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Controversial Sales Of Gold Worth N5b: N’Delta Indigenes Sue FG, Zamfara Govt, CBN

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Some aggrieved indigenes of oil producing communities of the Niger Delta region, have filed a suit before a Federal High Court in Abuja challenging the controversial sale of gold worth N5 billion by the Zamfara State Government.

BIGPEN reports that the suit with case number FHC/ABJ/CS/1386/2020, has Attorney-General of the Federation, the Attorney-General of Zamfara State, the Minister of Solid Minerals and the Central Bank of Nigeria as 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th respondents respectively.

The suit was brought by Ejumejowo Anthony Asuotu Esq of the EJUMEJOWO & ASSOCIATES, on behalf of Akporehwe Frank Oghenero, Imoniero Theophilus, Samuel Meyiwa Khalil, Aziegbemi Clement, Obiri Ebilade and Isuosuo Samson Aruthoho for themselves and the people of the Niger Delta region.

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Recalls that the controversial sale of the gold became public knowledge after the Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, while contributing to a debate on the general principles of the 2021 Appropriation Bill, raised the issue at plenary in the senate, saying that it was wrong for the Federal Government to allow Zamfara State to sell the gold bar to the CBN for N5b against constitutional provisions.

Omo-Agege who represents Delta Central Senatorial District in Delta state had argued that the action of the Zamfara State Governor, Bello Matawalle on the sale of the gold bar to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), was a ‘breach of the constitution.’

Approaching the Federal High Court, the plaintiffs, described as unlawful, illegal and unconstitutional the sales of gold by the Zamfara state government to the Central Bank of Nigeria, (CBN).

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In an originating summons obtained by BIGPEN on Wednesday, the plaintiffs are praying the court to determine as follows:

“Whether or not the exploration, mining, exploitation and sale of gold, being a mineral resource belonging to the federal government of Nigeria by the indigenes of the Zamfara state and the government of Zamfara state to the exclusion of the 35 other states and the federal capital territory of the nation is not inconsistent with the provisions of the sections 16 and 17 of the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria (1999) as amended and section 1 of the mineral and mining act.

“Whether or not the treatment of crude oil found in the Niger-Delta region being a mineral as property of the federal republic of Nigeria and gold minerals found in Zamfara state as property of the Zamfara state government to the exclusion of other 35 states and the federal capital territory is not inconsistent with the provisions of the sections 16 and 17 of the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria (1999) as amended and section 1 of the mineral and mining act.

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“Whether or not the sale of gold minerals mined from Zanfara state by the Zamfara state government to the 4th respondent to the exclusion of the 35 other states is lawful.”

The plaintiffs also prayed the court to make a declaration, that gold being a mineral resource is a property of the federal government of Nigeria on behalf of the people of the nation.

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“A declaration that the exploration, mining and sale of gold by the Zamfara state government to the 4th respondent and the general public is unlawful, illegal and unconstitutional.

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“An order directing the 4th respondent to pay all proceeds of sale of gold entered into between the Zamfara state government represented by the 2nd respondent to be paid into the Federation Joint Account of the Federal Government of Nigeria.

“An order restraining the Zamfara state government, whether by themselves, privies or agents from further exploring, mining and selling gold mineral resources found in Zamfara state being property federal government of Nigeria on behalf of the 36 states and the federal capital territory of the country.

“An order directing the federal government of Nigeria represented by the 1st Respondent to safeguard the gold and other mineral resources from illegal mining in Zamfara state.

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“An order restraining the 1st and 2nd respondents whether by themselves, agents or privies from further exploring, mining and selling gold mineral resources found in Zamfara state to the exclusion of the other 35 states and the federal capital territory of the nation.”

An affidavit deposed to by Akporehwe Frank Oghenero, on behalf of other plaintiffs in support of the originating summons, reads:

“That the 1st respondent is the chief law officer of the federal republic of Nigeria and a member of the federal executive council. That the 2nd respondent is a minister of the federal republic of Nigeria and a member of the federal executive council charged with the constitutional responsibility of managing the mineral resources of the federal republic in any part of the nation wherever they are found.

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“That the 3rd respondent chief law officer of Zamfara state government and a member of the Zamfara state executive council. That the 4th respondent is the central bank of the federal republic of Nigeria statutorily charged to regulate banking and the custodian of the state resources on behalf of the federal government of Nigeria.

“That petroleum mineral resources are found in my community, Ekakpamre, Ughelli South Local Government as well as the communities of the 2nd, 3rd 4th, 5th and 6th plaintiffs and other parts of the Niger-Delta region of the country. That since 1956 that the exploration of petroleum resources in the Niger-Delta region commenced, petroleum resources found in my community and the whole of the Niger-Delta region is treated as a property of the federal government and that the proceeds of the petroleum resources explored in the Niger-Delta are shared among the 36 states of the federation and the federal capital territory including Zamfara state government.

“That the crude oil found in the ancestral lands of the claimant and other parts of the Niger-Delta region is the mainstay of the Nigerian economy and the highest source of income to the federal government of Nigeria. That out of the revenue generated from the sale of crude oil explored from the Niger-Delta region, only 13% of it is given to the states of the Niger-Delta region as derivation revenue and the rest part is shared among the 36 states and the federal capital territory.”

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