Supreme Court's Verdict

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Supreme Court's Verdict On Resource Control:

The Political Imperatives


BY

 

 DAVID DAFINONE, SAN


Introduction

The Supreme Court, as its name suggests, is a court of last resort. Its
judgment is supreme as it carries the weight of finality. This fact was
instructively underscored by Justice Hugo Black of the United States Supreme
Court, when he declared that, "We are not final because we are infallible. We
are infallible because we are final." Accordingly, it is difficult, if not
impossible, to accept its recent verdict on Resource Control as final, because
the Justices have proved once again that they are, indeed, not infallible as,
their pronouncements are replete with contradictions.

It is now common knowledge that the issue brought before the Supreme Court by
the Federal Attorney General was simply the "determination of the seaward
boundary of a littoral state within the Federal Republic of Nigeria...." This
discourse intends to examine this issue in six steps, beginning with some
contradictory pronouncements, an historical view, boundary determination,
revenue allocation, the United States experience and then, the way forward.

Contradictory Pronouncements

Justice Ogundare in his lead judgment opined that:

"In my humble view and as I shall presently show, the seaward boundary of a
littoral state as we are called upon to determine in this case is a matter of
law. What becomes factual and on which evidence will be required to prove, is
the actual location of that boundary. The latter situation is not the issue
before us."

At another instance, the same Justice went further to state as follows:

"What then is the position in law, as Chief Williams relies on law? As I have
found earlier in this judgment, the southern boundaries of the littoral states
of Nigeria are the sea. This makes them riparian owners. And as riparian
owners, the seaward extent of their land territory, at common law, is the
low-water mark or the seaward limit of their internal waters. This is so,
because at common law, the sea shore or foreshore (both mean the same thing)
belongs to the Crown. See: Hales, De Jure Maris (Hargrave's Tracts, pp 12, 25
& 26) where it is written."

It is necessary to place on record at this juncture that the Communal lands in
Delta State and in particular Sapele and Warri Local Government Areas are
vested in Trustees under the Communal Lands (Vesting in Trustees) Law 1958 of
the Western Region. Arising from the aforesaid enactment, these lands remain
vested in the Community as owners because they are entitled to a statutory
right of occupancy under the Land Use Act of 1978.

The rights of the indigenous local community to the communal lands was further
confirmed by the Supreme Court judgment in the case of Ojeme vs. Momodu in
which the rights of the various communities to the use of their communal lands
as owners under common law was upheld.

Neither the States nor the Federal Government are owners of freehold interests
in land in southern Nigeria except in the former colony of Lagos.

From Justice I. L. Kutigi are the following pronouncements which are
contradictory to the arguments of Justice Ogundare:

"In further support of its case, the plaintiff has also called in aid some
foreign decisions of the Supreme Court of the USA, the Supreme Court of Canada
and the High Court of Australia. I will say in short that reliance on these
decisions is misplaced. The cases addressed their own peculiar positions,
which in no way resembles the position in Nigeria. The Constitutions are
different.

"I have read through the three enactments (that is, the Territorial Waters
Act, the Sea Fisheries Act and the Exclusive Economic Zone Act) referred to
above, and I am unable to find anything expressly in any of them which shows
that the seaward boundary of Nigeria or indeed the littoral component states
therein, is the low water mark, or the seaward limit of inland waters."

However, the contradictions do not end with the above pronouncements. In its
ruling on the 11 July 2001, the Supreme Court had said that:

"There cannot be a boundary dispute between the Federation and individual
states, whether littoral or otherwise, since the boundaries are the same."

It may be interesting to remind their lordships of the case of Orku Sowa and
Senabor of Opu Degema v. Chief Jim George Amachree of New Calabar decided in
1933, where J. Berkeley, C.J. Kingdom and J. Webber noted that, "It is
impossible to make a declaration of title without a plan to which such
declaration can be tied". One must ask if the Supreme Court is sufficiently
equipped to engage in this self-inflicted assignment.

It is now necessary to piece through the aforesaid judgment to establish the
fundamentals upon which the Court grounded its verdict on 5 April 2002. An
Historical View

Ogundare J.S.C., no time in the legal and constitutional history of Nigeria at
which Nigeria acquired an existence, or right which was not contingent on a
previously existing entity. The transfer of power from the British Crown to
the Government of the Federation of Nigeria in 1960 was only "political" as
the various treaties between the component sovereign states and Kingdoms which
made up Nigeria commencing from the Berlin Conference in 1884-85 through the
Royal Niger Company, the Oil Rivers Protectorates, the Protectorate of
Southern Nigeria, and the subsequent amalgamation of the Southern and Northern
Nigeria (1914) did not confer any freehold interest in land in Southern
Nigeria except in the Colony of Lagos which was ceded to the British Crown in
1861 by King Dosunmu of Lagos.

