By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor & Bartholomew Madukwe
Senator Ita Solomon Enang has since 1999 been a pivotal part of the machinery of the Nigerian National Assembly. First as the Vice-Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Rules and Business in 1999, and subsequently as chairman of the committee, Enang is believed to have since then had a hand in all enactments to have come out of the National Assembly.
It was not surprising then that upon his election into the Senate to represent the Uyo Senatorial District in 2011 that he was named the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Rules and Business. A lawyer, Enang was born on 23 August 1962 and attended the Presbyterian Teachers Training College, Ididep, Akwa Ibom State (1974-1979) and subsequently the University of Calabar, Calabar between 1980 and 1984 where he read Law.
Enang cut his political teeth with his election as a councilor in 1987. He was elected to the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly in 1992 before he was elected to the House of Representatives in 1999 to represent the Ibiono Ibom/Itu Federal Constituency. He won re-election in 2003 and 2007 before his election to the Senate in 2011. Enang spoke in an interview on the issues pertaining to revenue derivation and distribution among other issues. Excerpts:
WHERE do you stand on the dispute over the implementation of the derivation principle in the sharing of federal revenue?
I stand on the principle that the derivation principle should be reviewed by raising it upward to between 25% and 50% because the constitution says that it should be a minimum of 13%. It should be raised by way of an Act of Parliament to make it between 25% or 50%. Afterall, under the 1960 constitution derivation was 50%.
Again I want to say that it is only oil that is contributing to the revenue and other solid minerals are not contributing. What I have discovered is that the North has so much solid minerals and even oil but they are not exploiting. It is hidden under what they call “illegal mining”. In Kaduna there are so many solid minerals, but they are being mined by individuals and sold without anything being paid to government.
In Nasarawa State, the governor, some days ago, even signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with an agency to prospect and exploit mineral resources for Nasarawa State to earn revenue and increase their revenue. In Bauchi State and the Chad region, there is oil but it is not being exploited yet. Also in Borno State and Yobe State because these are states bounded by the Chad-Basin.
In the Chad-Basin, which surrounds Cameroun, Chad, Niger Republic and Nigeria, Niger Republic has oil within that basin, which is about 20 kilometers from the boundary of Nigeria. They have exploited oil and even have a refinery there. And it is suspected that Nigerians, big Nigerians of some extractions, own the rigs and the mining rights; and it is them- the big Nigerians, who sponsored and installed the refinery there in Niger Republic. But instead of putting the rig on the soil in the Nigeria end of the Chad Basin, they put the rig in the Niger end and are then exploiting the oil from Niger, paying revenue to Niger Republic.
Chad has oil, still from the same basin, it is exploiting the oil. Cameroun has oil within the Chad Basin. All the countries around the Chad Basin are drilling oil. Why is Nigeria not allowing the exploitation or exploration of oil in the Chad Basin?
I want you to go to the website of the Energy Commission of Nigeria and look at the address that was delivered last (penultimate) week, by the Director General of Energy Commission of Nigeria, where he said the same thing. That Nigeria is deliberately not exploiting oil in the Chad Basin in Borno, Yobe and all those areas because there is oil that has been discovered there and so much money has been spent by Nigeria in discovering oil in those places.
Is this deliberate, and on whose part?
It is deliberate; it is on the part of Nigeria or Nigerians who are from there. They do not allow the oil to be exploited because, in my opinion, it is to preserve that oil until the one of the South is finished. But it does not work that way; because when they stand to drill oil in Niger, they are drilling the oil that is in that basin.
So even if you are standing in Nigeria, if it is to finish it will still finish because there is this lateral drilling or horizontal drilling that wherever you put your rig there in the oil bed it is the same oil. Within a specific area it does not matter where you stand to drill. It is just like water, it has a water bed. When you put your rig, you take the water from within that particular area. Therefore Nigeria should, instead of talking of revenue allocation, we should be talking more of revenue generation.
Let every part of this country that has oil minerals cause its own to be exploited. And I believe that if we reach a situation where people or the states are allowed to exploit their own minerals and pay a percentage to the Federal Government, all the states will be able to produce. If you go to Kebbi State, Sokoto State, there is this diamond and lots of precious stones, including gold.
But we have a Ministry and Minister of Solid Minerals?
The minister should resign and the Ministry of Solid Minerals should be scrapped and merged with the Ministry of Petroleum Resources and renamed Ministry of Mineral Resources. So that it will be incharge of all minerals issues, whether it be liquid, solid, petroleum or solid minerals so that it could know that revenue from minerals is revenue from minerals.
A new Northern group has alleged that too much money going to the Niger Delta is breeding corruption in the region
That is not correct. Come to Akwa Ibom State and see come and see how money that is derived from derivation is being put to use. Or is that what has caused the entire Niger Delta to be given less amount of money that is given from the federation account to the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
The Federal Capital Territory alone uses over N400 billion naira to construct its roads annually. How much of it goes to the Niger Delta? The roads that are constructed in Abuja, in Kaduna, in Lokoja, all those infrastructure in Kaduna, where is the money coming from? It is from oil of the Niger Delta. It is time that other parts of this country that have minerals should allow their minerals to be exploited so that something would go into federation account.
Otherwise, let it be that whoever has mineral exploit it and pay something into the federation account. Let Kaduna State not hide behind illegal exploitation. Let Bauchi State not hide its own oil. Let Yobe and Borno States not hide their oil. Let Kebbi and Sokoto State not hide their diamond and gold.
The Northern Governors are equally calling for the strict application of the offshore/onshore dichotomy in the sharing of revenue.
Offshore where? Offshore from the coast of Nigeria area. What makes that area part of Nigeria is because of the littoral states and all the littoral states suffer the effect. Those areas in the continental shelf became the continental shelf of Nigeria because they belong to part of a state of Nigeria. If they were not part of a state of Nigeria, then you wouldn’t have the right to go and exploit oil on that offshore.
It is offshore the coast of Nigeria, because it is offshore the coast of Akwa Ibom State, Bayelsa State, Rivers State, Delta State, Lagos State, which are part of Nigeria. Can we say that of Cotonou, or Benin Republic? We cannot say because those are not parts of Nigeria. Can we say that of Ivory Coast, or any part of Ghana? No! Because those are not parts of the coast of Nigeria. They are not part of any state of Nigeria. That is why, since our continental shelf overlaps that of Equatorial Guinea, that is why we have joint development zone with Equatorial Guinea.
If our territories did not overlap, if part of Akwa Ibom State and Delta State and all those areas in Gulf of Guinea and Bight of Biafra were not part of those littoral states in Nigeria, then you would not have a joint development zone for the purpose of producing oil in that area. So that argument does not follow logical.