Leaders, elders and prominent stakeholders from the Southsouth geopolitical zone have clashed over their Governors’ demand for 50 per cent upward review in derivation.
Most of the stakeholders argued that the Governors’ demand was unjustifiable as most of them had failed to judiciously utilise the existing 13 per cent derivation.
Others said increase in derivation was long overdue following the provisions of the Constitution.
The South-South Elders Forum (SEF) said oil and gas bearing and impacted communities in the Niger Delta region would oppose any increase in derivation unless the governors of the region rendered an account of the 13% derivation.
The National Coordinator of the forum, His Highness, Anabs Sarah-Igbe lamented that the governors had been collecting 13 per cent without considering or developing the oil and gas bearing and impacted communities.
He said: “Most of the oil and gas bearing and impacted communities are still in squalor without drinkable water, hospitals, electricity, jetties, roads, schools, employment, scholarship, embankment and reclamation amongst others.
“So, why are the governors asking for more allocation on behalf of the oil and gas bearing and impacted communities without anything to show for the 13% derivation they have been collecting.”
A civil rights activist and Coordinator, Centre for the Vulnerable and Underprivileged (CENTREP), Oghenejabor Ikimi, lampooned the governors for making such a demand.
He said the governors ought to be demanding true fiscal federalism rather than increase in derivation fund, stressing that the dominant mood in the region was in favour of fiscal federalism.
He said: “The Southsouth governors are bereft of ideas. They do not know what they are doing. The mood in the region is one of fiscal federalism and here you leaders of the region demanding for increment of the derivation fund.
“We want every state in the federation to control their resources and not the current situation where States troop to Abuja to collect handouts. The call for an increment is not justified”.
The National President, Host communities for Oil and Gas (HOSTCOM) High Chief Styles Benjamin Tamarakeni blasted the governors for making such demand.
Tamarakeni stressed that it was disingenuous for the governors to have ignored calls by stakeholders for the release of 50 out of the 13 per cent derivation fund to the communities.
He lamented that the 13 per cent derivation fund meant for oil communities had been hijacked by governors of the region, stressing that it was not fair for Southsouth governors to ask for increase.
While supporting the governors in their demand for an increase in oil derivation, the Ibibio Youth Council (IYC), however, insisted the governors had not judiciously utilized the 13 per cent to warrant them asking for an increase.
Chairman Ibibio Youth Council, Chief Imoh Okoko, maintained that the problem was not with the increment but with the utilization of oil revenues by the governors saying it was evident the governors had mismanaged the 13 per cent.
He said: “I support their call for 50 per cent oil derivation because the region produces the golden egg Nigeria feeds on.
My worry is that even if the 50 percent is achieved we may not see any positive impact because they haven’t acquitted themselves with the current 13 percent.
For crying out loud there are states in this country which do not get the 13 percent oil revenue yet are doing much better than the oil producing states.
There is so much poverty amongst the people and this is troubling considering the resources at the disposal of our governors”.
Former Deputy Speaker Cross River State House of Assembly, Chief Orok Otu Duke said the governors’ demand was saying they should focus on granting real autonomy to the legislature and the judiciary.
He said with the autonomy of the legislature and the judiciary, the governors would be compelled to account for the huge sums so far released to them by the federal government.
On his part, Prof. Eyo Etim Nyong, wondered why the governors had been implementing the 13% derivation questioning the impact of the existing derivation.
Nyong said: “The management of the 13 per cent so far does not encourage us to ask for more because it will still not make any impact. The way the 13 per cent is managed and implemented, is not seen; even the host communities are not away.
My second point is this, I have heard of their decision also that sometime unique should be done for Cross River State over the loss of Bakassi oil-rich peninsula without the consent of the people; that itself should be properly defined. What is the content of the unique provision? Those of us from Cross River need to know if we are to key into the idea.
The third issue is how did they arrive at 50 per cent? We are still part of the Federation and if we take 50 per cent from the main source of income of the country, how will the country handle the issues of insecurity and all other issues on the table?
We should rather be looking at achieving true federalism where power devolution to the state and local government and autonomy of the judiciary and the legislature.”
A former National Vice-Chairman of the All Progressive Congress, Southsouth zone, Ntufam Hilliard Eta on his part said he did not believe that the Federal Government should be in charge of the natural resources.
A former governorship aspirant and chieftain of the APC in Cross River State, Mr. James Ebri, said his state would not benefit from any increase.
He said: “Cross River as a Southsouth state derives nothing from any increase or decrease. Our state is the only state in the South South that does not benefit from derivation even with the ecological problems it suffers. I will not cry louder than the bereaved.”
But the Ijaw National Council (INC), the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) and the Urhobo Progressives Union (UPU) defended the governors saying percentage increase in revenue was long overdue.
President, INC, Prof. Benjamin Okaba, said that the demand by the governors was justifiable going by principles of federalism upon which the nation was founded at Independence and as a Republic.
Okaba stated: “The fact of prudent management of the 13 per cent derivation doesn’t arise. Instead, we (people of the geopolitical zone) must put in place the relevant internal and external check mechanism to ensure the proper use of the present and the demanded 50 per cent. Fifty per cent is line with our call for resource control and must not be taken for granted.”
PANDEF’s National Publicity Secretary, Ken Robinson, stated that prior to Nigeria’s independence and before oil became the major economic revenue for Nigeria, derivation was 50 percent.
“PANDEF’s position is that the demand is germane. That is what the people of the Niger Delta want. Derivation used to be 50 per cent or even more, before independence and immediately after independence, until oil became the main stay of the nation’s economy and then the conspiracy against the Niger Delta.
Why the disparity now? It should go back to 50 percent. We want derivation to go back to what it used to be. That is what we have been saying, that is what the governor’s area saying. There is nothing wrong with it.”
Concerning how the governors had managed 13 per cent, the PANDEF Spokesman queried the Federal Government’s use of the 87 per cent.
He said: “How has the federal government first of all, managed the 87 percent? Are we satisfied with how the governors have done? Generally, ‘no’. They can do better.
We have asked that constitutional structures and institutions should be in place to encourage good governance and of course reduce the powers the president and the governors. That is a different matter altogether. Because it is not peculiar to the Niger Delta or the Southsouth governors. It is about Nigeria. How has Nigeria managed 87 percent of our resources?”
The Itsekiri Liberation Group (ILG) backed the 50 percent derivation fund demand of the governors.
According to the ILG Coordinator, Oris Mone, the law provides that there should be an increase in the percentage after about seven years.
Asked if the 13 per cent derivation fund had been well utilized, he said federal government had been silent on the actual amount made available to the states.
The Urhobo apex social cultural group, Urhobo Progressive Union, (UPU) declared its support for the call.
The group’s President-General, Olorogun Moses Taiga, who spoke through its National Publicity Secretary, Abel Oshevire said the law stipulated a gradual upward review of the derivation fund, stressing that for over 20 years no such review had been done.
He said: “We are in alignment with the Southsouth governors on this. The UPU agrees in totality with them. We recollect that there was supposed to be gradual increase in the derivation allocation. Having been in operation for over twenty years, there should be an upward review by now.
This is unfair to the region given the developmental challenges in the region. It is most wicked, callous on the part of the federal government to continue to ignore the call of the people for an increment of the derivation fund. We wholeheartedly support the demand by the South/ South governors. They are in order and they represent our views.”