South-South Leaders Slam Usman Bugaje’s Over 78% Oil Ownership Claims

Some leaders and stakeholders of the South-South yesterday berated former presidential aide, Dr Usman Bugaje, over his remarks that the North owned 78 per cent of crude oil in Nigeria.

Dr. Bugaje in a recent interview with Vanguard, contended that because the north owned 78 per cent of the country’s landmass, the mileage into the sea where oil comes from, belongs to the region.

His words: “The 78 per cent of whatever mileage that gets into the sea can, therefore, be claimed because 78 per cent of landmass belongs to the north, which is in majority. That is the argument, if they are not satisfied with this ownership, they can go to the National Assembly requesting a change in the constitution.”

Chairman, Board of Trustees of Community Development Committees, CDC, in the oil-producing communities of the Niger Delta, Elder Joeseph Amabakederimo, former member representing Oron federal constituency and ex-speaker of the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, Peter Umoh; Uyo-based lawyer, human rights and development activist, Mfon Peters, who spoke to Vanguard, dismissed him as uninformed.

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Veteran journalist and opinion leader in Edo State, Mr. Tony Abolo, and Bayelsa State-based conservationist, Morris Alagoa, described Bugaje as a confusionist.

Keep quiet if you have nothing to say -Ambakederimo

Elder Joseph Ambakederimo in his reaction, asserted: “The comment by Usman Bugaji is nonsensical and unfortunately coming from a man l respect and hold so dear. If he has nothing to say, he should keep quiet.

“I charge Usman Bugaje to ask the Federal Government to disclose so far how much percentage revenue from gold that is extracted from beneath the soil in the northern part of the country is made up of the federation account.

“If a governor of one South-South states poses on television with barrels of crude oil and claims to own the oil, just like what the former Zamfara governor, Matawalle did with the gold mined in Zamfara, claiming ownership? How would Usman Bugaje feel?

“This situation is likened to ‘my oil is sweet for all of us to cook, and eat with, but your gold is not beautiful enough to be placed around my neck or wrist.’

“Can he tell Nigerians why Northern governors did not use revenue from gold to pay salaries of their workforce when our oil production went abysmally low? The Federal Government bailout came from the same oil and gas revenue.

“If the plan is to stir the hornet’s nest to see what the reaction of the hornet would be, then he would just be surprised. Some of us are nationalists and Pan-Nigerian, and they should not regard it as a weakness.

“If people like Bugaje want to incite people to violence, he has failed as none of our people will fall for it. For us in the CDC, this is another ploy from the North to disturb and distract President Bola Tinubu’s administration.

“We use this medium to call on President Bola Tinubu to put processes in place to implement a true federal structure that will encompass federally derived and distributable revenue, including value added taxes, VAT.

“Furthermore, let it be known, henceforth, that the CDC will begin the campaign for true fiscal federalism, the campaign will be vigorous and aggressive until the right thing is done.”

He should go back to school — Umoh

Reacting, a former member representing Oron federal constituency, Peter Umoh, said: “The man (Bugaje) is an illiterate. He does not know anything. Short and simple. He does not belong to the 21st century. I do not think he is a Nigerian.

“You know that there are so many people in the north, who claim to be Northerners and Nigerians, but when they trace their origin, you will know they come from outside Nigeria. ‘’They use the North as a masquerade to occupy spaces that ordinarily should be for Nigerians. So, I do not think he is a Nigerian.”

Asked about his advice to Nigerians who read Bugaje’s controversial claim, Umoh said: “They should discard his propositions and urge him to go back to school.”

He’s misleading Nigerians – Peters, activist

Similarly, Uyo-based lawyer and good governance advocate, Mfon Peters, said: “Bugaje is misinforming Nigerians. There is no data anywhere to justify the position by Bugaje. The law is very elementary that whoever owns the land owns everything on top of the land and underneath the land.

