…S’South govs should stop managing 13% derivation fund
…Nothing to show for money released for development
…Ex-gov Uduaghan yet to reveal why he dumped APC
By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South
DEPUTY Senate President, DSP, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege and other leading politicians have discovered an impediment in the long-standing pact between South-South region and the North as a political power and have quietly initiated moves to modify the alignment.
Senator Omo-Agege representing Delta South Senatorial district in the Senate who related with Vanguard the subject and more, confirmed: “For some time now, there has been a setback in terms of the historical alignment pattern of the South-South. I am happy to say, however, that some other well-meaning South-South politicians have begun to redress this gap. We have made giant strides, but there is still a lot of work to be done.”
He said: “With 2023 fast approaching, the South-South politicians and the people will have another opportunity to determine whether to remain in opposition or to return to our traditional political dispositions. It is my hope that the APC as a party, will see the opportunity that lies ahead in doing business with the South-South and will do everything possible to take advantage of the emerging opportunity.”
Senator Omo-Agege declined suggestion that politicians from the zone usually compromise interests of the region when it comes to political horse-trading with their Northern counterparts, saying: “I do not agree with your profiling of South-South politicians. First, the North is not the enemy of the South-South as your question seems to suggest. Secondly, in politics there are limits to what an individual politician can do without concerting with others.”
“Therefore, compromise which is simply to adapt one’s own position to make it acceptable to others in order to reach an agreement is necessary and inevitable. In fact, politics is all about compromise. It is the only way to get things done for your people and move forward.
“This applies to all politicians, including Northern politicians. For South-South politicians, the need to make concessions and compromises is even greater because we are minorities. Some of these concessions are easy to make but others may require sacrifices. But it is wrong and inappropriate to say that politicians from South-South pander to the north.
“Thirdly, the North and the South-South regions have cooperated to the mutual benefit of both regions. And because of the cooperation and compromises we have had, the North and the South-South have historically had strong alliances. At the heart of the North – South-South alliance is our common interest and commitment to justice and the unity of our country which have enabled us work together for the good of our people and the country at large.
“The truth is that the South-South has always allied with the national ruling party at each point in time; a tendency you really cannot fault if you must be Pan-Nigerian. In the First Republic, majority of the people in what is today South-South were in the NCNC, the dominant party in the Eastern region which went into alliance with the NPC, the overwhelmingly dominant party in Northern Region, to form the national government.
“If you recall, the first most prominent South-South politician at Independence, the late Festus Okotie-Eboh was the National Treasurer of NCNC and the NPC/NCNC alliance made it possible for Okotie-Eboh to become Finance Minister in the Tafawa Balewa Federal Government.
“Let us not forget that the alliance also helped in the creation of the Mid-Western region. Okotie-Eboh was particularly very instrumental to creation of Mid-Western region. Did Okotie-Eboh compromise the interest of the Midwestern region? The answer is an emphatic no. Indeed, history has it that when Tafawa Balewa developed cold feet on the creation of the Mid-Western region at the last minute, it was Okotie-Eboh who told him it was too late to withdraw support. And in the spirit of cooperation and the alliance of NPC and NCNC, Balewa gave the final okay.
“In the Second Republic, the control of the South-South shifted to the Hausa-Fulani dominated NPN which won the former Cross River State that consisted of the present Akwa Ibom and Cross River states. There was also the former Rivers State which consisted the present Rivers and Bayelsa states. In 1982, the Shagari NPN administration established the Delta Steel Complex in the South-South.
“During this Fourth Republic and consistent with the historical antecedents, the South-South had been controlled by the national ruling party until 2015 when the All Progressives Congress won the presidency. And over this period, the 13 per cent Derivation principle was implemented as enshrined in the constitution, the NDDC and the Amnesty Program were established. We also had the Vice President and ultimately the President,” he asserted.
N’Delta govs abuse, sidetrack 13% derivation fund
On whether his outburst against South-South governors on the 13 per cent derivation was not a mere campaign strategy for his future political ambition, he said: “The fact that the impact of the oil wealth coming from the Niger Delta is not felt by the people who live in the oil producing communities has been a source of concern for me, over the years. It is also a concern directly shared by numerous communities who play host to critical multi-billion-dollar oil and gas assets, and who bear the burden of environmental degradation.”
“You know very well that industrial waste, oil spillages, gas flares, fire disasters, acid rains, flooding, erosion and so on, caused by decades of oil and gas exploration have led to the pollution of farmlands and fishponds, which has left the host communities with poverty and disease.
