'Why Nigeria’s Oil Belongs To The North' - Dr. Usman Bugaje - 9jaflaver





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‘Why Nigeria’s Oil Belongs To The North’ – Dr. Usman Bugaje



‘Why Nigeria’s Oil Belongs To The North’ – Dr. Usman Bugaje

Former presidential aide, Dr. Usman Bugaje, in this interview, speaks on the Tinubu Presidency and his misgivings about what is happening.

He did not hold hostages. He insists he criticises Tinubu because when his fellow northerner, President Muhammadu Buhari, was doing the wrong things, he spoke against it.

Bugaje can be controversial, yet you can not fault his clear-headed presentation and analysis of issues. He once said “there are no oil-producing states but the Nigerian state”, and that the “over 70% landmass of the North is what earned Nigeria the nautical miles into the sea which Nigeria enjoys and which gives the country the off-shore drilling rights,”.

In this interview, he clarified his comments with precise lucidity. He spoke about the Oronsaye report, NASS and budget padding, corruption and why he does not believe there is any light at the end of the tunnel, especially, given the way President Bola Tinubu is conducting the affairs of government. You will find Dr. Bugaje’s views are profound.

Excerpts:

If you were to give a brief assessment of what you make of the Tinubu presidency, what would you say?

It is rudderless. We don’t even seem to have any idea of where to go or where they are going.

They came with a promise of fixing the country and, apparently, they did not do their homework. They think they know, but it is now clear that they don’t know. And we are in a much deeper mess than when he started. And this blame game of saying that the regime before him had created so many problems.

Yes, this may well be true. But why are you there? Why did you apply for the job? So, these are the kinds of things that, if you are there to fix it, you should come up with ideas. In my view, I think they have no ideas. I think he should apologise to Nigerians for deepening their woes and bringing a team of people who know. When you bring your relatives and your own close associates and they appear to have clearly failed, you should admit that these people have failed and then open yourself to new ideas.

You are playing with the lives of people. People are dying because of hunger and desperation in the land; people are dying because they can no longer afford to go to the hospitals because of the rising cost of drugs. People are dying because they have no hope. Unemployment is increasing, and even those with jobs are in a very big problem because of inflation. This trial and error would appear to be the most reckless thing to do in this circumstance.

Trial and error? They appear to be trying to

(Cuts in). What I’m saying is that you can not do trial and error with the lives of the people. But because they don’t seem to have the moral consciousness to have that sense of empathy, they seem to just go about their businesses, enjoying their lives and taking good care of themselves the way they have always done in Lagos irrespective of the suffering of people.

But some of these problems had been there even before he came and, therefore, heaping the blame on him can not be considered fair in any way – insecurity, economy, forex, power supply? Some say maybe he is just unfortunate to be Nigeria’s president at the wrong time.

No! There is no wrong time for anybody who wants to correct and fix a country. It is either he is fit for the job or he is not. And from what we are seeing now, he appears not to be fit for the job. And if he wants to be fair and honest, he should admit it and open his gate for people who know. But I do not know if the people in the National Assembly would even be able to point in a better direction than the Executive. I mean the majority of them in NASS, not all of them. I want to believe there are a few of them who know what they are there to do and who mean well. The same thing goes for the Executive, there are just a very few of them who may appear to understand what is at stake who have the know-how to deal with the issues and who are sincere. The tragedy is that the few may not be near the kitchen cabinet so you end up with people who are just there for nothing. What I see that they do is just loot the treasury, and they have not even been fair enough to be transparent.

Let me cut you there. When you say loot the treasury, what do you mean, I don’t understand? They are just starting.

See what Beta Edu did. Are you not in this country?

Oh! Beta! That’s isolated, and there’s no closure yet, but she has been suspended from office?

Yes! Beta! But she has said she’s not alone. How many people take public money and put it in private accounts? She said this much. I’m not in a position to confirm whether what she said is true or not, but she said it, and they have not come out to deny it.

The other day, you stirred a controversy about Oil producing state and who should control what?

It is not a controversial statement. Go back to our constitution, which is the grund norm. Look at what it says about the ownership of natural resources. According to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the ownership of natural resources is vested in the Nigerian state itself. The idea that there is an oil producing state is at variance with our constitution. It is an idea manufactured by an ignorant mind, a mind that does not even know the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Nobody can own the oil, gold, or whatever natural resources that God has given this country, except the Nigerian state designs another process of ownership.

Going by that, then it means the Zamfara State government made away with gold meant for Nigeria?

