Prominent South-South leaders, a former governor and ex-militants in the region, yesterday, took up the northern governors in their agitation for a review of revenue allocation formula saying they were either uninformed, fishing for trouble or have deliberately set out to provoke the South-South.
This is just as the umbrella body for employers in the country, Nigeria Employers Consultative Association, NECA, said only the principle of derivation otherwise known as “Resource Control” will return Nigeria to the path of growth and development.
Citing the axiom, “Seeing is believing”, the South-South leaders dared the northern leaders to undertake a tour of the riverside oil communities of the Niger-Delta by boat to see the difficult terrain, degradation and pollution to fully realize the implication of their demand.
They said it was well known that the South-South had remained consistent in their quest, over the years, for a review of the revenue allocation formula on grounds that the 13 per cent derivation to oil states was insufficient, and so, for anybody to say that 13 per cent should be further slashed was insulting.
The leaders, among them, the first civilian governor of Edo state, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun; former Minister of State for Education, Olorogun Kenneth Gbagi; veteran politician, Senator Francis Okpozo; ex-militant leader, High Chief Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo, and others said the minimum acceptable standard by the South-South in any review of the revenue formula was a return to fiscal federalism.
They said that after breathing the gas flares and seeing the poverty of the people, there is no doubt that the northern governors and other persons thinking like them, would come to an inescapable conclusion that they had no locus to ask for equal sharing of oil revenue with those that live daily with the torture of oil exploration and exploitation.
The South-South leaders said under fiscal federalism in a federal state, which the country pretends to be practising, the federating states or units control their resources and pay tax to the federal government.
According to them, “this was the practice in this country when cocoa, groundnut, palm oil and cocoa were the mainstay of the economy. The East, North and West collected 50 per cent as derivation for these agricultural products respectively and the South-South was almost starved to death because oil had not been found then”.
But national coordinator of the Ijaw Monitoring Group, IMG, Comrade Joseph Evah, told Vanguard: “It is our politicians that gave the northern governors the license to insult us. If they are not dancing to their tune, they will not have the mouth to tell us that we should share our oil wealth equally with them”.
Also, a former governorship aspirant in Delta State, Mr. Sunny Onuesoke said he was not against review of the revenue allocation, but it should be at least 50 per cent derivation for the producing states, as it was in the country before oil was discovered in the South-South.
Northern govs not informed – Oyegun
Chief Odigie-Oyegun, on his part said: “We have to sit down and talk on how we want this country to be. Let us come to the table and talk, we should all meet.
“The matter is not northern governors throwing stones that they want revenue formula to be reviewed without sitting down to look at the issues very critically. Did anybody tell them that we in the South-South don’t want the revenue formula to be reviewed? We want it and it must be in excess of what it is now, not downwards for oil states.
“The truth is that unless the fundamental issues are addressed, we will keep finding ourselves in the kind of situation where people just get up and say things just like the northern governors had just done without hitting the nail on the head”, he said.
They’re fomenting trouble - Gbagi
For Olorogun Gbagi, “the call was a continuation of the deliberate design of northern governors to foment trouble in the country. What the South-South wants is for us to control our resources and pay tax to the Federal Government as it was done in the time of cocoa and groundnut.
“Their call of sharing oil revenue is borne out of laziness, they cannot say that oil resources in the south-south do not belong to the owners of the communities”, he added.
Gbagi said the northern governors should stop looking for trouble and respect the sovereignty of the country for the nation to move forward.
They should be contented with what they have – Okpozo
Senator Okpozo spoke furiously to Vanguard on phone over the matter, saying: “Even during the colonial administration up to the time of independence, until oil was discovered, the revenue formula that existed was 50 per cent derivation for the entire nation and 50 per cent for the producing regions”.
He said though the formula did not last for a very long time, the north, west and east utilized their 50 per cent derivation to develop their areas to the utter disadvantage of the south-south, which had no resources then.
“When you look at western region, you see the Cocoa House, Western Nigeria Broadcasting Corporation and other joint edifices put up from the proceeds of derivation; you all see the Ahmadu Bello University and other projects in the north, all from their derivation money, so also the late Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe tried to do in the east with the little money that came from palm oil and cocoa”, he said.
Senator Okpozo said: “I have no doubt that the northern governors are not well informed about the plight of the people in the Niger-Delta; they should be taken on a tour of the terrible terrain to see the sufferings of the people, let them see the gas flaring, let them see the erosion that is eating away the communities, the water the people are drinking, the houses they are living in, the grandeur of the oil companies exploring their oil and let me know if they will not ask for increased revenue to oil states”.
S-South should not be deprived of its rights - Tompolo
Ex-militant leader and one of the founders of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger-Delta, Government Ekpemupolo told Vanguard , yesterday, “since the country is practicing a federal system of government, what it needs is true fiscal federalism, where the component units will own the resources in their territory and pay tax to the central government”.
He said: “Nobody is depriving the north of its resources, they have solid minerals, they should own their resources and pay tax to the federal government just like other federating units, but a situation where the south-south is to be deprived of its derivation is not acceptable. This is the kind of injustice we fought against and the Nigerian state should avoid it. We want fairness and equity for everybody as a nation”.
I blame our politicians for the insult - Evah
Comrade Evah blamed it all on south-south politicians who he accused of massaging the ego of their northern political leaders.
“We are ashamed of our political leaders; if not for the latitude they have given the north, will northern governors wake up to make such contemptuous comments about a people from whose bowel the wealth that sustain them is derived”?
He said “our politicians are our problem, if they do the right thing, nobody will get up to insult us; that is why I told somebody that my response is that I am thanking the northern governors for insulting us again.”
Scabrous assault – Obahiagbon
Former member of the House of Representatives and ACN chieftain in Edo State, Hon Patrick Obahiaghon, aka, Igodomigodo, in an email message to Vanguard, said: “It’s with maniacal bewilderment that I received the renewed onslaught by most Northern governors against the 13 per cent derivation revenue funds accruable to the south-south states, which in and by itself has constitutional imprimatur”.
“I must say, however, that the debate is quite salubrious coming at a time when some of us are saying that this country must peregrinate the trajectory of a national conference to resolve once and for all our unsettled issues in this country.”
“The unprovoked and scabrous assault should offer us the opportunity to examine the economic and jurisprudential anchorage of our fiscal federalism and other related matters”, he stated.
North had no locus on derivation – Ogbetuo
On his part, one of the prominent leaders in Delta state, Chief Ogbetuo said “I am 200 per cent in support of the suggestion that the northern governors should undertake a tour of riverside communities of the Niger-Delta after which they can now speak on which way increase in revenue allocation formula should go”.
South-South wants 50 per cent – Onuesoeke
Ex-governorship aspirant, Mr. Onuesoke, “I am not against revenue review but it should be in line with fiscal federalism based on the theory and formula of derivation”.
“Governor Aliyu and CBN governor, Lamido Sanusi should know that we in the South-South , South East and South West are not fools. Revenue allocation review without a fiscal federalism is a no-go area.