25 March 2019

Nigeria: Falana - Assigning Oil Blocks to IOCs, Individuals Unconstitutional

Abuja — Renowned lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana SAN, has said the practice of allocating crude oil blocks to individuals and International Oil Companies (IOCs) by the federal government is against the constitution of Nigeria, and should be stopped.

Falana, in this regards asked President Muhammadu Buhari, to henceforth allocate oil blocks only to the federal and state governments, saying that those who got oil blocks often got more money from the blocks than Nigeria did.

In a letter he wrote to the president, and which THISDAY in Abuja sighted, Falana said the practice violates Section 16(2) (c) of the nation's constitution, which he stated provides that, "the economic system is not operated in such a manner as to permit the concentration of wealth or the means of production and exchange in the hands of few individuals or of a group."

He noted that he was aware the government planned to revoke a number of oil blocks and marginal fields hitherto allocated to a few individuals as well as local and foreign corporate bodies by former military and civilian regimes in Nigeria, and encouraged it to go ahead with the plan.

According to him, the plan is a courageous decision, but that the government would have to desist from renewing the remaining licences of other oil block owners in the country.

"Having acquired the entire property in and control of all minerals, mineral oils and natural gas in, under or upon any land in Nigeria or in, under or upon the territorial waters" and vested same in the federal government on behalf of the people of Nigeria pursuant to section 44(3) of the Constitution, it is inequitable, illegal and unconstitutional to allocate the nation's oil blocks to a few individuals and corporate bodies including multinational corporations," Falana said in the letter.

He claimed the president may not be aware that majority of the owners of the oil blocks allocated to individuals were usually sub-leased to offshore companies because the beneficiaries often lack the fund and technical expertise to develop them.

He said: "By merely collecting huge rents the oil block owners become stupendously rich while the federal, state and local governments depend on loans and bailout to pay salaries and carry out basic infrastructural development of the country.

"Thus, by allocating oil blocks to a few individuals and corporate bodies the federal government has violated Section 16(2) (c) of the Constitution which provides that "the economic system is not operated in such a manner as to permit the concentration of wealth or the means of production and exchange in the hands of few individuals or of a group."

He further stated that the allocation of oil blocks to a few individuals and corporate bodies by the government constituted gross violation of the fundamental rights of the Nigerian people to freedom from discrimination, equal right of access to public property and in the equal enjoyment of the common heritage of mankind as well as the right to social, economic and cultural development guaranteed by articles 2, 13, 22 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act.

According to him: "Therefore, pursuant to article 22 thereof which has imposed a duty on the federal government to freely dispose of the wealth and national resources of the nation in the exclusive interests of the Nigerian people, we urge your excellency to desist from allocating oil blocks to a select group of Nigerians and foreigners.

"In view of the foregoing, we urge your excellency to restrict the allocation of oil blocks, including marginal fields to the federal government and the governments of the 36 states of the federation.

"This request is in line with Section 16 (1) (b) of the Constitution which has mandated the Nigerian State to "control the national economy in such manner as to secure the maximum welfare, freedom and happiness of every citizen on the basis of social justice and equality of status and opportunity."

He told the president that he would challenge the constitutional validity of allocating oil blocks and other natural resources to individuals if the government refuses to accede to his request.


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