Nigeria passes bill on on-shore/off-shore dichotomy in Niger Delta

Nov 15, 2002 01:00 AM

On August 26, 2002, a bill for “An act to abolish the dichotomy in the application of revenue to the federation account and for matters connected therewith" was presented to the Senate by the President of the Federal Republic. A similar bill was presented to the Federal House of Representatives shortly after.
The bill was the government's response to the loud protest that greeted the ruling of the Supreme Court in the “Resource Control” case between the federal government and the littoral states of the Niger Delta.

The major provision of this bill, when it becomes law, is that "the contiguous zone of a state of the federation shall be deemed to be part of that state for the purpose of computing the revenue accruing to the federation account from the state pursuant to the provisions of sub-section 2 of section 162 of the constitution the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999."

The on-shore/off-shore dichotomy is one manifestation of the several controversies that have attended issues of constitution and fiscal allocations since independence in Nigeria.
The restiveness in the Niger Delta which came to a head with the killing of environment activist, Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight others in 1996 during the Abaca dispensation, was one of the problems the Obasanjo administration inherited upon inception. This is to be expected as the people of the region had felt short-changed for a long period.

The people of the Niger Delta and sympathetic Nigerians cried foul when the Supreme Court judgement of April 5, effectively vested put the control of the off-shore oil and gas resources in the Federal Government. Worst hit were Akwa-Ibom and Ondo states which had to rely mostly on the N 820 mm monthly allocation which the Anenih committee recommended as a stop-gap measure.
The potential for further controversy and agitation was doused when the National Assembly substituted “continental shelf” for “contiguous zone” in passing the bill. The latter would have maintained the status quo as per the supremecourt ruling of April 5. The bill after ratification by the National Assembly will now go to the President for signing.

The passage of the bill is therefore the outcome of robust lobbying by members from the Niger Delta and a trade-off with members from the Middle Belt who are seeking the passage of a bill that will create the Hydro Electric Power Development Commission (HYPEDEC). Gov. Ibori, speaking on the passage of the bill said," for the first time, ethnicity and religious considerations were put aside to achieve a common goal.”
The smooth passage of the bill by the National Assembly maybe portends a bright future for the resolution of our many other areas of differences when the courage to address them will be found.

Source: Vanguard
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