Clark, Obasanjo Niger Delta

By Braeyi Ekiye

A few weeks ago, Elder Statesman, Chief Edwin Clark, Leader of the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) had cause to castigate his political associate and longstanding friend, former president Olusegun Obasanjo over the latter’s views at a public conference in Abuja that the crude oil in the Niger Delta belonged to Nigeria and not to the region and her people.

Clark, who took great exception to Obasanjo’s claim, condemned in very strong terms the stand of Obasanjo on this issue. It would be recalled that, so insistent was Obasanjo on his assertion, he continuously interrupted Chief Clark’s representative at the forum, the Ijaw National Congress Secretary- General.

The INC Secretary-General had barely spoken on the need for equity and justice in the system of revenue allocation and the entrenchment of Resource Control, when the former president interruption came repeatedly with a bang on the table in anger and desperation, and to the consternation of dignitaries on the high table and the audience.

Chief Clark described Obasanjo’s outburst not only as a rude shock and unstatesmanly   but disappointing. Clark further accused former President Obasanjo for displaying hate attitude against the people of the oil producing areas of Nigeria. 

The event which attracted Clark’s anger was a Summit on Peace and Security, organized by a group, Global Peace Foundation, on Monday 13th December, 2021 in Abuja, the Federal Capital of Nigeria.

Chief Clark said the former President’s argument that resources are placed in the soil by God, and that it was free for all to exploit and appropriate, is an invitation to chaos and anarchy in the country. 

Chief Obasanjo in his characteristic manner has since debunked Clark’s pungent accusations against him, saying that, he stood by what he said at the forum.

Chief Obasanjo said, his outburst was in line with the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution on appointments and resource control. The former President denied claims that he hated the people of the Niger Delta origin, adding that he had never shown any anger or distraught  with Niger Delta region nor any part of Nigeria.

In the concluding portions of his reaction to Clark, the former Nigerian President advised that it would be better for Niger Deltans to think, adjust and negotiate to achieve better results than dictation in matters of greater inclusiveness and right to resource control and self-determination.

The crux of the matter here, however, is General Obasanjo’s insistence that the oil and gas resources in the Niger Delta region belong to Nigeria and not the region and her indigenous people.  Any discerning mind and lovers of justice should be appalled by this hollow thinking and assumption of our revered General. The General should be reminded that Nigeria is a federation; even though it is being run as a unitary government with dictatorial tendencies. 

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For long, Nigerians have cried out against this Unitary System of Government being practiced in the nation since late General Aguiyi Ironsi’s Decree 34 of 1966. It is crystal clear that Nigeria purports to be a federation but in practice, she is not. There are roughly twenty five countries operating Federal Constitutions in the world. They include some of the largest democracies and advanced economies. Notable among them are: The United States of America, India, Germany, Russia, Canada, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, Australia, Mexico, Brazil and Belgium.

Former president Olusegun Obasanjo should mention one such federation that has hijacked the resources of its federating components, and wilfully appropriated and misappropriated the proceeds from these resources belonging to parts of the federating units in these countries? Where in the world a President would have powers to allocate oil blocks and other juicy facilities to whoever he pleases, throwing overboard international best practices in such sensitive matters?

There are fourteen prominent obnoxious and unjustly coercive laws, among others, that constitute the legal frame work of the familiar imperial mechanism laws in Nigeria in respect of petroleum ownership. It has been demonstrated assertively that these laws and constitutions governing ownership, control and management of oil and gas resources in Nigeria are copied verbatim from colonial laws. So, it can safely be said, that the colonial oppression, repression, co-ercion, exploitation, injustice selfishness and rights emasculation that were inherent in colonialism, and replicated in the imperial mechanism laws of Nigeria are still embedded in the falsely christened Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Clearly, Barr. Alex Moro, author of “Ownership of Petroleum in Nigeria” was right when he said in his book that: “These laws and constitutions governing petroleum in Nigeria are lifted from colonialism”. And that, they contain the vices in colonialism such as the offensive adjectives describing these obnoxious laws as earlier stated in this write-up.

In the same breath, you can see clearly in Section 44 (3) of the Nigerian 1999 Constitution of the carry-over mentality of Laws and Acts of Colonialism, 62 years after Nigeria’s independence. 

Barr. Moro in his book stated thus and I quote:  “Notwithstanding the foregoing provision of this section, the entire property in and control of all minerals, minerals oil and natural gas in under or upon any land in Nigeria or in under or upon territorial waters and the Exclusive Economic Zone of Nigeria shall vest in the Government of the Federation and shall be managed in such manner as may be prescribed by the National Assembly”.

It is also not surprising that Author, Alexander Moro further stated in his book that  ownership of petroleum in Nigeria vested in the Federal Government is a violation of the principle of Federalism. The writer posited that, as a Federation, Nigeria’s Federal Government has no single drop of oil or gas in the Niger Delta region.

Another offensive Law is in the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) in Section 2 which violates the ownership rights of petroleum resources of Niger Deltans. It is an archaic and coercive colonial law lifted or copied into the 1999 Nigerian Constitution.

Those who stand upon and act on these unjust and obnoxious laws of the Federation know that they and their lot have continued to strangle the nation, rendering her search for equity and justice impotent since 1966, from when the military took over political power up until now that we are practicing a semblance of democracy.

That, General Obasanjo superintended over the affairs of this nation as Military Head of State and later as a two-term civilian President and could not see the EVIL in these laws, designed to conquer a people and deny them of their political and economic rights and privileges speak volumes of the national Leadership quality Nigeria has unfortunately been blessed with, since her independence in 1960. 

No amount of intrigues can daunt the fighting spirit of the Niger Deltans on their legitimately justified demand for resource control and self-determination. The Power Block’s high sounding and clanging cymbals and trumpets of hypocrisy, greed, avarice and thievery at the expense of the owners of these resources in the Niger Delta will in no way sway Niger Deltans from negotiating the just cause of a people who unfortunately found themselves in a hostile political and economic climate and landscape called Nigeria.

Our most respected and revered Elder Statesman and former President’s views on this matter of ownership of petroleum resources clearly represent the unpleasant stance and disposition of Nigeria’s ruling ‘Power Block’ against the people of the Niger Delta. That, this Group and her allies from within and outside are oblivious of the monumental environmental damages, including the depreciation of health and death of her people, poverty, hunger and stunted infrastructural growth and holistic development, piques the mind.

What the people of the Niger Delta are asking for is: Equity, fairness and justice in the Nigerian State. This brings to mind the clamour for a restructured Nigerian State based on True Fiscal Federalism, and the dismantling of the fraudulent 1999 Nigerian Constitution and crafting of a new one to accommodate the aspirations of all Nigerians. A Document that we can truly affirm to. And a Document that would pave the way for a truly United, Peaceful and Progressive   Nigerian State. And a Document that would give Nigerians a sense of balance, and above all, a sense of nationalism  to spur them to proudly identify themselves as Nigerians.

Braeyi Ekiye is Publisher of Environment Watch and writes from Yenagoa.

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