Northern leaders, yesterday, expressed mixed feelings over news that crude oil has finally been discovered in that part of the country, raising the prospects of states in the region getting the 13 percent derivation benefits hitherto enjoyed by nine oil-bearing states in Southern part of the country.
Leader of Northern Elders Forum, Mr Ango Abdullahi and Second Republic lawmaker, Mr Junaid Mohammed, who spoke with our correspondent on the reported oil find in the North, said there was nothing to cheer about it as the discovery and production of oil in the Niger Delta since 1956 has not brought significant prosperity to Nigeria and its people.
According to the two leaders, if oil is successfully produced in the North, it would merely create more wealth for new millionaires to emerge and effectively plunge the majority of northerners into deeper squalor due to mismanagement rather than add value and create equal opportunities for all.
Mohammed said: “Frankly speaking, the claim of oil find in the north to me is a dubious discovery. It is important to know what quantity of oil has been found and of what commercial value and the longevity of the reserve it is to the country before we begin to roll out the drums for celebration.
“I am not excited about the news of the so-called oil find in the north because I know it is not going to solve any problem in the region as it would not bring any real benefit to the suffering masses in the area due to bad leadership and management of Nigerian resources.
“Those who are celebrating oil find in the North do not seem to know what they are doing. We need to see the oil first, determine the quantity and quality of the crude and then find out the reserve before they begin the dance.
“My fear is that like any other Nigerian business, oil find in the north will not only be mismanaged but would also be used as an instrument of power by the elite to further exacerbate the suffering of the downtrodden and divide the people going by the experience in Niger Delta,” Mohammed said.
To solve the problem of the North and Nigeria as a whole, the former lawmaker asked the government to urgently diversify the economy and make Agriculture, manufacturing and transparent leadership as the cornerstone of its operations.
NEF Leader and former Vice Chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University, Ango Abdullahi, noted that though oil find would have been of great joy to the people of the North, the subjection of majority of Nigerians to poverty and the classification of Nigeria as the ‘poverty capital of the world’ despite oil wealth over the years, have not given any hope that the oil would bring any real benefit to the people.
Abdullahi noted that there was no reason for jubilation over the claimed oil find in the north because the production of oil in the Niger Delta since 1956 has only worsened poverty, heightened divisions and disunity among the communities that had been living in peace before the discovery of oil.
“As a matter of fact, it is important to remind those who are rejoicing over the claimed oil find in the north that Nigerian economy was stronger while Nigerians were richer and happier before the discovery of oil in Oloibiri in 1956.
“If we may ask, why is Nigeria still the poverty capital of the world, if oil had been of any real benefit to the country and its people over the years?” he asked.
Abdulllahi stated that unless Nigeria embarked on a credible restructuring to make states less dependent on federal purse, the country would continue to experience economic downturn and avoidable underdevelopment.
“We need far more restructuring in the north than the South and let me say that if any restructuring is to be based on oil find in the north, it is dead on arrival,” the renowned agronomist said.
“Let us sit down and find out why Nigerians are poor despite oil wealth because the one they claim they have found in the North is not going to bring anything different from what we are seeing in the land,” the former ABU VC said.