….It’s unreasonable to oppose S-South leaders’ 7-point demands – Gov Okowa
By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South
THE audacious attempt by some Niger Delta militants under the auspices of Reformed Niger Delta Avengers, RNDA, to stop South-South governors from collecting 13 per cent Derivation from the Federal Government has run into a constitutional barricade.
Meanwhile, Chairman of South-South Governors Forum and Governor of Delta State, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, has described those opposed to the seven-point demands, including restructuring and federalism of South-South governors to the Federal Government as unreasonable.
Multiple sources, who spoke to Saturday Vanguard, yesterday, said RNDA shot itself on the foot when it called on the Federal Government to reject the seven-point demands of South-South governors and leaders until the governors start paying 13 per cent derivation directly to the oil communities, saying it was impracticable without amendment of relevant provision of the Constitution.
A federal lawmaker from South-South geo-political zone, who is unhappy with the governors over how they manage 13 per cent derivation, confided in our reporter: “There is no way federal government can accede to or grant the demand of the militants to pay 13 per cent derivation directly to the oil communities because it is constitutionally encumbered to do so.”
National president, Centre for Human Rights and Anti-Corruption Crusade, CHURAC, Mr. Cleric Alaowei, who corroborated the lawmaker, asserted: “The issue of the 13 per cent derivation being paid directly to the oil- bearing communities is a constitutional matter. RNDA should forward their demand to the Constitution Review Committees at the National Assembly.”
“The governors for now are the ones constitutionally empowered to receive 13 per cent derivation. There is nothing the Federal Government can do to subvert the provisions of the Constitution at the moment.
“Contrary to the position of the militants, I am in support of the seven-point demands of the South-South governors, it is in order and in tandem with Pan Niger-Delta Forum, PANDEF, 16-point demands. We need to commend them for the bold steps they have taken,” he said
“Even the ex-freedom fighters in the Niger Delta under Movement for Emancipation of Niger-Delta, MEND, Niger Delta People Volunteer Force, NDPVF and Niger Delta Avengers, NDA anchored their agitations on resource control and true federalism. Why then should any right thinking person from the region be opposing the governors? He said.
Saturday Vanguard, however, learned on good authority that some leaders of the region working with the militants have approached some the Constitution Review Committee of the National Assembly to take away the constitutional rights to receive 13 per cent derivation from the governors and place it on communities.
“Their representatives have met with some top federal lawmakers and federal officials, who are sympathetic to their demand and are brainstorming on how to amend the Constitution to remove state governments from receiving 13 per cent derivation and put in place structures to manage the fund to avoid the crisis of oil communities fighting among themselves after doing away with governors,” the source added.
One of the lawmakers told Saturday Vanguard: “This matter of 13 per cent derivation is clear, it is not supposed to be collected by the governors. They have been collecting all these years on behalf of the oil communities and mismanaging the money and this is time to stop them.”
Speaking at a book launch at Asaba, Governor Okowa, said he was surprised that some people were asking what South-South governors were doing with 13 per cent derivation.
“Give us 100 per cent and we can pay you tax of 50 per cent and I hear people asking what the governors had done with the 13 per cent derivation?
“The cost elements in construction are different and it is obvious that when people speak they do not have an idea of what we are going through in this region. We are not saying that governors should not be accountable, but we should be asking for the control of the entire resources and possibly pay tax to the Federal Government.
“We must be ready to work together to speak truth to power and no reasonable Niger Deltan should criticize what the leaders demanded at Port Harcourt because as has been said by some stakeholders, 13 per cent derivation is 87 per cent deprivation.
“The agitation has brought a lot to the fore because when we speak out on the injustice being meted on our people, it is considered as confrontation but it is not truly so, because there is no fairness, no equity and a lot of exploitation and injustice is being done against the people of the Niger Delta.
“The people of the region did not start their agitation with violent conflict but as a result of the years of neglect and exploitation by the Federal Government,” he added.
He commended late President Musa Yar ‘Adua for introducing the Presidential Amnesty Programme to end violent conflict in the region, noting: “The Amnesty payment was not the holistic plan he had for the Niger Delta, but unfortunately when he died, it appeared that the plans died with him.”
Okowa called for an amendment of the Constitution to enable Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) present its review directly to the National Assembly.
His words: “A lot of money is truly required to develop the Niger Delta area and a review of the revenue allocation formula in favour of states and local government is highly imperative at this moment.
“This is because RMAFC was supposed to review the revenue allocation formula every five years,” he stated.