Boundary Determination

The case before the Supreme Court was the determination of the seaward
boundary of the littoral or coastal states vis--vis the federation. The
Justices had earlier on 11 July 2001 decided categorically that this issue
could not be inquired into because, "there cannot be a boundary dispute
between the Federation and individual states, whether littoral or otherwise,
since the boundaries are the same". This position was forgotten when the
Justices decided this time around that the determination of the seaward
boundary of the littoral or coastal States was the subject of proper inquiry
by the Plaintiff and, of which they could pronounce upon without an enabling
law, constitutional provision, survey maps, etc.

Interestingly, Kutigi J.S.C., having examined the Plaintiff's case, its
arguments and reliance on some foreign decisions of the Supreme Court of the
United States of America, the Supreme Court of Canada and the High Court of
Australia, came to the conclusion that "reliance on those decisions is
misplaced". He went further to state that;

"The cases addressed their own peculiar positions, which in no way resemble
the position in Nigeria. The Constitutions are different. There is no dispute
here in Nigeria with regard to the right of the Federal Government to the
entire property in, and control over all minerals, mineral oils and natural
gas in, under or upon any land in Nigeria or in, under or over the territorial
waters and the Exclusive Economic Zone of Nigeria (see Section 44(3) of the
Constitution). The only dispute here is whether or not the natural resources
are derived from littoral States for the purpose of enjoying the benefits of
Section 162(2) of the Constitution. The foreign decisions are clearly in my
view not of any assistance here. The historical factors and or colonial
circumstances of these countries are quite different from ours."

In considering the Territorial Waters Act 1971, the Sea Fisheries Act 1971,
the Exclusive Economic Zones Act 1978 the learned Justice had this to say:

"I have read through the three enactment referred to above and I am unable to
find anything expressly in any of them which show that the seaward boundary of
the Nigerian State or indeed the component States therein, is the low water
mark or the seaward limits of inland waters."

It is indeed very curious that Justice Kutigi had said that the Plaintiff was
calling upon the Supreme Court to make:

"...an inference that the seaward boundary of a littoral State is the low
water mark or seaward limits of inland waters, simply because the three
enactments referred to above all have their boundaries starting from the same
low water mark or seaward limits of inland waters and that it is only the
Federal Government that is vested exclusively with powers over the areas or
zones under these enactments."

He now concluded and quite rightly in my humble view, that:

"Speaking for myself, I think in the absence of any express enactment, it will
be unsafe and indeed dangerous to make the inference urged on the Court by the
Plaintiff. I believe "boundaries" must be expressly provided for or defined
and must not be left to inferences. In other words, what is required is an
express authority."

How then did our learned Justice come to the same conclusion he was avoiding
in the first place, especially considering the fact that he had admitted that,

"The Plaintiff has undoubtedly failed to show us any provision of the 1999
Constitution or any law or enactment for that matter which expressly provides
for the seaward boundary of a littoral State which this Court is required to
interpret. In other words the Plaintiff has not identified any law which the
Court is to interpret."

Justice Kutigi had to undertake a voyage of discovery to exhume dead statutes
in the annals of the nations legal history. He dug up and dusted THE NORTHERN
REGION, WESTERN REGION AND EASTERN REGION (DEFINITION OF BOUNDARIES)
PROCLAMATION, 1954, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria and Lagos, 1958, Volume
XI and, found that in the Second and Third Schedules to that proclamation, the
southern boundaries of the Western and Eastern Regions were respectively
defined as "South. The sea." Similarly, the southern boundary of Lagos was
defined in the Lagos Local Government (Delimitation of Town) Order in Council,
1953, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria and Lagos 1958 Volume VIII was defined
in the schedule to the Order-in-Council, as "On the South - The Sea." Upon
these dead authorities, Kutigi J.S.C. found the southern boundary of the
littoral Nigerian States to be simply The Sea, or the Atlantic Ocean.

Justice Kutigi explains further:

"What I am saying in short is that the seaward boundary of a littoral State is
co-extensive with the seaward boundary of the Nigerian State itself."