“If he is conversant with the position of the law, maybe he will not be talking the way he talks. Wherever a mineral resource is situated and whether the land is in the north or south, they are the owners. Why is the argument always different when the ownership of crude oil is the issue?

“It is a very selfish impression to say that the North owns 78 per cent of the country’s landmass and offshore oil. It shows the mindset of Bugaje, and how some of them in the North feel when it comes to crude oil.

“That we share the proceeds from crude oil with all does not mean they have a right to it. In the Nigerian situation, we find ourselves under a federal system that has not been properly defined.

“My position is that under a true federal system of government, people like Bugaje will not be talking about what they are talking about today. They will go and look for the natural resources on their soils, and leave crude oil alone because it is our own, and that is why we are calling for the proper restructuring of Nigeria.”

It’s pitiable – Abolo, veteran journalist

In his reaction, veteran journalist and opinion leader in Edo State, Mr. Tony Abolo, stated:“It is one of those ridiculous Nigerian arguments driven by political sentiments, and of course, Dr. Bugaje is too knowledgeable and I am shocked that it is Dr Bugaje, who is posting this.

“The truth of the matter is this, he should look for more scientific evidence because there is seismic data acquisition with which you survey the land, and know where the oil reservoir is, its location, and its lie.
“This is professional and scientific; anything else is merely an abstruse logic and abstruse argument, which does not stand any test of anything.

“Landmass is what is physically seen, do you mean the land mass is where the oil is, how do you know that the oil is in your place? That is not the determination, if we want to use the land mass, which they claim, why did the French excuse themselves from Niger, Chad, Mali, and others?

“People have forgotten why the Francophone countries in the northern part got their independence early, they quit because they did not see enough oil, and that is why they left, so, for you to begin to claim it now is ridiculous.”

“What of those areas where they prospect the oil and have been prospecting oil through the years, they take the degradation, what do you do for them? Nothing? Why do you keep talking about owning the land and oil underneath without evidence? Therefore, I do not know where his arguments are emanating from. It is rather pathetic, it is rather sad.

“One of those things I think he should be worried about is their land mass. In developed countries, they look at land mass as an asset for ownership of means of production, maybe agriculture, industries, or urban development; these are things land mass does.

“They are spoilt in the North like in the days of former President Ibrahim Babangida. They would say that based on population and land mass, they gave them more money but the money went to the upper class and the elite. Such monies were not even used for the so-called land mass, so, why is he kicking up land mass again in 2024?”

He’s a jester – Alagoa, environmentalist

Environmentalist, Morris Alagoa, said in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State: “I have heard his voice long ago about this only resource that has kept the country united. Yes, during the 2014 National Confab, we shockingly heard comments from some prominent participants from the East and West, asking whether this country would have remained so glued together if the crude oil and gas found in the Niger Delta were in the North, West, or East.

“It is sad that instead of practicing true federalism where each component unit only contribute to the central government by way of tax and maintenance of institutions like the military, Customs, and immigration, Nigeria is holding the people of the Niger Delta hostage, using obnoxious laws to appropriate what belongs to the people of the region.

“That constitutional provision being cited is also inappropriate and laced with avarice. What stops Niger Republic from claiming what we have offshore or where was he when Cameroon took over Bakassi?

“We have seen the naked double standards in this country, different laws governing resource extraction; better one for solid minerals. What revenue is Nigeria making from blasting rocks, chippings, and cement?

“Anyway, he is joking. The north may own the resources in the Niger Delta in the grundnorm, but the people of the Niger Delta possess it physically. That is why we have been suffering from the negative environmental practices of oil industry operators, and the north goes to Abuja to collect proceeds monthly from the Federation Accounts Allocation Commission, FAAC.

“He who owns the land owns whatever is on/in it. As defined by economists, the marine environment is land. Therefore, whether we live on coastlines, river banks, or in the swamps; whatever is in that environment belongs to us, the people of the Niger Delta. There should be a limit to greed in the interest of peace.”

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