If that’s been done in Zamfara, then it is against the constitution. How many things have they done against the constitution? I don’t support what they do there or anywhere. I go by what the constitution says, and if you don’t like it, you can change the constitution. You can’t have a constitution yet do things in the wrong way. So many wrong things are being done, not only in Zamfara but other states, things that are at variance and an affront to our constitution.

My point is that there is no oil producing state. The only oil producing state is the Nigerian state itself. The idea that there is an oil, gold, or copper producing state is out of either ignorance or impunity. The real provision is that ownership of everything under the ground within the Nigerian territory is vested in the Federal Republic, and there are rules and regulations.

But derivation is enshrined in our constitution as a way of acknowledging quasi-ownership?

Derivation is based on the fact that because extraction is being done in a particular state, it comes with the destruction of the environment. Therefore, there is a need to make resources available that would address that destruction to cushion the effects of that particular process. And it is not because it belongs to anybody. It belongs to us all, and there is a formula that recognises environmental destruction in the process of mining or drilling, particularly the spillage and the way it destroys the livelihood of fishermen.

You made a claim that 78% of oil belongs to the North?

I did say that the oil belongs to the North. However, let me explain. As we know, the constitution has made it very clear that oil and any other resources belong to the Federal Republic, yet you find some ignorant people talking about their oil. So, I said if we match that argument, we can still claim that the oil also belongs to the North. Why? Because 78% of oil in Nigeria is offshore. Due to the crisis and the environmental issues of taking oil from the land, most oil companies have found it more economical and peaceful to go through the sea. While in government, I was part of the team that was involved in the Gulf of Guinea talks (laws of the sea).

What rule did we use? We used the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea. And what did it say? It says that every state that has a border with water would have an exclusive area, meaning a zone that is exclusive for it to do its own economic and security activities, protecting its land, its territory, and fishing. But, where a country wants to extend that beyond the permitted nautical miles into the sea, there are rules and regulations that would provide for how far it can go into the sea. What is the major factor that gives it mileage into the sea? It is the landmass.

Whatever we get into the sea is as a result of our landmass as Nigeria. Now, if you divide the landmass in Nigeria, 78% of the landmass of this country belongs to the North. As you know, the whole of the South-East states can be put inside Niger. You can also put another five states in Niger and there will still be space. One state in the North can take more than two of the spaces of the total South-East. The North has the landmass. What I am saying is that if 78% of that landmass gives you that mileage into the sea where your oil comes from, the 78% of whatever mileage we get into the sea can therefore be claimed because the 78% landmass belongs to the North which is the majority. That is the argument. If they are not satisfied with this ownership, they can go to the National Assembly requesting a change in the constitution. That way, they can make the resources wherever it is found that of the state.

You talked about NASS. When you look at the processes leading up to the emergence of some of the people in NASS…

(Cuts in again) Exactly! We know this, and it is one of the most embarrassing things anyone could have imagined, and I’ve said this several times. When you elevate people who we know have active cases in EFCC and people who have active records of what happened even as a minister. And the type of things said in the open and those things were never denied, scandalous things and people like that are in NASS and you want to bring about good governance? Which good governance are you talking about? We are not ready, and this government does not appear to be ready for progress. I do not see how these people can fix the economy. How?

Talking about NASS, one of your brothers from the North raised dust in the Senate about the budget but it all turned out, at least, in the reckoning of the majority of the senators, that the claim was not true. In fact, the senate majority leader, Senator Bamidele Opeyemi, said what Ningi did amounted to a civilian coup to attempt to oust Senate President Godswill Akpabio…?

Wait a minute, Jide. I think the idea of a coup is a stupid one. The parliament is a place for debate. It is a place for different types of views. Do they mean a senator can not stand up and disagree with the Senate President, who is a colleague? The senators elected him. In fact, they can bring him under the rules of the Senate if they don’t like the way he runs it. Their rules allow them to do that. This idea of a civilian coup is a very silly one, and that senator should be ashamed of what he said. Is he suggesting that because Akpabio is the Senate President, everything he says is okay? It is a democracy and that is how it is supposed to be. He should move out to the executive because that is where there is a hierarchy. At that level, you have a president who appoints the ministers and can sack the ministers if he wants. But you can’t do that in the Senate. If they don’t like the views of a senator, they should allow the people to vote him out. Why suspend him? He is representing a constituency. Are they going to run a government without a representative of a large number of people?

But what Ningi did…

Ningi was basically alerting the Senate to things that were wrong. Why was the mic being switched off ? It was because they didn’t want us to hear what was being said. As representatives of the people, we should hear them. Why is the mic there? If you are putting off the mic, it means that you are hiding something.

