The leadership of the Ijaw Youths Council (IYC) has condemned comments made by Usman Bugaje, a member of the Northern Elders Forum (NEF), claiming Northern ownership of the oil in the Niger Delta area.

Mr. Bugaje made the claim on Tuesday at a meeting of the NEF that discussed the proposed National Conference.

Speaking in Kano, Mr. Bugaje had claimed that, under a United Nations law, the oil resources in the Niger Delta were owned by the north. He stated that, going by UN convention, Nigeria’s offshore territorial boundary was determined by land mass which, he said, was 72 percent in the north.

Reacting to the comments, the IYC described Mr. Bugaje’s views as false, unfounded, irrational and misleading. The IYC also asserted that the Northern politician’s claims were part of a calculated attempt to drown the argument for resource control at the confab.

The IYC’s reaction was contained in a statement issued Wednesday in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital, and signed by Eric Omare. The statement insisted that any claim by Northern Nigerians to ownership of oil in the Niger Delta based on an ostensible UN law was baseless and provocative.

“Dr. Usman Bugaje’s statement is reckless, provocative, baseless, misleading and displays the highest level of ignorance,” said Mr. Omare in the statement. He added: “It is disappointing that such a statement could come from a [member of the] Northern elite such as Dr. Usman Bugaje. To the IYC, such a misleading statement coming from an elite such as Dr. Bugaje brings to the fore the reason behind most of the barbaric acts coming from that part of the country.”

The IYC further stated, “Contrary to Usman Bugaje’s assertion, the IYC wish to state that there is no United Nations Law which states that the maritime boundary of a country is determined by the land mass of the country.

“For the records, there is nowhere in Articles 3, 5, 57 and 76 of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) where it is stated that the landmass of a coastal state determines its mileage into the sea or its maritime boundary.

“The United Nations Law of the Sea which is the primary law which determines the maritime boundary of coastal states defines the Exclusive Economic Zone and the Continental Shelf to be up to 200 nautical lines measured from its baseline which is the low water mark along the coast.

“Hence, the land mass of a country is not a consideration in determining its maritime boundary.

“Therefore, Dr. Bugaje’s statement is a deliberate ploy to mislead his northern brothers to prepare the ground to oppose the legitimate demand of the Niger Delta people to control their resources at the forthcoming National Conference.”

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