Onshore-offshore oil debate settled – Nigeria Govt

Ikechukwu Nnochiri

15 September 2012, Sweetcrude, ABUJA – NIGERIA’S Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Bello Adoke, SAN, has given reasons why the controversial issue of onshore-offshore dichotomy in the allocation of derivation proceeds in the country cannot be revisited by the Federal Government.

The Attorney General of the Federation, AGF, maintained that the matter had been laid to rest by the Supreme Court since 2005.

He warned politicians to desist from overheating the polity with arguments bordering on “the desirability or otherwise of re-opening the issue of the abrogation of the onshore-offshore dichotomy.”

He said: “In the light of the unanimous position of the Supreme Court on this issue, expressed since 2005, it behooves on us all to promote the sanctity of our judicial system by recognizing that the pronouncements of the Supreme Court should neither be treated with levity nor be subjected to undue politicization in the name of politics or the pursuit of particular interests.”

Issue settled by Supreme Court
Adoke, who made the assertion at a valedictory court session that was conducted by the apex court in honour of Justice Francis Fedode Emomotimi Tabai, who bowed out of active judicial service upon clocking 70 years on July 25, said: “It is pertinent to remind all interest groups in the matter that it is too early in the day to forget that this esteemed court, in the matter of A.G Adamawa & 21 Ors v. A-G. Federation & 8 Ors [2005] 18 NWLR (Part 958) 581, was invited to rule on the constitutionality or otherwise of the Allocation of Revenue (Abolition of Dichotomy in the Application of the Principle of Derivation) Act 2004.

“The court, in a well reasoned judgment after benefiting from the submissions of some of our country’s finest legal minds, reached the well-reasoned conclusion that the Act was not in conflict with the 1999 Constitution and was, indeed, properly made by the National Assembly to place the implementation of section 162 of the 1999 Constitution on a more ‘certain and predictable basis’.

“Indeed, Hon. Justice G.A Oguntade, JSC (as he then was) put the matter succinctly when he declared as follows in his supporting judgment: ‘There is no doubt that this court has the jurisdiction to invalidate a law which is contrary to or inconsistent with the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria. I have examined the 2004 Act again and again with a view to determining if there is anything intrinsic to it which is contrary to the letter and spirit of the 1999 constitution.

“I could find no such matter. Rather it is a legislation, which in my view, is directed at placing the implementation of the provisions of section 162 of the 1999 Constitution on a more certain and predictable basis. I do not see the law as a legislative judgment by the National Assembly. It is based on its tenor and language not an attempt to cede land to oil-producing states.”

He continued: “One notes with grave concern the recent deliberate attempt to resurrect this debate and elevate it to the level of an urgent national issue, with all its potentials to generate acrimonious wrangling within the polity, as if it were a fresh matter on which there had been no judicial determination in the past.

“Our country faces challenges today as we pursue the consolidation of our democracy and the triumph of the rule of law in all aspects of our national life. While there will undoubtedly be stresses and strains as we continue on the journey to perfect nationhood, a credible and truly independent judiciary remains the best guarantee for political stability and social cohesion.

“Let me assure you therefore that the Executive arm of Government will continue to work closely with the judiciary to ensure that together, we build a country founded on justice, prosperity and equal opportunities for all.”

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  • Nigerian politicians are largely very unimaginative, that’s why they can’t help stoking the embers of discord to whip up paranoid sentiments which have no place in nation building. We agree with Mohammed Bello Adoke’s position.