Governors of the South-South region, who feel federal authorities have been shortchanging oil-producing states, over the years, in the payment of 13 per cent derivation, have resolved to take up the matter with the Federal Government.
This came as Akwa Ibom state government, yesterday, bemoaned the non-payment of 13 percent derivation oil revenue as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution by the federal government.
Chairman of the South-South Governors Forum and governor of Delta State, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, confirmed at the last meeting of South-South governors in Asaba that they took a decision to address the matter with federal authorities.
His words: "We also took other decisions concerning the issue of Federation Accounts Allocation Committee, FAAC, allocations and the need to be able to stress very importantly that in every allocation that is being done, 13 per cent derivation must first be taken out from the funds that come from the oil economy before the rest of the money is shared at FAAC. The 13 per cent is meant for oil-producing states. That has not been the situation for a very long time. We have agreed as governors to take up the matter at the appropriate levels."
It was gathered that the Covid-19 pandemic affected the pace of the governors' action plan, but there was an indication that they would seek audience with President Muhammadu Buhari shortly.
Chief Press Secretary to Governor Okowa, Mr. Olisa Ifejika, who spoke to Vanguard, last night, said: "The federal government is not paying 13 per cent derivation complete to oil states for some years now. It is not being derivation paid to the letter."
"However, some kind of consultancy and negotiation are going to be done to correct the figure. A team is being put together to study and see the differences because the logic is that it is not done as first charge, it is after they have done other things, what is from what left that they now bring out 13 per cent, but it ought to be 13 per cent of the entire bulk before they share.
"The state government is feeling that there is some shortchanging there, so it is going to be addressed, they are thinking of putting a team together to go and address it with the federal government," he said.
Ifejika clarified: "In answering your question, I said I am not aware that oil states are not being paid derivation, but what I know is that here in Delta, the feeling is that we are not being paid 13 per cent derivation in real terms."
Meanwhile, Akwa Ibom state government has complained that the shortchanging in 13 per cent derivation was adversely affecting development process in the state.
Commissioner for Finance, Linus Nkan, evaded Vanguard's request for clarification on the matter, but his counterpart in the Information and Strategy Ministry, Comrade Iniobong Ememobong, who confirmed the development, was silent on how many months the state has not been shortchanged.
Ememobong, however, said that the governors were already on top of the matter and expressed the optimism that the logjam would soon thaw.
"It is a huge blow to the development process. It is slowing down the development process critically and I am aware that the governors are pushing to make sure that it is brought back on board. Because that is the livewire of development in those coastal areas in the oil-bearing communities", he said.
On the alleged mismanagement of the derivation funds by South-South governors, Ememobong said, "In Akwa Ibom we publish a yearly account and our yearly account is yet to be challenged. It is there on the website."
"So, the process of accountability has been entrenched. The governor is not only an accountant but a chartered Auditor as well. Embezzlement does not happen here," he added.
There was, however, contradictory information that the federal government has allegedly stopped payment of 13 per cent derivation to oil states, which Mr. Ifejika, said he was not aware of.
In his reaction, elder statesman and former member of the National Assembly, Senator Anietie Okon stated succinctly that the federal government lacks the constitutional power to stop payment of the funds to the states, warning that it could trigger off unpleasant consequences in the region.
"They cannot stop the payment of 13 percent derivation. If they dare, then they have to quote what law and constitution provisions that give the federal government the power to do that, unless they are now obviously accepting that there is a complete breakdown of the Constitution in Nigeria. They can wait for the consequences," he asserted.
The federal government started paying 13 per cent derivation to oil states under the region of former President Olusegun Obasanjo and did not default on payment until 2016 and presently by President Muhammadu Buhari administration.
The 13 per cent derivation fund has been a subject of controversy between the oil-producing communities and the various states' government, with the communities asking the federal government to start paying the money directly to oil-producing communities and not into the coffers of the states.
Vanguard News Nigeria