In an attempt to resolve the controversy that led to the abrupt adjournment of the National Conference deliberations last week on the report of the Committee on Power Devolution, delegates have advocated that the controversial clause that limited the five per cent rehabilitation fund to only the northern states, be spread to all the six geo political zones that encounter violence.
In the new agreed position, the delegates over the weekend amended the controversial clause to read thus: “There shall be a National Intervention Fund, which shall be five per cent of the annual revenue accruing to the account of the federal government for the stabilisation, rehabilitation and reconstruction of infrastructure in areas affected by terrorism and insurgency, especially in the North-east zone of Nigeria and any other state in Nigeria that may be affected by terrorism and insurgency.”
The meeting summoned by the chairman of the conference, Justice Idris Kutigi to resolve the derivation logjam was marred by lack of quorum that led to an adjournment till today, but some concerned delegates met Saturday to agree on the amendment.
Delegates who agreed and appended their signatories, to the new amendment cut across the six geo-political zones, professional and civil societies represented at the conference.
They include Dr. Adamu Maina Waziri, Prof. Andrew Haruna, Senator Ibrahim Ida, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, Chief Olu Falae, Gen. Alani Akinrinade, Dr. Amos Akingba, Dr. Kunle Olajide, Senator Femi Okunrounmu, Gen. Ike Nwachukwu, Prof. Anya O. Anya, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife, Dr. Peter Odili, Air Cmdr. Idongesit Nkanga, Dr. Raymond Dokpesi, Prof. Lawrence Ekpebu, Senator Anietie Okon, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), Mrs. Josephine Anenih, Hajiya Ramatu Bala Usman, Mrs. Bisi Olateru-Olagbegi, Dr. Hannatu Ladi Ibrahim, Chief Hannatu Lohor, Ms. Ekaete Judith Umoh, Chief R. U. Uche, Ebele Okeke, Prof. John Dara, Prof. Nnenna Oti and Dr. Fatima L. Adamu.
However, leader of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Alhaji Ibrahim Coomasie, who was part of the meetings that led to the proposed amendment, withheld his signature just like Hon. Mohammed Kumalia and Alhaji Bashir Dalhatu.
Others who were said to have agreed to the terms of amendment but were not available for signatures included Dr. Iyorchia Ayu, Prof. Jerry Gana, Comrade Bobboi Kaigama and Chinonso Obasi, a representative of student unions.
Other terms of agreement in the derivation controversy said that provided that the principle of derivation shall be constantly reflected in any approved formula as being not less than eighteen per cent of the revenue accruing to the federation account directly from any natural resources”.
Paragraph 1(b), reads: “that not less than 50 per cent of the total derivation fund accruable to a mineral bearing state shall be due and payable to the host communities within the state where the resources are derived in accordance with the production quota contributed by such communities.”
In paragraph 2, the new amendment read that: “there shall be the establishment of a Minerals Development Fund, which shall not be less than five per cent of the revenue accruing to the federation account. The fund will be applied to minerals development in the states.
“This is borne out of the need to urgently and practically diversify the economic base of the country, increase the gross domestic product, generate employment and promote the general development of the country.”
Meanwhile, delegates representing Akwa Ibom state at the ongoing National Conference have warned of the imminent danger should northern delegates frustrate efforts to adopt the 18 per cent derivation recommended by the consensus group.
The delegates, who made their position known through a statement issued by its secretariat in Abuja and signed by Chief Nduese Essien on behalf of his colleagues, warned that the series of existing agitations by youths of the region might turn into a full-blown crisis unless the current derivation is reviewed upward.
“There is a strong possibility that the Niger Delta region could again snowball into an orgy of violence if the logjam on derivation principle at the ongoing National Conference is not resolved on the basis of justice and fair play,” the delegates warned.
“Besides, recent attempts to resurrect the onshore/offshore dichotomy and to make political capital out of the issue has further heightened tension in oil bearing communities that have witnessed persistent oil spills, gas flaring and constant devastation due to the activities of multinational oil companies.
“Based on comments attributed to people from a certain part of the country, it is pertinent to indicate that Akwa Ibom State and indeed the Niger Delta region is disappointed by the posturing of people from a certain section of the country and would resist attempts by persons or groups to use the satanic policy to blackmail the region,” the delegates added.
Quoting some sections of the constitution to back their argument, the delegates said: “Section 134 of the 1960 Constitution and Section 140 of the 1963 Constitution, which formed the basis of the country’s Independence and nationhood had provided that Nigeria’s Continental Shelf of 200 nautical miles be deemed to be part of a region for the purpose of paying 50 per cent derivation.
“The two Constitutions had provided that for the purpose of derivation, a state that has a coast is deemed to be the owner of the continental shelf.
