4 March 2012

Nigeria: Derivation Fund - the Banter Between S/South Govs and the Northern Govs

Photo: Vanguard
Nigerian oil rig.

Stoking fire

ON July 27, four days after the northern governors stoked the raging fire over the federal revenue allocation formula, the chairman of Northern Governors Forum and Governor of Niger-State, Dr. Aliyu Babaginda, literally declared that the agitation was a no retreat, no surrender affair for the north.

Governor Babaginda at an event in Lagos appealed to his South-South colleagues in particular to see reason with the north in the new demand. His words, "I, therefore, appeal to my entire colleagues (governors) to be involved in deliberate efforts and activities to promote national integration and harmonious co-existence".

He hinged the northern governors' case on the justifiability of a situation in which a state like Niger gets between N4.2 to N4.5 billion monthly from the federal treasury, while an oil state gets N24 billion, when in his contention, the idea of common nationality implies that the resources of the nation should be considered as a common patrimony.

Uduaghan's dismissal of northern govs

Delta State Governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, who spoke to Sunday Vanguard on the call by the northern governors said it was within their constitutional duty to ask for a review of the revenue formula, just as South-South, had, over the years, been agitating for an upward review of the 13 per cent derivation.

He, however, said the argument by his northern colleagues that oil well, 200 kilometers away from the shore of the country does not belong to a particular state was untenable, as in actual fact, the land and water that belong to the country are located in a specific state.

Uduaghan, however, said South-South governors would be meeting, among other things, to take a position on the demand of the northern governors. He said the matters would be squarely addressed by the South-South governors when they meet and that they would not let the people down.

This is where the problem lies. According to the national coordinator of the Ijaw Monitoring Group, IMG, Comrade Joseph Evah, "Northern governors and indeed, northerners are talking like this because we don't have politicians like them, they are well organized, our politicians are selfish, and they are cash and carry politicians".

But in unison, the governments in Abia, Akwa Ibom, Ondo and Rivers, have all pooh-poohed the idea. Chief Press Secretary to Governor Theodore Orji of Abia State, Mr. Ugochukwu Emezue, and the information commissioners of Akwa Ibom, Ondo and Rivers, Mr. Aniekan Umanah, Mr. Kayode Akinmade and Mrs. Ibim Semenitari, respectively, the idea was pilloried.

S-South govs equal to the task

A source close to one of the governors told Sunday Vanguard, "It is not true that South-South governors are uncoordinated and selfish. They don't have to talk or make noise when there is no need to.

"Governor Uduaghan made the point clearly that Governor Babaginda's argument is on shaky ground, remember that the arguments of the northern governors are old wine in a new bottle, the issue of offshore oil wells had been tackled and settled in the past,

The source maintained that south-south governors would not buckle on the issue of 13 per cent derivation and that review of the revenue formula that is not in accordance with the constitution will be receive their blessing.

In his words, "The minimum the south-south will accept is the present status-quo or adoption of fiscal federalism, where the owners of resources will pay tax to the Federal Government. We are aware that our oil will soon finish and there solid mineral deposits and other natural resources in the north, which they are not developing because of oil money", he added.

It was gathered that even though Edo state is not seriously in contention among the oil states, Governor Adams Oshiomhole is not prepared to give in to the north on the issue of revenue allocation formula. Sometime in 2011, he called for a review of the revenue allocation formula which he said was skewed in favour of the Federal Government.

Uduaghan , who is an apostle of derivation had at the first Information Summit and Unveiling of the True Face of Delta, he challenged the National Assembly to confirm its autonomy by increasing derivation to oil producing states from 13 per cent to 50 per cent, as it was in the 1960 and 1963 Constitutions of the country". Governor Uduaghan said the increase does not require an amendment of the Constitution, as the law simply says not less than 13 per cent should be paid as derivation, and not necessarily that derivation is fixed at 13 per cent.

As the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum, NGF, Governor Rotimi Amaechi is trying to be careful so as not to be accused of showing bias for his people of the south-south. However, Amaechi and the entire governors had before now, clamored for a review of the revenue formula to favour states.

From the findings of Sunday Vanguard, the governors from both south and north are not against a review of the revenue allocation formula, the issue is to whose advantage- federal, north or oil states.

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