The conferenre adjourned at 12.58pm instead of the usual 3.30pm that the delegates had agreed to since the commencement of the Ramadan.
While some of the delegates were clamouring for the increase in the 13 per cent derivation fund currently being paid to the zone, others especially those from the North said the status quo must be maintained.
Senator Ibrahim Ida in his contribution said the status quo must be maintained as recommended by the committee, adding that degradation, just like it was being experienced in the Niger Delta, was also affecting the northern part of the country.
He specially mentioned Plateau State, which he said also suffered environmental degradation. But he appealed to the Federal Government to pay its debt to the Niger Delta Development Commission.
Another delegate from the North, Hassan Adamu, while supporting the 13 per cent as recommended by the Committee on Devolution of Power, said the North-East had been completely devastated.
He asked the confab to come up with a plan on how to rebuild the North-East, and urged the confab to recommend seven per cent for the initiative.
“We should be our brothers’ keeper,” he said.
Another delegate, Mr. Abubakar Adamu from Niger State, said the 13 per cent derivation was good enough, adding that “until we see how the 13 per cent is being utilised, there is no need to increase it.”
A delegate, Mr. Sidi Ali, who said there was no need for the increase, wondered how the leaders of the oil-producing states had been spending their allocation.
He said an unnamed former governor of Rivers State was the owner of one of the biggest private hospitals in Abuja.
His contribution made a former governor of the state, Dr. Peter Odili, to raise a point of order, saying he was the only former governor of Rivers State at the confab.
Besides, he said he was the only medical doctor among the former governors and that he was not the owner of such a hospital and challenged Ali to produce his facts.
He threatened to take legal action if he failed to do so.
But the Chairman of the conference, Justice Idris Kutigi (retd.), said Ali did not mention the name of the former governor he was talking about and so it might not be Odili.
Also contributing, Mr. Ibrahim Bunu, said whatever increase being proposed might end up improving those he referred to as “Ali Baba and his colleagues.”
Another delegate, Chief Ajibola Ogunshola, said that the Federal Government should not have more than 40 per cent from the Federation Account since more responsibilities had been transferred to state governments.
He also said that the consumption tax, which he said was being lopped with the Valued Added Tax, ought to be retained by states.
Ogunshola suggested that a minimum of 51 per cent must be retained by the states from the tax.
On derivation, he said it would be better for the country to begin to think of how to survive without oil.
He said, “We have to start getting use to a world without oil. We are here (in this position) because we have been addicted to oil for a very long time.
“It will be difficult for us to change, but we have to change. We need to give more money to the oil producing states. It is a political decision. And if the people from the zone do not go home with anything, it will not be good for them.”
He said derivation should be increased to 21 per cent. He, however, added that such a decision was purely a political decision and not an economic decision “because delegates from the South-South must go home with something.”
A delegate from Cross Rivers State, Orok Duke, who read a poem to the delegates, referred to some delegates who spoke on Monday as cowards “because they failed to speak the truth.”
Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin in her contribution, said it took the blood of Ken Saro Wiwa for attention to be shifted to the degradation of the Niger Delta and appealed to delegates to vote for the increase of derivation fund to at least 21 per cent.
Another delegate, Mr. Yinka Odumakin from the South-West, attributed the problem of the country to what he called the attitude of wealth without work.
While reeling out statistics, he said only Lagos State could afford to pay salaries to its workers through its Internally Generated Revenue.
Following the trend of the debate, the leadership of the conference instructed that five transparent ballot boxes from the Independent National Electoral Commission be brought to the hall.
The boxes were strategically placed in front of the delegates, which was an indication that the contentious issues would be decided by voting.
Before announcing a short break, Kutigi told the delegates not to be intimidated with the ballot boxes.
He said the confab secretariat was just getting ready for “any eventuality, but we hope we will reach consensus on everything.”
Immediately the conference reconvened, the delegates sang the old National Anthem, which they had recommended should replace the current one.
Kutigi smiled and also praised the delegates for their maturity and cooperation since the beginning of the conference.
After this, a former Minister of External Affairs, Senator Ike Nwachukwu, moved a motion, in which he informed the delegates and the conference leadership that the leadership of the six zones had been meeting over derivation and that they had gone very far on some agreements that could be reached.
He urged the delegates to allow them continue deliberations and report back on the consensus reached on Wednesday (today).
“The leadership of the six geo-political zones had met and agreed to meet again on some of the recommendations, especially on derivation. Please, could you please allow us to meet and report back to you tomorrow?”
Mohammed Kumalia seconded the motion and urged delegates to give the zonal leaders till Wednesday to resolve the issues.
Kutigi put the motion into question and was supported by the delegates.
Meanwhile, a former Minister of Information, Chief Edwin Clark, has promised that leaders of the zone would meet and resolve the logjam.
Clark said that leaders of the zone would meet and agree on a position to be adopted when the conference reconvenes on Wednesday (today).
Already, he said 18 leaders, made up of three from each of the six-geo political zones had been selected to take part in the meeting.
Our correspondents gathered that the leaders might agree on between 17 and 21 per cent as derivation fund.
He said, “We are not fighting for money to be shared, we are fighting for the people. No one should come here and oppress us.
“Yet, some of our former governors could have misused the money in the past, but some of them are paying for it.”
– The Punch