24 April 2014, Abuja – The heated debate in the Devolution Committee continued Wednesday, at the National Conference with indications that President Goodluck Jonathan may be forced to negotiate his second term in office in exchange for 100 percent control of oil resources by the South-south zone.
Arguing in favour of the retention of the 13 per cent derivation formula, a member in the Devolution Committee from Benue State, Senator Jack Tilly Gyado said Nigeria could not afford to give 100 per cent resource control to the South-south zone because it already has the presidency of the country.
This is just as three delegates from the South-west on the Devolution Committee openly disagreed over the South-south controlling revenue from oil resources, with Senator Anthony Adefuye from Lagos State canvassing a new revenue sharing formula of 47 per cent to the states and 40 per cent to the federal government.
Whereas two other South-west delegates – Adedji Gbagesin and Ayo Adebanjo – supported resource control by the South-south, Adefuye argued that the status quo of 13 per cent should be maintained.
Despite the differences in opinion, the Chairman of the National Conference, Justice Idris Kutigi, yesterday directed that the affairs of the 20 committees should be made open for media coverage, while debunking claims of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) that conference was skewed against Christians.
In his remarks, Gyado contended that the derivation of 13 per cent should be maintained given that the South-south has control of the presidency, adding that a 100 percent derivation would give an “undue advantage to the South-south.”
According to Gyado, “The South-south already has the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), the Amnesty Programme and collects operational taxes from the oil companies in the Niger Delta, area alongside the presidency. As such, anything more would be an undue advantage.”
In an apparent reference to President Jonathan coming from the Niger Delta region, he said: “The timing for increased derivation is wrong. Nigeria is facing severe security challenges of Boko Haram, poverty and armed robberies and anything more will give the zone an undue advantage.”
Rather than resource control, he called for resource management, accountability and responsibility, saying: “This will be a win-win situation. Let the status quo remain, but let’s devolve education, health care and agriculture to the states for effective and efficient management.”
Supporting him, the former Military Governor of the old Northwestern State, Usman Farouk, called for the implementation of the Supreme Court judgment on the onshore, offshore dichotomy law, which states that 200 kilometers into the sea is federal government territory and does not belong to the states.
He explained that it was unfair for the coastal states to control oil found in the continental shelf of the country, stating that if there is an advent of war, it is still the Nigerian military that would be called upon to defend the continental shelf that is presently claimed by the coastal states.
“Offshore oil belongs to the federal government and therefore should be so appropriated,” he said.
Tanko Yakassai, who spoke on the same note, said it was not true that the former northern region controlled 50 per cent of the revenue in the First Republic.
Rather, he said what the region controlled was a 50 per cent of the royalties, and frowned at the call by the South-south delegates for the control of the oil revenue, saying that the north had sacrificed a lot for the nation and therefore the act should be reciprocated.
According to Yakassai, “Though each of the northern geopolitical zone has more in land mass than the South-south, however, six states were created from both the north and south.
“Also, in terms of population, with the north accounting for 55 to 57 per cent of the people and a land mass of 70 per cent, it still supported the creation of states in the south to ensure respect for the rights of the minority” he said.
However, Prof. ABC Nwosu, who cautioned against the committee being legalistic, because it was the problems of the country that made the convocation of the conference necessary in the first place, countered him.
However, Yerima, who quoted Section 16 (c) of the 1999 Constitution, which states that the wealth of the nation should not be concentrated in a few hands, said that there was also oil in Zamfara State, stressing that what the committee should do is to ensure the equitable distribution of wealth.
Tunji Braithwaite, in his contribution, blamed corruption as one of the major problems of the country, stating that if there was no corruption in Nigeria and the wealth fairly managed, there would be no need for the conference.
Yoruba leader, Ayo Adebanjo, in his comment, supported the derivation principle, explaining that there was no need to deny the South-south the proceeds of their resources, explaining that in the First Republic, the Southwest, North and Southeast enjoyed 50 per cent of their produce.
According to Adebanjo, “ In the First Republic, we enjoyed 50 per cent derivation, nobody gave 13 per cent. It was the military that brought the issue of 13 per cent. Who owns the resources, let those where resources are found enjoy their resources. Let us not go to the littoral states argument, if we go there, there would be a problem.”
This was the tonic that triggered Asara O. Asara, a traditional ruler from Bayelsa State, retorted: “We have rights over our resources. Nobody will tell us how to manage our resources, if we like, we will take the oil money to drink kai kai (a locally brewed gin).
