FORMER governor of old Kaduna State and national chairman of Peoples Redemption Party (PRP), Alhaji Balarabe Musa has said that it does not make sense for northern leaders to claim that oil deposits in the Niger Delta region belongs to the North.
In this interview with NOAH EBIJE in Kaduna, Musa added that for even development and peace across the country and in the Niger Delta region, the federal government must engage militants in dialogue to address their grievances.
Some prominent Northerners are saying that the oil in the Niger Delta region is owned by the North. Are you in agreement with them?
I don’t see how it makes any sense. I’m aware that some experts from the North who think that the oil flows from the orth to the south, and therefore, the north is more entitled to the oil than the south.
This is a reactionary thinking; I don’t know how they can justify it. And from a vast view, the public think that the oil somehow flows from the North to the south, and therefore, it can be interrupted on the way, just like a river flowing from one section to another, and that the flow can be interrupted by building a dam, so this is a reactionary way of thinking about it.
But if they are thinking about it politically; it means the oil belongs to every Nigeria. Since the majority of Nigerians come from the North, something that cannot be substantiated, therefore, the oil belongs to the North.
This is a very undependable logic. But the thing is this, if really we are one, united country, a federation, and not a confederation, then, not only oil, but all measures of mineral resources should be controlled by the centre, and that does not mean that the resources should be controlled by the north simply because the north is more than half of Nigeria. No, it is one country, and for strategic reason, the world over where you have a united country, basic natural resources, not all resources, are controlled by the centre in the interest of national unity, progress and development.
Why the sudden thinking that the oil belongs to the North?
No, people in the North have been saying this for a very long time, just as the Niger Delta people, not all of them, say that the oil belongs to them alone, forgetting the fact that they are committed to one united country, and if you are committed to one united country with the hope of progress and development of a whole country, then, you can’t say that because the oil is in your area, then all the resources belong to you, this can happen only in a confederation, and nobody should think that Nigeria can break up and become a confederation.
What is the North doing about huge solid mineral deposit in the region?
It is a big challenge to northern leaders, why don’t they, with the political system in the country, take measures to develop these resources? The oil resource in Nigeria was developed with the resources of every section of the country.
I was working in the treasury in 1953 as a clerk, and one of my responsibilities was to process matters concerning natural resources in Nigeria, and I knew how much the Federal Government consistently contributed from the colonial time up to the first republic every year from its revenue for the development of natural resources in Nigeria.
The contribution to the development of natural resources did not come from a particular region. It came from all the regions. You can say, for obvious reason, more came from the North and the South west. But in reality, every section developed the oil sector we all now enjoy. Without this contribution, we wouldn’t have been enjoying this oil today. South west had cocoa, it was an international product, and even till now, it is an international product. A lot of revenue came from cocoa, a lot of revenue from cotton and groundnut in the north. And from the south, came timber, but rubber was not that important. So, you can see that development of Nigeria is as a result of a united people, not a question of who was doing more. Every political leader in the country was concerned about even development of the whole country at that time.
But exploration of oil in Niger Delta region has devastated the environment of that area. What is your comment on this?
Oh yes, there is no doubt about the damage oil spillage has done to their environment. And something should be done about it. Like the cleaning up of Ogoni land is justified. Even the 13 percent derivation is justified. The damage done to the environment and the inhabitants is monumental. You need to go there and see. May be 13 percent is too low, but something must be contributed by the Federal Government to rescue the area.
What is your take on the way and manner militants vandalise pipelines in the oil producing region to register their grievances?
It is a destructive measure to solve a problem, and it is not the solution. If they demonstrate peacefully, every section of Nigeria will benefit, particularly the oil producing area, and they may enjoy more than 13 percent derivation, and the creation of the Niger Delta ministry, and so many benefits. But if there is destruction, their area will suffer more. If you take the overall index of development, North, South west and south east are more developed. But looking at both social and economic status, the oil producing area are less developed.
So, you are calling on militants to lay down their arms?
No, I am calling on the Federal Government first to respond because the Federal Government is the senior partner in this matter. The Federal Government should call for a dialogue under the control of Nigerians, Nigerians should know what is happening about the dialogue because the militants have a case, they have justified grievances. Their area is very undeveloped, and whether we like it or not, no matter how political it is, the mainstay of the economy as it is now, is oil, and the oil comes from that area. So they have to be concerned about the benefit they get. But they should not be too concerned about themselves without considering other Nigerians because we have developed as Nigerians from 1914 till today. Everybody has made sacrifice according to his capacity. You can’t edge out somebody because you perceive him as benefiting more, it can’t happen like that in any country of the world.
What is your assessment of President Muhammadu Buhari’s one year in office?
I have recently spoken much against this government. I don’t want to comment for now, let other Nigerians speak out too. All I can say for now, is that Buhari’s leadership has not been as expected by Nigerians.