After over two hours of meeting behind closed-doors, members of the National Conference Committee on Devolution of Powers failed again on Tuesday to agree on the issue of ownership and control of mines and minerals in Nigeria.
This disagreement, which was clearly along the north-south divide, with both ides taking contrary positions on the issue, forced the Committee to adjourn discussions on the matter till today, the second time this week after it had been stepped down twice last week.
The control of mines and minerals, including of fields and natural gas is listed as item 39 on the Exclusive Legislative List in the 1999 Constitution.
While southern members of the 28-member committee, co-chaired by a former governor of Akwa Ibom State and a former Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Coomassie, demanded that the matter be put on the Concurrent List to enable states in which resources are found have a say in the exploitation and exploration, their northern counterparts fiercely opposed the suggestion.
The delegates who could not agree during the morning session returned from their break at 4 p.m. and asked journalists to leave the hall apparently to enable them continue discussion on the matter.
A delegate from Yobe State, Buba Galadima, told journalists that there was no agreement on the matter. He insisted that there was no way the north would agree to move the item to the Concurrent List because all mineral resources in the country belong to the Federal Government.
Another North-West delegate, Junaid Mohammed, said it was impossible to reach a consensus on the matter, stating that the continued discussion on the matter would amount to a waste of efforts.
A former Deputy Senate President, Ibrahim Mantu, from Plateau State said, “We are still discussing the issue and everybody is giving it adequate attention. We have asked people to go and ensure that they put on their thinking cap and come back tomorrow (today) to be able to reach a consensus”.
“We are going to put the interest of the nation first and foremost, no matter views anybody holds, pure reason will take center stage tomorrow morning”, he said
Two southern delegates from the Niger Delta region, Nsongurua Udombana (Akwa Ibom) and Godini Darah (Delta), also confirmed the stalemate at the meeting and insisted that the issue be moved to the Concurrent List.
Niyi Akintola, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria from Oyo State said there was serious argument on it, but when it was obvious that there was no way forward, Attah adjourned the sitting to allow delegates reflect more on the matter.
According to him, the delegates had an initial agreement to allow for the 50 per cent derivation, but some delegates came up with a different argument thereby stalling the sitting.
Also speaking, an elder statesman from Ogun State, Ayo Adebanjo, said, “We don’t want the country to break, everybody agreed that we will do our best not to break but nobody should come here with the attitude that except mine”.
“Many people have bent over to see how we can come to a compromise but there are some few with an attitude that itself I or not. Well. We will do our best to accommodate the extremists, but if it is not, nobody has monopoly of insistence”, he added
The northern delegates caused unease with the call for the abolition of all intervention institutions and agencies in the Niger Delta region.
Such intervention bodies include the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs created by late President Umaru Yar’Adua and the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, created by former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
Others include the Amnesty Programme for ex-militants, the C component of the SURE-P programme, and the suspension of derivation fund to oil producing states.
They also rejected any move to change the provisions of the 1999 Constitution regarding the ownership and control of mineral resources in the country.
The position of the North was contained in a document titled, “Key Issues before Northern Delegates to the 2014 National Conference.”
The document was circulated to journalists by Northern delegates on the Committee on Devolution of Power.
Unless the 1999 Constitution was amended to remove the ownership of mineral resources from the Federal Government, they insisted, total resource control by any state would breach the covenant of the federation.
The Northern delegates further likened the call for resource control by South-South delegates as a move towards cessation, while also saying that all regions in the country were equal stakeholders in the management of Nigerian oil.
Similarly, the delegates rejected the cancellation of onshore/offshore oil dichotomy, saying it amounted to giving away national resource to littoral states.
While calling for the re-introduction of the dichotomy, the document stated that the North accounted for 80 per cent of the country’s population.
Part of the pamphlet read, “The North rejects the frequent assertions by the South on the population figures of the North and states clearly that the rate of population growth attributed to the North over the years is extremely understated.
“The North recommends the rejection of claim to oil resources by oil producing areas that led to the cancellation of the onshore/offshore oil dichotomy which action gave way a national resource to littoral state, seriously eroding revenue available for the distribution to all part of the country. The north demands a reversal to status quo ante.
“The North recommends that all institution and programmes established for the benefit of a few states be abolished. These include the Niger-Delta Development Commission, NDDC, the Ministry of Niger Delta and the Amnesty Programme for the Niger-Delta ex-militants, component C of the SURE-P programme and the HYPADEC.”
Continuing, the document indicated, “The derivation which is now at 13 percent should be reduced to 5 per cent and must be limited only to on the onshore.
“The demand for resource control is indeed also oblivious of other relevant facts: the Nigerian Constitution gave the ownership of all mineral resources found in any part of the country to the Federal Government of Nigeria.
“The history of revenue sharing between the regions and the centre was 50:50, but limited to revenue derived from activities that involved human effort.
“All mineral resources had belonged to the centre, and this new adventure on resource control is totally a new concept, and alien to the practice in Nigerian.”