Now since these Proclamations did not state expressly at which point of "the
Sea" or "Atlantic Ocean" is the exact boundary of the littoral state, there
was need to be innovative. Otherwise, the littoral states can argue that the
entire Atlantic Ocean south of Nigeria forms part of their territory. He found
no difficulty in holding that,

"Nigeria exercises sovereign power over its territorial waters as well as the
Exclusive Economic Zone only as a result of treaties and conventions it had
entered into and not because the area or areas form part of Nigeria in the
first place."

Admittedly, this is very ingenious. Perhaps, he was simply stating the dry
bones of the law. Upon a critical examination, it would be realised that this
law is bloodless, lacking the merit of equity and justice, especially to the
littoral states of the Federation of Nigeria. True, the rights to the
territorial waters and the Exclusive Economic Zone are conferred by
international law on the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The Federal Republic of
Nigeria includes the littoral States as a subject of international law. The
rights and powers so vested in Nigeria (including the littoral states) are
further predicated on the fact of the littoral States being contiguous to
these maritime zones. In any event, there cannot be Nigeria with maritime
boundaries without the littoral States, whose land territories are contiguous
to the maritime zones. In the Grisbadarna case (See Hudson, Cases and Other
Materials on International Law (1929), 407, 408, the Permanent Court of
Arbitration stated that, it was "in accordance with the fundamental principles
of the law of nations, both old and new," that "the maritime territory is a
necessary dependence of the land territory." This fact would still have to be
emphasised.

The imperial enactments that were exhumed by Kutigi J.S.C. were actually
omitted from the Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 1990. As he observed, this
was:

"...because by the Revised Edition (Authorised Omissions) Order, 1990, the Law
Revision Committee was empowered to omit all imperial enactments or statutes
or subsidiary matters pertaining to them which are no longer relevant to
Nigeria as contained in Parts I, II and III of schedule 1 to the Order."

So what Justice Kutigi has done is to rely on irrelevant imperial Orders. This
fact notwithstanding, he actually expresses a preference for their continued
printing "until such a time that any of them is expressly or by necessary
implication repealed by Nigerians themselves." If we can dig up dead and
irrelevant imperial Orders on the ground that they had not been expressly or
implicitly repealed, why should we not dig up Treaties entered into between
the South-South Kingdoms and Great Britain of Old? After all, these treaties,
unlike the imperial orders are still in force. Is what is good for the goose
no longer good for the gander?

On the vexed issue of Nigeria exercising sovereign power over its territorial
waters as well as the Exclusive Economic Zone, the question to ask is: on what
authority did Nigeria begin to exercise such power? It is on the authority of
international law, which recognition is based on the fact that Nigeria's
southern territory (more particularly the littoral states) is contiguous to
these maritime zones. The implication of these is that without these littoral
states being within the Federation of Nigeria, international law could not
have recognised Nigeria's sovereignty over these maritime zones. At any rate
is there anything that is necessarily contrary to Nigeria's sovereignty over
the territorial waters and Exclusive Economic Zone if these areas were part of
the littoral states, which are part of Nigeria? Is it impracticable especially
when there is no express municipal law as in the United States that clearly
delineates the boundaries of the littoral states from those of the Federal
Government? Certainly not as, we shall see in the case of the United States of
America. But before then, let us examine how the Supreme Court misdirected
itself on the issue of revenue allocation.

Revenue Allocation

The issue before the Supreme Court was not revenue allocation per se, but
territory (land and water). The Supreme Court was being called upon to
determine the seaward boundary of the Littoral State within the Federal
Republic of Nigeria. The reason for such determination was said to be "for the
purpose of calculating the amount of revenue accruing to the Federation
Account directly from any natural resources derived from that State pursuant
to the proviso to section 162(2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic
of Nigeria 1999." This was the purpose of the claim as opposed to the claim.
But, it was nevertheless important for the Supreme Court to bear this purpose
in mind so much so that the ancillary purpose (revenue) became of equal
relevance with the major issue (claim). This is revealed in the lead judgment
of Justice Ogundare, who by his judgment gives preference to Decree No. 106 of
1992 over the provisions of the 1999 Constitution.

