By SONI DANIEL
ABUJA—There were strong indications last night that the battle line had been drawn between the North and the South over the former’s quest to get the controversial onshore/offshore oil dichotomy reviewed through an Act of the National Assembly.

The oil dichotomy law, which has now given more money to the littoral oil-producing states, was passed in the wake of the Supreme Court judgment of 2004, which gave all offshore oil revenue to the Federation Account and limited the states’ share to a seaward boundary.

Oil spill in the river

However, following the rejection of the apex court verdict by the littoral states, the Federal Government devised a ‘political solution’, which resulted in the National Assembly Act paving the way for paying oil producing states for oil taken from as far as 200 feet isobath, a development, which has not gone down well with the northern governors.

Finding by Vanguard shows that most of the northern governors were in favour of the review of the oil dichotomy law to channel offshore oil proceeds to the Federation Account for distribution to the 36 states instead of being taken up by the few oil-bearing states.

One of the governors told Vanguard that it was in the interest of the nation for the dichotomy law to be revisited so as to make more money available for what he called ‘national development’.

It was learnt that in a bid to ensure the ‘success’ of the amendment of the controversial law, some of the northern governors had prevailed on their lawmakers not only to support it but to also co-opt their ‘trusted’ southern colleagues into the campaign.

The need to recruit some southern lawmakers into the campaign, according to findings, arose because the governors came to the realization that they did not have enough members to be able to amend the law.

A Senator from one of the 19 northern states said he was aware of subterranean moves over the oil dichotomy issue and the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, but did not say whether he was approached by his governor or not.

The Senator said it was normal for governors to try to talk to their lawmakers over ‘serious national issues’ whenever the need arises and that he did not see anything wrong with lobbying in a democratic system.

Two-thirds majority

He said: “The governors have a point there. We are in a democratic dispensation, where lobbying forms a part and parcel of the political process.”

But a major setback to lawmakers from the North is that they do not have the mandatory two-thirds majority to be able to either review the law or kill the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, which they are also vehemently opposed to.

They argue that the PIB, if passed into law, would further impoverish the north and give more funds to their southern counterparts.

Vanguard gathered that in a bid to win the votes, the lawmakers have started lobbying some of their southern counterparts, whom they consider as being sympathetic to their cause.

They are said to be looking at the direction of South-West and South-East geo-political zones, whose states do not derive any significant benefit from oil proceeds and would want even a marginal adjustment for their own benefit.

The calculation by the northern lobbyists is that they could get some southern sympathizers to  change the two laws to their advantage.

The North has a total of 58 Senators out of the 109 and 191 members out of the 360 members in the House of Representatives.

For the north to be able to abrogate the oil dichotomy law, they need at least 240 members of the House of Representatives and at least 74 from the Senate to vote in their favour.

However, a PDP Senator from Akwa Ibom State, Ita Enang, has warned that any attempt by the northern governors to revisit the controversial oil issue, which had since been laid to rest, would lead to serious consequences.

Senator Enang warns Northern governors

Enang, who represents Uyo Senatorial District of Akwa Ibom State, argued, “The protagonists of the review should be ready for the consequences of their action.

They should know that any action in that regard would trigger another round of crisis in the oil sector and possibly reduce production from the present 2.7 million barrels per day to 700 barrels per day.

“But above all, whoever is championing the call for the abrogation of the oil dichotomy law, which we passed into law many years ago, should know that it is a treasonable offence. “I am saying so because treason is any act committed against the interest of the state,” Enang said.

The lawmaker berated northern states for allowing their solid minerals to be illegally exploited and the resources kept away by known persons while turning round to share in the oil proceeds from the South.

A northern Senator, Suleiman Adokwe, has however, asked for restraint on the contentious oil dichotomy issue so as not to heat up the polity.

Adokwe, who is the Senate Services Committee Chairman and represents Nasarawa South Senatorial District, said of the proposed oil dichotomy law, “It is very difficult to begin to reverse the decisions that had already been taken.

“It should not be done so as to prevent an upheaval. You can see that the oil-producing states are even asking for more funds and we are saying that what you have is good enough and you can use it to develop those littoral states if the money is well utilized.

My belief is that if the littoral states are well developed there would be spillover effect to the North and we can all share in the prosperity,” the lawmaker said.

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