The Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), on Monday, called on federal lawmakers from the North to be on the alert as various stakeholders expressed their readiness to endorse restructuring once it is passed by the National Assembly.
Chairman of the forum, Chief Audu Ogbeh, made the submission when prominent northern leaders including the Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III; Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila; Nasarawa State Governor, Abdullahi Sule, among others, bared their minds on the socio-economic and political impact of Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB).
They made the various observations and contributions while speaking at a one-day retreat organised by the Northern Caucus of the House of Representatives themed, ‘Petroleum Industry Bill and the Future of Nigeria’.
The event was held at the Zuma Resort near Abuja.
Speaking at the event, Ogbeh warned that the North was lagging behind in industrialisation and jobs creation to its teeming population owing to lack of proper planning and determination by its leaders to invest in the region.
He warned the northern lawmakers to be diligent as many issues regarding the PIB and other issues that would have both positive and negative effects on the North would come before them.
The ACF chairman said, “The last time Mr President met with a delegation from the South-South, he made a statement that revealed his body language.
“He said that if a bill is presented before the National Assembly on the question of restructuring and the Assembly passes it, he will have no objection than to sign it. It then means that the matter may not be too far away,” he said.
Ogbeh said during their last meeting in Kaduna, they extended an invitation to Ohanaeze, Afenifere, and the South-South in order to have a conversation on the subject.
“We believe that there is no reason for undue warfare and that we all need to have a conversation across table to solve the problem. However, I will like you, as legislators, to take note of this.
“Many of the people who are clamouring for restructuring are referring to the 1963 Constitution. Somehow, they believe that constitution gives to every part of Nigeria whatever resources they have,” he said.
He said they were trying to get copies of the discussion and send to all the legislators to see.
“Item 25, part 1 of section 69 of the first schedule says that mines, minerals, including oil fields, oil mining, geological surveys and natural gas are on the exclusive list.
“The 1963 Constitution, an exact copy of the 1960 Constitution and a copy of the 1999 Constitution which has now made to look as if it was written by the government itself.
“Take out this constitution and read it well. We will meet, discuss and something will be presented to you. It will be up to you to make it work after which Mr President will be ready to sign it,” he added.
According to him, the main problem facing the North was lack of industrialization and slow growth in education.
“Now, we have people who go round capturing children and taking them to the forest. We are not doing well in human management.
In his speech, Sultan Abubakar said tribal politicians were bent on tearing the fabric of the nation apart under different guises.
“As patriotic and peace-loving Nigerians, we should not fold our arms and watch them destroy our unity. I, therefore, urge you, as grassroots politicians, to continue to support government efforts in restoring peace and stability across the country as no nation can prosper under chaos.
“All Nigerians must enjoy equal freedom and equal rights to live peacefully and pursue their legitimate businesses in any part of the country they so choose, be it in the market or in the forest.
The Sultan, who was represented by Danmadamin Sokoto, Faruk Ahmed, added, “We must reject all ill-conceived schemes that are divisive, schemes that are setting Nigerians against fellow Nigerians.
“We must abhor laws that are capable of causing inter-tribal or inter-regional disharmony. All men are created equal and the unity of Nigeria is sacrosanct.”
The monarch said he had no doubt in his mind that a retreat on the petroleum industry bill and other key national issues would sharpen the collective perspectives of the way forward.
“I am confident that the outcome of this retreat will be positive and in the interest of the stability and prosperity of our great nation.
“As we all know, our country is passing through multiple challenges and this government is doing the best it can to improve the situation.
“But, at the back of every effort we make, we must underscore the need to strengthen our national unity, boost our economy to provide employment to our growing youth population.
“Our economy has for more than five decades remained dependent on oil, but today the world is moving away from oil to clean energy. Therefore, it is of great importance for the 9th Assembly to treat the PIB as a priority before it is too late.
“The passage of the PIB will enable Nigeria to commercialise these huge hydrocarbon reserves to get more funds to develop other sectors of the economy such as education, health, agriculture, solid minerals technology and innovation, manufacturing and infrastructure before the end of oil economy,” he said.
“I urge you to sustain similar periodic engagement with your members as well as northern technocrats, intellectuals, traditional institutions and religious leaders as a way of equipping yourselves to confront national issues,” he said.