APC restructuring proposal meant to frustrate the development of Akwa Ibom State – Former Minister
A former Minister of Lands, Housing, and Urban Development, Nduese Essien, has said that the All Progressives Congress, APC’s proposal for restructuring of Nigeria is meant to frustrate the development of Akwa Ibom State.
The APC committee on restructuring, headed by the Governor of Kaduna State, Nasir El- Rufai, submitted its report in January to the party’s National Chairman, John Odigie-Oyegun.
The committee recommended, among other things, resource control by states and the re-introduction of the onshore/offshore dichotomy in oil production.
“If this amendment that we are proposing is passed, it means that all minerals including oil and gas that are onshore will be vested in the states of the federation. However, all offshore oil shall remain absolutely vested in the government of the federation,” Mr. El-Rufai told the APC chairman.
“This is the feedback we got from Nigerians because offshore oil is federation asset, everything in the continental shelf and exclusive economic zone which is also policed by the Nigerian Navy belongs to the federation but minerals oil, everything in the land belong to those that own the land which is the state governments.”
Mr. Essien, a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in Akwa Ibom, said all other recommendations in respect of resource control and mineral mining, were ‘acceptable’ to the people of the state, except the part that has to do with onshore/offshore dichotomy.
“You know the production of oil offshore affects the littoral states very seriously. And now with the global warming, the sea level is receding inland and as a result what is now onshore will in a few years’ time become offshore,” Mr. Essien said on Saturday during a live interview with Inspiration 105.9 FM, Uyo.
“Our contention is that the attempt to remove the offshore oil from the states is a deliberate attempt to frustrate Akwa Ibom State because Akwa Ibom is the only state that has most of the offshore oil production.
“I am inclined to believe that because of the frustration the ruling party is having in conquering Akwa Ibom, they feel the best thing is to deprive Akwa Ibom of the resources that have made the state so strong.
“They know that the production of oil now is 70 per cent offshore, not much is produce on land. And with the expectation that oil would soon be found in the Lake Chad and all of that would be onshore oil, so since much is not produced onshore in the southern states then the offshore production will come to the federal government and it will still be shared in the usual manner, without taking into consideration the effect the offshore production has on the littoral states,” said Mr. Essien, who is a former member of the House of Representatives.
He said for the APC leaders in the state not have come out to speak against the committee recommendation shows that they were willing to mortgage the interest of the state just to belong to a political party.
“It is surprising to hear the state chairman of APC, instead of calling their party to order, come out to say that there was no such recommendation in the report,” he said.
The Chairman of APC in the state, Amadu Attai, told PREMIUM TIMES, Sunday, that there was no need to worry about the committee’s proposal.
“It’s a mere recommendation that has not even reached the National Executive Committee of the APC,” Mr. Attai said.
“You know, this thing will have to get to the National Assembly and pass through all the processes.
“We have consulted with the presidency and the party at the national level and they have assured us that it is a no case,” he said.
Speaking previously on a live programme on AIT, Mr. Essien said that the similarities in the recommendations by the various committees set up by successive governments in Nigeria meant that it was the Committee set up by the APC –led federal government to restructure Nigeria was an attempt to divert attention of the people from important issues.
“This is six months to the primaries. There will be no time for them to implement the recommendation. It is going to be a campaign issue for the next election, in which case, by the time they end the election, it will all be forgotten.”
Essien further maintained that, “Come to think of it, the APC was not prepared on restructuring even though it was part of their manifesto for the 2015 elections, but when they came into office, they forgot until the pressure mounted from all parts of the country for restructuring that they had to set up a committee to divert attention from the pressure.”
“At the heat of the restructuring debate, they came up with the recommendation to show the people that okay we are considering it. Now they have come out with the report in January, how many more months?”
The ex-minister insisted that those heading the country were too reluctant to lose the revenue that would accrue to the federal government and since restructuring meant that revenue will drop, it was doubtful if devolution of powers as clamoured, would be accepted in the country.
“Sometime last year, the National Assembly started a process of reviewing the constitution that could lead to restructuring. Wherever restructuring was involved, the National Assembly members of the APC did not support it,” he added.
Chief Essien maintained that most of the items discussed at the 2014 National Conference “have also been adopted by the APC committee, which means that the APC committee was really writing a white paper for the national conference.”
“Take for example the issue of state creation. We also recommended that one state be created in the South East, to enable the zone to be equal with the other zones of the country.”
The former lawmaker said that the 2014 National Conference also recommended devolution of power to the states, adding that El-Rufai’s committee was going to the extreme on devolution because Rufai is a sitting Governor.