Tension in Niger Delta over plot to cancel 13% derivation fund

2021-10-23
TRIBUNE Newspaper

AN alleged plot by some northern members of the House of Representatives to expunge the 13 per cent Derivation Fund from the 1999 Constitution ignited tension in the Niger Delta on Friday.

The leadership of the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) on Friday convened an emergency General Assembly meeting of leaders of the South-South to deliberate on and take possible actions over the plan.

An invitation letter to the South-South General Assembly meeting signed by PANDEF National Chairman, Senator Emmanuel Ibok Essien, who is a former Deputy Chief Whip of the Senate, was sighted in Abuja by our reporter on Friday.

According to the letter, the agenda of the meeting is on the “bill to delete Sub- section 2, Section 162 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) sponsored by 59 Northern members of the House of Representatives.”

The bill, according to its author, “seeks to alter the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as altered) to facilitate the effectiveness of Nigeria’s Fiscal Federalism 2021.”

It is co-sponsored by Hon. Babangida Ibrahim and 58 other lawmakers.

Those expected at the South-South general meeting scheduled to hold on Monday, 25 October, 2021, by 11.00 am via Zoom include serving and former state governors across South-South and other leaders, speakers of the South-South States and members of the National Assembly from the region serving and past.

Others are former governors and top political officeholders; retired top military and security officers from the region; Director-General of BRACED Commission; traditional rulers; presidents of ethnic organisations; leadership of oil and gas host communities; leaders of ethnic youth organisations; leaders of relevant CSOs, CBOs, women and youth groups in the region as well as other strategic stakeholders.

Ijaws warn northern lawmakers to let sleeping dogs lie

Ijaws of the Niger Delta, under the aegis of the Ijaw National Congress (INC), have also warned the North to let the sleeping dog lie.

National President of INC, Professor Benjamin Okaba, who gave the warning in a statement made available to journalists on Friday, said such an attempt was an invitation to chaos and anarchy.

He alleged that 59 members of Nigeria’s lower legislative chamber, who are from the north, were behind the sponsoring of a bill to scrap the subsection from the constitution.

The Ijaw leader urged the lawmakers to be wary of “embarking on a voyage which pathway is too thorny for them to navigate,” wondering why they take delight “in fanning the ember of chaos, national disintegration and the total collapse of Nigeria.”

In the statement, he said: “The leadership of the pan-Ijaw group, the Ijaw National Congress (worldwide), has received with utter consternation and disbelief a story circulating in the social media, of a purported bill sponsored by 59 members of the House of Representatives, who are of northern extraction, with an intent to delete Section 162 Subsection 2 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).

“The section under reference, which has to do with the management of the Federation Account, particularly Subsection 2, states inter alia: “‘The President, upon the receipt of advice from the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission, shall table before the National Assembly proposals for revenue allocation from the Federation Account, and in determining the formula, the National Assembly shall take into account, the allocation principles, especially those of population, equality of states, internal revenue generation, landmass, terrain as well as population density;

“‘Provided that the principle of derivation shall be constantly reflected in any approved formula as be- ing not less than thirteen per cent of the revenue accruing to the Federation Account from any natural resources.’

“What could have been the motivation for these 59 northern lawmakers to contemplate sponsoring this obnoxious Bill other than the fact that it provides for the derivation principle… as being not less than 13 per cent?

“It is unfortunate that some honourable men of our Green Chamber are taking delight in fanning the embers of chaos, national disintegration and the total collapse of the Nigerian state. “We are not sure if these persons have measured in any manner the eventual consequences of their intended action on both the economic and political space of Nigeria.

“We can assure these apostles of discord and chaos that in this their planned voodoo game, the oil-producing Ijaw nation and other oil-producing and resource-endowed ethnic nationalities in the Niger Delta region shall laugh last.

“We challenge them to stop at nothing to ensure that the Section 162 Subsection 2 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) is deleted without hesitation.”

While quoting a portion of the 1963 Republican Constitution of the country that borders on how revenues were shared at a time the country depended mainly on agricultural produce from states of the federation, INC described the lawmakers as not being conversant with history in tinkering with the affairs of the constitution.

According to the Ijaw body, “It is unfortunate that as lawmakers representing various constituencies from the northern regions, rather than being conversant with political history and constitutional practice since independence, these lawmakers are embarking on a voyage which pathway is too thorny for them to navigate.

“Have they forgotten so soon the provisions of the 1963 Republican Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on revenue sharing at a time the nation’s wealth depended mainly on groundnut pyramids, cotton, hide or skin, etc, the resources their forbears relied upon to build the northern economy?

“We wish to reproduce here-under the provisions of Section 139 of the 1963 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for purposes of clarity and unbiased elucidation.

“‘139. (1) Where under any Act of Parliament duty is levied in respect of the export from Nigeria of produce, hides or skins there, shall be paid by the Federation to each Region in respect of each quarter a sum equal to the appropriate percentage of the proceeds of that duty for that quarter.

“‘(2) For the purposes of Subsection (1) of this Section–

“‘1.(a) the proceeds for a quarter of a duty levied on a commodity shall be the amount remaining from such of the receipts from that duty as relate to exports of that commodity during that quarter after any drawbacks, refunds or other repayments relating to those receipts have been made or allowed for;

“‘2.(b) the appropriate percentage of the proceeds for a quarter of a duty levied on a commodity shall, in relation to any Region, be whichever of the following percentages is prescribed by Parliament in that behalf, that is to say, either-(i) the percentage of those proceeds that is at- tributable to exports of that commodity that were de- rived from that Region; (ii) the percentage of those proceeds that is attributable to exports of that commodity that were purchased in that region.’

