This Day (Lagos)

28 May 2012

Nigeria: Governors Insist On Privatisation of NNPC, PHCN

Governors of the 36 states under the aegis of Nigeria Governors' Forum (NGF) has resolved to support constitutional amendment that will facilitate a speedy unbundling of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN).

The position of the governors were contained in a presentation made by the Chairman of the forum and Governor of Rivers State, Hon. Chibuike Amaechi, at the retreat on the review of the 1999 Constitution in Port Harcourt, over the weekend.

The governors' position on NNPC comes against the background of a resolution by the House of Representatives, which recently adopted as part of the report of its Ad hoc committee on the oil subsidy regime, a recommendation urging government to restructure NNPC to make it more transparent and accountable.

"Everyday we hear of deregulation of the petroleum sector. The truth is that nobody wants to deregulate. So, on your own you owe this nation a responsibility to break up NNPC even if it means putting it in the Constitution. When it stands on its own you can then remove it. Everybody is talking about deregulation, but nobody actually wants to. We need to deregulate. If it is not happening, please put it in the Constitution. The governors will support you," he said.

Amaechi said it was baffling why we have agencies that do not obey the Constitution.

"The Constitution says all revenues accruing to the nation must be in the federation account. But because some people are above the Constitution, monies that are accruable to the country are not paid into that account. And the excuse they give is that the Appropriation laws passed by the National Assembly included a clause that says they can take their money upfront.

"Your laws cannot override the Constitution because you and I derive our existence from the Constitution. This is what they call the Rule of Law. That is why we ask, 'should we keep NNPC the way NNPC is? Shouldn't we tear it apart and make it a company, bold investors should come in? Should it become an agency of government?

The governor also spoke about the frustrating situation in the power sector where a state cannot distribute power generated from its facility due to the monopoly being enjoyed by PHCN.

"We have a total of 545 megawatts of power in Rivers State and nobody can feel power simply because you have made a law that empowers the Federal Government to distribute power alone," he said.

So Rivers State has 545 Megawatts of power and we need just 400 Megawatts but can't discharge this power to our people," he added.

"We have a total of 545 Megawatts of power in Rivers State and nobody can feel power? Simple: because you have made a law that empowers the federal government to distribute power alone,"â€Ã‹,he said.

He queried the rational for holding on to a regulatory framework which clearly retards development rather than accelerate.

Meanwhile, the participants In a communiqué issued at the end of the retreated presided over by the retired Chief Justice of the Federation, Justice Muhammad Uwais, recommended that the system of local government administration instituted by the 1999 Constitution should be reformed to guarantee the autonomy, efficiency and viability of the local government system.

The retreat was attended by the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives as well as eminent personalities and experienced resources persons.

Papers presented at the retreat covered several areas of interest in constitution amendment including: electoral reform; citizenship, indigeneship, and residency rights in the 1999 Constitution; immunity clause, accountability, and judicial reforms; national security and police reforms; federalism, local governance and political restructuring.

In the communiqué, participants held that the 1999 Constitution as amended did not fully address all the desired amendments by Nigerians and that current efforts to amend the 1999 Constitution should be geared towards responding to several other issues that are pending which will greatly impact on our democracy.

The communiqué further resolved that the present and future efforts to amend the Nigerian Constitution should take full cognisance of the gender implications of proposed amendments, and that the interests of women need to be particularly considered.

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