Oil belongs to Nigeria not Niger Delta, says Obasanjo
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo yesterday took an exception to Chief Edwin Clark’s reaction to his (Obasanjo’s) insistence that Niger Delta cannot lay claim to the crude oil found in the region.
Chief Obasanjo reminded the leader of Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) and Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Ijaw National Congress (INC) that the mineral resources found in any particular state or territory does not belong to the area of location, but to Nigeria.
Obasanjo emphasised that there cannot be two sovereign entities within a country, stressing that this situation cannot change until the Nigerian federation is dissolved.
He refuted claims by Clark that he hated the people of Niger Delta due to resource control agitation.
Clark had last week criticised Obasanjo over what he called hatred against the oil-producing states.
The former Federal Information Commissioner was reacting to a recent remark by the former President in Abuja, against the National Secretary of the INC, Ebipamowei Wodu, during a peace and security parley convened by the Global Peace Foundation and Vision Africa.
Obasanjo had claimed at the event that the oil in the Niger Delta was deposited by God and therefore, belonged to all Nigerians.
His comments drew criticisms from Afenifere, Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), Ohanaeze Ndigbo, and Middle-Belt Forum.
Clark had said the groups will take a critical look at any invitation to attend future state-of-the-nation dialogue, especially if convened by the former president.
He said Obasanjo’s comment was ‘unstatesmanlike’ and smacked of hatred against the people of the oil-rich region.
In an open letter to Obasanjo titled: “My disappointment over your unprovoked outburst against the people of the Niger Delta region,” Clark accused the ex – President of double standards over resource control in the country.
Obasanjo disagreed, saying that as president, he allowed the constitutional provisions to guide him on appointments and resource control.
He maintained that mineral resources found anywhere within the federation, belong to the Federal Government and not the place of location.
In a six-page letter of December 28, 2021, titled: “My response to the open letter by Clark,” Obasanjo said: “The most basic constitutional fact is that you cannot have two sovereign entities within a state, which is what your position of Niger Delta ownership claim of the crude oil found in that location amounts to.
“All those who purchase crude oil from Nigeria enter into contractual relationship with Nigeria, not with the Niger Delta. The territory of Nigeria is indivisible inclusive of the resources found therein. No territory in Nigeria, including the minerals found therein, belong to the area of location and this remains so until the federation is dissolved.”
Obasanjo, who objected to Clark’s tone, advised him to “change from a tribesman to a statesman of character, wisdom and maturity”.
He also called for negotiation, which could achieve better results than dictation, stressing that reform is key.
Obasanjo said: “Reform is a continuous exercise, but relatively slow in achieving results. Revolution for sea-change may rarely happen and then, we may continue to languish in frustration and regret with dire judgement of posterity.”
The letter reads in part: “Let me proceed with the most basic constitutional fact that you cannot have two sovereign entities within a state, which is what your position of Niger Delta ownership claim of the crude oil found in that location amounts to.
“All those who purchase crude oil from Nigeria enter into contractual relationship with Nigeria, not with the Niger Delta. The territory of Nigeria is indivisible, inclusive of the resources found therein. No territory in Nigeria, including the minerals found therein belongs to the area of location and this remains so until the federation is dissolved.
“This is the position of the Nigerian constitution and international law. If there is a threat of violence to any part of Nigeria today, including the Niger Delta it is the Nigerian military, backed by any other machinery, that can be procured or established at the Federal level that will respond to any such threat. In principle and practice, the position I have taken on the location of mineral resources in any part of Nigeria is the legal and constitutional position.
“Since you have selected the 1963 Constitution as your ideal guide, I will now quote the relevant Section 140 for the Nigerian public to arrive at a more informed and balanced understanding of our discourse: “The 1963 Constitution Section 140, titled “Mining Royalties and Rents”, stated thus: “(1) There shall be paid by the Federation to each Region a sum equal to fifty per cent of (a) the proceeds of any ROYALTY received by the Federation in respect of any minerals extracted in that Region; and (b) any mining RENTS derived by the Federation during that year from within that Region”.
“My dear Chief, where in this constitutional provision is it said or implied that minerals located in any part of Nigeria belongs to that location? For emphasis and to further buttress the point, the provision is even in the exclusive list – exclusively reserved to the Federal Government!
“You made the unnecessary reference to the appointment of Engr. Funsho Kupolokun as the Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, but you conveniently forgot that before Kupolokun, there was Gaius Obaseki and Kupolokun served under Dr. Edmund Daukoru, who was Minister of State for Petroleum.
“In para 15 of your letter, you tried to compare my Ota Farm with minerals under the soil which are exclusive to the Nigerian Authority as I have earlier shown.
But even here, these are issues that must be explained that you wittingly or unwittingly skipped.
I have a State Certificate of Occupancy, C of O, for my farmland and if any mineral is found under the ground on my farm, Federal Government will ask the State Government to revoke my C of O for overriding public interest.
I could claim for development already carried out on my farmland but the Federal Government would issue licence to any company that had been allocated the right to mine the mineral.
It would not matter what I grow on my farm and what development I have carried out. Compensation I could get based on assessed development that I had carried out on the farmland.
“The constitution that affects Niger Delta Region affects Zamfara State where gold is found and if anybody at the Federal level has remised in implementing the constitution, then that is a different matter. The gold in Ilesha, Osun State, and the lead in Ebonyi State, all come under the same Law and Constitution.
“When Tin, Columbite in Jos Plateau and Zinc in Abakaliki and Coal in Enugu were discovered in the early 1900s, the ownership was vested in the Colonial Government. Mitigating the hazards suffered by people in any mineral-producing area is legitimate and must be differentiated from the issue of ownership. The mitigation process must go for oil and gas, lead, gold, limestone for cement, etc.
“On resumption of office as President of Nigeria in 1999, the first meeting I held out of Abuja was a meeting on the Niger Delta Region. Without being prompted, I decided the 13% derivation that the new Constitution granted to oil-producing areas should be paid.
“At the meeting of December 14, 2021 although the recommendation was to go from 13% to 17% to oil-producing areas, Dr. Igali made the case for 18% and we as CGN went up to not less than 18%. Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, bill was my initiative for contribution to be made by State Governments, oil companies and Federal Government.