Chief Wellington Okrika, aka Mr. 13% Derivation, has been in the struggle for the emancipation of the people of the Niger Delta from deprivation and denial of their God-given resources for decades. He was there when the first derivation principle was negotiated and approved by military administration and when in 1999, the then President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was foot-dragging on the implementation of the 13% derivation fund, as is contained in the 1999 constitution, Chief Okrika and other notable Niger Deltans pilled -up pressure on the authority, leading to its subsequent implementation under the then governor of Delta State, Chief James Onanefe Ibori. In this interview with The New Diplomat’s Delta state Correspondent, AMAECHI PROSPER, Chief Wellington Okrika, who once served as Chairman of the Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission( DESOPADEC), founding chairman of HOSTCOM and the Bolowei of Gbaramatu Kingdom traced the origin of the 13% derivation fund. Chief Okrika who expressed disappointment at what he called illegality of the present crop of governors of the Niger Delta region who want to continue with the management of the Derivation fund meant for the development of host oil and gas communities posits that they are ill-informed about the 13% Derivation Fund.
Let’s start with your take on the Governor of Delta State, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa’s position on the communities’ agitation for 13% derivation fund?
I have a response but you know, as a founding father and as a leader, I’m just listening to the comments and views of other people. As a founding father of this derivation agitation, I’m very happy that our people are getting more enlightened on their rights. First of all, it is good to talk of the origin of the 13%.
Many people did not know how it came about. Even the governors who are today managing this fund were in school when the communities started the fight. Can I just read a section of some of the write-ups that have been circulating so that you could be abreast? “It is necessary to recall that the advocacy and agitation for the actualization of 13% derivation fund was carried out solely by the oil and gas producing communities under the leadership of Chief W.O. Okrika, Mr. 13% Derivation Fund and others at the 1995 Constitutional Conference during the regime of Gen. Sanni Abacha. There was no state governor or any other person that assisted the oil and gas producing communities”. That is very important. “Gen. Sanni Abacha regime promulgated and gazetted the principle of increase of federal allocation to oil and gas producing communities as 13% derivation fund.”
Two, it is also important to recall that during the making of the 1999 Constitution, oil and gas communities still under the leadership of Chief W.O. Okrika, CON, piled up pressure to ensure that the 13% derivation fund which was gazzeted was enshrined as Section 162(2) of the 1999 Constitution as we see today. Therefore, 13% derivation fund is no mana from heaven. Oil and gas communities fought for it. During the 1999 and 1995 Constitutional Conference where were the governors? Some of them were in school at that time or somewhere else, the governors of today. Therefore, the oil and gas communities must benefit from the 13% derivation fund because they fought for it. So, that is the origin.
Now, 13% derivation fund, by the provision of Section 162(2) of the 1999 Constitution, becomes the first line charge on the federation account. The remaining 87% of the total oil revenue, is now shared by the federal government, the state government and the local government. The revenue formula confirms that, that the federal government, the state government and the local government share the balance 87%. So, it is therefore true that 13% derivation is the first line charge, the federal government is the second line charge, the state government is the third line charge and local government is the fourth line charge.
Why would you on earth, in view of natural justice and the provision in the constitution, pay a first line charge to a third line charge? What kind of madness is that? All first line charges are paid directly to the beneficiaries. Today, we are talking about the judiciary and National Assembly becoming beneficiaries because they have become first line charge. So, their money goes to them directly.
Why would you now take first line charge of this big amount of money and give it to somebody that is a third line charge? So, it is an invitation of chaos, confusion and trouble. And that is what has happened. So, if 13% is first line charge and you know that oil and gas is on the exclusive legislative list, any matter that is on the exclusive legislative list, it is the President that has the jurisdiction and the prerogative. It is not the state government or any State House of Assembly.
This is because, any matter on the exclusive legislative list the state government does not go there. They are now the people in charge of the 13% derivation fund. It is gross illegality; it is unconstitutional; it is so annoying that people just turn their heads away from it because they are benefitting from the proceeds of wrong-doing. That is what has happened. That is the cause of the Niger Delta crisis. If this money has been going to the oil and gas producing communities, why would there be crisis Niger Delta? You go to the area there is abject poverty, penury and hunger while somebody is using their money on their behalf without consulting them. So, that is the basis of the Niger Delta crisis. And we leaders have been saying, give this money to them. You don’t need to go to school to know how to spend your money. Must you be a governor before you know how to spend your money?
The governors have their own allocation. They are third line charge. They should be satisfied with their own third line charge allocation. The communities should manage, in whichever way, the federal government wants to direct or Mr. President wants to direct, to manage their own first line charge. This is what we have been saying. Today now, it has gone viral. The communities have now known their rights and they are shouting.
