The Ijaw Youths Council, IYC, on Wednesday clashed with a one-time National Secretary of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria, Dr. Usman Bugaje over comments attributed to him that the oil resources in the Niger Delta are owned by the North.
Bugaje, who was one of the lead speakers at the Northern Leaders Conference in Kano, on Tuesday, sequel to the proposed National Conference, stated that “there are no oil producing states”, arguing that “the only oil producing state is the Nigerian state itself”.
Mr. Bugaje, at the conference allegedly said that under a United Nations, UN, law the oil resources in the Niger Delta are owned by the North. He was alleged to have said that offshore territorial boundary was determined by land mass of which 72 per cent is in the North.
He further maintained, “What they claim is the off shore oil is actually the oil of the North” contending that “we should stop using these terms that have no sense at all. There are no oil producing states”.
But his comments has drawn the ire of the IYC, which described the views allegedly put forward by Mr. Bugage as provocative, false and misleading.
In a statement issued on Wednesday in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital, the spokesperson of the IYC, Eric Omare, said the claim by Mr. Bugage was baseless and deceitful, saying the land mass of a country is not a consideration in determining its maritime boundary.
“Dr. Usman Bugaje’s statement is reckless, provocative, baseless, misleading and displays the highest level of ignorance. It is disappointing that such a statement could come from a Northern elite such as Dr. Usman Bugaje. To the IYC, such a misleading statement coming from an elite such as Dr. Bugaje brings to the fore the reason behind most of barbaric acts coming from that part of the country.
“Contrary to Usman Bugaje’s assertion, the IYC wish to state that there is no United Nations Law which states that the maritime boundary of a country is determined by the land mass of the country.
“For the records, there is nowhere in Articles 3, 5, 57 and 76 of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) where it is stated that the landmass of a coastal state determines its mileage into the sea or its maritime boundary.
“The United Nations Law of the Sea which is the primary law which determines the maritime boundary of coastal states defines the Exclusive Economic Zone and the Continental Shelf to be up to 200 nautical lines measured from its baseline which is the low water mark along the coast.
“Hence, the land mass of a country is not a consideration in determining its maritime boundary.
“Therefore, Dr. Bugaje’s statement is a deliberate ploy to mislead his northern brothers to prepare the ground to oppose the legitimate demand of the Niger Delta people to control their resources at the forthcoming National Conference”, the statement stated.
The IYC maintained that the derivation principle which recognizes the oil bearing states as owners of the resources was based on equity and fairness.