Zamfara and Nigeria at crossroads

The great political philosopher and polemicist, Leon Trotsky once talked of professor of spring who was teaching the subject in a classroom for years. He came out one day and was face-to face with spring but he denied it saying it must be some disorder in nature.

So it is with Nigeria that got its independence on a federal constitution with a very lean exclusive list. But the aberration of military rule with command and control bloated the exclusive list to give virtually everything to the centre stripping the federating units. The centre became too fat to be productive and the units too lean to have a healthy existence.

One of the burdens the unitary constitution gave to the central government is the ownership and control control of mineral resources.

I recall that Mr Femi Falana (SAN) and I always get into this discussion once in a while on the culture of laziness that has made our Governors to be drained of creativity of what are the possibilities even under the constitution as it is. We once appreciated the beauty and functionality of Ibom Air of Akwa Ibom State at a time the federal Nigeria Air started and collapsed on the internet. Aviation is still on the exclusive text.

It is in similar context the Governor of Zamfara State, Mr Bello Matawale, according to the Minister of Solid minerals, Mr Olalekan Adegbite, identified solid minerals that should be a developmental blessing as enabler of banditry in the hands of irresponsible leaders. The artisans who mine the gold sell to bandits at cheap prices and they in turn use the high value to import guns and bullets into the country. Matawale working with the Federal Government chose to wean the artisans from bandits by making them customers with the state. He got the Central Bank of Nigeria involved in the same way the apex bank deals in Agriculture through its Anchor Borrower.

The State has not claimed ownership of the gold against the extant provision of the extant unitary law which a voice like Mr Bayo Onanuga should join in the call for change to a federal one instead of playing into the corner of the enablers of banditry who are fighting Matawale. Onanuga said the action of Matawale can encourage other states who have mineral resources to shut out the Federal Government. I have not seen Matawale shutting out the centre. All he has done is to seek the cooperation of the centre to rescue the solid minerals in Zamfara from control of bandits into a viable economic venture for the state within the boundaries of business set by the Federal Government. That should be encouraged and other states that have mineral resources should look for creative ways of maximising the inherent advantages.

What stops the oil producing states from building modular refineries to add value to crude oil and bring out so many bye-products for economic activities. It would be a great idea fueling cars with petrol refined by our states. Is it not a big shame that at 60, we are still locked in fuel subsidy debacle because we import petroleum for our domestic consumption?

As to the intervention of a human rights lawyer, Mr Joseph Onu Silas, I need to say there is no benefit in shutting down the Zamfara initiative, Silas in his letter to the CBN Governor said as follows:

He added that the Nigerian Minerals and Mining Act 2007 makes it clear in section 1(1) and (2) that: (1) the entire property in and control of all mineral resources in, under or upon any land in Nigeria, its contiguous continental shelf and all rivers, streams, and watercourses throughout Nigeria, any area covered by its territorial waters or constituency and the Exclusive Economic Zone is and shall be vested in the Government of the Federation for and on behalf of the people of Nigeria. (2) All lands in which minerals have been found in commercial quantities shall, from the commencement of this Act be acquired by the Government of the Federation in accordance with the provisions of the Land Use Act.

“Sir, by sealing this deal with the government of Zamfara State, are you admitting that as the head of Nigeria’s apex Bank, you are unaware of the laws of this nation?” Silas queried.

He continued, “I ask this question simply because the news of your action is only possible if the Southern States of this nation can also enjoy such offers from the Central Bank for the purchase of petroleum products.”

Furthermore, Silas said such purchase is “the highest insult on the sensitivities of Nigerians” because Zamfara government has no gold to sell, the gold is for the Federal Government, and CBN is not permitted by its enabling Act to engage in the business of buying goods that are solely commercial in nature.

Silas again queried, “Also, are you aware that this singular indiscreet action of yours is capable of throwing this nation’s fragile security into chaos? What will be your response to people from the Southern States if they now begin to insist that all the Mineral resources found within their respective States does not belong to the Federal government and opts to begin selling them directly to anyone?”

We can see the problem of lack of even-handedness as the basis of mistrust and not seeing good action when it is seen as being allowed “others”

The last paragraph raises the fundamental issue of sorting serious issues with the constitution of this country. We must make proper arrangement of mineral resources the way we did when this country was a proper federal state and as obtained in good federations across the world.

We must look critically at section 134 of the 1963 constitution when we are serious about nation building “I Mining royalties and rents.

  1. (1) There shall be paid by the Federation to each Region a sum equal to fifty per cent. of-

(a) the proceeds of any royalty received by the Federation in respect of any minerals extracted in that Region; and

(b) any mining rents derived by the Federation during that year from within that Region.

(2) The Federation shall credit to the Distributable Pool Account a sum equal to thirty per cent.

(a) the proceeds of any royalty received by the Federation in respect of minerals extracted in any Region; and

(b) any mining rents derived by the Federation from within any Region.

(3) For the purposes of this section the proceeds of a royalty shall be the amount remaining from the receipts of that royalty after any refunds or other repayments relating to those receipts have been deducted therefrom or allowed for.

(4) Parliament may prescribe the periods in relation to which the proceeds of any royalty or mining rents shall be calculated for purposes of this section.

(5) In this section “minerals” includes mineral oil.

(6) For the purposes of this section the continental shelf of a Region shall be deemed to be part of that Region.”

In USA, the Bush family is in charge of the oil on the land they own…


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