7 August 2008

Nigeria: Niger Delta Speaks With One Voice

Nigerians in general and people of the South-South region in particular are in the throes of history as the two-day South-South legislative retreat (exclusively Vanguard) kicks off today at the prestigious Presidential Hotel, Port Harcourt, Rivers State.

Eggheads, political leaders and opinion moulders from the nooks and crannies of the region will be led to the retreat by the six South-South governors.

Initiated by Vanguard Newspapers and a media consulting firm, Bridgelink Limited, the talks will also feature no fewer than 250 personalities made up of serving and past governors of the six South-South states, all Senators and House of Representatives members from the zone; all Speakers and leaders of the six state Houses of Assembly in the zone, all the leaders of the South-South Zone; eminent opinion leaders and personalities; Federal and state lawmakers and legal luminaries.

The specific focus and agenda will be the eight federal laws identified as being inimical to the overall social and economic development of the South-South zone.

According to the chief convener, Mr. Sam Amuka, Publisher of Vanguard Newspapers, the success of the retreat will be a major boost to Vanguard Newspaper as the clear leader in the Niger Delta market.

Today's event will start with the opening remarks by the Chairman, Justice Adolphus Karibi-Whyte; welcome address by Mr. Sam Amuka, keynote address by Governor of Rivers State (Chief Host); Goodwill message by Vice-President Goodwill Jonathan and solidarity messages by governors of the South-South.

There will be three papers during the afternoon session including: "Revenue Allocation, Fiscal Federalism and the impact of the Abolition of Dichotomy Act, 2004 on the Niger Delta Region" to be delivered by Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN). The Bayelsa State Governor, Timipre Sylva, will give the executive perspective on the topic while Speaker, Cross River State House of Assembly will lead the discussion. Justice Karibi-Whyte will chair the session.

The second paper will be presented by Dr. Joseph Abugu on "Solving the Niger Delta Problem; the law and the people ... the Land Use Act as a case study." Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan (Governor, Delta State) will give the executive perspective; Chief Abel Ubeku will chair the session while the Speaker, Edo State House of Assembly will lead the discussion.

The final paper for the day on "The Petroleum Act 51 of 1969 and the imperatives of evolving true Federalism in Nigeria," will be presented by Dr. Michael Ibanga (Senior Lecturer, Law, University of Calabar). Governor Chibuike Amaechi of Rivers State will give the executive perspective at the session to be chaired by Chief Philip Asiodu, while the Speaker, Delta State House of Assembly will lead the discussion.

Legislation considered to have negative impact on the socio-economic development of the region are:

•Petroleum Act Cap. P10 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004

The Petroleum Act Cap. P10 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004, is an Act which provides for the exploration of petroleum from the Territorial Waters and the Continental Shelf of Nigeria and to vest the ownership of, and all on-shore and off-shore revenue from the petroleum resources derivable therefrom in the Federal Government of Nigeria and for the regulation of all other matters incidental thereto.

This Act further states that the entire ownership and control of all petroleum resources in any state in Nigeria shall be vested on the Federal Government.

•Lands (Title Vesting, etc) Act Cap. L7 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004

The Lands (Title Vesting, etc) Act Cap. L7 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004, is principally to provide for the vesting of the title of all land within the 100 metres limit of the 1967 shoreline and all land reclaimed near the lagoon, sea or ocean bordering Nigeria exclusively in the Federal Government of Nigeria.

The Act specifies the conditions in which allocation of land may be invalidated, namely, that any lease purportedly granted by any state or local government, individual or any body corporate or unincorporated or any agency of the state or local government, in respect of such land, before the commencement of this Act shall abate, be null and void and of no effect whatsoever.

Additionally, the Act deals with the regularisation of leases. Therefore, it provides that the holder of any lease purportedly granted before the commencement of this Act shall be deemed to have been granted by the Federal Government based on its terms and conditions.

•Minerals and Mining Act Cap. M12 LFN 2004

This Act provides for the control of and establishment of proprietary rights in minerals and regulation of mining activities in Nigeria. It makes provisions for mining incentives and assistance to corporate bodies, small scale miners, individuals or foreign investors.

It also contains provisions relating to the acquisition of prospecting titles and rights in respect of an area, minerals, and its disposal, duration of the right, renewal and surrender of such right. The Act also made provisions regarding water pollution, i.e., pollution in the course of mining, compensation to be paid and the grant of a water licence.

There are provisions on the possession and purchase of controlled mineral; compensation to be paid to owner or occupier of land and prevention of pollution of the environment. Under the Act, provisions are made on the appointment of mine officers, their duties and powers, offences and penalties for breach of any provision.

This enactment further provides for the revocation of titles to mining leases, trading in diamond, gold and other precious metals including quarry operations payment of royalties. Also, the Act, provides for the establishment of Tin Production and Development Revolving Loans Fund as well as the Small Scale Mining Credit Guarantee Scheme Fund.

•National Inland Waterways Authority Act Cap. N47 LFN 2004

This Act establishes the National Inland Waterways Authority, with the responsibility to improve and develop inland waterways for navigation in Nigeria. It provides for the appropriate statutory mechanism for the untilisation of the nation's waterways.

•Exclusive Economic Zone Act Cap. E17 LFN 2004

This Act delimits the Exclusive Economic Zone of Nigeria being an area extending up to 200 nautical miles seawards from the coasts of Nigeria. Within this zone and subject to the universally recognised rights of other states (including land locked states), Nigeria would exercise certain sovereign rights, especially in relation to the conservation or exploitation of natural resources (minerals, living species, etc.) of the sea bed, its sub-soil and superjacent waters and the right to regulate by law the establishment of artificial structures and installations and marine scientific research and the applicability of criminal and civil laws within the zone.

•Land Use Act Cap. L5 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004

The Land Use Act vests all land comprised in the territory of each state (except land vested in the Federal Government or its agencies) solely in the Governor of the State, who would hold such land in trusts for the people and would henceforth be responsible for allocation of land in all urban areas to, individuals resident in the State and to organisations for residential, agricultural, commercial and other purposes while similar powers with respect to non-urban areas are conferred on local governments.

The intention of the Act was to "make land available to all Nigerians irrespective of where they live or their state of origin." It was intended by its provisions to preserve the existing land holdings or ownership created by the existing laws before its commencement and operation.

The Act made the governor of each state a trustee (vis-a-vis the people) who holds the land in trust and administers same for the use and common benefit of all Nigerians in his state and does not become the beneficial owner of the land.

By this Act, the structure and nature of land ownership was changed drastically to deny communities and groups that historically-owned and controlled their land the traditional rights associated with the ownership of land in favour of the government.

•Territorial Water Act Cap. T5 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004

This is an enactment which determines the limit of the territorial waters of Nigeria and for other matters connected thereto.

The Act defines the nation's territorial water. Under the Act, acts or omissions considered as offences are triable as if they occurred within the territory of Nigeria. It also states the prosecutorial restriction to try offences committed by foreigners at the open sea within the Nigerian territorial water as such trials can only be commenced with the consent of the Attorney-General, who issues a certificate that such offender shall be tried.

•Allocation of Revenue (Federation Account, etc.) Act Cap. A15 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004

This Act determines the basis for distribution of revenue accruing to the Federation Account between the Federal, State and Local Government Councils in the States.

It further provides for how the revenue of the various states will be distributed amongst the existing Local Government Councils in the States and the proportion of the revenue of the states which should be paid into the State Joint Local Government Account.

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