Obasanjo had in response to an open letter written by an elder statesman from the Niger Delta region, Chief Edwin Clark, said on Tuesday that contrary to claims that oil in Niger Delta is owned by people in the region, the oil belongs to the entire nation.
In its reaction yesterday, the National Publicity Secretary of PANDEF, Ken Robinson, in Port Harcourt, said it was wrong for the former president who should be a statesman to take a provocative position.
Robinson said: “God, in his infinite mercy, and all-knowing status, has placed within the lands of Niger Delta these resources to ameliorate the sufferings of the people to make life easier for them. But unfortunately, Nigeria has exploited and plundered these resources with little or no attention to the Niger Delta people.
“Former President Obasanjo should stop being mischievous. What he is doing is just playing to the gallery. He could talk about the Constitution and what it provides because he is a chief beneficiary of this flawed, lopsided, faulty military imposed Constitution.
“If Ogun State was producing oil, will Obasanjo make the comment he is making? Is it not provocative that Obasanjo will say that oil in Niger Delta belongs to the whole of Nigeria, while the gold in Zamfara and Osun belongs to the respective states?
“He could talk about 13 per cent and all of that because his state is not oil-producing. If Ogun was an oil-producing state, would he be happy that 13 per cent is all the people get from all that they give to Nigeria?
“When cocoa and groundnut were the mainstay of the nation’s economy, where they talking about 13 per cent, was it not 50 per cent? Why the unfair treatment given to the Niger Delta people?
“The country is aware of how he behaved like a dictator as president and some of the issues we are facing today, he started them. We recall how Odi community was invaded on his orders and he claims to be a statesman. He does not have the standing.”
ALSO speaking, some stakeholders in the region have expressed their disagreement with Obasanjo’s assertion, acknowledging that although the Constitution stipulates some degree of control of the deposit in the ground by the Federal Government, the people have an exclusive ownership right of the land.
Chairman, Rivers State Coalition of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), Enefa Georgewill, during a telephone interview with The Guardian, disclosed that such utterance could stem up agitation for resource control.
Georgewill said: “The former president’s letter is quite pathetic and a high level of insensitivity to the people of the region who are facing environmental degradation and have been suffering livelihood crisis because of oil exploration. It is pathetic that the former president would say such because it is more like mocking the Niger Delta people.
“Our agitation for ownership and control is an age-long one and anyone sensitive would not play with such an issue. It further reinforces the issue of disregard, disrespect, and lack of caution on the part of former political leaders, even our current leaders.
“That statement only is enough to brew crisis and return the region to the militancy era because there is no other question at the front burner more than the question of resource control,” he said.
ALSO miffed at Obasanjo’s letter, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Chief Albert Akpomudje, described his comment as inflammatory and injurious to the feelings of the people in the Niger Delta, who bear the brunt of oil production.
He said: “It is a very inflammatory statement considering the sentiments of the people of the Niger Delta. We don’t expect that type of comment. These are things that should be handled diplomatically, not to injure the feelings of those agitating to keep their oil and pay tax to the Federal Government.
For Chief Wellington Okrika, former Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Delta State Oil Producing Area Development Commission (DESOPADEC), the statement by Obasanjo is laughable.
“If the oil money does not belong to the Niger Delta people, why is there a law in the Constitution that the oil producing communities are entitled to 13 per cent of the derivation fund?
“In fact, it was Obasanjo who implemented 13 per cent derivation to the South-south governors to manage on behalf of oil communities. The law says that oil producing communities who are the owners of oil and gas are entitled a percentage of derivation because the oil belongs to them, the oil doesn’t belong to everybody in Nigeria,” Okrika said.
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