Says we want 100 per cent resource control
Chief Aniete Okon was the pioneer National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and Second Republic senator. In this interview with Vanguard, he berates northern delegates at the National Conference for asking for the reduction of the 13 per cent derivation to five per cent, saying they lack foresight and need to be inventive to bring something to the revenue table rather than trying to dictate to the South-South. Excerpts:
BY GBENGA OKE
WHAT is your reaction to the northern delegates’ call for the reduction of the 13 per cent derivation to five percent?
Some of these people claiming to represent the North strike postures that do no more than to give them cheap visibility. The more extreme and untenable their positions, the more they attract media attention to themselves.
Those of them clamouring for a reduction of the attributable percentage from oil revenue to states that bear oil, are essentially informed by covetousness and casting their eyes over their neighbour’s property. That itself is fed by indolence in the absence of initiative that they must heap at the doorsteps of the so called leaders and elites of the North.
They have governments there and they have long-standing leaders and you will wonder why they have not been able to harness resources to develop their own natural endowments. They continue to cast aspersions at what is going to states that today bear the brunt of providing the wherewithal for this country to run.
Considered ordinarily, it is sheer provocation and it brings to the fore the empty and meaningless sloganeering of the indissolubility of the country. If we do not find that the prevailing attitudes coincide with the basic elements of equity and justice, then there will be need to examine the articles of that entity called Nigeria. The basic issues are clear: what do you call a federation? If we say Nigeria is a federation, the cornerstone of a federation is fiscal federalism and it has to do with the interdependence of the various parts.
The federating units, to a large extent, are complete nations except they have decided to subsume part of that independence under a federal flag. So, when some of them talk about five per cent, its shows that the extremists among them do not realise the danger it portends for the continuous existence of Nigeria.
I dare say now that any suggestion of tampering with the derivation provisions which we are working hard to ensure for review will spell doom for this country and it should be obvious for those misguided grand standers. When they say it is a federation, they should recognise that there is no part that can dictate to the other and the basic principle remains that each part will manage its resources and develop at its own capacity.
So we are waiting for them, even though I do realise there are saner heads among them. This conference was designed given the realities of the present day to try and establish relief and reach a level of patriotism for a country called Nigeria; to lead the country to nationhood.
But if this is the attitudinal redoubt of some of them, they should be ready for the consequences of their actions. Although it is beyond their capacity, we will take proper note of their resentment which are essentially expressed in the outrageous and insulting statement about the principle of derivation as applied to revenue earned by the country.
It is the indolence and the absolute lack of pragmatism in managing their loss in the country that has made them cast such covetous hunger on the resources of other people. They have their own and they should show inventiveness and initiative to exploit and bring to the table what the South-South and other oil-bearing states are bringing to the table.
What about the northern delegate’ demand for the scrapping of the NDDC, Ministry of Niger Delta and Amnesty programme?
Those agencies and programmes are in recognition that these areas require specially designed management of their challenges. When you talk of NDDC, do they also forget that so much money has been passed to them in the name of ecological remediation?
I will like to look at the amount of money that has been passed to them in the name of ecological remediation, we will like to look at the figures for ecological remediation and how it has been spent.
The NDDC is interventionist. When they talk of the Ministry of the Niger Delta, it was not created by somebody from the South-South; it was created by ex President Umaru MusaYar’Adua, who unlike them was not afflicted by what I call residual indolence.
He saw the special need of the area and decided that it should be properly addressed by a special vehicle like a special ministry for it. So, what is their grouse? Don’t we have other parastatals created out of other ministries in which their impact areas remain in the North?
They don’t have anything to offer but we are ready to meet their challenge. This is not the first time, at the 1994 National Conference, a particular delegate at the National Conference postulated in the same manner, even when they came with a report which was a tendentious and tentative misrepresentation of the position of the committee of which I was a member.
Leadership of the conference
It caused uproar and it took the intervention of the leadership of the conference then to set up a meeting in which the two sides were respectively led.
The two sides were led by Chief Alex Ekwueme and the late Ikemba Nnewi, Chukwuemeka Odimegwu Ojukwu.
From the Northern side, we had late General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua. We reached a compromise and we were appealed to shift from our 25per cent which was our minimum demand.
They appealed to us and solicited to accommodate certain urgent needs of the country by settling for 13 percent. Today, the position is different, our position is that if the process of restructuring is extensive enough as to allow certain momentous decisions to be established, and then we will not be talking about any percentages of derivation because we will then be talking about owning our assets 100 percent and running them. We will negotiate with the centre on agreed terms of funding the centre.
How does the South-South intend to achieve that?
It is not a question of how that comes into play; our position is very clear on that. If this is a federal state, then the basic principles will apply notwithstanding the fact that we recognise that provisions will be made for the centre. At the moment, it is clearly a general and open position that most delegates to this conference and commentators outside do agree that the Federal Government is over burdened and that is also raising queries on competence.