Former President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Anthony Cardinal Olubunmi Okogie, has criticized former President Olusegun Obasanjo for claiming that the country’s mineral resources belong to the federal government regardless of where they are located.
The previous Catholic Archbishop of Lagos claimed that the Niger Delta’s petroleum riches belong to the people.
This comes after the Founder/Executive Director of Egalitarian Mission of Africa, Olukayode Ajulo, said the Federal Government was just holding the natural riches in trust, while the communities where they were located were the “de facto” proprietors.
Obasanjo had lambasted the National Secretary of the Ijaw National Congress, Ebipamowei Wodu, after the latter’s outburst during a peace and security meeting held by the Global Peace Foundation and Vision Africa a few weeks earlier.
Despite generating the oil and gas resources that have supported Nigeria, Wodu remarked at the event that the Ijaw are considered as second-class people.
In an open letter to Obasanjo on December 22, the leader of the Pan-Niger Delta Forum, Chief Edwin Clark, took a shot at the former President, stating that his disdain for the people of Nigeria’s oil-producing states was disappointing.
However, in an open letter to Clark, the former president refuted the older statesman’s accusation that he despised the people of the Niger Delta because of resource control agitation.
Joining the debate on Friday, Okogie backed PANDEF and INC in a statement sent to Saturday PUNCH, titled ‘We Want to Know Who Owns the Oil?’
The vocal cleric partly said, “The owners of the land own whatever is on the land or under the land. To deprive them of that right is to be patently unjust. Only a regime of imperialist intent would do such a thing.
“Unfortunately, this has been the Nigerian narrative from the advent of British imperialist colonialists until the current dispensation. The British came, conquered the land around the Niger and its peoples, declared amalgamation, and handed it over to a state-operated on imperialist logic. That logic is that the land and the peoples belong to the state.
“When President Obasanjo made his recent declaration that the oil in the Niger Delta belongs to Nigeria, one cannot but recall that he, as a military ruler and head of the remnant of the mutinous soldiers of July 29, 1966, presided over the final redaction of the constitution that places control of Nigeria’s oil under the control of the government at the centre — one hesitates to call it a Federal Government because what obtains in this country today cannot be honestly described as federalism.
“The inclusion of mineral resources on the Exclusive Legislative List in the 1979 and 1999 Constitutions effectively legitimises the unjust deprivation to which the people of Nigeria have been subjected for decades. The declaration that Niger Delta oil belongs to Nigeria justifies the imperialist intent of the final redactors of the 1979 Constitution.”
Okogie added, “As we all know, the Niger Delta that produces the oil has turned out to be one of the poorest, if not the poorest region of Nigeria. Proceeds from the sale of Niger Delta oil have been used and are still being used to service the expensive but ineffective government that the twin constitutions have imposed on Nigerians.
“President Obasanjo’s declaration, as disturbing as it is, reminds us of an act of injustice that urgently needs to be redressed, and that is: Nigeria is not set up to benefit the regional, ethnic or religious community to which government functionaries belong; Nigeria is set up to benefit the elite from these communities.
“Whichever section of the elite gains access to corridors of power in Abuja or state capitals or local government areas, gains access to Nigeria’s oil wealth. That is why our elections are muddy and bloody.
“Contrary to President Obasanjo’s declaration, the oil in the Niger Delta does not belong to Nigeria, neither does it belong to the state or local governments in that region. It belongs to the people of the region. Land belongs to the people, not to the government.
“The resources on the land – any land; not just the Niger Delta – belong to the people and not to the government. Nigeria’s problems became greater when the government decided to get into the oil business. That is the major contributing factor to corruption, poverty and insecurity.”
The retired cleric argued that forming a political union in which any Nigerian may dwell and acquire property anywhere in the country, do business, and contribute to the common welfare was in the best interests of the people.
“But the current imperialist constitution, predicated on President Obasanjo’s recent declaration, needs to undergo far-reaching amendments. Not to do so is to continue to provoke cries of marginalisation. It is to allow the wounds of corruption, insecurity, and poverty to fester,” he said.