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Opinion

Why Nigeria’s oil belongs to the North – Bugaje

Former presidential aide, Dr. Usman Bugaje, in this interview, speaks on the Tinubu Presidency and his misgivings about what is happening.

He did not hold hostages. He insists he criticises Tinubu because when his fellow northerner, President Muhammadu Buhari, was doing the wrong things, he spoke against it.

Bugaje can be controversial, yet you can not fault his clear-headed presentation and analysis of issues. He once said “there are no oil-producing states but the Nigerian state”, and that the “over 70% landmass of the North is what earned Nigeria the nautical miles into the sea which Nigeria enjoys and which gives the country the off-shore drilling rights,”.

In this interview, he clarified his comments with precise lucidity. He spoke about the Oronsaye report, NASS and budget padding, corruption and why he does not believe there is any light at the end of the tunnel, especially, given the way President Bola Tinubu is conducting the affairs of government. You will find Dr. Bugaje’s views are profound.

Excerpts:

By Jide Ajani

If you were to give a brief assessment of what you make of the Tinubu presidency, what would you say?

It is rudderless. We don’t even seem to have any idea of where to go or where they are going.

They came with a promise of fixing the country and, apparently, they did not do their homework. They think they know, but it is now clear that they don’t know. And we are in a much deeper mess than when he started. And this blame game of saying that the regime before him had created so many problems.

Yes, this may well be true. But why are you there? Why did you apply for the job? So, these are the kinds of things that, if you are there to fix it, you should come up with ideas. In my view, I think they have no ideas. I think he should apologise to Nigerians for deepening their woes and bringing a team of people who know. When you bring your relatives and your own close associates and they appear to have clearly failed, you should admit that these people have failed and then open yourself to new ideas.

You are playing with the lives of people. People are dying because of hunger and desperation in the land; people are dying because they can no longer afford to go to the hospitals because of the rising cost of drugs. People are dying because they have no hope. Unemployment is increasing, and even those with jobs are in a very big problem because of inflation. This trial and error would appear to be the most reckless thing to do in this circumstance.

Trial and error? They appear to be trying to…

(Cuts in). What I’m saying is that you can not do trial and error with the lives of the people. But because they don’t seem to have the moral consciousness to have that sense of empathy, they seem to just go about their businesses, enjoying their lives and taking good care of themselves the way they have always done in Lagos irrespective of the suffering of people.

But some of these problems had been there even before he came and, therefore, heaping the blame on him can not be considered fair in any way – insecurity, economy, forex, power supply? Some say maybe he is just unfortunate to be Nigeria’s president at the wrong time.

No! There is no wrong time for anybody who wants to correct and fix a country. It is either he is fit for the job or he is not. And from what we are seeing now, he appears not to be fit for the job. And if he wants to be fair and honest, he should admit it and open his gate for people who know. But I do not know if the people in the National Assembly would even be able to point in a better direction than the Executive. I mean the majority of them in NASS, not all of them. I want to believe there are a few of them who know what they are there to do and who mean well. The same thing goes for the Executive, there are just a very few of them who may appear to understand what is at stake who have the know-how to deal with the issues and who are sincere. The tragedy is that the few may not be near the kitchen cabinet so you end up with people who are just there for nothing. What I see that they do is just loot the treasury, and they have not even been fair enough to be transparent.

Let me cut you there. When you say loot the treasury, what do you mean, I don’t understand? They are just starting.

See what Beta Edu did. Are you not in this country?

Oh! Beta! That’s isolated, and there’s no closure yet, but she has been suspended from office?

Yes! Beta! But she has said she’s not alone. How many people take public money and put it in private accounts? She said this much. I’m not in a position to confirm whether what she said is true or not, but she said it, and they have not come out to deny it.

The other day, you stirred a controversy about Oil producing state and who should control what?

It is not a controversial statement. Go back to our constitution, which is the grund norm. Look at what it says about the ownership of natural resources. According to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the ownership of natural resources is vested in the Nigerian state itself. The idea that there is an oil producing state is at variance with our constitution. It is an idea manufactured by an ignorant mind, a mind that does not even know the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Nobody can own the oil, gold, or whatever natural resources that God has given this country, except the Nigerian state designs another process of ownership.

Going by that, then it means the Zamfara State government made away with gold meant for Nigeria?

If that’s been done in Zamfara, then it is against the constitution. How many things have they done against the constitution? I don’t support what they do there or anywhere. I go by what the constitution says, and if you don’t like it, you can change the constitution. You can’t have a constitution yet do things in the wrong way. So many wrong things are being done, not only in Zamfara but other states, things that are at variance and an affront to our constitution.

My point is that there is no oil producing state. The only oil producing state is the Nigerian state itself. The idea that there is an oil, gold, or copper producing state is out of either ignorance or impunity. The real provision is that ownership of everything under the ground within the Nigerian territory is vested in the Federal Republic, and there are rules and regulations.

But derivation is enshrined in our constitution as a way of acknowledging quasi-ownership?

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