Tue. Apr 16th, 2024

By Ojukwu Emmanuel Chiadikaobi

 

In a recent statement that has sparked heated debates across the nation, former presidential aide Dr. Usman Bugaje delved into the contentious issue of oil ownership in Nigeria. Bugaje’s remarks, which assert that Nigeria’s oil reserves in the southern region rightfully belong to the northern states, have ignited controversy and condemnation from various quarters.

Bugaje’s argument hinges on the geographical distribution of landmass in Nigeria, particularly emphasizing the significant expanse of territory in the northern region. He contends that the vast land area of the North, constituting over 70% of the country’s total landmass, plays a crucial role in determining Nigeria’s maritime boundaries and offshore drilling rights.

According to Bugaje, the allocation of nautical miles into the sea, essential for offshore drilling activities, is primarily determined by a country’s landmass. Citing his involvement in negotiations regarding the Gulf of Guinea and the application of international maritime law, he highlights the pivotal role of land territory in extending a nation’s sovereignty into maritime zones.

Bugaje further elucidates his position by emphasizing the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which delineate exclusive economic zones for coastal states based on their land boundaries. He asserts that the disproportionate distribution of landmass in Nigeria, with the North comprising the majority, entitles northern states to a substantial share of offshore resources, including oil reserves.

Addressing criticisms of his stance, Bugaje clarifies that his assertion is rooted in constitutional principles, emphasizing that oil resources in Nigeria are vested in the Federal Republic rather than individual states. He challenges the notion of regional ownership of oil reserves, advocating for a unified national approach to resource management.

In response to calls for legislative action, Bugaje suggests that any alteration in resource ownership should be pursued through constitutional amendments, underscoring the importance of legal processes in addressing contentious issues of resource allocation.

Bugaje’s remarks have reignited longstanding debates over resource control, federalism, and the equitable distribution of wealth in Nigeria. While his arguments have sparked controversy and drawn criticism from some quarters, they have also prompted discussions on the intricacies of resource ownership and governance in Africa’s most populous nation.

As stakeholders continue to engage in dialogue and debate, the question of oil ownership in Nigeria remains a deeply contested issue with far-reaching implications for the country’s political landscape and socioeconomic development.

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