There is urgent need to repeal the Petroleum, Minerals and Mining and Land Use Acts to create a convivial coexistence between the states and federal government. Undeniably, these three acts of parliament surreptitiously and clandestinely turned this once bourgeoning federation to a unitary state that has retarded the growth of the country since the military incursion into the Nigerian political experience in 1966.
The major issues that promote conflicts in the country are resource allocation and management. While most Nigerians talk so much about the sharing of resources none talks about the creation and generation of resources. But the greatest impediments to the development of the country are the three aforesaid acts of parliament. For instance, the draconian Petroleum Act of 1990 states inter alia: “An Act to provide for the exploration of petroleum from the territorial waters and the continental shelf of Nigeria and vest the ownership of, and all on-shore and off-shore revenue from petroleum resources derivable therefrom in the Federal Government and for all other matter incidental thereto.” This law empowers only the federal government to explore and exploit crude oil in the country thereby preventing the states from doing same in their domain; this is why the states have remained unproductive.
Likewise, the Nigerian Minerals and Mining Act 2007 states thus: “The entire property in and control of all mineral resources in, under or upon any land in Nigeria, its contiguous continental shelf and all rivers, streams and watercourses throughout Nigeria, any area covered by its territorial waters or constituency and the Exclusive Economic Zone is and shall be vested in the Government of the Federation for and on behalf of the people of Nigeria.” This is another law in our statue books that stands as a clog in the wheel of progress of the states. Now, the states have virtually become beggars; going to Abuja every month to collect the crumbs that fall from the table of the federal government.
Similarly, the repressive Land Use Decree No 6 of 1978 (now Land Use Act) which transferred the ownership of lands to the government at the three tiers of governance is another bane of development. This Act has rendered the citizenry to mere tenants in their ancestral lands and also debarred them from having land titles with which they can obtain loans from banks to set up cottage industries or engage in other small scale businesses. This is why many Nigerians are very poor because they don’t have access to loans with which to set up small businesses.
The Land Use Act is a great disservice to the citizenry of this country because government officials hide under this law to seize lands from the aboriginals with phoney promises to apply them for the betterment of the people. Chairmen of local government councils, governors and presidents hide under the Land Use Act to transfer the ownership of millions of hectares of land from Nigerians to themselves!
Thus, the members of the 8th National Assembly, if they truly represent the people, should do everything within their power to ensure that they expunge the Petroleum, Minerals and Mining Acts from the Exclusive List and put it in the Residual List in the constitution in order to allow the states explore and exploit the crude oil and also mine the solid minerals beneath their lands so they can generate their revenues! And of course, they should also obliterate the Land Use Act from our statue books because it is counterproductive. Land belongs to the people and without the people there will be no government so governments shouldn’t forcefully take over the people’s lands under any guise.
It is incontestable that the reason why many states in the country are unable to generate enough revenues to meet their financial obligations is owing to the fact that the country is operating a unitary government where the federal government controls everything. The reverse is the case in true federalism where the federating units control their resources and pay taxes to the federal government. The states should therefore be allowed to explore and exploit their crude oil and also mine their solid minerals so they can general their own revenues and pay taxes to the federal government. This will promote competition among the federating states and encourage accelerated development.