By Charles Kumolu

Rights activist, Chief Rita Lori-Ogbebor, has frowned on former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s statement that oil in the Niger Delta belongs to Nigeria and not the region, saying the former leader must have been motivated by patriotism.

She said while it is not in dispute that government has constitutional rights over resources in the country, the oil in the Niger Delta belongs to the zone also.

Lori-Ogbebor, who said this in a chat with newsmen in Lagos, called on the federal government to urgently address the rising cost of doing business in the country.

She lamented that businesses are shutting down, adding that urgent steps must be taken to stop what she described as an imminent collapse of the informal sector in 2022.

She said: “When I was away, there was this controversy that former President Olusegun Obasanjo said the oil in Niger Delta belongs to Nigeria. I have been uncomfortable because people of the Niger Delta expected me to say something about it, partly because people think Chief Obasanjo is my friend. Chief Obasanjo like I have always said was my president, I have never gone to him before for a contract. He has never given me a contract.

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‘’Chief Obasanjo as I know him, we have always fought over issues on the Niger Delta, especially when we were to create the Niger Delta Development Commissioner (NDDC). One thing I know about him is that he is a very patriotic person. He will say anything to defend Nigeria. People may see his statement on Niger Delta as reckless but that is who Chief Obasanjo is, he can say anything to defend Nigeria, he does not believe in ethnicity. All Obasanjo knows is Nigeria.

“He would say anything to defend the country. He feels that Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba should not be emphasized but our country, Nigeria. He has said on several occasions that he prefers being addressed as a Nigerian to being addressed as a Yoruba.

“ He was saying his mind not that he did not see or know that the oil belongs to the people of Niger Delta. For instance, he cannot say that as a farmer, his farm produces belong to Nigeria or anybody else. What he was saying is that he doesn’t want unnecessary divisions and any form of scrambling among Nigerians.

“According to the constitution, the oil belongs to Nigeria. He supported the Niger Delta. We worked together for the establishment of the NDDC. How can he now say that the issue he resolved, after listening to our problems and begging us to give peace a chance, that the oil belongs to Nigeria? Of course, the oil belongs to the people of the Niger Delta. The people of the Niger Delta are already hurt as a result of the effects of oil exploration in the region.

“I am not defending Chief Obasanjo but the lousy statement was born out of patriotism. He doesn’t want any tribe to separate from Nigeria. He wants a united Nigeria. He said what he said because it is in his character to see Nigeria remain as one. But may I tell him, Baba, we are on a crossroad again, oil belongs to the Niger Delta. I know you are genuine.’’

On the cost of doing business, she said: “There is trouble coming.   This government did not start this problem but must solve it. Today, people are crying across the country because they cannot afford the kind of life they were living. Prices of everything including foodstuff are increasing on an hourly basis. Ritalori hotels have been in the hospitality business for the past 56 years. Never in its years of existence has it experienced the current high cost of operations.

“We, the middle class, are the main engine of the country’s economy because we know and accept bad governance and try to do something about it. As people are crying, we too are crying. The federal government should know that the situation in the country is bad. They intend to remove subsidies but it is wrong because those advising government to do that don’t know our problems. The government is looking up to oil companies instead of small scale businesses. They are wrong. We, the middle class are the ones holding this country.’’

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