Niger Delta stakeholders react to gold mining and sale by Zamfara

Gold mine

…Insist, however, Zamfara is leading the way in Fiscal Federalism and resource control

…Want other states to emulate them

…Zamfara situation would give a new dimension to the Niger Delta agitation

By Samuel Oyadongha, Jimitota Onoyume, Festus Ahon, Egufe Yafugborhi, Chioma Onuegbu,

Ike Uchechukwu, Davies Iheamnachor, Ochuko Akuopha, Ozioruva Aliu

Stakeholders in the Niger Delta led by the apex socio-cultural organization of the South South Geo-political zone, Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF have described as double standard the unwillingness of the Federal Government to accede to the demand of the Niger Delta to allow the federating units own and control their God given resources and pay an agreed tax to the centre in line with the practice of true federalism while at the same time turning a blind eye to Zamfara State government mining of gold in its domain for commerce.

They described the mining of gold by Zamfara state government as a breach of the Nigeria’s constitution which places mineral resources on the exclusive list. They called for a review of the country’s federal structure to give the states and federating units’ control of their resources.

Air Commodore Idongesit Nkanga (rtd), National Chairman of PANDEF and former military administrator of Akwa Ibom State, said: “PANDEF has reacted to that issue. We had asked what reason does Zamfara state have to sell its gold and the Niger Delta cannot sell its crude oil.  So the whole thing is just about the injustice that is in Nigeria. It was even a top bank official who said they would buy the gold from Zamfara. It is a very big shame.

We have been crying over the years that there is a lot of injustice in the country. Today, other people are beginning to feel it. When we were talking about restructuring, people were looking at it as a Niger Delta issue. The fact that the federal government is not saying anything about the issue only shows the kind of policies that we are running.

When IPOB came out and said they were not happy with what is going on in the country that they wanted to separate, immediately they declared them a terrorist group. But herdsmen have been killing people and as far as they are concerned they are not a terrorist group. So with what is happening in Zamfara, it means that we have different Law, for different people in the same country. It is very sad”

According to Sir Matthew ltsekure, KSC, Itsekiri activist, “It  has again brought to the fore  the ingredients for true federalism which has been opposed by the same Northern elites who, unfortunately do not see true federalism as a sure route to rapid socioeconomic development for the country. This is indeed a wake up call to begin a process of sincere negotiation that will remove this primitive thought of breaking away that is clearly erroneous and misleading.

The singular act of Zamfara Governor only reinforces our fear that we from the oil bearing and producing states and communities are a conquered people, a people without a say on the natural resources lying underneath our lands.

The federal government graveyard silence is suspicious,  giving  the pattern of reaction it takes on matters of this nature. The Zamfara action is capable of instigating conflict if it were in our region. We would have seen action from government to suggest insubordination . So it is not out of place to demand that government should do that which will facilitate rapid socioeconomic development through her policies”.

For Mr Abel Oshevire, National Publicity Secretary, Urhobo Progress Union, UPU: “Gold is a natural mineral just like oil and both are governed by the same law of the land. Therefore, if Zamfara State explores and sells her gold without the Federal Government raising an eyebrow, then the owners of the oil in Niger Delta should also explore and sell their oil. In truth, what Zamfara is doing is in tandem with the practice of fiscal federalism. In a nutshell, that is resource control. Zamfara is already leading the way, other states should follow suit. Gold is a natural mineral resource just like oil.”

Also, former governorship aspirant in Delta State, Chief Sunny Onuesoke said: “the Central Bank of Nigeria should extend the same gesture to Niger-Delta region by equally allowing the people to sell their own oil. The recent sale of bars made from gold mined in Zamfara for N5b by the Zamfara State government is a flagrant violation of Sections one and two of the Nigerian Mineral and Mining Act 2007, which vests the Federal Government with ownership of all the mineral resources in Nigeria. The transaction between CBN and Zamfara State Government suggests that the Nigerian Minerals and Mining Act 2007, which was passed into law on March 16, 2007, to repeal the Minerals and Mining Act, no 34 of 1999, applied only to the Niger Delta.

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I am saying this because Zamfara  gold was mined by illegal miners, whose trade has now been legitimized, while illegal refiners in the Niger Delta are hunted, arrested, prosecuted with their property destroyed. Meanwhile, the Federal Government is yet to fulfill its promise to re-organise and legitimise the activities of illegal refineries in the Niger Delta.

My thought is that  if the oil in Edo, Delta, River and the rest were originally found in Zamfara, Kano, Gombe and the rest of northern state,  I am afraid by this time there won’t be anything like Nigeria. This is cheating; the Niger Delta has continued to shoulder the huge burden of the Nigerian State by sharing the wealth of the region with every part of the country, the North has continued to enjoy its huge solid mineral deposits alone. Why is it that the Niger Delta oil is for all Nigerians, while Zamfara gold is for Zamfara State alone? Gold, diamond and other precious stones found in large quantities in the North are owned, enjoyed and utilized by Northerners.

