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Time to remove insincerity from resource control

By Bayo Ogunmupe
07 January 2022   |   2:41 am
Now is the time to remove our politicians’ penchant for insincerity from the resource control controversy. Because this is the time to begin again; time to review the 1999 Constitution

[FILES] A farmer walks on a marshy shore of a river polluted by oil spills at B-Dere, Ogoniland in Rivers State on August 23, 2021. – Oil firm Shell has agreed to compensate the Ejamah community and three villages in the Ogoni community in the southern oil and gas-rich Niger Delta, which recently won $11 million in compensation to the community over a 1970’s spill that polluted over 225 hectares of their farmlands and fishing waters. (Photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP)

Now is the time to remove our politicians’ penchant for insincerity from the resource control controversy. Because this is the time to begin again; time to review the 1999 Constitution in order that Nigeria may survive.

Unknown to many, possibly owing to ignorance, carelessness or perversity, the 1999 Constitution is a unitary document rather than a federal constitution. In fact, the people didn’t realise the enormity of atrocity committed against federalism until the advent of the Buhari nepotism.

 
With the ongoing environmental degradation in the oil-producing Niger Delta region, anyone with any sense of justice will sympathise with the challenges facing oil-producing areas. It is in anger for the neglect of the Niger Delta that Chief Edwin Clark proclaimed that the monthly allocation to each of the 36 states of the federation comes from oil revenue from the Niger Delta. However, that Nigeria solely depends on minerals produced from the Niger Delta is well known. That no change has been effected on the Constitution over resource control since 1999 is an indictment on the Niger Delta elite. They have been corruptly enriched by the opponents of resource control.
 
Yet for another time, it is proper to put the insincerity of resource control supporters in proper perspective. The 1999 Constitution has provisions for the ownership of natural resources, oil, solid minerals like gold and gas. This is why section (162(2) of the 1999 Constitution provides a revenue-sharing formula for states with natural resources being exploited within their territory. The 1999 Constitution grants them a percentage of the revenue accruing to the federation account from their territory.
 
Although the revenue allocation principles of the Constitution include population, equality of states, landmass, land terrain and population density, the Constitution is hardly adhered to; resource control contenders are often bought off with juicy contracts, ministerial positions or the amnesty programme.

Even then with other regions such as South West, South East and North Central where rivers are rampant, offshore resources are placed under the Federal Government without qualms. It is noteworthy that this matter was laid to rest in 2002 with the landmark Supreme Court case between the Federal Attorney General and the Attorney General of Abia State and 35 others.
 
The court reaffirmed federal control over the resources of the states offshore and the adjacent continental shelf on Nigeria’s coast. That the Supreme Court reaffirmed the anti-federalism of the 1999 Constitution never prompted the federalists to amend the Constitution. As long as graft in dollars is rolling into bank accounts of our governors and legislators, federalism can go to blazes. That federalism has not been reinstated as Nigeria’s accepted form of government is proof of insincerity by our politicians. And when you practice insincerity as a habit; it gradually becomes ingrained in you. You no longer recognise you are being insincere to yourself as you are doing to others. Which is why our political office holders are not ashamed of not delivering their promises to the people.

 
It is my long-held view that Nigerians have been made lazy by oil money; that they only read to pass exams. This is why studying creative problem solving, doing personal research have not empowered them to increase the tally of one Nobel prizewinner to 200 million people as against the nation-state of Israel with 14 Nobel laureates to 8.06 million people. That is why they never recognised the flaws in the 1999 Constitution until herdsmen attempted exterminating the people of Oyo State and massacred thousands in Benue and Plateau states.
 
According to current protocols, oil-producing states get 13 per cent of Nigeria’s oil revenue account. But from where did Clark get his idea that derivation should be increased to 25 per cent. From what obtains in the most prosperous federations we know: the United States and Germany; the states own their oil, offshore or not; their mineral resources and their ports. The federal authorities only tax them. It is the intellectual weakness and lack of courage that have robbed federalists and resource control advocates from achieving their goal of true federalism through constitutional review.
 
Though Nigeria has depended on oil to date; she has been borrowing to finance her budget from other countries and internally. Of the 2022 budget, 38 per cent will be funded through external loans. Revenue from oil will pay 35 per cent of the budget. The governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria has indicated publicly how it prints money to lend to the Federal Government. The International Monetary Fund has provided loans to Nigeria to breeze through the COVID19 pandemic.
 
Since it will take a quarter-century before an indigene of Niger Delta takeover the helms as chief executive of the federation, it is better to predicate cleaning of oil spill on amending the Constitution for true federation rather than looking for someone as president who would stop gas flaring in order to stop killing crops, stop polluting water and damaging human health. But Nigeria can effect the needed change if we desire it. The necessary Constitutional change to true federalism can be achieved within a week.
 
According to his pamphlet “To save Nigeria: Let’s Talk,” the late legal luminary and doyen of Nigerian journalism, Prince Tony Momoh said the forum is the Council of State. This is provided for by Section 153 (1) (b) of the 1999 Constitution. The Council has power to discuss any matter referred to it by the President. The President should table before the Council of State the problem behind the present structure which the military imposed.
 

“He should tell the Council the high cost of running the government and show that we cannot grow or develop at the rate we are going. A restructuring that would slim down the system of government and lead to more accountability should be presented for discussion.” When the Council agrees that we should make sacrifices, for growth and national greatness and prosperity, the Federal Attorney General and his colleagues in the states will prepare necessary documents that will reflect changes needed.
 
Then, the documents will be sent to the lawmakers at the National Assembly and state assemblies through the appropriate channels of the members of the Council of State – the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives for passing into law by the National Assembly without debate. The governors of the states will pass it to the state assemblies for endorsement. Section 9 of the Constitution settles the procedure for doing this. This is the way forward for the President in 2023 and the only way to save Nigeria.