal High Court judgement, that earnings due from the Soku Oil Wells be paid to it.
Justice Inyng Ekwo of the Federal High Court had, e in December 2019 held among others, that Rivers State owns the disputed Soku oil wells located in Akuku-Toru Local Government Area of Rivers State.
Justice Ekwo declared that after examining all the documents from relevant government agencies and facts before his court, the Soku Oil Wells/fields belong to Rivers State.
In the second case, Bayelsa State had, among others sought to restrain the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) from withholding its statutory allocation or deducting it in favour of Akwa Ibom State.