“But through Decree 9 of 1971, the then Head of State, Yakubu Gowon, had introduced the onshore/offshore dichotomy. From that time, the policy was abolished three times. The first abolition took place in 1975, the second in 1979 and the third in 1992. It was, however, President Olusegun Obasanjo who reintroduced the evil policy.
“Today, the dichotomy is still in place because the Abrogation Act of 2004 drastically reduced the constitutional provisions and the internationally recognised boundary definition of continental shelf from 200 nautical miles to 200 feet isobaths. What is used now is a mere measure of the low water mark of the land surface of a littoral state rather the universally accepted measurement.”
The delegates equally drew the attention of those opposed to the upward review of the derivation to the oil spills that have ravaged parts of Akwa Ibom state in recent weeks.
“As delegates continue to procrastinate and disagree over the issue of derivation and other issues that are germane to the people of the state and indeed the region that has sustained the country’s economy for over five decades now, the Akwa State secretariat of the National Conference hereby draws attention to the rising tension and a possible backlash that may follow if the people of the region is shortchanged by the Conference.
“While the bickering continues, youths from oil-bearing communities in Ibeno local government area of Akwa Ibom State have during the past two weeks occupied the operational base of ExxonMobil unlimited at Quo Ibo Terminal, QIT and stopped the multinational oil firm from accessing its facilities. The youths are protesting against a recent oil-spill, which devastated over 46 communities along the coastline in the state.
“Similar situations abound in many parts of the Niger Delta region and the Conference should have found time to visit the area for an on the spot assessment before taking any decision on what the derivation principle should be. They should not also constitute themselves as judges as to how the resources made available to the Niger Delta region are utilised. Such judgments should best be left entirely for the people of the area.
“Again, those who have been blocking the peaceful attempts of our people to demand for fair play and justice within the Nigerian project should desist forthwith because if the Niger Delta bursts into another level of crisis, the consequences will be felt not only in the country but globally.”
The delegates said funds derived from oil exploration have serviced every part of Nigeria. “The fact is that the Niger Delta and its people have been subjected to the worst level of abuse and depravity. Oil-bearing and surrounding communities have been thoroughly polluted while several kilometers of land in the region had been washed into the Atlantic Ocean due to climate change and activities of multinational oil firms.
“It is also a fact that the 853 kilometers of Nigeria’s coastline runs through Lagos, Ondo, Bayelsa, Rivers and Akwa Ibom states. The continental shelf widens progressively from a western value of 35 kilometers in Lagos, 64 kilometers around the Cape of Forcados, to a maximum of 75 kilometers offshore in Akwa Ibom state.
“While experts have indicated that several kilometers of what is today the Atlantic Ocean was formerly land inhabited by peoples of Southern Nigeria, those who seek the annihilation of the Niger Delta people still push for the economic emasculation of the region. This is very unfortunate, unhealthy and unstatemanly.
“It has been observed that the emission of dangerous green house gases by the oil and gas companies, offshore discharges and tampering of barrier trees has made communities and the people living at the bank of the Atlantic Ocean and the seas to experience unbearable environmental and health hazards arising from ocean surge and flooding.
“Already, the 853 kilometer coastline has been undergoing severe coastal erosion with grave ecological concern because of the growing population and economic activities in the area. Today, our lands have failed to yield crops and our rivers, creeks, streams and estuaries bereft of fish. One, therefore, wonders how the over 25 million people living in the core coastal areas where oil and gas exploitation has negatively affected agriculture, fishing, and aquaculture would survive.
“Currently, over 50 highly vulnerable sites have been identified along the coastline spanning the eight coastal states. Many coastal communities in estuaries along the coast have had to move upland regularly to escape being washed away by the encroaching sea.
“In the face of constant threats, insults and haranguing by delegates from a certain part of the country, delegates from Akwa Ibom State and indeed the Niger Delta region have continued to seek peaceful means of presenting their genuine case to Nigerians.
“But we wish to warn that no section of the country should claim to have the powers to dictate to the whole country. While Akwa Ibom State and the Niger Delta region recognise the challenges faced by our brothers and sisters in the North-east and support every move to rebuild the area devastated by insurgency, we will kick against attempts to localise any intervention in one part of the country.
“This is because every part of Nigeria has peculiar challenges that could be addressed if a National Intervention Fund is created and an agreed percentage of national revenue allocated to it.
“In the spirit of the Ramadan, we appeal to our brothers in the North to sheath their sword and allow justice and fair-play to prevail in the current debate on what should constitute the derivation formula, after all, what has been recommended by the eminent members of the Consensus Group also covers solid minerals and other resources found all over the country,” it added.