Former vice-chancellor, Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, Prof Ango Abdullahi, has decried the role played by northern legislators and some governors regarding the law on onshore/offshore dichotomy, claiming that some of them compromised their positions during the passage of the controversial law.
Abdullahi, who is also the spokesperson of the Northern Elders Forum (NEF), further claimed that the legislators and some governors received bribes to enable the law sail through. There is need to review the law, he said. Abdullahi spoke during an interview with the Hausa Service of the Voice of America (VOA).
He said: “It is a known fact that any resources found on land or in water belongs to the whole country, not just people that come from that particular area. That is to say all the oil wells we have in the various states in this country belongs to the whole of Nigeria. ”
Commenting on the role played by the legislators and some governors during the passage of the law, Abdullahi said: “It has been like that up to the year 2004; some unpatriotic northern legislators were bribed with billions of naira into passing that law which they claimed was read up to three times before it was taken to President Olusegun Obasanjo, who at first refused to approve it.
He pointed out that it was not only Nigerian law that was broken but international law. “Representatives and governors from the north knew what to do and yet they decided to ignore their responsibilities; now they are the ones making noise on how the north is losing N30billion every month. I’m sure the billions that were secretly given to them in the night to betray us must have finished. That must be the reason why they are protesting – they are broke.”
Excerpts from the interview translated:
Residents of the oil-rich states are complaining that oil exploration is destroying their environment. What is your take on this?
It is actually true that the drilling is destroying all these things, and that is why they are being allocated 13% of the budget. I am part of those who reluctantly agreed on the 13% in 1994 at the constitutional conference.
The late Shehu Yar’Adua pleaded with us to agree on 13% because of the destruction on their farms, fishing places and homes. Even before the 13% was decided, Rivers State or Bayelsa was getting N7billion every month and they only had like 1.5 million residents, while Kaduna State had like 6 million residents and was getting only N2billion per month. This is not fair.
Sir, if the onshore/offshore dichotomy was to be brought back, by how much percentage do you think the north can get an increase on?
I cannot really say for now, but I can say that we would be able get an increase of up to 25% out of 100% every month.
What you are saying is that the north is being cheated in the allocation?
That is right and you can also say that it is also our fault. If you want to be treated fairly, you should be fair and honest with yourself. During Obasanjo’s tenure, our representatives from the north – two speakers and quite a number of ministers in Obasanjo’s cabinet – presented him with the bill which he refused to approve but later on gave his assent because he wanted to get the oil-rich states’ support for his second term bid.
Are you insinuating that the north was to blame for their problems and not Obasanjo?
I personally do not blame Obasanjo on this issue, even though I don’t like his way of doing things and I don’t think he is a nice person. Even with that, I don’t blame him because he refused to approve the bill at first. Our northern leaders forced him into giving his assent to it. So he saw an opportunity and he used it. You can’t blame him for that. They didn’t care what the result of what they were doing would bring as they were only after their selfish interest.
Sir, how do you think the north will resolve its economic problem if the onshore/offshore doesn’t work out?
Even if the onshore/offshore works out, it is not going to be enough to solve the economic crisis of the north. Before this oil came into existence, the north had been successfully taking care of the economic activities of this country with farming. Farming has been in Nigeria before independence and 15 years later. If we had continued with that trade in the north, I believe we would not have cared if there was petroleum or not; it wouldn’t have bothered us one bit.