Business

April 15, 2023

13% Derivation: S-South lawmakers, gullible, powerless before govs

13% Derivation

•Oil communities and stakeholders fume over nonchalance

By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South,
Sam Oyadongha (Yenagoa), Festus Ahon (Asaba),
Egufe Yafugborhi (Port-Harcourt), Emma Una (Calabar),
Chioma Onuegbu (Uyo), and Ozioruva Aliu (Benin-City)

HOST communities and stakeholders in the South-South region have grumbled aloud that their state Houses of Assembly have refused to call the governors to order or confront them with probing questions on how they burnt up the 13 per cent Derivation Fund that accrued to their states, despite the peoples’ outcries, and demand for accountability.

Four of the governors: Senator Ifeanyi Okowa (Delta); Barr Nyesom Wike (Rivers); Mr. Udom Emmanuel (Akwa-Ibom); and Senator Ben Ayade (Cross-River) will hand over to the governors-elect of their respective states on May 29 after eight years in office without a whimper from the lawmakers.

Two others, Godwin Obaseki of Edo state will check out of office after the 2024 governorship polls in the state, while Senator Douye Diri has another four years to go if he wins the Bayelsa governorship polls, later in the year.

What has unsettled many residents of the region is that legislators act unconcerned when matters crop up about how the governors use the 13 per cent derivation funds, as if it was not part of their legislative assignments.

No Speaker or lawmaker in any of the Houses of Assembly in the South-South was prepared to speak on why they failed to face up to their governors on the 13 per cent derivation. They all excused themselves from making public comments.

Silence in Rivers

Though Governor Wike of Rivers state boasted of judicious deployment of accrued 13 percent derivation funds on flyovers and other infrastructural projects in his state and challenged other South-South governors to show their records, in November, last year, the oil communities in his state remain disgruntled and frown at him and the legislators.

Notwithstanding Wike’s claim of excellent performance, some oil community leaders and representatives said the massive infrastructure delivery the governor boasts of had not found expression in the rural oil communities.

The state House of Assembly lacks the guts to confront him on his claims, but from direct evaluation and frustrations expressed by community leaders and civil society. They said Wike’s assumed milestone projects were upgrading the capital city, Port Harcourt, and the neighboring Obia-Akpor local government area where the governor hails from.

Squalor, despair, and deprivation remain profound in the oil communities that continue to rely on the oil companies as an alternative government, which eases their sufferings with the much they can provide in corporate social responsibility, CSR.

Mute is the expression in Delta

In Delta state, the House of Assembly also refused to face up to the governor on his management of the 13 percent derivation fund.

The lawmakers, including those from the riverine communities, turned the other eye to a bill by riverine communities who were dissatisfied with the operations of the Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission, DESPOPADEC, to establish a Coastal Areas Development Agency, CADA, to bring development closer to the riverine people of the state.

The advocacy, facilitated by an activist and environmentalist, Chief Sheriff Mulade, reportedly hit a brick wall.

A group representing the oil-producing communities, in February, challenged Governor Ifeanyi Okowa to provide proof of remittance of 50 percent of the 13 percent derivation fund to the Delta State Oil-Producing Areas Development Commission (DESOPADEC), as prescribed by law, since 2015.

The group known as the Leadership of Delta Oil Producing Communities alleged the governor had hijacked the entire 13 percent allocation for the oil mineral-producing communities from the Federation Account and that he hardly accounted for its utilization.

Prince Maikpobi Okareme, an Isoko Leader of Thought; Justina Tiemo, Oil Rights Advocacy Women leader; Samson Oyimi, a member of the Ogbe-Ijoh Leaders of Thought; and Sylvester Piniki, a leader of Thought in Gbaramatu Kingdom, who spoke for others, claimed that DESOPADEC, under Okowa’s administration, had turned into an agency for rewarding political allies.
However, Okowa, who reacted to Wike’s diatribe at other governors, maintained that his administration remained committed to transparency and accountability in all its financial dealings on behalf of the people.

Passive Akwa Ibom lawmakers

In Akwa-Ibom, all 26 members of the state House of Assembly shut their mouths before and after Wike’s outburst on the 13 percent derivation.

