Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar said on Monday that Muhammadu Buhari has for long been against the economic interests of the people in Nigeria’s oil-producing states, saying the president once reduced oil revenue shares accrued to the Niger-Delta to practically nothing.
Mr Abubakar, who is contesting the 2019 presidential election, cited the over three-decade-old decision to strengthen his renewed call for a restructured Nigeria, and to show that Mr Buhari, whom he wants voted out, has never been in support of positive reforms.
“In 1984, then-Major-General Muhammadu Buhari reduced the amount of derivation funds paid to oil producing states to a paltry 1.5 % by military fiat and left the offshore oil revenues to the federal government,” Mr Abubakar said in a Monday morning statement to PREMIUM TIMES.
For decades, oil-producing states in the Niger-Delta have received varying percentages of the oil revenue generated from the region, but controlled and shared by the federal government.
The derivation was five per cent when Mr Buhari assumed office via a military coup in December 1983. In 1984, he reduced it to only 1.5 per cent by military fiat, drawing criticisms.
He also deprived the region of oil revenue in offshore Nigerian waters. His military successor, Ibrahim Babangida, slashed the derivation further to one percent, but earmarked three per cent for specific developmental purposes for the region.
The Babangida regime later suspended the dichotomy between onshore and offshore oil, effectively awarding oil in Nigerian waters and related revenue to the respective coastal states. The matter was revisited during the Obasanjo administration.
With the return of democracy in 1999, the new Nigerian Constitution allocated 13 per cent derivation for states across the oil-rich region, but this has continued to receive strong opposition from its residents, who argue the derivation was not enough to ameliorate the harsh consequences of oil exploration.
The anger also fueled the Niger-Delta militancy crisis in the 2000s, an armed insurrection that was later resolved by President Umar Yar’Adua in around 2009.
Mr Abubakar, who is contesting the election on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party presidential, was responding to an attack from the ruling All Progressives Congress, which accused him of being a “latter-day convert” to growing agitation for restructuring of Nigeria.
The APC had said Mr Abubakar conveniently embraced the restructuring debate for political expediency, describing it as an attempt to galvanise “populist political campaigns.”
Mr Abubakar has mounted a media campaign around restructuring since 2016, railing against Nigeria’s existing Constitution as inhibiting social and economic growth, unity and national inclusion. His decision to run for president again in 2019 has seen him ratchet up his campaign around restructuring, which he argues will bring a new dawn to Nigeria if implemented.
But critics have also dismissed Mr Abubakar’s calls, saying he failed to drive such reforms when he served as vice president between 1999 and 2007.
Mr Abubakar has faced regular unsavoury retorts from current senior administration officials as well as the APC itself, as both appear to be gearing up for a potential showdown with Mr Abubakar should he clinch the PDP nomination.
Last week, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo took on Mr Abubakar for describing him as ignorant of the restructuring Nigeria components. The vice president said his predecessor was confused, and went on to provide details of his long-standing position on restructuring.
Mr Osinbajo also said he had long canvassed state police as a practical and more prudent alternative to the current federal-structured police system, a disclosure that placed him in direct collision with Mr Buhari, who scoffed at the idea of a state police as economically unsustainable.
The APC also took on Mr Abubakar, urging Nigerians to be skeptical about his sincerity on the matter ahead of 2019.
“We are glad that the APC, which has repeatedly denied and avoided its own promise to restructure, has now acknowledged that restructuring is populist. It takes guts to make such an admission and we commend them,” Mr Abubakar’s campaign office said in Monday’s statement.
The APC incorporated restructuring in its manifesto prior to the 2015 elections, but the party has prevaricated around the issue since gaining power. After initially appearing to distance itself from restructuring issues, the party constituted a panel last year to help work out its modalities amidst political pressure.
The panel, led by Governor Nasir el-Rufai, submitted its report several months ago, but it remained unclear how the party is approaching its recommendations.
Mr Abubakar reminded the APC that he had been a consistent proponent of restructuring since at least 1995, and never for once flinched.
Mr Abubakar said his efforts helped pave the way for the adoption of 13 per cent derivation which Niger-Delta states now receive as prescribed by the Nigeria’s current Constitution adopted in 1999.
“During the 1994-95 Constitutional Conference, Patriots led by the late Shehu Musa Yar’Adua and Atiku Abubakar, who felt that the 1984 action by Muhammadu Buhari was unjust, worked with a pan Nigerian group of members of the conference and came up with a unique solution to the onshore/offshore dichotomy.
“Their solution provided a formula for the administration of the derivation principle and contained three very significant embodiment:
“That allocation to derivation shall stand at a minimum of 13 per cent.
“That the dichotomy between onshore and offshore exploration shall not be taken into account for the purpose of revenue allocation.
“That the boundaries of littoral states were clearly defined as extending to Nigeria’s exclusive economic zone which at the time stood at two hundred nautical miles,” he said.
Mr Abubakar concluded his statement by recalling history of his pro-restructuring exploits as he saw it, saying this would help Nigerians distinguish the genuine advocate of restructuring between him and APC elements.
“When the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, refused to take this unique solution into consideration (being that it was forced on the nation by the military) the onshore/offshore dichotomy again raised its ugly head and threatened to tank the then-nascent Obasanjo administration and the nation with it.
“We will like to educate the APC on the fact that it was precisely Atiku Abubakar who used the network he built at the 1994-95 conference to persuade Niger Delta Governors like Obong Victor Attah and Dr Peter Odili, (who were his colleagues at the 1994-95 constitutional conference) to reach a political solution to solve a problem caused by the constitution.
“If the APC would care to Google Resource Control, they would find articles from various Nigerian papers dating back to July 13, 2001, in which Waziri Atiku Abubakar has been championing restructuring.
“We recommend the article ‘Nigeria: 6-1 Onshore-Offshore Jurisdiction Verdict’ written by Jide Ajani, then the Political Editor of Vanguard Newspapers and published on July 13, 2001 (https://allafrica.com/stories/200107130417.html).
“The aforementioned facts show that Atiku Abubakar is no latter-day convert to restructuring neither is it a brainwave. It is a carefully thought out position that the Waziri took on principle in 1995 and has stuck to it through thick and thin.
“But Nigerians may want to ask the APC why it denied its own promise to restructure Nigeria. The case of the APC is like the case of a farmer who chances on thieves on his farm. If he does not raise the alarm, the thieves can accuse the farmer of being a thief.
“The APC wants to falsely raise the alarm so that Nigerians will not know who the genuine advocate of restructuring is between them and Atiku Abubakar,” he said.