ABUJA—REGIONAL sentiments and emotions took centre stage, yesterday, during contributions on resource control by members of the National Conference Committee on Devolution of Powers.
Delegates almost had a free-for-all as they hurled abuses at one another. At a stage contributions were suspended.
It took ceaseless and desperate attempts by the committee’s co-chairmen, former governor of Akwa Ibom State, Obong Victor Attah and former Inspector General of Police, Alhaji Ibrahim Coomasie to calm frayed nerves.
Trouble started when a delegate from Kano State, Dr. Junaid Mohammed, kicked against agitation for resource control and asked delegates not to support it.
Mohammed linked Nigeria’s problems to bad and improper management of her abundant human and natural resources.
He decried the high level of unemployment in the country, saying unless immediate and drastic actions were taken to address the situation, the country was sitting on a time bomb.
Muhammed said the level of unemployment in the country had reached an unbearable level, saying those affected may not hesitate to take to revolution just as he cited young graduates in other countries, among them, the Cuban leader, Fidel Castro, to have staged revolutions due to similar circumstances.
He said: “I don’t envy this committee simply because the decisions are determined by mindset. As a democrat, I believe fundamentally in the rule of law. We are not compelled to have a nation.
“We have the issue of unemployment in the North. We must have a way of moving the finances of this country in a very equitable manner. Graduates are being pushed into revolutionary situation because they have no jobs.”
Host states, agitation
Another delegate, Jack Tilley Gyado, from Benue State, while corroborating the position of Mohammed, said the existing 13 percent derivation formula being used to share proceeds of mineral resources to host states be maintained, warning that host states or zones be careful the way they were going about the agitation.
Gyado, who noted that the southern part of the country was pushing too much, asked the region to bury their agitation as the North would not give them the approval.
He said his position was informed by the simple fact that the country’s present political power was in the hands of the South.
He said: “The South that is pushing for this resource control should also know that they are presently controlling the Presidency of this country.
“They cannot have Presidency and resource control at the same time. I advise that we should be very slow in asking for more to be given.
“If Niger Delta states are asking for 100 percent resource control and want to pay taxes to the Federal Government, I believe that the timing for that request is wrong.
“We all know that we have serious security challenges that are ravaging this country. The monies being distributed to the Niger Delta are enough to make every Niger Delta person a millionaire. It has to be a win-win situation.
“I advise for status quo to be maintained in the resource control. Let’s remain where we are now.”
On his part, Alhaji Usman Farouk, another northern delegate, said the conference must look towards ensuring that the country does not amend the portion of the constitution which approved only 13 percent derivation to the mineral producing areas.
He said: “Resource control is against the spirit of 1999 Constitution. These mineral resources are natural and we must see it that the mineral in Zamfara State belongs to the person in the Niger Delta and the one deposited in the Niger Delta is for the person in Zamfara.”
His counterpart from Borno State, Dr. Haruna Yerima, noted that the natural resources deposited in the country belonged to the Federal Government.
“How can communities or states be laying claims to having natural endowments? We should fight to ensure that resources of this country belong to every citizen and not individuals,” he said.
Alhaji Tanko Yakassai, a delegate on the platform of Elder Statesmen, urged the committee to ignore the call for resource control because those canvassing for the control had no right because they did not create the resources.
He said: “All the resources we are talking about belong the Federal Government. You do not control what you don’t own. This committee does not have even the right to discuss resource control.”
We must discuss, says Attah
But the co-chairman of the committee, Victor Attah cautioned him, saying, “the constitution was drafted by Nigerians and so we will discuss.”
At this point, Yakassai continued: “The colonial masters handed Nigeria to all of us not to any particular region. We should avoid a situation where things are cornered by individuals.”
On his part, Dr Tunji Braithwaite, said: “The problem of Nigeria has been basically corruption. Nigeria is a rich country.
“It is the issue of corruption that has narrowed it to resource control. We cannot go by what the Nigerian constitution is giving us. The 1999 Constitution is not the people’s constitution. It was made by the military’s Decree 24.”
The committee was thrown into confusion when Chief Ayo Adebanjo, on the platform of Elder Statesmen, took his turn to speak.
Adebanjo said during the era of groundnut pyramid, the North was getting up to 50 percent as derivation and remitting a paltry percentage to the centre.
He said: “If we really want to keep this country together, we must address the inequalities among some sections of the country. It was the military that gave us the present 13 percent derivation formula. How did they arrive at that?
“If we want peace, we should discuss that and if we are serious to be together. This is the last chance for Nigeria to remain together. Those who hold the property of this country should be in control of their resources.”
His position was corroborated by a delegate on the platform of the Federal Government, Chief Asara Asara, who said the Northern delegates’ position on resource control was a threat, saying their zone was contributing noting to the country’s table.
He said instead they were waiting to share what was coming out of the South, noting that if the vast oil mineral deposit in the South was in their territory, they would not have agreed to share it with any zone.
Asara said: “My people are ready for anything. We want total control of our resources. If derivation formula was up to 50 percent during the groundnut pyramid era, why the difference now?”
At this point, Northern delegates in the committee, led by Dr. Junaid Muhammed and Alhaji Usman Farouk, became agitated and started hurling insults on the promoters of resource control in the committee.
The Southern delegates immediately received support from their colleague, Ms Ann Kio Briggs.
Briggs’ support to the contributions of Adebanjo and Asara further infuriated Dr Mohammed, who almost got up to hit the lady as he rained abuses on her.
Briggs returned the insults, asking Junaid, “who do you think you are? How many heads have you that you think if you abuse me, I won’t retaliate?”
The development temporarily affected the progress of work at the committee, as Attah hurriedly adjourned for lunch.
The committee could not do anything either when members returned from lunch break, as it adjourned to today for further deliberations.
1,400 illegal borders
Meanwhile, the Comptroller General of the Nigeria Immigration Service, NIS, David Parradang, yesterday honoured the invitation by the committee on Immigration and Related Matters, where he disclosed that over 1,400 illegal borders exist in Nigeria.
He added that Adamawa State has 80, while Ogun State has 83, among others.