The 1999 Constitution clearly provides in Section 313 that:

"Pending any Act of the National Assembly for the provision of a system of
revenue allocation between the Federation and the States, among the States,
between the States and local government councils and among the local
government councils in the States, the system of revenue allocation in
existence for the financial year beginning from 1st January 1998 and ending on
31st December 1998 shall, subject to the provisions of this Constitution and
as from the date when this section comes into force, continue to apply."

The proviso to this section which is itself significant is what Ogundare J.S.C
dismissed in his lead judgment in the following words, "The proviso to this
section is unnecessary for our purpose; it is, therefore, omitted here."
However, Section 1(1) of the Constitution proclaims its supremacy. Section
1(3) now provides that any other provision in any law inconsistent with the
provisions of the Constitution shall be null and void to the extent of its
inconsistency. Accordingly, it would appear that the voyage of discovery into
Decree No. 106 of 1992 becomes irrelevant.

Nevertheless, after considering Decree No. 106 of 1992, the learned Justice
Ogundare opined that:

"Given the zig-zag history of revenue allocation vis--vis the derivation
principle since, at least, 1960 to date, it cannot be said that the Plaintiff
at any time admitted that the area of the sea beyond the low-water mark
belonged to the coastal Regions or States contiguous to it." (Emphasis
supplied).

What of the area of land beyond the low-water mark? Could not the Plaintiff be
taken to have admitted at some point in the constitutional historical
development of the Nigerian federation that this area, referred to as
"continental shelf" belonged to the Coastal Regions or States contiguous to
it? It would be recalled that both the 1960 and 1963 Constitutions actually
recognised that the continental shelf was part of the Regions. The 1963
Constitution states that, for the purpose of revenue allocation the territory
of a State or region shall include the continental shelf.

It is necessary to recall that during the lifetime of this administration,
various Finance Acts have been passed by the Plaintiff in which the abolition
of the onshore/offshore dichotomy was maintained, notwithstanding the
existence of Decree No. 106 of 1992 and the passing of the Niger Delta
Development Commission Act 2001. Needless to stress that, it has been well
established by law that the principle of estoppel by conduct is binding on the
Plaintiff as enunciated by Lord Denning in the High Trees Case. Should not the
Plaintiff have been estopped from denying that, the area of the sea beyond the
low-water mark belonged to the coastal Regions or States contiguous to it?

Justice Ogundare would also seem to have eroded the powers of Local Government
Councils in Nigeria. This is both undesirable and inexpedient as, the Local
Governments are the third-tier of government within the Federation. We must
enhance rather than diminish their powers so as not to concentrate too much
powers in the States. M. E. Ogundare J.S.C. is concerned that:

"...a local government council only participates with the State Government in
its provision and maintenance of primary education.

Nothing can be further from the truth. Meanwhile, Section 7(5) of the
Constitution clearly provides that:

"The functions to be conferred by law upon local government councils shall
include those set out in the fourth Schedule to this Constitution."

Paragraph 2 of the Fourth Schedule then reads in part:

"2. The functions of a local government council shall include participation of
each council of the Government of a State as respects the following matters -

(a) the provision and maintenance of primary, adult and vocational education.

(b) The Constitution clearly grants concurrent powers to both State and Local
Governments in respect of the provision of primary, adult and vocational
education. Nowhere in the Constitution was it stated that the role of Local
Governments in this regard is only secondary to that of the States, nor is
there any provision requiring the payment of moneys representing the share of
Local Governments in the Federation Account to be made to the States or into a
joint account between Local Governments and States. Yet by maintaining that
the "function obviously remains with the State Government", Justice Ogundare
has circumscribed the powers of Local Governments.

At any rate, what was before the Supreme Court and, what we are talking about
is the ownership of land as enshrined in Section 44(1) of the 1999
Constitution. The point has been made and will be made again that, without the
southern States, Nigeria would have had no access to the Sea or Atlantic
Ocean. There is no justice, if we say that the lands and people through whom
Nigeria became an important oil producer are left stranded in the market place
with nothing they could call their own.

The United States Experience

The first question would be "why the United States?" The United States of
America is critical to our experience because like Nigeria, it is a federation
of States, albeit an older federation. Nigeria has a lot to learn from the
U.S., a fact that underscored our decision during the Constituent Assembly
preceding the second republic to opt for the Presidential system of
government, modelled after the U.S. system.

In the United States, the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) has been the source of
an enormous oil and gas revenue. Consequently, it has continued to attract
public and private interests, so much so that the 105th and 106th Congresses
visited the OCS and introduced bills seeking funding for the coastal state
impacts, land and water conservation fund (LWCF), and wild life programmes.
Legislation introduced in the 106th Congress seeks to capture half of the oil
and gas revenues from the OCS for coastal states.

