Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has faulted the reaction of leader of the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) and Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Ijaw National Congress (IJC), Chief Edwin Clark, insisting that oil found in the Niger Delta region belongs to Nigeria constitutionally as the fiery exchange between the two elder statesmen continued on Tuesday.
Responding to Clark’s earlier comments, Obasanjo argued that the constitution did not confer ownership of oil and other mineral resources on any of the then regions.
Clark had in an open letter issued a week ago lambasted Obasanjo over his comments at the forum convened by the Global Peace Foundation and Vision Africa in Abuja.
The former president, while speaking at the forum attacked the National Secretary of the INC, Ebipamowei Wodu for saying the Ijaw were being treated like second class citizens in Nigeria despite producing the oil and gas resources that had sustained the country.
Obasanjo said though oil is situated in Niger Delta region, it is resources placed in the soil by God and belonged to Nigeria as a whole.
However, Clark in the open letter rejected the position of Obasanjo, saying that his comments that the oil found in the Niger Delta region does not belong to the people of the Niger Delta represent his Continuous arrogant stance and disposition against the Niger Delta Region.
“Natural resources found in regions were controlled by the people of the regions in the country as enunciated in Section 140 of the 1960 Constitution,” Clark had said
The PANDEF leader continued: “As a former military Head of State of Nigeria (1976-1979), and later a democratically elected President of the country (1999-2007), I am certain Your Excellency knows that the principle of derivation has always been top on the agenda of our national discourse before and after the country’s independence.
“Need Your Excellency be reminded that it was the practice of the principle of derivation that enabled your region, the Western Region, then under Chief Obafemi Awolowo; and the Northern Region, then under Sir Ahmadu Bello, to reap all the money that enabled them to develop far ahead of the then Eastern Region.
“From the benefits of the practice of derivation principle, the Western Region introduced free education, built universities, the first television station in Africa, among other economic and social infrastructure, including hiring at the time, an Israeli company, Soleh Bonel, to develop roads and other infrastructure.”
Faulting Obasanjo’s argument that resources were placed in the soil by God, therefore, they are free for all, Clark said such a notion “will definitely mean chaos and anarchy, as anybody in any part of the world can enter into any land, including Your Excellency’s Ota Farm, to undertake any activity that they desire to do.”
But while reacting to Clark’s open letter, Obasanjo, in a six-page letter, said he was wrongly accused, adding that his comments were misconstrued.
According to the former president, the Niger Delta’s oil as well as other minerals and natural resources in other part of the country belongs to the Nigerian federation.
Obasanjo also rejected claims that he hates the Niger Delta region, clarifying that he had never shown anger or distraught to the Niger Delta region or any part of the country.
The letter partly reads, “Chief Clark, you are right to say that we have known ourselves since we were both in General Gowon’s administration in 1975.
“The good thing and maybe the bad one as well is that you haven’t changed much, if at all; since those days and I haven’t changed much either. You stated and displayed what you are characteristically known and noted for.
“Let me proceed with the most basic constitutional fact that you cannot have two sovereign entities within a State which is what your position of Niger Delta ownership claim of the crude oil found in that location amounts to.
“For me personally, I have never shown any anger or distraught with Nigeria nor with any part or region of Nigeria. I will rather pick points on leadership or policies and I will continue to do so.
“But if you take my holding a constitutional position on federalism and reiterating the position of our past constitution – 1963 Constitution as I understand it as anger or grievance against the Niger Delta or Nigeria Delta people that will be a very wrong position to take because until I can be legally and constitutional persuaded, otherwise I will continue to hold my ground.
“The gold in Ilesha, Osun State, and the lead in Ebonyi State all come under the same law and constitution. There is no part of Nigeria whose interest is not dear to my heart. And stating in your letter that it’s only that interest of the North that I continually hold dear to my heart is the type of Bukah gossip that knowing you as I do since 1975, I am not surprised that you echoed.”