- Says Fund Not Manna From Heaven To S/South Governors
As the National Assembly winds up its public hearing on the review of the 1999 Constitution, the oil and gas Host Community of Nigeria, (HOSCON) has re-emphasized its position that the 13% Derivation Fund as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution, as amended, was the result of the advocacy and agitation by representatives of the oil bearing areas, and not the handiwork of the governors of the Niger Delta.
The body made this known in their presentation to the House of Representatives Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution at the Asaba Centre of the South South federal Constituencies public hearing recently.
HOSCON’s position was presented to Hon. Godwin Ndidi Elumelu-led Asaba centre public hearing panel, by Bishop Okorotie Victor, chairman of Bayelsa chapter of the body.
The group reiterated its earlier presentation to the Senate Committee on Public Hearing in Asaba, calling on the National Assembly to make necessary alteration to Section 162 (2) of the Constitution for an express provision for the 13% Derivation Fund to be paid directly to the Host Communities (oil and gas), the same way it was during President Shehu Shagari administration.
It recalled that “oil and gas producing communities carried out the struggles for 13% Derivation themselves, under the leadership of Chief (Dr.) W.O. Okirika, CON, (Mr. 13% Derivation) at the 1994/95 Constitutional Conference”, adding that “no governor or anybody else assisted the body financially or otherwise.”
HOSCON noted that it was the regime of late Gen. Sani Abacha that “promulgated and gazzette the principle of increase in federal allocation to oil and gas producing communities as 13% Derivation.”
The body also explained how the derivation fund became part of the 1999 Constitution, noting that “During the 1999 Constitution making, oil and gas producing communities, still under the leadership of Chief W.O. Okirika, he piled up great pressure to ensure that the 13% Derivation Fund was enshrined in Section 162(2) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended”, stressing that “the 13% Derivation Fund was not Manna from Heaven.” “Oil and gas producing communities fought for it and must benefit from it”, HOSCON said.
Arguing its case further, the body noted that “13% Derivation Fund is a first line charge on the Federation Account”, adding that while the “Federal Government is on second line charge, the State government and Local Government are on third line charge and fourth line charge respectively.”
It also drew the attention of the panel to the fact that oil and gas is in the Exclusive Legislative List and not Concurrent List in the Second Schedule of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, adding that “it is only the President or Head of State that has the prerogative and jurisdiction to legislate on matters on the Exclusive Legislative List,”
According to the body, since oil and gas is not on the Concurrent List, “it is illegal and unconstitutional for state governors or Houses of Assembly to legislate on the 13% Derivation Fund.”
HOSCON argued that the payment of Derivation Fund to the host communities of oil and gas was not new, adding that the Shehu Shagari administration had set a precedence in the management and use of 1.5% Derivation Fund and that the President then, did not give it to elected governors to manage.
“There is a precedent set by President Shehu Shagari on the management and use of the Derivation Fund when it was 1.5%. President Shehu Shagari did not give the 1.5% Derivation Fund to the elected governors of his administration, as he managed the Fund by setting up Presidential and State Committees, thereby complying with the provision in the Exclusive Legislative List that no other person, aside from the President or Head of State, can legislate on matters on that List”, the body noted.
It added that “the payment of the 13% Derivation Fund to the governors of oil producing states nullifies the principle of derivation as enshrined in Section 162(2) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended”, adding that the continuous “payment of the derivation fund to the governors of oil producing states, extinguishes the rights and privileges of the oil producing communities.”
According to HOSCON, “it is a criminal injustice to the oil and gas producing communities.”
HOSCON informed the Public Hearing Committee that “the governors of the oil producing states have misappropriated, misapplied and diverted the 13% Derivation Fund to develop non-oil and gas producing communities, leaving the actual oil and gas producing communities in hunger, penury and abject poverty leading to the complex Niger Delta crisis.”
The body proferred that the “only panacea to the Niger Delta crisis is to pay the 13% Derivation Fund directly to the oil and gas producing communities through oil and gas Commissions.”
It would be recalled that the agitation for the federal government to stop further payment of the 13% Derivation Fund to governors of oil producing states has been sustained by the Host Communities of Nigeria (oil and gas), HOSCON over the years following complaints that the impact of the Fund is not felt among communities in the Niger Delta region.
Governors of the oil producing states in the Niger Delta have however advocated for an increase in the Derivation Fund to 100% even as they rejected the idea of chanelling the Fund to the host communities.