Contrary to the 1999 constitutional provision on derivation, which stipulated “that the principle of derivation shall be constantly reflected in any approved formula as not being less than thirteen percent (13%) of the resource accruing into the Federation Account directly from any natural resources”, there are renewed agitations by delegates from the northern part of the country that derivation should be reduced to five percent.
Although the constitution envisages a periodic upward review, there has not been any exercise in the past 15 years.
It is important to observe that it was when Mineral Oil and Gas became the mainstay of the Nigerian economy, that the principle of derivation was jettisoned. After the civil war, the principle was abolished to prosecute the programme of 3Rs – Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Reconciliation. The programme has since been terminated and the derivation principle has not been reverted to. This is responsible for the protests and agitations in the Niger Delta Region.
Despite all the good intentions of the Constitution, the Mineral, Oil and Gas Producing Areas are complaining of deprivation. The 13 percent derivation stipulated in the constitution is seen as a serious act of marginalisation and deprivation, which does not augur well for peace, unity, justice, equity and good governance in Nigeria. Some people have argued that an upward review was overdue. This is the focus of this edition of the Conference Hall, which will also examine other developments in the polity.
Let me start with Eder Fred Agbeyegbe.
What is your assessment of the National Conference so far?
The National Conference, for me, has been a total disappointment. I say so because I was too optimistic of what to expect, but what I see playing itself out, is to me, a direct opposite of everybody’s expectations. Pointedly, the idea of a National Dialogue that President Goodluck Jonathan came up with is being trivialised and it looks like the whole thing is meant to be a mockery of what was intended. I will not point accusing fingers at this stage but I am tempted to say that I wonder if the president is in control.
Firstly, there has been the issue of representation. When it degenerated to granting membership and representation to market women, trade unionists, lawyers and others, it became clear to me that somebody may well have said since you want to have a conference, let’s go through the motions and leave out the essentials. That is why emphasis was not put on the ethnic nationalities, the people who actually have grievances and want to restructure Nigeria.
Maybe, it was a miscalculation on my part to think that the purpose of this conference is that having decided that things have gone so wrong for everybody, we have to talk about how to find a way forward.
But how have they dealt with the issue of resource control? I will put the question the other way round. Why are we talking about resource control?. This conference is about bringing about fiscal federalism. Once you adopt the principle of fiscal federalism, the issue of resource control goes out of the window, because true fiscal federalism means that whatever resource that is found anywhere will be under the control of the owners of the land. Of course, there has to be a centre for federating units. The latter would tax themselves to contribute what is required from them, to keep the centre going,. A federating system is where all the federating units have agreed that they should have a common centre and they are the ones who would set it up and dictate what happens there.
They are the ones who pick and choose what rights they want to cede to the centre. What we are doing at the National Conference today is re-inforcing those things that we want to change. We have those who are ignored and treated as second class citizens and we have those that think that they came from superior ethnic group.
I am totally disappointed that the National Conference is not doing anything for me. I haven’t found many people, who would say that the conference is doing a good job either.
All what they are doing there is a direct opposite of our expectations and in fact, they are re-emphasising the injustice and everything that has transpired before the National Conference was put in place.
Read our panelists as they bare their minds on derivation, fiscal federalism and other issues Vanguard Conference Hall to be published Sunday.