The federal government may be threading on a dangerous ground for allowing Zamfara state government to manage its gold reserves even to the extent of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) buying some fractions of the commodity from the state to the tune of N5billion.
From its discovery toll date, the state in North Western Nigeria has been in charge of the solid mineral but the federal government has made laws which are stifling the sates in the Niger Delta from managing the oil in their soil. This has been since Nigeria became a recognised nation.
But the non-interference of the federal government in the management of the Zamfara gold is resurrecting agitations for state control of the oil in the Niger Delta region of the country. Agitators are saying the government of the region are feeble minded, a development that has made them to remain mute after the discovery of the Zamfara gold in the North Western region of Nigeria.
During a press conference with Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, who is the chairman of the South South Governors Forum in Asaba on Wednesday, the governor told journalists that the laws in Nigeria are becoming discriminatory, questioning why Zamfara should control its gold and keep revenue derived from the mineral resource but oil in the Niger Delta is said to be for all Nigeria.
Youths in the region are already bracing up for the challenge as the federal government will have to tell why the Zamfara gold should belong to the state and the oil in Niger Delta should belong to the entire nation.
Already, Governor Okowa and his fellow governors in the South South, including Edo state governor, Godwin Obaseki who was just sworn in for second term on Thursday, November 12, 2020 will be having a special session with the minister of Niger Delta Affair, Godswill Akpabio who is from Akwa Ibom state to discuss the development on Friday.
Okowa had insisted that the South South governors will express it very strongly before the minister. He said: “We will attend to this. We cannot have laws in our nation that is discriminatory. If Zamfara can prospect for their mineral, they should allow the states in the Niger Delta to prospect for their oil. We are going to be strong on this. As at today, the laws of the country do not give that opportunity
“There are so many laws that tend to restrict action. But we will try to make our voice as strong as possible. I believe that at some point in time this kind of discrimination will have to be visited in this nation” Okowa’s reaction seems to be playing low but the youths are not ready to pipe low if the federal fails to take over the gold of the Zamfara state.
On the agitation of Niger Delta communities to manage the 13 percent derivation coming to the each of the oil states in the region, Okowa is not comfortable with that. Okowa said:”People have wrong concepts as to what to be done. But as at today, I’m not a lawyer but I know that the constitution is very straightforward on how derivation money is used and who should handle it.
“I think what we are truly doing as at today,is to drive a process in the PIB that some leverage can be provided for in the constitution which enables communities to have percentage which will help to strengthen the communities and their relationship with oil companies.
“Such communities will be entitled to those funds yearly and the funds should be tied to facilities and the communities should be able to secure those facilities. I think that is the process we ought to drive. But if every community begins to rise and say we want to control our resources, Nigeria will become a banana republic. There will be no control, there will be no country. There will be no state. I don’t think that is workable. For those that think in that manner, it does not work like that.
“If you are thinking about Delta state, there are 21 local governments that are producing oil. The truth is if every community begins to manage their oil, the crisis that will come out, we cannot manage it. We need to follow the constitution.
“I believe that having put governors in the states and all the members of the Houses of Assembly as representatives, they should be able to allow them manage the resources of the state. If anybody is not managing the resources of the state properly, you have the right in the next election to vote the person out. But if we say every community begins to manage your own, I’m worried how that will be possible.”.
Okowa further said: “If will be better they say they want to manage the 87 percent that goes to the nation and not the 13 percent that comes to the state. People just want to be heard, they want to be noticed. They continued to make their comments which cannot work. I believe the governors of the South South are doing well. We are seeing what is going on in many other states.”
Communities agitation for the control of the 13 percent derivation may not be unconnected with the fact that the communities are not benefiting from the money which is meant for the development of the oil bearing communities. The communities are still in their deplorable state while the money comes to the state from the federal government.