However, their silence over the issue was not surprising to the citizens, who have come to terms with the fact that the lawmakers were docile, a development that has remained worrisome to the people since the last administration
It was after some critics brandished various figures on the social media platforms and the former Senior Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Ita Enang, alleged that Akwa Ibom State collected the sum of N133.5 billion, and had an outstanding of N277 billion to collect, that the state government reacted.

Commissioner of Finance, Mr. Linus Nkan, said the government received N186bn in tranches of N160bn, while it projected N41,434 billion for 2022, out of which it received N26 billion as of the third quarter of 2022.

No- go- area in Bayelsa

In Bayelsa, the state House of Assembly like other South-South states also paid deaf ears to the many appeals to probe the utilization of the 13 percent derivation fund accruals to the state.

The Bayelsa Development Initiative, BDI, among others, had called on the governor to render a comprehensive account of the 13 percent derivation deductions paid to the state by the Federal Government.

National Coordinator of the group, Engr. Udengs Eradiri, in a statement, said: “We recall that Governor Nyesom Wike listed all the big ticket projects he executed in Rivers with his state’s share of the same money, including a world-class campus of the Nigerian Law School. He executed all these projects in Rivers within one year.

“Since then, Wike has been completing and kicking off new projects, but in Bayelsa, there is nothing to show that they paid such a huge amount of money to the state. Yenagoa has remained a forest capital. All we hear about is a work in progress. The Diri’s administration has completed and inaugurated no big-ticket project.”

Correspondingly, the All Progressives Congress, APC, early this year, called out Governor Diri to account for N100billion accrued to the state from the 13 percent derivation withheld arrears paid to oil-producing states in the Niger Delta by the federal government.

Chair of APC in the state, Dr. Dennis Otiotio, stated: “We are told that about N3 billion accrued to each of the local government areas of the state from the money that was withheld from 13% derivation, but we know that as we speak, there are no elected officials manning the local governments in the state. This is because the government has not conducted local government elections.”

Legislators unperturbed in Edo

In Edo state, the House of Assembly has never been critical of the activities and operations of the state government for obvious reasons. The House comprises only 10 members and only one person from the opposition.

The state chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) came hard on the state government, accusing it of not disclosing how much the state received from the arrears of 13 percent derivation.

Edo state chair, Col David Imuse (retd) claimed that the activities of Governor Obaseki were because there was no properly made up state House of Assembly.

“Governor Obaseki should explain why he has deliberately refused to specify amounts received as 13% derivation fund in his 2023 budgets estimates.

“Mr. Obaseki has been busy maligning the Federal Government, accusing it of printing paper money to fund statutory allocations and mismanagement of the national economy, whereas as a deliberate policy, he has been pocketing Edo state monies by mismanaging the derivation funds.

“Since Edo State does not have a functional House of Assembly to checkmate Obaseki, Edo people should demand the governor publicly show the whereabouts of the said fund,” he said.

Conversely, the Commissioner for Finance, Joseph Eboigbe, clarified: “Edo state’s share of that figure was N28 billion. There was the approval of the manner the money would get to the state and the net amount that would come to each state over five years. Each year, you will have quarterly remittance which means four releases each year over five years.”

C-River is no longer among the oil states–Ita

The story is different in Cross River state, where official sources confirmed the state was no longer receiving the 13 percent derivation fund, meaning the House of Assembly has no basis to challenge the governor on its utilization.
In 2008, the Revenue Mobilization and Fiscal Allocation Committee, RMFAC, handed over Cross River state’s 96 oil wells to Akwa Ibom state, following the ceding of Bakassi Peninsula to Cameroon.

A protracted legal battle at the Supreme Court between the two states ended in favor of Akwa Ibom State. All Cross-Riverians have been constantly told by the Liyel Imoke administration when the ceding took place, was that the state was being shortchanged and unfairly treated.

However, in November 2022, the chair of RMFAC, Mr. A M Shehu, while speaking on a television program, said they rewarded Cross River with the sum of $500 million dollars compensation for losing its oil wells. The Cross River State Government through the Special Adviser, Media, and Publicity to the Governor, Mr. Chris Ita, strongly disputed the claim.
Ita disclosed, “They deleted Cross River from the committee of oil-bearing states since the unfortunate 2012 Supreme Court ruling that ceded the 76 oil wells belonging to the state to Akwa Ibom state because of the loss of Bakassi Peninsula.”