By Gabriel Enogholase
FORMER Delta State governor, Chief James Ibori, has identified fiscal federalism and the amnesty programme as the most urgent political challenges confronting the Federal Government and the Niger Delta people.
Besides, he noted that an increase in crude oil production occasioned by the ceassation of hostilities by militants in the Niger Delta region does not necessarily mean the resolution of the fundamental questions of the region.
Ibori, who, on Monday delivered this year’s Founder’s Day lecture of the University of Benin, entitled, â€œFiscal Federalism, Amnesty and the Youths: The Way forwardâ€, said, â€œ The twin issue of fiscal federalism and the amnesty programme are the most urgent challenges that confronts the government of Nigeria and the people of the Niger Delta.
“Our nation must deal with the challenges simultaneously to ensure sustainable peace for the development of the long-neglected region.
â€œIt should be noted that the advocacy for fiscal federalism and equity pre-dates the upsurge of revolts of angry youths in the region.
“There is a consensus that the application for the principle of fiscal federalism will resolve one of the fundamental causes or justification for the uprising.
â€œFiscal or monetary federalism refers to the policy of economic justice and equity that should guide the practice of a federal system of government.
“The federal system is a political arrangement which guarantees some measure of autonomy to the federating units.
“The power arrangement is firmly entrenched and guaranteed in the Constitution of the Federation of Nigeria. Our founding fathers opted for the federal system of government because it isÂ the most suitable for the multi-ethnic composition of our country,â€ Ibori noted.
He stated that, ”the first major blow against fiscal federalism was the enactment of Decree 51 (Petroleum Decree) of 1969. This law disposed all regional or state governments of any share in revenue from oil which was becoming the mainstay of the economy at the time.
“Over the years, the states have been made to appear as economic appendages of the central government.â€
He, however, insisted that for peace to reign in the Niger Delta region, there was the need to practice a robust federal system of government and build an economy that was modern based as well as industrialisation.
Ibori also lamented that the implementation of the derivation formula as enshrined in the constitution has never been smooth.
He added that the implementation of the 13 per cent derivation clause nor the Supreme Court judgment on the on-shore and off-shore dichotomy suit had satisfactorily settled further agitation for an increase in the derivation formula.