Dons back Obasanjo, fault Clark on oil ownership

The ongoing war of words between former President Olusegun Obasanjo and Edwin Clark over the ownership of the Niger Delta oil resonated among constitutional lawyers and professors of law yesterday.

Clark had in an open letter recently attacked Obasanjo for what he termed his “disappointing display of hatred against the people of the oil-producing states in Nigeria

He was reacting to the former president’s position that oil in the Niger Delta belongs to Nigeria as well as other mineral resources in states across the country.

But Obasanjo, who reiterated his position in his reply to the letter of Clark, said his comments on the issue at a forum convened by the Global Peace Foundation and Vision Africa in Abuja, were misconstrued.

Weighing in on the issue, constitutional lawyers and university lecturers backed Obasanjo against the Niger Delta leader.

A Professor of Law, University of Ilorin, AbdulHamid Oba Yusuf, said the position of former president Obasanjo on the issue was in tandem with the laws of the country.

“For me, Obasanjo’s position remains the law as far as resources are concerned. The mineral resources found in any part or location in the country belongs to the Federal Government of Nigeria and it is to be exploited or harvested by the same federal government for the development of Nigeria.

“In fact those portions where the resources are found belong to the federal government which should explore it. This is the law,” he said.

On his part, an Associate Professor of Law, University of Ilorin, Dauda Adeyemi Ariyoosu, echoed the position of former president Obasanjo but with a caveat.

According to him, “I don’t think there should be any issue as far as ownership of natural resources is concerned in Nigeria because the constitution has already settled it.

“And unless and until the provisions of the constitution are interpreted otherwise, oil fields, mineral resources, natural gas and so on and so forth all belong to the federal government.” 

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