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Obasanjo/Clark letters raise more divergent views

By Godwin Ijediogor (South-South Bureau Chief), Monday Osayande (Asaba) and Julius Osahon (Yenagoa)
31 December 2021   |   4:11 am
Dust raised by ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo’s response to a letter to him by Ijaw leader and former information minister, Chief Edwin Clark, over who owns mineral resources in the region and indeed Nigeria, is yet to settle.

[File] Edwin Kiagbodo Clark

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Dust raised by ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo’s response to a letter to him by Ijaw leader and former information minister, Chief Edwin Clark, over who owns mineral resources in the region and indeed Nigeria, is yet to settle.

Rather, individuals from the Niger Delta area have expressed fresh divergent views on the matter, with some stakeholders urging caution.

Obasanjo had, on Tuesday, in a six-page response to Clark’s accusation, in an open letter about a week ago, accusing him of a deep-seated disdain for the people of the oil-producing region, insisted that the oil found in the region belongs to Nigeria, constitutionally, but denied accusation of being against the oil-producing region.

Also, Clark, who is the leader of the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the INC, had in his open letter, said Obasanjo’s comments that oil found in the Niger Delta did not belong to the people of the region represented his continuous arrogant stance and negative disposition against Niger Delta.

In their reactions, some stakeholders, including spokesman for the Ijaw Youth Congress (IYC), Ebilade Ekerefe; National President of Niger Delta Nonviolence Agitators Forum (NDNAF), Wisdom Ikuli and social and environmental activist, Morris Alagoa, expressed divergent views on the lingering controversy.

While Ekerefe urged caution because of the personalities involved and their contributions to national development, Ikuli insisted that majority of Nigerians are sentimental and tribalistic, such that they often look at issues from a myopic point of view instead of being holistic.

Alagoa stressed the need for Nigeria to take a more holistic view on the subject matter to ensure equal rights and justice.

He stated: “I didn’t see the action of Clark and Obasanjo as something that is strange. Most Niger Deltans, who take interest in our welfare and the resources found in our environment, know too well that the Land Use Decree is one of the laws referred to as obnoxious, and that law is associated with Obasanjo’s military administration.

“If Obasanjo says ownership of resources is nationally owned, how has the Nigerian nation owned the oil industry induced pollution, the gas leaks, explosions and continuing oil spills in the Niger Delta? Ownership should be in assets and liabilities.

“Ordinarily, a nation claiming ownership of such volatile resources ought to have effective contingency arrangements to ensure it takes full responsibility for all negative impacts therefrom, primarily for environmental sustainability and justice.”

According to him, Nigeria has not shown sufficiently that she has interest in anything else apart from ceaseless exploitation of the resources and the profit from doing so.

Ekerefe, on his part, described Obasanjo as a respected elder statesman in Nigeria who has contributed to the socio-economic well being of the county, saying that and as a social cultural group from the Niger Delta, the group would not be quick to response to him.

“He is entitled to his own views, but his views do not represent what Niger Delta people feel on the resources from the region being used to sustain the economy of this country. Like, I said, we will be coming out with a holistic position after consulting with leaders and critical stakeholders across the region.”

A former secretary of Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Asaba Branch, Mr. F. I. Bidebra, said the likes of Obasanjo are the architects of the problems of Nigeria, saying if actually Nigeria is a better place, Clark cannot be talking about the resources in the Niger Delta being owned by people from Niger Delta, as his reaction to the problems in the area was basically due to “the injustice being experienced daily in the region, which had badly affected and still affecting us, despite the resources available to us.