Ex-CAN president, Okogie backs Clark, faults Obasanjo on resource ownership
Anthony Cardinal Olubunmi Okogie, the former President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, has faulted former President Olusegun Obasanjo on the claim that the mineral resources belong to the Federal Government regardless of where they are domiciled in the country.
The former Catholic Archbishop of Lagos stated that petroleum resources in the Niger Delta belongs to the people of the region.
This was just as the Founder/Executive Director of Egalitarian Mission of Africa, Olukayode Ajulo, also stated that the Federal Government was only keeping the mineral resources in trust, while the communities where they were sited were the ‘de facto’ owners.
Obasanjo had at a peace and security parley convened by the Global Peace Foundation and Vision Africa a few weeks ago attacked the National Secretary of the Ijaw National Congress, Ebipamowei Wodu, over the latter’s outburst.
Wodu had at the forum said the Ijaw were being treated like second-class citizens in Nigeria despite producing the oil and gas resources that had sustained the country.
Leader of the Pan-Niger Delta Forum, Chief Edwin Clark, in an open letter to the former President on December 22, took a swipe at Obasanjo, alleging that his hatred against the people of the oil-producing states in Nigeria was disappointing.
But in an open letter to Clark released on Monday, the former president faulted the elder statesman’s claim that he hated the people of Niger Delta due to resource control agitation.
Joining the debate on Friday, Okogie backed PANDEF and INC in a statement titled ‘We Want to Know Who Owns the Oil?’
The vocal cleric partly said, “The owners of the land own whatever is on the land or under the land. To deprive them of that right is to be patently unjust. Only a regime of imperialist intent would do such a thing.
“Unfortunately, this has been the Nigerian narrative from the advent of British imperialist colonialists until the current dispensation. The British came, conquered the land around the Niger and its peoples, declared amalgamation, and handed over to a state operated on imperialist logic. That logic is that the land and the peoples belong to the state.
“When President Obasanjo made his recent declaration that the oil in the Niger Delta belongs to Nigeria, one cannot but recall that he, as a military ruler and head of the remnant of the mutinous soldiers of July 29, 1966, presided over the final redaction of the constitution that places control of Nigeria’s oil under the control of the government at the centre — one hesitates to call it a Federal Government because what obtains in this country today cannot be honestly described as federalism.
“The inclusion of mineral resources on the Exclusive Legislative List in the 1979 and 1999 Constitutions effectively legitimises the unjust deprivation to which the people of Nigeria have been subjected for decades. The declaration that Niger Delta oil belongs to Nigeria justifies the imperialist intent of the final redactors of the 1979 Constitution.”
Okogie added, “As we all know, the Niger Delta that produces the oil has turned out to be one of the poorest, if not the poorest region of Nigeria. Proceeds from the sale of Niger Delta oil have been used and are still being used to service the expensive but ineffective government that the twin constitutions have imposed on Nigerians.
“President Obasanjo’s declaration, as disturbing as it is, reminds us of an act of injustice that urgently needs to be redressed, and that is: Nigeria is not set up to benefit the regional, ethnic or religious community to which government functionaries belong; Nigeria is set up to benefit the elite from these communities.
“Whichever section of the elite gains access to corridors of power in Abuja or state capitals or local government areas, gains access to Nigeria’s oil wealth. That is why our elections are muddy and bloody.
“Contrary to President Obasanjo’s declaration, the oil in the Niger Delta does not belong to Nigeria, neither does it belongs to the state or local governments in that region. It belongs to the people of the region. Land belongs to the people, not to the government.
“The resources on the land – any land; not just the Niger Delta – belong to the people and not to the government. Nigeria’s problems became greater when the government decided to get into the oil business. That is the major contributing factor to corruption, poverty and insecurity.”
The retired cleric stated that it was in the people’s interest to form a political union where any Nigerian could settle and acquire property anywhere in Nigeria, and do business and contribute to the common good.
“But the current imperialist constitution, predicated on President Obasanjo’s recent declaration, needs to undergo far-reaching amendments. Not to do so is to continue to provoke cries of marginalisation. It is to allow the wounds of corruption, insecurity, and poverty to fester,” he said.
Also, Ajulo expressed a similar opinion in a statement issued on Friday and titled, ‘The Question of the Ownership of Nigeria Oil as Raised by Chief Edwin Clark & President Olusegun Obasanjo’s Debates: The Borderline between Ownership and Trusteeship of Natural Resources in Nigeria – Dr Olukayode Ajulo, FCIArb. UK.’
Ajulo said, “President Olusegun Obasanjo, interestingly and surprisingly, anchored his argument solely on law, whereas the answer on the ownership is found in the extant provision of our laws and could as well be viewed from the geopolitical perspectives of the Nigeria of today’s tenuous existence.”
Citing the constitution, Ajulo said, “The Nigerian Federal Government is the ‘de jure’ owner of the oil. However, the indubitable and undeniable reality is that the Niger Delta region where the oil is found is the ‘de facto’ owner of the oil.”