The question might, perforce arise, "what is the Outer Continental Shelf?" The
OCS is the federal portion of the continental shelf, extending outward from
three nautical miles offshore to 200 miles territorial limit. Offshore lands
within three nautical miles belong to the states, except for Western Florida
and Texas, where state lands extend to the 9 nautical mile line.

In the United States the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) was enacted
in 1953 as a response to the increasing interests in developing OCS oil and
gas resources. OCSLA as amended is intended to provide for orderly leasing of
those mining rights, while affording protection for the environment and
ensuring that the federal and state governments each receive a fair value from
the resulting production. The OCS programme is carried out by the Minerals
Management Services (MMS) of the Department of the Interior.

Determining an acceptable division of revenue from the OCS between adjacent
coastal states and the federal government has proven to be a difficult
problem. Although, the OCS is federal territory, coastal states argue that
they bear the brunt of remediating environmental impact and infrastructural
wear-and-tear accompanying OCS, oil and gas activity. These states also
harbour concern about rapid development in shore side communities possibly
needed to support offshore activity, concerns that are equally at the root
cause of the current agitation by the South-South States of Nigeria to control
their resources. It is hoped that since, they know exactly where and how it
pinches, they would be better placed to address these problems. At any rate,
they do not need to be reminded that the current situation in which the
Federal Government is both a key player in oil and gas leasing/mining as well
as a referee has never augured well for them in terms of the environmental and
developmental concerns.

The history of disputes between the U.S Federal Government and States over the
OCS revenues and the reluctance of Congress to appropriate authorised funds
led to the introduction of legislation in the 105th Congress to allocate half
of the OCS rents, royalties and bonuses to coastal states. This allocation has
a parallel in the on-shore revenue programme for production from federal
lands. Even with on-shore revenues, 50% is allocated to the state in which the
lease is located, and 40% is earmarked for the Reclamation Fund. Only 10% goes
to the Treasury. While it is not being suggested that only 10% of offshore
revenues should actually go to the Federal Government of Nigeria, the U.S.
situation must necessarily be contrasted with ours. The Federal Government
collects ALL and disburses less than 13% to the states from which the
resources are derived, or as it pleases. In the case of offshore lands, by the
recent Supreme Court decision, the Federal Government now takes EVERYTHING
and, the coastal states are entitled, to NOTHING, not even for ecological
impact, or infrastructural wear-and-tear, or coastal communities' development.

What lessons can we then draw from the U.S. experience? It is clear that, in
the U.S., in order to enable the Federal Government have a fair share of
leasing in offshore waters and territory, Congress had to specifically pass
the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act 1953 as amended. The essence of this
enactment was to reserve some offshore territory exclusively to itself. This
is understandable as the law protects vested interests and rights, which can
only be extinguished by very clear and unambiguous statutes. In Nigeria, the
reverse is the case despite the fact that both the U.S. and Nigeria are
generally regarded as common law jurisdictions. Here, the Federal Government
simply assumes it has exclusive proprietary right over offshore lands. This
overly confident assumption and posturing without the due process, or
necessary legal backing, has now been given uncritical recognition by the
Supreme Court of Nigeria.

In the U.S., the OCSLA 1953 as amended delineates the seaward boundary of the
coastal states, vis--vis that of the Federal Government. The coastal states
have an exclusive territorial jurisdiction or competence within the 3 nautical
miles offshore (as opposed to the low water mark in the case of Nigeria). In
fact, in Texas and Western Florida, the limit is 9 nautical miles. There are,
in fact, areas of overlapping jurisdiction between both coastal States and the
Federal Government. These are between 9 to 12 nautical miles and 3 to 5
nautical miles depending on the category to which the State falls. On the
contrary, there is no law in Nigeria that clearly delineates the offshore
boundary between the coastal states and federal government. While Justice
Ogundare of the Nigerian Supreme Court opines that the boundary of the
littoral States of Nigerian federation ends at the "low-water mark", his
colleague Justice says it ends at the Sea. Now, between the "low-water mark"
and the "sea", where should we place the exact boundary as in the United
States of America?

In the United States, even though the Outer Continental Shelf areas have been
declared to be Federal Lands, by the 106th Congress, the coastal states
receive 50% of all revenues from licenses, leases, royalties, etc. This is in
recognition of their proximity to these fragile ecological zones and, the
infrastructural implications of this, not least, the development of the
coastal communities.

