Daily Trust (Abuja)

Nigeria: Northwest Demands Return of Onshore-Offshore

Sokoto — Mark: Dichotomy abrogation will be reviewed

The Northwest zone has urged the National Assembly to revisit the abrogation of onshore-offshore dichotomy in the application of oil derivation principle under which nine oil producing states receive extra billions monthly from the Federation Account.

Presenting the zone's position at a constitution review hearing organized by the Senate in Sokoto yesterday, Kano State Governor Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso said it was unfair for oil states to be receiving huge sums of money as derivation from proceeds of crude oil taken in the deep waters.

"This issue of onshore-offshore dichotomy, all of us (North-West) believe that it is not fair, it is not correct and it is a pure injustice to all those that don't have petroleum at the moment under their land," he said at the event which was also attended by Senate President David Mark.

The onshore-offshore dichotomy was abrogated in February 2004, making oil extracted 200 nautical miles offshore to form part of the computation of the 13 per cent derivation in revenues allocated to the littoral states.

This system has over the years funnelled hundreds of billions to the oil states bordering the sea, namely Rivers, Bayelsa, Cross River, Akwa Ibom, Ondo and Delta, thereby slashing funds that would have been shared among all the 36 states.

"I don't agree or see as a person and as a governor why somebody will claim the ownership of a well that is 200 nautical miles away from his own land," Kwankwaso said yesterday.

Kwankwaso's speech is likely to resonate, given the controversy his initial comments on the divisive oil dichotomy issue generated.

He sparked off the debate in an interview with Daily Trust in August, when he said Northern governors will insist on a review of the dichotomy abrogation law during the constitution amendment process. His statements were rebuked by oil state governors and politicians, including Rivers Governor Rotimi Amaechi and Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta.

"This part of the country is so weak," Kwankwaso said yesterday, apparently referring to the Northwest zone.

"We're at the lowest ebb in the history of this country today, and we don't have any agenda. If we comment on this constitution amendment, especially on the issue of onshore-offshore dichotomy, some people will say we should shut up that it is a no-go area.

"But I believe that is nonsense. The reality of the situation is that there is no section of the constitution that should not be amended. We have a situation where people are moving the goal post, if it suits them, they allow the goal post to stay, if somebody comes to score, they move the goal post. We must stop that."

He added: "We, the people of Kano State and indeed North-West, have seen the (constitution review) agenda, but the agenda we've seen so far doesn't really reflect what ordinarily would have been our agenda.

"Our main priority at this crucial time in the middle of our four-year term is to ensure that we deliver dividends of democracy to the people of our various states and the country in general. But since you've dabbled into constitution review, we've no option but to key into it having confidence that the National Assembly will ensure that we're not cheated at the end of the day."

On state creation, Kwankwanso warned the National Assembly against succumbing to sentiments, insisting that criteria for state creation be followed to the letter.

"We support state creation as long as there are criteria. We don't want a situation where people will go under the table and create states just because of sentiments. The days of sentiments are gone," he said.

"We even heard them say we're naïve for asking them to follow the criteria. Many of them didn't know that we were in the National Assembly before them. We know the meaning of constitution amendment as well as who and who are involved. The situation at the moment is that some people are dictating the direction of constitution amendment such that when it suits them, they say yes, when it suits them, they say no; and they call us all sorts of names.

"Mr Senate President, we've respect for you, we support you and you know that. For this reason, we need your protection. We don't want you, Mr President and all the senators from the North-West, to go down in history as people who participated in the constitution amendment and at the same time participated in the destruction of North-West and Northern Nigeria as a whole."

Reacting, Senate President David Mark assured that no part of the nation would be short-changed in the constitution amendment process.

"We've no hidden agenda.... Onshore-offshore dichotomy, state creation, role of traditional rulers, among others; these are areas we will discuss. We've not said there is no-go area, it is the governors forum that has said so," he said.

"We have said people can bring anything for discussion provided such will unite us. We'll entertain issues that divide us as a nation. We want to remain one indivisible united country called Nigeria. Therefore, we'll encourage any issue that will ensure this unity to be discussed."

The two-day constitution review hearing is holding at designated locations in each of the six zones, namely Gombe (Northeast), Sokoto (Northwest), Makurdi (Northcentral), Lagos (Southwest), Enugu (Southeast) and Calabar (Southsouth).

Of the seven Northwest governors, only Kwankwaso attended the event in Sokoto yesterday. Sokoto State Governor Aliyu Wamakko who is abroad was represented by Secretary to the State Government, Alhaji Shahabi Gada.

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