“It is to ameliorate this pitiable conditions of the people that 13 per cent of the revenue generated from oil sales was set aside in section 162 of the Constitution as derivative fund to develop the region. Twenty-one years and many governments later, the condition in the Niger Delta remains dire with little or nothing to show for the huge sums released so far to the oil producing states, for the development of the oil producing areas.
“Rather than channel these funds to the development of the requisite host communities, governments of the Niger Delta have either misused the funds or diverted them to the development of non-oil producing communities in cities and state capitals. Even in states that have oil producing development commissions such as Delta State, only 50 percent of the funds is allocated to the Commission to manage, on behalf of the host communities. What happens to the other 50 percent?
13% derivation not campaign bombast by me
“It is against this background that a delegation of the Oil and Gas Host Communities of Nigeria (HOSCON) led by the Amayanabo of Twon-Brass in Brass Kingdom and Chairman, Bayelsa State Traditional Rulers Council, Chief Alfred Diete-Spiff visited me, last year. At that meeting, we discussed how to reverse this trend. One of their demands is that state governments should no longer be allowed to manage the 13 percent derivation fund. Not only do I support the agitation for direct disbursement of the funds to the host communities, I am also committed to its realization, because it is only fair that the funds be utilized in the appropriate areas, which the state governments have failed to do.
So the issue of mismanagement of the 13 percent derivation fund by state governors is not a campaign rhetoric for me. Far from being a shot in the dark, the position I have taken is both credible and reasonable, just as it is a service to the people who called me to serve, and in fact, to humanity.
The manner you walked yourself into political limelight, especially after the mace saga in the Senate, to become Deputy Senate President and currently the highest South-South political office holder in this administration is epic, how did you do this?
I believe that all humans are born with the same physiology. What makes one a great success and another less successful is your effort and the grace of God. It was not easy by any standard. They wanted to end my political career, just because I spoke the truth in defense of our constitution and the rule of law. It was a frontal attack on freedom of speech which the constitution guarantees every Nigerian.
But they wanted to silence me, take away the voice of the people I represent in eight local government areas of Delta State in the Senate, and deny them the effective representation they deserve. And when I refused to be cowed, they wanted to humiliate me before my people and bury me politically. But they failed and I survived. And there is only one reason this has happened, and that is God. With God on my side, I survived it. All glory and thanks go to the Almighty God.
I thank God for giving me the courage to stand up against tyranny and injustice; to fight for the rule of law and what I believe is right for our country. It was Napoleon Bonaparte that said that ‘impossibility is only to be found in the dictionary of fools’. You and I can achieve anything we set out to, if we give it all our strength and remain resolute. Winners never quit, and quitters never win. Never give up.
Lastly, it is important to, again, let you know that my actions were not driven by future political considerations. They were based on my personal convictions and the national interest. Let us be guided by the old saying that evil only thrives when good people do nothing. We must continue to speak truth to tyrannical tendencies. The liberty to so do is inalienably guaranteed by the Constitution. We must continue to be courageous and keep taking advantage of constitutionally guaranteed freedom of speech.
Why was APC unable to keep the former governor of Delta state, Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan, in its fold, rather it allowed him to return to PDP?
Politicians do move from one political party to another in what we know as carpet-crossing. It is part of the party system of democracy. It is not peculiar to Nigeria. But it has become an issue in Nigeria because the practice is so rampant. We have situations where people change parties every election cycle. It is something we should not worry about because our political parties are perceived as more of platforms for contesting elections. And that is because the parties are perceived to have no distinct ideologies that separate them. This is not to say that all parties are the same. There are differences in orientation, goals and objectives such that some, like the APC, are more progressive than the others.
Beyond that, people change parties for various reasons. In the case of Uduaghan who defected to APC a year to the 2019 election, he said he was joining APC because of President Muhammadu Buhari’s commitment to the Niger Delta. And a year after the election when he returned to PDP he said he had left PDP because he could not breathe in the PDP.
However, he has not disclosed why he left APC after the elections. The bottom line is that the reasons for carpet-crossing are always a personal thing, with actors guided by their ambition and the needs of their constituencies. And once the individual has decided to move, no one can prevent it from happening.
You have been unusually quiet on the appointment of an Interim Administrator once again for NDDC, you mean you do not see anything wrong?
Unusually! I do not know where that characterization is coming from. I do not remember ever making any public statement on the NDDC board saga beyond my contribution in the Senate. It is the prerogative of the President to make the appointments into the NDDC subject to confirmation of the Senate, in consultation with the House of Representatives. My role in the process is to, in concert with my colleagues at the Senate, confirm the nominees of the President. The appointment of a Sole Administrator is an interim measure taken by the President and the Senate has no role in that. We in the Senate look forward to a speedy reconstitution of the Board in accordance with the NDDC Act.