Delegates to the ongoing National Conference yesterday began the debate on the much awaited report of the Standing Committee on Devolution of Power. Expectedly, it was a heated debate as delegates spoke passionately on the issues of devolution of power, resource control, derivation principle and revenue sharing formula, among others.
The committee was co-chaired by ex-governor Obong Victor Attah and former IGP Ibrahim Coomassie. Their report examined 68 items cited in the Second Schedule, Part 1 of the 1999 Constitution which deals with the Exclusive Legislative List and 30 items contained in Part 2 of the Fourth Schedule that deals with the Concurrent Legislative List.
Most of the delegates from the South-South and South-East, who commented on the report, said derivation principle should be increased from the present 13% to 50% contrary to the recommendation of the committee which put it at 13%. However others suggested that it should be reduced below the current 13%.
Prof Auwal Yadudu while commenting on the report said it is full of conciliatory and inclusive ideas and that it should be recommended for adoption by others. He however recommended that if it is appropriate to raise the current derivation principle, it should not include offshore and onshore settlements and also calculate what is available to the states on the account of intervention schemes like the NDDC, Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs and Amnesty Programme. "Someone says these are temporal administrative arrangements, yes they are but they also eat into what is available to the federating units. Therefore, if one has to raise derivation, then you must exclude the items mentioned," Yadudu said.
For her part, Ms Annkio Briggs, who was denied speaking at plenary as a member of the committee despite her argument that she did not append her signature to the report, later told journalists that her people from the oil producing states of Niger Delta will not accept any recommendation of the confab that does not make provision for a 100% resource ownership across the country.
The debate was apparently along North-South divide except for few delegates who discussed other issues as they relate to other interests they represent at the conference.
Proponents of the idea of state's ownership and control of their resources said their arguments were based on the tenet of devolution of power, which allows the states to only pay taxes to the central government.
While the opponents of the idea pointed to the fact that mineral resources in Nigeria are owned in law by the Federal Government as contained in Section 44(3) of the 1999 Constitution.
Meanwhile, the report, which is subject to the adoption of the conference, said the committee members unanimously recommended that the issue of derivation should be discussed instead of resource control.
The committee added that its decision was informed by the emotive nature of the issue, which in its view was capable of destabilizing the country.