The vexed issue of resource control reared its head once again in the Nigerian Senate on Wednesday as the Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege queried the arrangement that allowed Zamfara State keep the proceeds of the sale of N5 billion worth of Gold bar to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) at a time when the proceeds of oil in the Niger Delta Region are shared by all the federating units.
Omo-Agege raised the query as the Senate resumed debate on the general principles of the 2021 budget estimate of N13.08 trillion on, looking for ways to finance the budget.
The Deputy Senate President said the people of the Niger-Delta region are worried and want to know who owns the gold in Zamfara that is being sold to the CBN when the oil in the Niger-Delta is not being sold by the people.
“We often talk of leakages (in the system) but why even go into leakages when we can go directly to the solid mineral sector? Mr. President, not too long ago, we saw the Governor of Zamfara State come before the CBN to present a gold bar worth close to about N5 billion.
“The gold bar was presented for sale to the CBN. Mr. President, our people are beginning to wonder who owns this gold that is being sold to the CBN. They don’t sell oil in any of the Niger Delta states. I am wondering why a Governor of a state should be selling a gold bar from Zamfara to the CBN.
“There are two problems with that. We believe that whatever revenue that ought to come from that transaction belongs to the entire country and not belonging to the state government,” he said.
Omo-Agege also wondered why Nigeria seems to concentrate all its efforts on revenue from oil, and completely neglecting the huge potential in its solid mineral deposits that can help reduce the burden on external borrowings.
“There is a lot of revenue that could come from there that will take the burden from this international borrowings”, Omo-Agege stated.
Nigeria’s budget for 2021 is predicated on a benchmark crude oil price of $40 per barrel and a daily production of 1.86 million barrels.
To achieve this, Omo-Agege reminded the government it was imperative to ensure that there is peace in the Niger-Delta; describing it as the “goose that lay the golden eggs.”
He, however, lamented the situation of acute joblessness and infrastructure deficit in the Niger-Delta; submitting that it could be safe to conclude that the government has failed the people.
“As we speak right now, major roads connecting Delta State to Edo State has been cut in half. A journey that normally takes about 40 minutes from Warri to Benin, now takes about six hours. How do we explain this? We can probably explain this that we have failed the people.”
There was no response from any of the lawmakers to Omo-Agege’s submissions including the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan.
Instead, the Senate proceeded with its debate on the general principles of the 2021 budget with many of the lawmakers especially those from the opposition, the Peoples Democratic Party picking holes in the budget document.
The debate on the budget is expected to be concluded on Thursday.