This sort of equitable sharing formula does not exist in Nigeria, nor can we
deduce its possibility, however remote, from the recent Supreme Court
judgment. Indeed, by its recent verdict, even the 13% derivation recognised
under the constitution has been whittled down by the Supreme Court's
introduction of the "offshore" and "onshore" dichotomy, which was abolished by
Decree 106 of 1992 and, was never introduced by the 1979, 1985 and 1999
Constitutions. Now this is very strange, indeed.

The Way Forward

This Supreme Court ruling on Resource Control is truly a watershed in our
legal, economic and constitutional history. It should stimulate our resolve to
establish a legal framework through a constitutional conference for the
purpose of achieving sustainable economic and political development throughout
the federation for the benefit of both present and future generations of
Nigerians. The fact does not have to be overemphasised that this would be the
basis of promoting peace, unity and progress in the area, so as to attract the
much- desired foreign investments.

All the parties to the suit did not abide by the principles of resource
control, which are enunciated hereunder:

a) Resource control is a basic political theory grounded on the fact that
land, labour, capital and entrepreneurship are factors of production owned by
individuals, and should therefore be controlled by them. In so doing, the
rewards derived from such factors of production should be passed to those who
own them. Adam Smith, an early economist, analysed this in his ' Wealth of
Nations, 1776".

b) Rent is a return for the use of the original and indestructible properties
of the soil. Whoever owns land expects some form of compensation from those
hiring this very important factor of production. The clamour for resource
control is a clamour for adequate compensation, a cry for redistribution of
the revenue allocation formula, and nothing more. The only thing a government
should do is to impose tax to be used for the welfare of the community.

c) Resources of production are of two types:

i Renewable Resources; and

ii Non-Renewable Resources

The renewable resources consist of Groundnuts, Cocoa, Rubber, Palm Oil and
Kernels and Timber. The non-renewable resources consist of Petroleum, Gas,
Bitumen and solid minerals. The control of the non-renewable resources in
Nigeria is in the hands of the Multi-national Oil Companies, who own the
capital and the entrepreneurship while the Traditional Rulers and the local
communities own the land on which the people live.

There is need therefore to control the level of exploitation and exploration
of the mineral resources of this country and employ the benefits derived
therefrom in the rehabilitation and education of the human capital that
inhabit the areas. This country must learn from the mistakes of the past, for
the failure to do so has led to the devastating effect of the exploitation of
tin and columbite in Plateau State.

To conclude the way forward, we shall take some inspiration from the
autobiography of Sir Ahmadu Bello, the late Sardauna of Sokoto, when he said:

"No nation should sacrifice its valuable resources for the sake of short-term
monetary benefits. By extracting oil without regard to the side effects of the
quality of citizens' health and longevity, the nation does not improve either
its social or its economic sectors; instead, a declining trend will be onset.
Those who may feel that the problems of oil producing areas are not in their
backyard, and who may feel a safe distance from the oil communities, should be
reminded that Nigeria is an entity within one environment; a decay in part
will ultimately affect the rest of the nation. The fate of the mineral
producing communities should be a concern for us all. When ordinary people and
their environment become victims of disruptive economic expansion without
adequate protection or provision of alternative means to improve their social
and economic circumstances, they will remain vulnerable. Therefore, the need
to broaden the social responsibility and performance of the oil industry in
order to maintain economic progress with environmental balance should be a
matter of compulsion."

In Nigeria, today, contrary to the wise counsel of late Sir Ahmadu Bello,
those who are denied the benefits of oil and gas exploration and development
are exclusively shouldered with the burden.

Conclusion

It is not in the national interest for the Supreme Court to be court of first
instance. Admittedly, this has helped to shorten the length of time it takes
to settle or resolve contentious constitutional disputes between the
Federation and the States, or between States, or Local Governments. But, as a
court of first instance, any mistake it makes would be inimical to the peace
and security of the nation. This nation must learn from the United States of
America, where each State has its own Supreme Court.

There is need as a matter of urgency to put in place the relevant statutes as
the political and economic future of some of the States is now in jeopardy.

We as Nigerians must now all understand that we now have no alternative to a
national conference since the judgment will necessarily involve an amendment
to the Constitution.

culled from Guardian Newspapers - May 5, 2002

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