Why should you hide? This is a public office, and public resources were being discussed. They are not private matters. Somebody was alerting the whole country to the fact that there is a lot of stealing, hiding, and cheating in the budget. If they think what he is saying is wrong, then they should prove it. To shut him out or suspend him is basically saying he is correct, and what you are doing is wrong. It is time that the Nigerian citizens who the senators claimed elected them know exactly what is happening. They should rise against these senators who are stealing their public resources.

I have been in the House of Representatives, and this issue of constituency projects remains very controversial and is an avenue for corruption. Even in our own time, I know what they do. When the project is inserted into the budget , the legislator chooses what his or her people require, whether hospital, water, or road. When the amount is put in that particular ministry, it is not the business of the National Assembly to know even who the contractor is. Their business is to ensure that constituency projects are executed and also speak to the ministry about the budget as well as overseeing what is being done. What I know, even in our own time, is that members will go to the ministry to present a contractor who will collect the money and in most cases, they don’t do the job at all or they do it halfway. They then share the rest of the money and give the contractor his commission. This is a practice I know for sure has been taking place. I know it has become worse over the years. A lot of this money ends up in the pockets of the senators. Because politics has become cash and carry, they are putting together funds for the next election to the detriment of the country, the destruction of the country.

Why do we have armed robbery, banditry, and Boko Haram? It is precisely because of the actions of these legislators. Rather than have public resources go into developing the communities, the money is being pocketed. Hence, development does not take place. People are hungry, and they are not being fed. They become frustrated, go to the bush, pick up arms, and start killing innocent people. This is what is called horizontal violence because it doesn’t affect the people who are stealing the money and creating all these. These legislators are well protected by police with guns all the time. They live in posch places, very secure areas, and they are not affected by that.

These issues you have raised about democracy and development are disturbing. If democracy is good for us, are we good for democracy at all?

You’re right, Jide. It calls to question the democracy we practise in Nigeria. Of what use is this democracy if it can not provide food for the ordinary person? Of what use is this democracy if it can not provide security? Of what use is it if it can not provide healthcare, good schools for the future of this country? Of what use is it if it can not meet the expectations of the people? The people are now saying to hell with this democracy! What have we gained from it? Politicians get into office and start stealing money, impoverishing the country and leaving us high and dry. Is this the kind of democracy we want? I pray that bandits will not come out of the bush one day and do the type of thing happening in Haiti with the way these politicians are behaving.

The cumulative effect of past bad governance is what we are seeing now. At least, you would agree with me on that.

But, unfortunately, the bad governance that is being done now is not any better than the bad governance that preceded this administration. It appears to be worse than the bad governance that we saw before. The issue is about the bad governance of today. Okay, look at the yacht that was bought for the president. Are you here for a picnic or for fun?

But the process of the purchase of the yacht was said to have begun even before he came in.

A serious leader could have stopped it. What kind of irresponsibility is that? How come it was even paid for before the budgetary approval? Couldn’t the president have stopped the process even for the symbolism of it? Is that not an insult to NASS? Those ones just simply ratified it. This confirms the fears of the people that we have a rubber stamp NASS.

Look at their party. For goodness sake, look at the leadership of the party. You are aware of somebody’s pictures that went around the world collecting dollars and putting in the pocket. Come on! What is wrong with us as a people? You know what I’m talking about, Jide. Is that the leadership of a party that you want to be proud of? At least the videos are still on the internet, and everyone can see somebody collecting dollars and putting them in his pocket. What we are telling the world is that we do not care about corruption. That means it is just a party of corrupt people. Is that not shameful? It presents us as corrupt people.

You’ve seen a bit of Nigeria in terms of governance and in terms of scholarship. How do we navigate and chart a pathway for progress?

You see, there are a lot of government documents that I came across that have provided ideas of how to get out of this.

The problems have been two things: One, these people do not even read and understand these documents. Two, clearly, their minds are not there. And they are not able to implement it. All these nepotistic appointments do not show that this government is ready for fresh and progressive ideas. Almost all the financial institutions have been filled by people from their own part of the country. Isn’t this a shame?

Before you go any further doc, Buhari did this and did even worse?

So, if Buhari has done something wrong, you, too, must do something wrong? Isn’t that silly? Some of us are able to confront this particular nepotistic move because when Buhari did it, some of us came out and confronted Buhari about the silliness of such appointments, and we took him on on this basis. So, I can do it to anybody else who exhibits these terrible tendencies.







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