By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor & Johnbosco Agbakwuru
Governors of the South-South region have raised alarm over alleged plot to deplete the mineral resources of the region while keeping those of other regions in the country.
The six South-South governors rising from a meeting, weekend, also delinked any relationship between the revenue flow to the region and the recent spate of insecurity in certain parts of the country.
The governors, in a communiqué at the end of a one day meeting in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, also called for the strict introduction of fiscal federalism in revenue distribution and accumulation in the country.
Present at the meeting hosted by Governor Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom were Governors Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State, Liyel Imoke of Cross River State, Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State, Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta and the Deputy Governor of Rivers, Engr. Tele Ikuru. Also present were the Majority Leader of the Senate, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba (SAN) who stood in for senators from the zone and Mr. Leo Ogor, the Deputy Majority Leader of the House of Representatives, who stood in for the members of the House of Representatives from the zone.
Chairman of the South-South Governors Forum, Senator Imoke who read the communiqué at the end of the meeting said the governors reiterated their earlier communiqué issued at the end of thier meeting in Calabar on March 13, 2012 and another one issued by Speakers of the State Houses of Assembly on March 29, 2012.
Governor Imoke said the governors “regretted attempt to link the increasing insecurity in parts of Northern Nigeria to the revenue sharing formula and indeed the unfortunate and misplaced calls for a review,” insisting, “the issue to be addressed was the introduction of fiscal federalism.”
The meeting which was also attended by members of the National Assembly, Speakers of the state Houses of Assembly of BRACED states, questioned the rationale for not exploiting other mineral deposits in different parts of the country while depleting the crude oil and gas reserves of the South-South region.
The communiqué stressed the need for the country and states to refocus on agriculture to enable states contribute significantly to the national purse rather than depend on crude oil from the South-South zone.
On Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, the communique lamented that delay in passing the Bill has negatively impacted on BRACED states and called on Federal Government, Ministries of Petroleum Resources and Finance to reactivate the Bill for submission to the National Assembly, enjoining National Assembly members to ensure speedy passage of the Bill into law.
The meeting also reviewed the security situation in the country and commended the Federal Government’s effort to contain violence calling on government to intensify efforts in restoring law and order.
’’Those who are aggrieved are should utilize available constitutional process to seek redress for their grievances rather than embark on destroying innocent lives and property ‘’, the communiqué advised, expressing its sympathy and condolences to Nigerians who lost members of their families in the various attacks.
Also present at the meeting were the Speaker of the Cross River State House of Assembly, Larry Odey, who stood in for Speakers from the zone and Ambassador Joe Keshi, Director-General, BRACED Commission.
Meanwhile, Governor Akpabio has called for an increase in the 13% derivation allocation to mineral producing areas of the country. Speaking at a banquet he organised for visiting Governors from the Niger Delta region, Governor Akpabio said:
‘’We make proper use of the money we collect from Abuja. Gone are the days when it was said that nothing was done in the Niger-Delta Region. So in this communique today we would write for more because we have a lot to do for the region. We are doing a lot in all the states of Niger Delta. There is need to demand for more because 13 per cent oil derivation is not enough.
’’The number of children suffering from throat problem as a result of air that they breathe in the Niger-Delta, the pollution of water, the loss of means of livelihood through polluted water and dead fish, crude oil-filled water and all sorts of things are enough to demand for more money. Some of our parcels of land are permanently put out of order and some have been devastated for more than 50 years because of crude oil violations’’, he noted.
According to him, ‘’There’s nothing like farming in those parcels of land. What it means is that if crude oil ceases to be relevant, then people of this area might be live in poverty forever. They cannot go back to till the soil. When you are talking about sufferings of the people and the effects on the health of the people, then there’s need for us to highlight and look at the various problems during the meeting’’.
He commended BRACED conveners for bringing the meeting to Uyo and remarked that if the meeting had been held in their first term in the office, it would afforded many of them opportunity of speaking with one voice.
The Akwa Ibom Governor lauded President Goodluck Jonathan for focusing on transformation, remarking ‘’Mr. President today is focusing on transformation for Nigeria and the entire world is watching to see how the first elected President from the South-South Region is going to transform the country. I know that with our support and prayers, that transformation would succeed’’.
The Chairman of South-South Governors Forum, Senator Liyel Imoke thanked Governor Akpabio for hosting them, noting that ‘’Indeed, Godswill is done in Akwa Ibom’’.
Senator Imoke who is also the Cross River Governor said their gathering was to deliberate on how leaders of the South-South would work to strengthen the growth of the region as the hub of the country’s economy.