“The import of Section 139(1) and (2) is that 100 per cent of the proceeds from the produce, hide or skin were paid to the producing regions after allowable expenses.

“Similarly, Section 140 of the 1963 Constitution provided for fifty per cent of the proceeds from mining royalties and rents to be paid to the producing regions. We reproduce the relevant sub-sections hereunder for elucidation.

“‘140. (1) There shall be paid by the Federation to each Region a sum equal to fifty per cent of – “‘1.(a) the proceeds of any royalty received by the Federation in respect of any minerals extracted in that Region; and

“‘2.(b) any mining rents derived by the Federation during that year from within that Region. “‘(2) The Federation shall credit to the Distributable Pool Account a sum equal to thirty per cent.

“‘1.(a) the proceeds of any royalty received by the Federation in respect of minerals extracted in any Region; and

“‘2.(b) any mining rents derived by the Federation from within any Region.

“‘3.(3) For the purposes of this Section the proceeds of a royalty shall be the amount remaining from the receipts of that royalty after any re- funds or other repayments relating to those receipts have been deducted therefrom or allowed for.’

“” From the foregoing, it amounts to a display of bigotry for anybody to challenge the allocation of a paltry 13 per cent for the derivation principle to mineral producing states.

“Whereas the Nigerian state had at a time given a whopping 100 per cent of proceeds from exports to the producing regions and only 50 per cent to other mineral producing states, we have maintained our repeated demand for the progressive increase of derivation percentage at least to what our forebears had practised in the past.

“We have continued to condone this arbitrary allocation of 13 per cent to mineral producing states in the spirit of brotherhood and national interest over the years. Therefore, to attempt to insult our sensibilities by sponsoring such an obnoxious and insensate bill is, to say the least, an invitation to chaos.

“Let us state in very clear terms that the feeding bottle mentality that has continued to rein our states, in which creativity and resourcefulness have been abandoned on the expectation of FAAC day in Abuja, must stop.

“Before the sponsored Bill is passed into law, the Ijaw nation shall take steps to protect and defend our oil and gas resources.

“If we must live together as one, we must strive to do those things that unite us and shun the ones that divide us; rather than needlessly stoking the fire of discord, which is what the purported Bill being sponsored by the 59 Honourable members, is all about.

“The 59 ‘honourable’ northern brothers should al- low sleeping dogs lie.”

CSOs kick too

Coalition of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in Nigeria on Friday warned the leadership and members of the House of Representatives to desist from heating up the polity with the introduction of toxic legislations that may compound the lingering socio-economic and political crises across the country.

The CSOs leaders, Mrs Vivian Bellonwu-Okafor of Social Action and convener of Coalition in Defence of Nigerian Constitution and Democracy, Ariyo-Dare Atoye, expressed the concerns in response to the trending bill.

While frowning at the intendment of the bill, Mrs Bellonwu-Okafor said: “This is just political thuggery and it’s very bad; former President Obasanjo under pressure from key stakeholders in the Niger Delta including the then Governor of Delta State, James Ibori, acceded to allocation of 13% revenue statutorily to the Niger Delta. This was actually the right thing to do for several valid reasons: One, the money is needed to develop the area that oil extraction has destroyed and of which its infrastructure is in tatters.

“Two, this is a universal principle, the application is valid. It is practised all over the world; a Certain Percentage of resources are retained for an area from which resource is derived.

“And so the plot to remove 13% Derivation Fund from the constitution is indeed another hallmark of gross injustice, political intimidation against the people of the region and moreso it is purely a plot to weaken the economic strength of oil producing states. This is highly condemnable, irrational and unreasonable.

“Although a number of people have argued that governors in the region have abused this money and have not applied it as stipulated, while this argument unfortunately is largely true, it is however secondary. Governors are merely elected political personalities with finite terms. As such, the 13% Derivation Fund was not and should not be built around them.”

While expounding on the intendment of Section 162(2) of the 1999 Constitution in the Principal Act, she informed the sponsors of the offensive bill that the 13% Derivation “money is needed to help in rehabilitating the area which both its flora and fauna upon which life is de- pendent, have been bastardized by oil exploitation.

“As we all know, oil companies in Nigeria do not re- habilitate any area or environment they exploit, they simply drill the crude and when it’s all dried up, they pack up and flee, abandon- ing both the environment and the people in such places to their fate. Ogoni stares us all in our face in this regard in living history,”

Bellonwu-Okafor said. Also, the Convener, Coalition in Defence of Nigerian Democracy and Constitution, Atoye warned that the proposed legislation may worsen the current socio-economic and political crises across the country.

He maintained that the bill which was “introduced in the House of Representatives to alter 162 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended ) by deleting the proviso under the existing subsection 2, is an invitation to anarchy, chaos and instability.

“The bill, sponsored by 59 lawmakers from North of Nigeria is a ploy to remove the 13% Derivation Fund from the Constitution as contained in subsection 2 of 162, but it could totally undermine the country.

“That these lawmakers even contemplated this egregious act is in itself an affront, and it will be resisted by everything necessary.

“It could well be the beginning of the end of a geographical entity that has suffered from insincerity and manipulations,” he stressed.

All efforts made to reach the lawmakers whose names were listed on the bill proved abortive as their phones were either switched off or not reachable, except for one lawmaker who swiftly switched off his line the moment our reporter introduced himself.

 

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