Vanguard (Lagos)

Nigeria: Confab - Protest, As C'ttee Raises Derivation to 18 Percent

Abuja — THERE were protests on the floor of the National Conference, yesterday, as the Elders' Committee raised the 13 per cent derivation to 18 per cent.

In their harmonized position, the committee, which has elder statesmen as members also recommended five per cent of federal revenue for exploration and development of all mineral resources, as against the present 4.5 per cent and that 50% of money allocated to each state on derivation must go directly to the communities from which the mineral resources are extracted.

The committee also recommended that five per cent of federal revenue should go for the rehabilitation, stabilization and reconstruction of areas affected by insurgency in the North-East, North-West and North-Central geo-political zones.

However, the recommendations did not go down well with delegates, especially the recommendation that five per cent be set aside for the rehabilitation, stabilization and construction of areas affected by the Boko Haram insurgency in the North. This came amid a looming crisis as delegates reconvene today to vote on recommendations of the Committee on Devolution of Powers with delegates shouting their rejection and threatening to scuttle the conference.

To avert uproar from delegates after the presentation of the Devolution of Powers Committee report led by Obong Victor Attah and former Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Coomasie, the conference on Tuesday raised the elders' committee to three delegates each from the six geo-political zones. The panel was enlarged, yesterday, following protest by delegates on the platform of Civil Society Organisations, CSOs, Organized Labour, Women groups and professional bodies, among others, to deliberate on contentious issues.

Members of the elders' panel are Bashir Dalhatu; Dr. Fatima Lami Adamu; IGP Ibrahim Coomasie for North West Zone; Mohammed Kumalia; Kashim Imam; Adamu Maina Waziri for North East; Senator Iyorchia Ayu; Prof. Ibrahim Gambari; Prof. Jerry Gana for North Central; Gen. Alani Akinrinade and Dr. Kunle Olajide for South West.

Others are Chief Edwin Clark, Chief Raymond Dokpesi and Air Commodore Idongesit Nkanga for South-South; Gen. Ike Nwachukwu; Prof. Anya O. Anya and Chief Chukwuemeka Ezeife for South East.

How the report was presented

Slated for discussion as Item 4 b on the Order paper, yesterday, was continuation of discussion of Committee on Devolution of Powers. At exactly 9.32 a.m. after the adoption of Tuesday's votes and proceedings, the Chairman, Justice Idris Kutigi, who told delegates that they could not take the devolution of powers because the leaders from the zones were still meeting, said: "I am sure you are aware that your zonal leaders are still meeting and once they report to us, we go to the Committee on Devolution of Power."

While waiting for the Elders, delegates moved to Item 4(C) which was on Modalities for the Implementation of the decisions of the Conference and this lasted from 9.33 to about 2.45 pm when Gen. Ike Nwachukwu and others came in from the meeting on consensus.

Nwachukwu then told the house that a delegate on the platform of Elder statesmen category, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari would read the position of the Elders Consensus Committee.

Gambari, who presented the report at 2.50 pm said: "I have the honour to present to this plenary the outcome of the consultation that was held in view to find the way forward and promote consensus on a very key issue that has capacity to divide this house and even, maybe, this country.

"Mr. Chairman, there was a big relief and high expectations at plenary, yesterday, when General Ike Nwachukwu announced that a group of delegates had been working to broker agreement on the issue of derivation and related matters because we all know how emotional the matter is and it has to be handled carefully.

"The group started with the leaders of six geopolitical zones and was later expanded to include the representatives of labour, employers association, women society and civil society. For two nights and two days, the group has been engaged in promoting consensus on the way forward with regard to derivation and related matters.

"After the two days and two nights here is what we arrived at: We arrived at this conclusions and in doing that among us, there have been shift of positions on the parts of the two positions already taken by our members in the spirit of compromise and putting Nigeria first and above the interest of our respective zones and constituencies, recognising that status quo is not sustainable. We have always felt that anytime we reduce our discussion to our village level, primordial level, state level, zonal level, we are likely to run into problem.

"Now one pole began with the position that was embodied in the recommendations of the committee on Devolution of Powers all the way from 13% to 15% to 17% and not less than 18%. Another position shifted from the high figure of 100%, 50% to 21.5% to 20% and finally to not less than 18% to be reviewed every 10 years.

"Therefore, this group adopted a position and to recommend to the plenary not less than 18% as the derivation formula but the group did not end there, as a package we propose two recommendations: One, for 5% revenue allocation to be made for solid minerals development; we know we are over-relying on oil and the time has come to pay attention to other resources throughout the country.

"The second and perhaps much more urgent is that we have recommended a new fund to be established which we will call fund for stabilisation, rehabilitation and reconstruction, 5% of revenue allocation, principally for the North-East, North-West and the North Central.

"These recommendations, if endorsed, will be reflected in the Revenue Allocation Act. We have also recommended that what is happening now is not the problem of North-East but that of Nigeria but more dramatically in the North-East. We have also recommended broadly a safeguard and mechanism to ensure that monies go to those who need them most and to also enhance production of mineral resources that our country is endowed with.

"Finally, in reaching this conclusion, this group is only motivated by one thing which is just to provide an avenue to reach consensus rather than voting, we do not believe that voting will really move us forward."

Rapid protests

After the presentation, there were shouts as delegates protested.

Members of the committee who picked holes in Gambari's presentation said the five per cent for rehabilitation, stabilisation of and reconstruction of areas affected by insurgency was a national matter and not for Northern zones as presented by Gambari.

A host of them said that Gambari betrayed the people with a northern agenda.

We will ask for 25% derivation -- Okon

Delegates like Senator Aniete Okon, who is representing Akwa Ibom State who were not happy with the recommendation threatened that the recommendation of five per cent to the North on insurgency must be jettisoned or the South will ask for 25% derivation.

5% is discriminatory --Umeh

All Progressives Grand Alliance chieftain, Chief Victor Umeh, who described the 5% as discriminatory, said that it should be for the entire country and not the North alone, adding that the South East people have not been compensated since the civil war ended.

They want us to use violence -- Bakare

Also condemning the recommendation, a South-West delegate, Pastor Tunde Bakare said, "What they are saying now is that all of us should go and do insurgency to get what we want. In this arrangement, nothing for the South-East and South-West, it is not acceptable.

It's deceitful--Uwazurike

Also reacting, President of Aka Ikenga, Chief Goddy Uwazurike said, "We the South-East delegates reject the recommendation of 5 % of the national fund to any section. It is uncalled for. This is very deceitful."

Gambari veered off the written agreement--General Raji Rasaki

In his condemnation, a delegate on the platform of Retired Army, Navy and Air force Officers, RANAO, Gen. Raji Rasaki who noted that Prof. Gambari veered off the written agreement, said, "I saw the written resolution of the committee saddled with consultation on this issue and from what I heard Gambari reading here, I could say that he veered off from what was agreed and written down."

Demand on how Southern govs spend 13% is insulting -Ozekhome

Also commenting on the recommendation, a Federal Government Delegate, Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, said: "Northern delegates have insulted our sensibilities by saying that South-South governors must tell them what they have done so far with the allocation they have received from the 13 percent derivation before they support any increment in derivation. Northern governors use their money to buy aircraft and flaunt them. How many southern governors have used their allocation to buy aircraft? There is a northern governor who bought his own air jet, flew it and crashed."

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