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After over five hours of intense debate and lobbying, the Committee on Power Devolution yesterday reached a decision on the derivation and resource control, stating that the 13 per cent derivation should be maintained.
The committee also recommended that the office of the Accountant General of the Federation and Office of the Government Accountant should be separated for transparency in the accounts of the crude oil.
Also, the committee recommended that there should be a National Special Wealth Fund (NSWF) to account for the rainy days in the country, especially in the management of the crude oil proceeds.
These were the outcome of the briefing by the co-chairmen of the Power Devolution Committee, former Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Coomasie and former governor of Akwa Ibom State, Obong Victor Attah.
According to Attah, “I am happy to tell you that we have reached a unanimous decision in our debate on the derivation and resource control. The unanimous decision is that the present 13 per cent on derivation should be maintained, that is that the status quo should remain. There is no victor and there is no vanquished.”
He also said members had concluded with committee work including the legislative list, both exclusive and concurrent, fiscal federalism, the revenue sharing, resource control and sharing formula, stating that the committee had reached consensus on all issues.
The former governor said the committee could not dwell further because they were handicapped due to section 44 (3) of the 1999 constitution that vested all mineral ownership the federal government.
He explained that because of the constitutional inhibition, there was nothing the committee could do than to agree that the status quo of 13 per cent should be maintained.
By maintaining the status quo, all controversy on the dichotomy between the off and on shore oil production seems resolved.
However, a delegate from Rivers State, Ann Kio Briggs, said she was opposed to the decision that the 13 per cent derivation should be maintained.
According to her: “It would be totally misleading to say that the decision of the Committee on Devolution was unanimous. I objected and I told my colleagues that I am not part of that decision to maintain the status quo of 13 per cent”.
However, barring any change of position when the decision gets to the plenary, the Committee resolved that on a monthly basis, 4.5 per cent of the federal revenue would be set aside for the development of natural resources in all the states of the federation. It was to be called Fund for Solid Mineral Development.
Attah explained that during the closed session, every delegate was given the opportunity to state his position on the issues and that at the end; there were contrary positions on all the issues without any party agreeing to shift grounds.
Attah was upbeat on the fact that every delegate approached the issues with passion, maturity and patriotism and when the decision was finally taken, it was through a consensus.
He said while the issue of resource control attracted passionate arguments from a section of the delegates and an equally passionate opposition from others, it was finally resolved that with the amendment of Item 39 of the Exclusive Legislative List, certain aspects of resource control have been taken care of.
The amendment states that in the mining of the natural minerals in all the states of the federation, while the rights of licensing remains that of the federal government with the National Assembly as the legislative body, such mining would be carried out with the active involvement of the states where the mineral resources are found.
Based on this, Attah, informed journalists that when included in the constitution, the amended item empowers every part of the country to develop and mine its resources in accordance with federal government licensing and use the resources to develop the people.
With this, he said every state of the federation would now benefit from the derivation principle instead of believing that anytime derivation benefits are discussed, they were meant for the oil-bearing areas alone.
It was his belief that with such arrangement, it would be easier for every part of the country to agree unanimously on the need for upward review of the derivation principle because everyone will stand to benefit.
The co-chairman of the Committee, Ibrahim Coomasie said the Committee also agreed on the establishment of National Wealth Fund, an equivalent of the existing Sovereign Wealth Fund, which he said would serve as a monetary reservoir for development.
Coomasie told journalists that the decision of the Committee on all the issues left everybody happy because of the depth of arguments presented by members.
Meanwhile, the Committee on Political Restructuring and Forms of Government has recommended the inclusion of zoning of political offices in both the Electoral Acts and the Constitution of the each of the political parties
This, it said, was to reduce bickering among Nigerian ethnic groups during elections and give the minority in the country a chance.
Specifically, the committee called for the principle of zoning electoral offices from local to national levels on the basis of justice, equity and fairness.