“We shall control our resources, we shall not beg anybody on how to manage our resources. Whatever you want, we are ready and we shall give it to you. My people are not ready for anything less than 100 per cent control of our resources,” Asara said.
But Buba Galadimma from Yobe State jumped from his seat, countering: “If that is what you want, you shall die today.”
At this juncture, seeing that atmosphere was getting charged, the co-chairman of the committee and former Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Victor Attah, called on Galadimma to withdraw his threat and he immediately complied.
In his report to the Devolution Committee, Adefuye who called for the retention of the 13 per cent derivation formula said the South-south zone already had a per capita standard of living that was above all other zones.
According to the senator from Lagos State, the South-south already has a per capita income of 181.4 per cent when compared to the South-west of 69.21 per cent, South-east with 39.88 per cent, North-central with 68.51 per cent, North-east with 37 per cent, and North-central with the least per capita income of 29. 72 percent.
He added that allowing 100 per cent derivation would amount to widening the gap between the rich and poor in the six geopolitical zones.
As an alternative, he called for special consideration for Lagos State because of its commercial status. In this regard, he said one per cent allocation from the Federation Account should be reserved for state, while canvassing a new revenue formula of 47 per cent to the 36 states of the federation and 40 per cent to the federal government.
Dr. Junaid Mohammed, a delegate from Kano supported him, but cautioned that no nation survives a civil war twice. According to him, Nigeria should take a cue from the crisis in Somalia, Sudan and the former territories of the USSR, warning that there was no place where a country will devolve in peace.
Mohammed warned that the delegates should concern themselves with the growing army of the unemployed, as there would be a revolution in Nigeria resulting from rising unemployment.
Earlier, Mohammed and AnnKio Briggs had hurled insults at one another, when the former shouted down Briggs. She in turn shouted back at him.
Their exchange degenerated to the extent that when the delegate from Kano made a vulgar hand sign at her, she shouted back at him with an expletive.
Following yesterday’s heated proceedings, the committee adjourned to enable the co-chairmen harmonise the views of members.
Meanwhile, the National Conference secretariat has reacted to the allegation by CAN that it was biased against Christians in the selection of members for the Committee of Religion.
In a statement by the Assistant Secretary (Media and Publicity), James Akpandem, the conference said it was mischievous for anybody or group to insinuate or accuse the chairman or the leadership of the conference of “working out a script to undermine the interest of Christians in the dialogue body”.
The statement said that the chairmanship of committees was shared equally between the North and the South; and those that were seen as contentious committees are co-chaired by a delegate from the North and South.
It further said: “The two co-chairmen of the Committee on Religion could not have come from the North as CAN would have wished; and it would amount to peddling ignorance to think that a Christian from the South does not know what Christians in the North are facing, as Christendom is one body.
“It is unfortunate that a body like CAN, if it indeed authorised the statement, would make such a frivolous and unfounded allegation against the Chairman of the Conference, Justice Idris Kutigi, to the effect that he picked Alhaji Nurudeen Lemu as the co-chairman of the committee, because they are from the same state.
“The chairman had excused himself from selecting the leadership of any committee and did not recommend Alhaji Lemu.
“During deliberations at the plenary sessions, particularly during the discussion of the president’s speech, Lemu received accolades for his insightful contributions. His intellectual insight and moderate views on religion naturally recommended him for selection unanimously, and had nothing to do with the preference of any principal officer of the conference.
“Although Mr. Sunday Oibe (CAN northern chapter spokesman) indicated that CAN does not have a problem with Bishop Ajakaiye as co-chairman, it would have preferred a Christian from the North. The issue may well be that Bishop Ajakaye is a Catholic Bishop and thus may have issues with CAN. Not being active in CAN does not make Bishop Ajakaye a lesser Christian.
“It is unbecoming of a religious body to peddle falsehood in a bid to prove a non-existent point. Dr. Jonathan Obaje is not on holiday. He applied to the secretariat (not to the chairman) indicating that he would be traveling briefly to Japan to keep an appointment, which he had fixed early this year before his nomination to the conference.
“He is one of the Diaspora delegates and lives in Singapore. Dr. Obaje would not be the first to do so, and certainly not the last. Permission granted Obaje by the secretariat had nothing to do with his membership of the Committee on Religion.”
– This Day