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General News of Friday, 31 December 2021


Ijaw group opposes Obasanjo on resource control, says constitution faulty

Prof Benjamin Okaba Prof Benjamin Okaba

The President of the Ijaw National Congress, Prof Benjamin Okaba, has faulted former President Olusegun Obasanjo for using the 1999 Constitution to buttress his claim that crude oil in the Niger Delta belongs to the country and not the people of the region.

Okaba, who spoke on ‘The Morning Show’ programme of Arise Television on Thursday, argued that the former President could not be relying on a constitution that had been variously rejected and described as a fraud and a military document imposed on Nigerians.

He said the unitary characteristics of the 1999 constitution which Obasanjo celebrates, had become the major reason Nigeria was collapsing on all sides as the constitution remained a faulty foundation for the country.

He said, “The Nigerian (1999) constitution which Obasanjo is now relying on is a product of unrepresentative drafting and, to a large extent, most of the provisions therein are military-driven. So, the constitution is fraudulent, satanic and it has not served anybody any good.

“In fact, the 1999 constitution is a foundation for the collapse of Nigeria; every fabric of Nigeria, the economy, educational system and infrastructure are all collapsing.

“Reforms will not serve the situation. We need overall restructuring because Obasanjo talked about reforms believing that, that will help to bring normalcy to Nigeria.

“But we know that under a constitution that is faulty, not people-driven but hurriedly put together few weeks before the ascendancy of Obasanjo to power in 1999, cannot do us any good.

“So, the various agitations across the country are clear evidence that for Nigeria to work, we must do away with this constitution and go back to the basics.

“In a federation, resource ownership and fiscal federalism are paramount and every constitution that talks about federalism and does not recognise ownership of resources by the people is faulty.”

Okaba said the former President was “representing a class of people who had fought so hard to sustain a system that is colonial, military-driven and serves hegemonic interest against the interest of other people in Nigeria.”

Obasanjo had, a few weeks ago, claimed at a peace and security forum, that mineral resources in the Niger Delta belonged to all Nigerians and not the region because they were given by God.

But the INC and Chief Edwin Clark insisted in their separate reactions that the crude oil and gas in the Niger Delta belonged to the people and not the country, accusing the former President of hatred against the Ijaw and Niger Delta people.

However, Obasanjo in an open letter to Clark denied hating Niger Delta people, stressing that going by the provisions of the constitution, mineral resources belonged to the entire country.

He cautioned against emphasis on tribe instead of the state.

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