A close examination of some laws made in Nigeria point to the fact that the rights of the minorities over the control of their natural resources have been removed. At no time was this more noticeable than the military era. The truth however, is that military decrees inherited by a civilian government become enactments of the National Assembly except and until amended or repealed by it (National Assembly). The greatest victim of these decrees (laws) is the people of the Niger Delta. And oil, the major revenue earner in Nigeria, is found in the Niger Delta region of the country.
Before tge discovery of oil in Olobiri in 1956 and later in other parts of the Niger Delta region, what was the position? Elsewhere in this memorandum, especially the topics on True Federalism, Resource Control and Revenue allocation, reference was made to the emphasis on the derivation principle. Those were the glorious days of the groundnut pyramids, hides and skin (North), palm kernel and palm oil(Mid West), coal(East), cocoa(West), timber, rubber. The derivation principle in operation, these products became the main foreign exchange earners in Nigeria. The Constitution (1960-1963) provided for the federation to pay each Region 50% (fifty percent) of the proceeds of any royalty recieved by the Federation ‘Minerals’ included mineral oil.
With the discovery of oil in commercial quantities in Niger Delta region of Nigeria, the political equilibrum suddenly somersaulted. A plethora of decrees (laws) all schemed to expropriate the rights of the minorities surfaced.
First was the Petroleum Decree 1969 which was given validity in the 1979 Constitution. The Land Use Decree 1978 was smuggled into ( Section 274 (5) (d) of the 1979 Constitution. It gave the Federal Government the rights to extract minerals from the land, thus completely changing the land tenure system against the Niger Deltans. Several other decrees were promulgated primarily to deprive the oil rich zone of Niger Delta of their God-given resource-oil. The Civilian Regimes ( 1963 Republican Constitution, 1979 Third Republic Constitution and even The Fourth Republic 1999 Constitution) have not fared better. There are contradictions in the 1999 Constitution. For instance , Section 44. Contrast Section 44 (1) and (2) which provides compensation for compulsory acquisition of property, contradicts Section 44 (3) which vests “the entire poperty in and control of all minerals, mineral oils and natural gas in the exclusive economic zone of Nigeria, in the Government of the federation”. It accordingly expropriates all the properties of the mineral producing areas at not 99.9% but 100%. What is the essence of Chapter 4 – Fundamental Human Rights, in the face of such deprivations.
The effects of these laws, to say the least, are oppressive, suppressive, exploitative and manipulative. The victims are the minority oil producing states who still live in abject poverty and suffer various pollutions to their environment from various international companies sucking their oil dry without given anything back, not even the decency of dicarding their waste properly or developing the very environ in which they make billions of dollars.
Those who stand to gain are the majority non-oil producing states. Were the reverse the case and were oil be found in the majority states in commercial quantities, the pendulum would definitely swing in their favour. These obnoxious laws would be no more. But God can never be mocked, He knows best so He stores the Black Gold in the neglected swamps and mangrove forests of the Niger Delta Region.
In the new Nigeria we are fashioning for ourselves, these obnoxious laws or decrees (or whatever names they are called) should no longer be seen in our Constitution or statute books, we must solve problems from the root, if you want to fell a tree and you cut its branches only it will still grow back. The government have used pieces of papers to patch broken pipes by offering amnesty to millitants who have stood up to fight for the rights of the Niger Delta to have control over their oil.
Hence the call for the abolishment of these obnoxious laws (solving matters from its root)
(I) The Petroleum Decree 1969 (CAP 351 LFN 1990)
(II) Oil Terminal Dues Act (CAP 339)
(III) The Land Use Act (CAP 202 LFN 1990)
(IV) Exclusive Economic Zone Act (CAP 116 LFN 1990)
(V) Petroleum Profit Tax Act (CAP 354)
(VI) Lands ( Title Vesting etc.) Decree No. 52 of 1993
(VII) National Inland Water Ways Authority Decree No. 13 of 1997
(VII) Association Gas Re-Injection Act (CAP 26)
(IX) The Oil in Navigable Water Act (CAP 337)
Politics , it is agreed, is a game of numbers. A game where majority oppresses the minority is no good game. True Democracy frowns at this. Equity, fairness and justice do not support it either. A law is nolaw if it is intended to purnish the minority states in favour of the majority states of Nigeria. A law is no law if it cannot be implemented. Such laws can at best be described as white elephants in our statute books. Nigeria has to contend with massive resistance and determined restiveness in the Niger Delta as long as these laws remain. Half-hearted measures are not enough, pretence is no answer. Leaders who have no conscience shall sleep no more till they blend their words with action.
Posted by Aduari Tekena. Teks4u200@gmail.com