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Amidst outbursts and bitter exchanges for the third day in a row by delegates on the Devolution Committee of the National Conference, the co-chairmen of the committee, former Governor of Akwa Ibom State Victor Attah and former Inspector General of Police (IG) Ibrahim Coomasie, have expressed concern at the degree of animosity the delegates have exhibited and urged them to ensure that all issues are resolved through consensus.
Coomasie, who spoke yesterday on the challenges facing the northern states, said the problems of the north notwithstanding, the consensus arrangement remained the best option for reaching decisions by the committee.
Attempting to restore sanity to the committee, he said: “Some of us are using threats and intimidation against each other. For me, it is not good. We are not elected delegates, but selected and the president, Goodluck Jonathan, urged us to adopt consensus. It behooves on us to behave in a mature manner. It is my view that we should soft-pedal on our opinions.
“The resource control issue is a settled issue, as it is contained in the 1999 Constitution that states ownership of all mineral resources belongs to the federal government. Therefore I believe we need to adopt compromise and avoid the use of abusive language.”
Lending him support, Attah also urged north and south delegates on the committee to set aside their extremist positions on the issue of resource control in the interest of peaceful coexistence of every region in the country.
Attah observed that the seeming grandstanding by delegates of the north on resource control did not show a fair appreciation of the challenges of those in the oil-producing areas.
In addition, Attah dismissed the arguments of some delegates that the South-south geopolitical zone had the highest per capita income among the six zones in the country, stating that there was no guarantee that such statistics would remain unchanged given the depleting nature hydrocarbon resources.
He said there was evidence, which showed that every region had resources that could be developed for the benefit of the people and the country.
He however wondered why the solid minerals in the north and bitumen deposits in the South-west had been left lying fallow.
“Let me say that the people of the Niger Delta are very conscious of this and indeed this has been their greatest fear. Time will come when the oil will dry up completely, then what will happen to the people of the Niger Delta? No farmlands and no fishing in the polluted waters.
“But that is not the only fear. When the time comes, everybody will laugh at us, bid us goodbye and tell us that there is no more Nigeria and they will go home and enjoy their own resources. These fears must be allayed and assurances must be given. We must negotiate and reach a consensus, “he said.
Before their intervention, members had rejected that the committee should be devolved into three Sub-committees on Legislative List, Revenue Sharing and Resource Control, insisting that all issues contained in their terms of reference should be discussed by the committee of the whole.
Their intervention became necessary when a delegate, who is also a traditional ruler in Bayelsa State, Asara o. Asara, had charged violently against another delegate, a former Minister of Power, Bashir Dalhatu, who responded: “You don’t have a monopoly on interrupting and intimidating anyone.”
Also cautioning his colleagues, a former political adviser under the Olusegun Obasanjo administration, Prof. ABC Nwosu, said: “Belligerency will not lead to any consensus. If we resort to belligerency, we will end up not presenting any report to the plenary session of the National Conference,” while accusing delegates of playing to the gallery.
Also, former Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Minister, Lt. General Jeremiah Useni, called for restraint, saying he could also make noise, adding, “Please don’t shout on anybody.”
Meanwhile, calls for state police suffered a setback yesterday when the Committee on Devolution recommended that the control and regulation of arms, ammunition and explosives in Nigeria shall remain under the exclusive legislative list.
However, the Committee on Political Restructuring has recommended that an additional state be created in the South-east geopolitical zone to bring to parity the number of states in each of the six geo-political zones in the country.
In the same manner, the Committee on Political Parties and Electoral Matters recommended that any elected politician defecting to another political party shall lose his or her office.
At the meeting of the Devolution Committee, members unanimously agreed that arms, ammunition and explosives should remain under the exclusive list.
It also recommended that any state wishing to import arms and ammunition for the use of the State Police Command must do so through the Office of the Inspector General of Police.
Most of the delegates argued in support of allowing the control and regulation of arms, ammunition and explosive under the exclusive list because of what they described as the recklessness of some state governors who might abuse the privilege if left under their control.
A delegate, Magaji Dambata, argued that arms, ammunition and explosives should form part of national security, while Asara supported his argument, saying, “Some governors are not mature enough to handle arms and ammunition under their care.”
The committee also recommended that all issues on aviation, safety of passengers and cargo should be left under the exclusive list. This, delegates argued, is to ensure international regulatory standards.
The committee further agreed that state creation shall remain under exclusive list alongside patent rights and trade marks, while copy rights were recommended for the concurrent list.
Other items to remain under the exclusive list include: customs, excise and import duties; defence and the armed forces; award of national honours; banks, promissory notes and currency; external borrowing, loans; census and national identity; control and regulation of capital market issues; shipping and maritime; fishing; evidence, finger printing identification and criminal records; and external affairs.
On the concurrent list, the committee recommended: bankruptcy and insolvency matters; deaths and births; commercial and industrial monopolies; and labour and related matters.
But the committee could not reach an agreement on what list mines and minerals, including oil fields, oil mining, geological service and natural gas, should feature in.
The decision on mines and minerals as well as oil and gas was adjourned till Monday for further deliberation.
On the issue of the creation of an extra state for the South-east zone, advocates got a boost when the Committee on Political Restructuring and Forms of Government agreed that there was a need for an additional state in the zone.
The Ike Nwachukwu-led committee unanimously agreed that with the creation of an additional state in the South-east, every Nigerian would now have a sense of belonging. It also submitted that every other region agitating for the creation of more states should get it on the basis of merit.
Senator Femi Okurounmu, while making his argument, said there should be creation of more states to meet the growing demands. He said there should be the same number of states in every zone in the spirit of fairness. He however warned delegates to tread carefully in order to avoid the abuse of the process.
Binta Masi Garba, a delegate advocated the creation of Saudana State in the north. She also gave the nod to the creation of an additional state in the South-east in the spirit of fairness.
Chief Benjamin Elue from Delta State while supporting the call for the creation of an additional state in the South-east, begged delegates to consider the long agitation of Igbo-speaking people in his state who want their own state. He said Anioma State should be carved out of Delta State in the interest of justice.
However, Senator Ahmed Aruwa cautioned that the committee could not create a state, stating that his colleagues could only make recommendations and create the enabling environment for those agitating for more states to have their way. He, however, threw his support for an extra state in the South-east zone.
Yinka Odumakin, in his presentation, said states have become tenants to the federal government, adding that states must have the capacity to look inwards and create their own revenue base instead of becoming slaves to the federal government.
He said the practice where governors go to Abuja at the end of every month to collect salaries must be discouraged.
Addressing newsmen at the end of deliberations, Nwachukwu said by supporting the creation of an additional state in the South-east, delegates had shown that everyone could have a win-win situation.
In the meantime, members of the Committee on Political Matters have agreed to expunge the contentious immunity clause for the president, vice-president, governors and deputy governors from the constitution.
The committee members however gave an exception to the rule: in the event of civil cases, the president, vice-president, governors and their deputies would be shielded from prosecution.
Delegates on the committee premised the exception on the notion that detractors might take advantage to institute unnecessary civil cases against executive office holders.