SAN urges FG to allow customary owners control natural resources

A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mohammed Ndarani says the Nigerian constitution should be review to allow customary owners of natural resources have over-riding control with regard to those assets.

Ndarani said this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Sunday in Abuja.

He said that one of the hindrances to the realisation of the full taxing potentials of the country, is the restrictive and usurping provisions of Section 44 (3) of the Constitution.

‘This section alienates the customary owners of the land and bestows on the Federal Government all rights to exploit, produce and dispose of all mineral deposits under the soil, land, waters and air in Nigeria.

‘This has led to numerous growing and unrestrained agitation by the oil-producing areas.

‘All legal and political restraints to the oil and sundry minerals host communities to exploit their minerals should be removed.

‘I urge the abrogation, repeal and nullification of Section 44 (3) of the Constitution, the Land Use Act, 1978 an
d the Petroleum Act, 1969, to make allowance for and give room for resource control.

‘This will give the owners of the natural resources within their enclave have over-riding control of these resources,he said.

According to him, it is absolutely an unfair deal to continue to deny and deprive the oil-bearing areas as well as those other areas that are endowed with commercial mineral deposits.

‘It is more so now that oil deposits have been found in other areas of Nigeria, in that it would be justified and preferable for the federal government to partner with the States and Regional Governments to exploit.

‘It will also allow them to produce, sell and share in the resources, like what obtains between the International Oil Companies (IOCs).

‘I think the present case where the federal government arrogates to itself, the exclusive right to own and manage the ‘entire property in, and control of minerals among others is offensive and disruptive,’he said.

‘This is why the modalities for oil exploration have been
a major source of conflict and militancy in the Niger Delta Area.

‘Making the owners of the crude oil and sundry natural resources and minerals shareholders, and partners will go a long way towards helping the federal government surmount most of the problems surrounding oil and minerals extraction and processing,’ he said.

He said that the owners should exploit the benefits of their natural resources and pay taxes to the federal government, as it was during the First Republic.

‘This is what is obtains in other political climes all over the world, hence I want this corrected during the amendment, or enactment, of the (new) constitution”.

‘The Supreme Court in the case of AG OF OGUN STATE v. ABERUAGBA (1985) 1 NWLR [Pt. 3] 395 @ 415, per BELLO, JSC, paras A – C did decide thus that the control of the economy is not within the exclusive power of the federation.

‘Each government (Federal, State and Local) has a share in the control,” he added.

Ndarani said that while the constitution requires the federal
government to control the national economy, it also empowers the state and local government in the development of the economy within its area of jurisdiction.

‘In adopting the above views of the apex court, we should broadly and massively do a total overhaul of the revenue generation machinery and re-order the taxing powers.

‘That was why we recommended Regional Governments so that the fiscal policy would devolve to the Regional and State Governments, who shall pay taxes and agreed percentages of the proceeds to the federal coffers.

‘Let the regions and state be given the power to generate, exploit and sell the minerals and through that, generate the needed revenue, superintended by the federal government, to ensure that the process is flawless and transparent”.

The senior lawyer suggested that in the alternative, the revenue allocation formula should be redesigned and altered in line with the Louis Chick Commission of 1954 which recommended as follows:

‘Mining Rents, Royalties and Derivation from crude
oil and minerals: i) Regions of origin = 50 per cent

ii) Federal Government = 20 per cent, and iii) Distributive Pool = 30 per cent.

He said that the distribution pool should be based on population, responsibilities placed on each regional government, the need for continuity in regional public services and the need for balanced development of the country.

Source: News Agency of Nigeria