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Focus on oil blocks as talks on Nigeria’s future hot up

Dickson, MOSOP push for resource control

Falana: give private oil licences to states

The debate on Nigeria’s future continued yesterday with more calls for its restructuring  to address development and marginalisation.

Bayelsa State Governor Seriake Dickson called on the Federal Government to set up an All-parties Committee to formulate the template to streamline issues and views around  restructuring.

A few days ago, leaders of the All Progressives Congress (APC) resolved to set up an internal committee of the party to work out modalities for restructuring.

Dickson urged the ruling party to carry other parties along in the process, in addition to allowing civil society organisations and the academia to deal decisively with the matter.

Besides, he advocated “resource control”.

He said only an expanded committee would give a sense of belonging to everybody.

The same position on restructuring was taken by the Movement for the Sorvival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) – the voice of the oil-rich Ogoni ethnic group in Rivers State.

Its leader Legborsi Saro Pyagbara said with a restructured Nigeria, disintegration would be avoided.

But eminent lawyer Femi Falana (SAN) believes economic restructuring should be on the front burner.

Pyagbara said: “MOSOP has been concerned about recent events in the country, which have the ominous potential of triggering national disintegration, if not speedily addressed. The issue of resurgent Biafra separatism and a counter Arewa intolerance expressed in the ultimatum to all Igbo to leave the North.

“MOSOP categorically and irrevocably rejects the two extremes, neither of which will improve the miserable condition of the people who the antagonists are claiming to represent.

“Most countries of the world finding themselves in similar situations like us have had to look inwards and search for solutions that are adaptable to their environments and meet the needs of the various centrifugal forces that make up the country.

“For the Nigerian state to survive, it must be seen to demonstrate equity, justice and fairness by creating political space for the sub-national entities to develop at their own space while ensuring protection for national minorities and Indigenous communities.

“The Ogoni Bill of Rights (OBR), which is the basis of the Ogoni struggle, emphasises local autonomy for the Ogoni people and other Nigerian communities that are threatened by internal colonialism. Local autonomy applied as a nationwide principle has enormous potential of diffusing grievances connected to perceived ethnic and regional domination.

“Consequently, MOSOP rejects the call for the reintroduction of a regional structure based on the existing six geo-political zones, as this will revive the inequities and injustice that led to the demand for the creation of states in the First Republic.”

Falana, in Lagos, canvassed economic restructuring rather than the political one being canvassed.

Speaking at a colloquium in honour of the late Prof Abubakar Momoh, Falana, said: ”Now that they (leaders) are calling for debate, let us also join by asking them if we can restructure Nigeria’s economy first. We should start by taking over the oil blocks allocated to individuals and giving them to states because Section 16 of the Constitution says the commanding height of the economy shall not be privatised. Those who are getting duty waivers at the port must henceforth cease to get at the expense of others, otherwise, they will continue to claim the title of being the richest Nigerian or African.”

He added: “After they sold these companies at giveaway prices, (former president Goodluck) Jonathan gave them N300 billion bailout. Now, this current Federal Government two weeks ago, gave them N700 billion. These figures are important because when we are talking about restructuring, we need to ask for figures because what we are talking about is restructuring the economy.

“This government has set up Development Bank, Agric Bank and all that. Please take time to find out who are taking loans from these banks?”

Dickson’s position, communicated by his Special Adviser on Media Relations, Francis Agbo, quoted him as saying: ‘‘Nigeria’s unity and indivisibility is desirable but should be negotiated for the good of all.’’

He said for the restructuring to comprehensively address Nigeria’s unity, the APC- led Federal Government must include Resource Control, Devolution of Power to the federating units and True Federalism in the template.

He said restructuring along these lines would build confidence and cohesion across the country and place Nigeria on the path of justice and fairness.

‘‘For me, as Governor of Bayelsa State, any restructuring that doesn’t include resource control will not make much sense to my people because for us in the Niger Delta, restructuring Nigeria starts with resource control. My understanding of Nigeria is that we all want to remain in one Nigeria but it must be a Nigeria of our dream founded on justice, equity and fairness; a Nigeria where all the people that make up the country are happy and proud to call their country and not a country where any section or race is perceived to be superior or inferior to the other, a Nigeria where we are our brothers’ keepers! With restructuring, all these are possible because when we sincerely restructure, there will be devolution of power, true federalism and every state will have control over its resources and this will make Nigeria to work smoothly.’’

The statement said Dickson teamed up with progressives across the country to found the Alliance for Democracy (AD) in 1998 to address the basis of Nigeria’s unity as well as the teething agitation for resource control and devolution of power/ true federalism. It said that the governor defected from then AD when the party backtracked on resource control, by supporting the Onshore/Offshore Dichotomy suit.

The MOSOP president also supported devolution of power to states, describing the Nigerian state as overcentralised.

He said the nation is sitting on a time bomb with youth unemployment and insecurity.

Former Head of State Gen. Yakubu Gowon cautioned against violence and acts capable of dividing the country.

The elder stateman said he would not want the present generation of children to suffer what children in the Eastern Region went through during the civil war.

He pleaded with the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and Arewa youths to tone down their rhetoric and embrace dialogue and peace.

“I will not want Nigerian children to suffer the hunger and deprivation experienced by children in the Eastern part during the civil war,” he said.

The elder-statesman spoke in Sokoto after a prayer for the country.

Gen. Gowon maintained that Nigerians should be ready to solve their problems just like they did after the civil war.

He insisted that no foreign country would solve the problems.

According to the elder statesman, it took the United States (U.S.) over 150 years to bring about reconciliation after the American civil war.

Gen. Gowon, the war-time Head of State, who led the country for nine years, said: “I hope if I have anything to do with this, I will never wish to see Nigerians, especially children, suffer the kind of hunger and deprivation that children in the Eastern part suffered during the civil war.


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