Oil states reject North’s demand for more revenueAkwa Ibom, Borno, National Politics, Oil Politics, Ondo, Rivers, State News, Top Stories, Yobe Saturday, February 25th, 2012
The South-South governors said such a call smacked of insensitivity to the plight of the zone, evident in its over 50 years of marginalisation and environmental degradation and advised Northern governors to develop their revenue base as each state had a resource to develop.
Similarly, Niger Delta activists said states in the North should find ways of generating revenues to run their states as the region once did through groundnut pyramids, rather than seeking for more allocation from oil.
The Chairman of the Northern Governors’ Forum and governor of Niger State, Dr. Babangida Aliyu, had last Thursday, on behalf of his colleagues, asked for a review of the revenue formula that “reflects current realities.”
Aliyu had stated this during the inauguration of Ahmadu Bello’s Memorial Foundation Advisory Council in Abuja.
A recent poverty index released by the Federal Bureau of Statistics had shown more states in the North in grave situation than their counterparts in the Southern part of the country, a scenario that Aliyu might have had in mind when he mentioned “current realities.”
He had bemoaned how his state got between N4.2bn and N4.5bn as monthly allocation whereas some other states received 20 times the amount.
He had said, “The revenue allocation formula should be looked at. We are hoping that within 2012, there would be discussions and review of the allocation formula.
“It will not serve everybody well if certain parts of the country are not doing well while some parts are doing exceptionally well. So, the pressure will continue until we are able to find a solution.”
But irked by Aliyu’s clamour, the Rivers State government said his comment was unfair and lacked appreciation of the fact that the oil-producing states were, the “goose that lay the golden egg.”
It added that every state had resources it could develop and generate revenue and that “nobody should be worried when some concessions are given to oil-bearing states.”
The state Commissioner for Information and Communication, Mrs. Ibim Semenitari, stated her government’s stance.
She said, “It is unfortunate that this is coming from a governor I respect. Knowing the environmental degradation in the Niger Delta, the thought of getting equal allocation of funds is unnecessary.
“Every state has its own resources. We also have states that are doing well in agriculture but the proceeds from such resources are not shared among states.
“The funds that are shared among the states of the federation come from the oil bearing states. The level of magnanimity from the Niger Delta should be saluted and not the call for sharing the proceeds from the oil-bearing states equally.”
In Akwa-Ibom State, the Commissioner for Information and Communication, Mr. Aniekan Umanah, said, “The demand by the northern governors is improper. When they were receiving 50 per cent for groundnut, they did not share it with anybody.
“Now that 13 per cent oil derivation is paid to the South-South and other oil producing states in the country, they want the money to be shared with them.”
On Aliyu’s claim that oil wells that were over 200 kilometres off shore were supposed to be oil wells for the whole country, Umannah reminded him that people inhabited the coastline.
He noted that oil producing states did not share their 50 years of environmental degradation with the North.
Umannah said, “Don’t they know about environmental degradation? Don’t they think that people live along the coastline and that they are affected by oil spills and other environmental degradation through the activities of oil companies?
“What have they suffered to justify their demand that they equally get 13 per cent of oil revenue? It is uncalled for.”
The Chief Press Secretary to Governor Theodore Orji of Abia State, Mr. Ugochukwu Emezue, also told SUNDAY PUNCH that Aliyu’s demand was uncalled for.
He said, “I don’t think it is fair for anybody to complain about what Niger Delta states get as monthly allocation because these are the states that suffer environmental degradation.
“What we are getting in Abia as a Niger Delta state is not enough and we are calling for an upward review of our monthly allocation.
“Abia is serious about developing the state and as an oil-bearing state; we need more funds to achieve all these.
“But it will not be fair for anybody to say that the funds from crude oil should be shared equally between the oil-producing and non-oil producing states.”
Similarly in Ondo State, the Commissioner for Information, Mr. Kayode Akinmade, noted that the oil producing states currently enjoying the 13 per cent derivation funds had the statutory rights to enjoy it.
He said, “We should not forget the fact that states that are currently enjoying the derivation fund had experienced serious environmental degradation and untold neglect by successive governments in the past despite the fact that they were ‘laying the golden eggs.’
“The bulk of the money being used to develop the country is coming from the natural resources being derived from the oil producing states but they remain the least developed in terms of provision of infrastructural facilities.
“The condition of most residents of the oil producing communities is appalling. Many of them do not have access to drinkable water, decent accommodation, good roads, functional public schools and qualitative health care, among others.”
Opinion leaders in the South-South geopolitical zone also lacerated the northern governors stressing that Aliyu’s position negated true federalism.
Niger Delta activist, Annkio Briggs, said, “If the Niger State Governor said that, I want to tell him that what he said was unfair because his state is not bringing anything to the table.
“The people from the Niger Delta region are bringing the oil that God has given to them. The oil is in our land and it belongs to us.
“I want him to know that it is unfair that there are 36 states in Nigeria and only nine states are actually contributing something; and people who are not contributing anything at all are now talking about injustice.”
Also, the former President of the Ijaw National Congress, Prof. Kimse Okoko, described the position of Aliyu as ‘insensitive.’
He said Aliyu’s position had further reinforced the call for a Sovereign National Conference and the urgent need to amend the 1999 Constitution in favour of true federalism in the country.
He explained, “They are trying to make a case on the basis of their own interest. We have our own interest and we will protect it.
“They don’t experience the kind of severe pollution that the people of our states experience in this country.
“It is not fair that we should bear the environmental destruction caused by oil spills in the litoral states and at the same time share with those people who have absolutely not been affected by any oil pollution. We will just ignore those kinds of statements.”
Similarly, the National Secretary of the Ijaw National Congress, Mr. Robinson Esitei, condemned the demand by the northern governors and advised them to be creative and look for alternative sources of revenue to run their respective states.
He said, “What the northern governors are saying is totally wrong. Our people are saying that they should be in control of the resources found in our communities so that they could pay tax to the centre.
“If you look at the IGR of the states of the North, you find out that it is lower than that of their counterparts in the South because they are relying on allocation from oil proceeds from the Federal Government.
“This cannot be the position of Nigeria now, if the country is to move forward. In fact, we are proposing in the present constitutional amendment that Nigeria should revert back to the regional arrangement where each region would control its resources and pay tax to the centre.
“We are in essence saying that the present formula is disadvantageous to the Niger Delta people who are suffering degradation and other hazards that go with oil exploitation.”
The Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Mallam Lamido Sanusi, had in an interview with The Financial Times of London last month, decried what he termed the low allocation to Northern states from the Federation Account.
Sanusi had linked violence in the North, particularly the activities of the Islamic fundamentalist sect, Boko Haram, to the uneven distribution of the country’s wealth.
Currently, the revenue allocation formula is 52.68 for the Federal Government; 26.72 per cent for states; and 20.6 per cent for council areas, while 13 per cent is given to the oil-producing states as derivation.
The 13 per cent derivation was introduced in 1999 as part of measures aimed at redressing the long time grievances of oil-producing states.
Official figures from the government show that Rivers State received N1.053tn between 1999 and 2008 from the federal allocation.
However, two states in the North-East – Yobe and Borno – received N388bn within the same period.
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