Nigeria’s former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, yesterday, said that Oil, like the mineral resources in other parts of the country, belonged to all Nigerians, and not the Niger Delta region.
Obasanjo stated this as a part of a tirade between the former president and elder statesman, High Chief Edwin Clark, who recently asserted that the former leader showed neither solidarity nor respect for the people of the Niger Delta in the face of the environmental degradation which has been the lot of the people, in the course of crude oil and gas exploitation in Nigeria.
While disagreeing with proponents of resource control, Obasanjo maintained that there could not be two sovereign entities within a country, claiming the existence of dual sovereignties was what he understood from Clark’s position on resource ownership.
Obasanjo reminded Chief Clark that contracts for the purchase of crude oil from Nigeria may only be executed with the Federal Government of Nigeria, and not the Niger Delta, affirming that the territory of Nigeria remains indivisible, inclusive of the resources found therein.
“This is the position of the Nigerian constitution and international law,” Obasanjo declared.
Obasanjo explained, “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.”
Obasanjo noted that his position had always been that equity and justice demanded that those domiciled in the locations, where the resources were found, were entitled to more of the material benefits accruing from the crude oil or other minerals.
With less eloquence, however, Obasanjo canvassed that the same logic holds with respect to the “criminal” mining of gold deposits in Zamfara State or any other state in Nigeria.
The former president countered the claim of Chief Edwin Clark, that the 1963 Constitution granted ownership of minerals to the regions wherein they are located.
“For emphasis and to further buttress the point, the provision is even in the exclusive list – exclusively reserved for the federal government,” he pointed out.
Obasanjo insisted that if anybody at the federal level has neglected the constitution, with respect to the mining of gold in Zamfara State, it is quite another matter.
Responding to Chief Clark, Obasanjo stated: “The gold in Ilesha, Osun State, and the lead in Ebonyi State, all come under the same law and constitution. There is no part of Nigeria, whose interest is not dear to my heart.
“And stating in your letter that it is only the interest of the north I continuously hold dear to my heart is that type of buka gossip that, knowing you as I do since 1975, I am not surprised that you echoed.
“I have always stood for equity and justice in our federation and, for me, tribe has to be suppressed for the state to emerge. And until the state emerges, Nigeria will not make the desired progress, as tribesmen will always sacrifice state for tribe. This has always been my position and it will remain my position until I breathe my last.”
Describing the language used to describe him in Clark’s letter as offensive and uncouth, Obasanjo said that he totally rejects them.
“I am not inconsistent, hypocritical, ‘unstatesman’ nor am I anybody’s lackey. You use your own yardstick to judge others,” he said, stressing that bad language does not show prudence, wisdom and maturity.