BY HENRY UMORU, JOSEPH ERUNKE & LEVINUS NWABUGHIOGU
Ahead of today’s debate on the recommendation for the retention of 13 per cent as the minimum derivation payable to mineral producing areas of the country, some delegates spoke to Vanguard on their position on the issue.
Our people want total resource control — Annkio Briggs
Ms Annkio Briggs, a delegate from the South South region said the people of the region were in full support of total control of their resources.
As a member of the Conference Committee on Devolution of Power, she had disagreed with the committee’s recommendation on the retention of 13 per cent derivation formula.
She expressed disappointment that the leadership of the National Conference refused to endorse her minority report.
“Quite honestly, our people want a 100 per cent resource ownership and pay tax to the federal government and every other people that have resources in this country should have a 100 per cent of their resources and pay tax to the federal government.”
“I don’t think the minority report I wrote on behalf of the Niger Delta was accepted by the conference because the committee on devolution of power that I belong to came up with the issue of derivation remaining at 13 per cent and I did not accept that. So, On that point, I had to disagree with them.
“I wrote a minority report and it was suggested that it be rejected and the chairman accepted that but because I did not signed the report I felt that I should be allowed to contribute, the conference should be able allow my input expecially on derivation with is not in the report.”
“I do accept that majority do carry the vote and that remains so anywhere in the world. But I also know that no matter how much of a minority I am in any situation, my voice should be allowed to be heard,” he said.
Another South-South delegate, Senator Nimi Barigha-Amange, spoke against the sharing formula, saying the sharing of revenue by the Federal Government to states has made the federating units lazy.
“The excessive demand for states is as a result of revenue sharing at the centre. However, being a true Nigerian, I will go with graduated derivation that will culminate in fiscal federalism”, he said.
Barigha-Amange, among others, recommended that 50 per cent of the derivation fund going to the oil-producing stated, “should be committed to the development of oil and gas producing communities.”
“Each oil-producing state should set up an Oil-Producing Community Development Fund that will manage the 50 per cent from the derivation fund”, he suggested.
Ijaw Leader, Chief Edwin Clark, said the region must get at least 25 per cent, saying that if the national conference of 2005 could recommend 17 per cent, fairness demanded that the amount be increased.
He said: “All we are asking for to be part of this country is that fairness must prevail and we want nothing less than 25 per cent. No one should come here and say that the statuo quo should remain.
Those who are saying that are not progressives. It must not be less than 25 per cent,” he said.
Former governor of Rivers State, Dr. Peter Odili, in his contribution to the debate, supported Chief Clark’s position.
Prof. Gambo Laraba Abdullahi, former Vice Chancellor, University of Abuja and delegate representing Bauchi State, said it has been discovered that 76 per cent accruing to the nation was not accounted for and “we are here fighting over the remaining 24 per cent.”
Mr. Femi Falana, SAN, asked the Federal Government to pay the money being owed the Niger Delta Development Commission.
He disclosed that the money was up to the sum of N1trillion.
Prof. Jerry Gana, however cautioned those calling for the increment in derivation, saying if the request was granted, it would lead to the collapse of many states due to paucity of funds.
He said: “There is need to empower every state to develop mineral resources in their areas. If we give the Niger Delta all they require, some states would collapse and all Nigerians would move to the Niger Delta. This is not good for the country,” he said.
On his part, former governor of Kebbi State, Senator Adamu Aliero, suggested that those who were asking for increase in derivation should also consider that mineral resources outside the continental shelf should be owned by the Federal Government.
In his contribution, Gen. Geoffrey Ejiga from Benue State said if more money should be given to the Niger Delta, there was the need to ensure that the money was properly utilised.
He said money should be given to clean up the Niger Delta region, saying “when you give money to the elite, they misapplied it.”