Wike decries Nigeria’s dependence on oil, demands resource control by states
Governor Nyesom Wike has identified the country’s dependence on oil as one of the reasons it’s in a financial straits right now.
Wike advocated resource control by the federating units as panacea for the current problem.
He stressed that federating units in Nigeria should be allowed to develop and operate their respective minerals and pay royalty to the Federal Government.
He said this had become pertinent because the Federal Government which unilaterally controlled the country rich minerals endowment had failed to translate the minerals wealth into overall economic development.
Wike made this assertion when the Minister of State for Mines and Steel Development, Uchechukwu Ogah, paid him a visit at the Government House, Port Harcourt.
The governor, in a statement by his media aide, Kelvin Ebiri, maintained that in order for the country to benefit from its vast endowment, the Federal Government should concentrate on formulation of policies that would facilitate an improvement in the governance of the mining sector to improve social welfare of the citizens.
“The Federal Government is carrying so much load that it is not supposed to carry. Allow states to develop these minerals and pay royalty to the Federal Government. That is the way it’s supposed to be.”
“It is very important for people to know that part of the problem in this country is that everybody is depending on oil, when we are also supposed to look at other minerals. Minerals play a great role in terms of raising revenue for any country. So, our overemphasis on oil has reduced our impact on other minerals,” Wike stated.
He noted that if the country fully harness the gold deposit in Zamfara as well as other minerals in other states of the federation, the country would make a lot of revenue from these minerals that can accelerate her development.
Wike lamented that despite the possibility of the Ajaokuta Steel Company project generating huge revenues for the country and creating not less than 10,000 jobs, the Federal Government for political reasons, had failed to actualise the country’s aspiration to become a major player in the global steel industry.
The Minister of State for Mines and Steel Development, Uchechukwu Ogah, told the governor he was in the state to share with him the vision and policy focus of the Federal Government for the development of the nation’s solid mineral resources.
According to him, his visit is to solicit for the support and partnership of the Government of Rivers State in ensuring the orderly and efficient exploitation of huge deposits of silica sand, glass sand and clay in the state.
The campaign for resource control has heightened over the months as governors have maintained that the central government is ‘overburdened’ and needs to decentralise some of its current responsibilities.
The governors have particularly asked the Federal Government to decentralise the police and allow them to be in control of mineral resources within their domains.
Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State also said the Federal Government should stop financial gynamistics and face the reality that dependence on oil could not take the country far.
Obaseki, who said this in a statement yesterday, called for a quick diversification of the nation’s economy to increase non-oil revenue.
Obaseki said, “Before the civil war, we had no crude oil. The regions relied on the resources that they had and the government was run based on taxation, which was derived from the regions and production, particularly agricultural production in the regions.
“In the last 40 years or so, crude oil came and replaced those economic activities and earnings. So, we now run a federation relying almost exclusively on crude oil. For a country that is still hoping on crude oil, it’s only a question of time and pretending and doing all sorts of interesting and financial gymnastics to keep it going; it’s only a question of time.”
Noting the need for leaders to listen and work, always, in the interest of the people, Obaseki said, “When they say government, what they really mean is us; it’s about how we engage with the citizens.
“The people in government think they are better and know more than the citizens. When you say something, they disagree with you because they think they are in power and know more than you.
“We; officials of government, civil servants and politicians, because we are government, think that we know better than the people. But it’s a fallacy, because it’s the taxes these people pay from their own economic activities that will sustain us going into the future.”
“It is their sweat that will pay our salaries; they cannot be foolish for them to be producing the resources that keep us. Therefore, our emphasis must be on them; we have to keep them alive.
“That is why the government must create an enabling environment for the citizens to thrive, so that from their wealth, the government can be sustained,” he added.
These calls may appear to be coming from the governors elected on the plaform of the opposition People’s Democratic Party but two months ago, el-Rufai, one of the outspoken governors elected on the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) had made the same demand of the Federal Government.
el-Rufai spoke on a live broadcast tagged ‘The Fierce Urgency of Now: Tactics and Strategies to Pull Nigeria from the Brink,’
He stated that Nigeria had failed “jealously and consistently protect its prerogatives and status as a leviathan, the ultimate guarantor of security, the protector of rights and the promoter of the rule of law.”
According to him, that is why the Federal Government’s power is being challenged in a “frighteningly sustained manner” by a phalanx of armed non-state actors.
He said, “I would recommend the following immediate decisions and actions by the federal and state governments, with the support of our civil society and all well-meaning Nigerians. The first is to implement the three key devolution proposals that I mentioned: Give us state police now; vest all minerals in the states now; and decentralise our judiciary now – not later.