- Payment Of Funds Through Governors Violates 1999 Constitution, HOSCON Tells Buhari …As The New Diplomat’s Survey Sparks More Reactions
A coalition of militant groups in the Niger Delta has threatened to breach the subsisting ceasefire accord with the federal government over the continued “unconstitutional” payment of the 13% derivation to governors of the region.
This comes amid agitations by South South governors for an upward review of the very same derivation as findings revealed that states in the region have received over N10 trillion from the 13 per cent derivation principle between 2000 and 2018 alone.
The nine groups said they would resume hostilities due to President Muhammadu Buhari’s refusal to stop the payment of the 13 per cent derivation funds meant for oil-producing areas to the governors.
The groups under the aegis of the Reformed Niger Delta Avengers (RNDA) said the presidency has continued to ignore series of complaints and petitions against state governors from the region, who misappropriate and divert the funds into personal pockets.
Speaking through Johnmark Ezonebi, alias Obama, the RNDA said the groups after an emergency meeting in Delta State, have concluded that “they will soon collapse the ceasefire agreement entered with the federal government since the 21st of August 2016, if the payment of 13 per cent derivation fund continues to state governors in the region.”
He warned that the outcome would be bloody in the creeks “if our demands are not met because we will not fold our arms and continue to tolerate the deliberate perpetual injury occasioned by the governors of the oil-producing states to the people of the region who are from the oil-producing communities in the creeks.
“There is serious deliberate neglect by the governors of the region despite receiving such huge amounts monthly while the people in the communities are abandoned and left to suffer while the governors live flamboyantly without human feeling for their fellow kinsmen.”
The group restated that the people are suffering the most hazard from the persistent exploration and exploitation activities in the drilling of crude oil from the communities in the creeks.
“Meanwhile, the communities remain in utter neglect and bereft of meaningful development despite the billions and trillions of naira being collected by these governors on behalf of the oil producing Communities.
“The level of deliberate abandonment and neglect by the governors of the South-South states who are receiving over N180 billion to N200 billion yearly from the federation account as payment of 13 percent derivation funds from the federal government on behalf of the oil-producing communities in the region as to develop the oil producing communities cannot be imagined”, the RNDA lamented.
It added:“We want to believe that President Muhammadu Buhari understands that the RNDA is making the demand to stop the payment based on the fact that oil and gas is in the Exclusive Legislative List of the 1999 Constitution.
“Oil is number 38 item on the Exclusive Legislative List while the Nigerian Army, Nigerian Navy, Nigerian Air force, Nigeria Police Force, and other law enforcement agencies are on number 39 on the Exclusive Legislative List.
“By virtue of this fact, the 13 percent Derivation Funds are in the prerogative right of Mr. President to allocate the funds to the oil and gas-producing communities for the interest of peace and development and in order to avoid any looming bombshell of fresh hostilities in the region.
“We therefore call on the President to consider establishing NOGCDEC that would receive and implement the 13 percent Derivation Funds, which representatives from the oil-producing communities across the region will constitute it for proper and blanket development of the communities”.
However, Governor of Edo State, Godwin Obaseki, recently intensified growing agitation by South South governors, for upward review of the 13 per cent derivation formula.
Obaseki insisted that the allocation to oil producing Niger Delta states in the federation had remained grossly inadequate for development of the South-South.
The governor spoke when he joined his counterpart from Delta State, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa, for the commissioning of some road projects in the state last month.
The governors listed “the peculiar terrain” of the South-South region, which makes infrastructure project execution quite expensive, as prime justification for their demand.
In several reports, The New Diplomat had featured the voices of people and communities in the oil-rich region who have been pushing for a change in the mode of receipt of allocation, distribution and appropriation of the derivation funds.
In a protest letter to President Muhammadu Buhari and the National Assembly, the Oil and Gas Producing Communities in Nigeria (HOSCON) maintained that paying the 13 percent fund through state governors, as currently done, was a gross violation of two mandatory provisions of the 1999 constitution as amended.
The group argued that the 1999 Nigeria Constitution made it clear that 13% derivation fund is provided constitutionally and exclusively for the oil and gas-producing communities primarily as compensation for loss of fishing rights and productive farmland as a result of oil and gas exploration and production activities.
“It is instructive to note that any matter that is on the Exclusive Legislative List, it is only the President or Head of State that has the prerogative and jurisdiction on all matters on the exclusive legislative list. No governor or state assemblies can legislate on matters on the exclusive list,” HOSCON had contended.
HOSCON quoted The Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) in its report, where it defined 13% derivation as: “the financial incentive that is enshrined in the Constitution to be distributed to oil- producing communities, based on the production input to serve as benefits and encourage the community to create enabling environment for more production of crude oil and gas.”
The group had therefore called on President Muhammadu Buhari to order for the direct payment of 13% derivation to the Host Communities, through a proposed Presidential Derivation Committee (PDC) and States Implementation Committee (SIC). HOSCON argued that provided the principle of derivation is constantly reflected in any approved formula as not being less than 13% Derivation fund, it remained the only first line charge on the Federation Account.
The group noted that the federal government is the second line charge, state government third line charge while local government is the fourth line charge.
HOSCON further explained that the current corruption and fraud that has bedevilled the present system of management of 13% Derivation fund, resulting in over N44 Trillion wastage in the past 20 years of its application without commensurate infrastructural facilities should be seen as the highest fraud on planet earth.
A recent survey by The New Diplomat in the six states of the South-South namely, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo and Rivers also revealed that “81 per cent of South-South people want the 13 per cent derivation released directly from the federal government to the host oil-producing communities as first line charge.”
In the survey which since has since led to a wave of actions in the region, further findings revealed that some states in the South South created very opaque vehicles supposedly to deliver the funds to host communities, but sadly the funds end up being deployed inappropriately for goals that are ethically different from those of the host oil- producing communities.
This has consequently triggered a plethora of unresolved questions, crisis, inter and intra-ethnic wars, bickering escalated by mounting tension over the 13 per cent derivation across the entire South-South geo-political zone over the years.