Oil and Gas fields ancestral to Niger Deltans are shared by all Nigerians. How long are we going to sustain this corrupt and unjust system? I therefore demand that those in the Niger Delta Region and other parts of the country should equally be allowed to mine and sell their natural resources themselves as Zamfara state government did with CBN. This can only be achieved by restructuring of the country into six geopolitical structures with autonomous powers to manage their lives, affairs, resources, security and governance.”

Eric Omare, former President of Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) worldwide said: ”I think the Zamfara case is a classical demonstration of the double standard of the Federal Government of Nigeria to the issue of resource ownership and enforcement of its laws.

Though it didn’t come as a surprise to some of us because we have known all these years that if oil and gas were to be found in the North, the question of Federal Government ownership of oil and gas would have been something of the past. But the reverse is the case because oil and gas are found in the Niger Delta region occupied by minorities. As Niger Deltans, the Zamfara situation has strengthened our case for total control of our resources. Also the Federal Government has lost the moral and legal justification to go after the local refiners in the Niger Delta region when bandits are allowed to mine gold in Zamfara State. In the days ahead, the Zamfara situation would give a new dimension to the Niger Delta agitation.”

Zik Gbemre, Coordination, Niger Delta Peace Coalition said, “If Zamfara State has liberty to own solid minerals, why are South-South people exempted from owning their mineral resources if same law is for everybody?  Why should States in the North own mineral resources in their State, whereas States in the South-South of the Niger Delta do not have such rights?

Can our representatives in the National Assembly create a conversation on this, while it is fresh?  It is either the said sales of gold is reversed, or Niger Delta states be given same rights to also sell their own mineral resources. The fundamental issue here is: Zamfara State cannot be selling its gold to the CBN while Niger Delta States are not allowed to sell their crude oil, condensate and natural gas to whoever they want.”

Hon. Emmanuel Deeyah, President of KAGOTE, the apex socio-cultural group of Ogoni ethnic nationality, said thus: “The Federal Government is meant to own the mining totally and give the Zamfara, 13per cent derivation as they give to the Niger Delta State. It should be handled like the Niger Delta oil wells. We are suffering too much and I think the right thing needs to be done and that it true federalism. It is the right time for us to own the natural resources given to us by God. What will happen if we allow the people to explore the oil and give returns to the centre?

These much quest to be president will end if we take control of the oil in our land.

This week, we marked the 25th remembrance of the nine Ogoni sons that were killed because of their quest to end marginalisation against Niger Delta. What we need is justice and fairness as regards resources control. It’s the right time for us to get what is right and just.

According to Chief Iduh Amadhe, President General of the Isoko Development Union, IDU, the apex socio-cultural organization of Isoko nation, “Nigeria majorly depends on the Niger Delta, particularly Isoko communities, but the the government continuously ignores the demand of the people for resource control and restructuring.”

Similarly, Niger Delta youth leaders, under the aegis of G5 Ethnic Nationality Youth Leaders, through Comrade Presley Idi said: ”This act is a clear message to us that whatever resources found in the North belongs to the people of the North but whatever is found in our back yard here in the Niger Delta including our crude and water belong to the Federal Government.

This, we find very disturbing and very provocative. Again, we reiterate that it’s very provocative that the Federal Government will allow locals of northern extraction to illegally explore and exploit mineral resources, including gold and other deposits found in the North and at same time criminalize any such practice down south especially when it comes to our crude oil, it’s obvious the Nigeria government sees the Niger Delta region as a conquered territory.”

A former House of Assembly member in Cross River State, Hon Cletus Obun said: “The deal between Zamfara State and CBN must be clearly explained .Because it is a very dangerous precedence and it has to be stopped and checked immediately.

There must be a satisfactory explanation in context of our constitution because it is an aberration that no one can contemplate. The move may precipitate another crisis among oil producing states in the Niger Delta because they will now also insist that they want to sell their own crude oil.”

Also, former Provost Marshal of the Nigerian Army, Brigadier-General Idada Ikponmwen said: “The situation is quite provocative because there is no way one can explain the different approach to the same issue.

The mineral Resources Act, the Petroleum Act, they are all pointing to vesting all oil and solid mineral resources in the federal government which means that without any reference to the fact that is in sharp contradiction to the whole idea of federal system, you can see very sharp contradiction and inconsistency in the approach of the federal government to the same issue. If Zamfara can mine, manage; sell their gold, then what moral right has the federal government to continue to sit on the oil resources that vest in the Niger Delta area?

There is no way it can be explained. It is one of the very worrisome aspects of the Nigerian federalism and when we are saying that federalism is the answer, fiscal federalism, these are the integrals to the federal system of government and the federal system of government is a necessity, the only solution for a plural society.

The issue in Aburi during the civil war, Ojukwu was agitating for a government that would enable the constituent federating units to be on their own and go on their own so that they can commonly contribute to the centre.

That is what Aburi was all about. The situation in Zamfara cannot be explained, it cannot be rationally explained. States having and managing their own resources should be the end goal. This situation in Zamfara will sharpen some peoples’ wit, it will make them to see that what people have been agitating for is the right thing, so that is the good thing about the Zamfara situation.”

Vanguard News Nigeria

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