Even at that there is a precedent already. During the presidency of Shehu Shagari, the money to mineral producing areas was 1.5%. So, because oil and gas has been on exclusive legislative list from the beginning. Before the 1999 constitution, it has always been in the exclusive legislative list of Mr. President. So, he now directed because of the exclusive legislative list to manage the 1.5% derivation fund to the mineral producing areas by creating a platform called Presidential Monitoring Committee, PMC, and State Implementation Committee, SIC.
I was a member of the State Implementation Committee when we were in Bendel. Our leader, Barr. Jemide was a member, he is alive. So, these things have been done. There was a precedent. But the government of the day never believe in law and order, they never believe in anything. They knew this was the principle. The 13% has been managed by Shehu Shagari, an elected president. He had governors then. He did not send it through the governors. He knew the law. He set up Presidential Monitoring Committee to ensure that this money was actually used by the oil producing communities; he set up State Implementation Committee in each area where there is oil and gas.
So, these things are there but when you tell them they say go to hell. So, the truth of the matter is that there is a precedent. Mr. President wants to do it but the governors I know are piling pressure. Why piling pressure for the thing that was given to you by former President Obasanjo to manage on behalf of the people? Now, the people are saying enough is enough, don’t manage our money for us, give it to us. So, why the pressure, why are they agitated?
Sir, some persons are saying that Chief Wellington Okrika was made the pioneer Chairman of DESOPADEC to manage the 13% on behalf of the communities. You were receiving 50% of the amount monthly and the people are saying that you did not complain of the illegality you are alluding to now as at that time. How do you react to that?
That is another issue. When this illegality started, as soon as President Obasanjo gave the money to the governors, we started advocacy and agitation. We went everywhere. Then there was a coastal meeting which was attended by President Obasanjo where he directed, because the problem was getting too much, that the state governors to go and set up oil commissions and give 50% to the Communities to manage directly.
When President Obasanjo in good faith gave that order, only some states that created commissions. Bayelsa, Rivers and Delta ignored that order. So, after a long discussion, the then governor, Chief James Onanefe Ibori now created the Commission, Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission, DESOPADEC. But we insisted that it was an illegality. And that state government and the governor cannot manage anything on the 13% derivation.
But because we are at the end of the road, we said okay, if that is what you wanted to do for now, we accepted it. But you can now see that those Commissions are now extension of government house. Was that the intention of setting up the Commission? No. So, whoever said that I was there, yes. It was as a result of being pushed to the wall. We wanted to save the crisis in the Delta then and so we said okay, if that is what you want to do for now, give us the 50%. But you know, there was no time we were given the 50% of it any day. We have kept on with the struggle for over 20 years. We have been telling the federal government.
We were with Obasanjo, we were with Jonathan. June 14, 2014, I was with the President of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan and I told him, look, this thing was created during your stay in OMPADEC, remember? And while you were there, myself and A.K. Horsfall insisted and we created the 13%. Now you are here as Mr. President, Pls, direct this money to be given to our people and he said yes, that he will do it after the 2015 election. But he did not win the election. So, the struggle has been on. Whoever says I was there as pioneer chairman of DESOPADEC, it is true.
But it is for a while, to allow peace to reign. Is that the governors did not know the origin of the 13% derivation? Why are doing what they are doing? Don’t they have conscience? The man who gave them this money to manage is still alive. Our former President, Olusegun Obasanjo, he directed say, look, because there was no proper structure because of the crisis, take this money and manage on behalf of the people. Our people went back to the President to say, oh, we are not seeing this money. And he said ok, go and set up oil Commission and give them 50% and they still refused. Even the little they gave they took it back.
So, anybody who is saying I was there before and I didn’t talk, we were talking all the time. But we wanted peace to reign. They didn’t give us. And now the thing has gone beyond Chief Okrika. It has gone viral. The communities have now known that it is their money. And I was one of the founding fathers of the struggle. How can I just sit by and allow my people die of abject poverty and penury? It is great injustice that the governors are doing to the people. They should be able to say that we have eaten enough. Give this money to the people.
I’m very happy that the Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege who is from the oil producing community has spoken the mind of our people. This money was given to you to manage on behalf of our people. The money is not reaching to them. They are complaining. Let this money go to them. What is wrong with that?
You had a meeting with the Deputy President of the Senate recently on the platform of the Host Community of Oil and Gas, (HOSTCON). This issue of 13% agitation for the community was raised. Knowing fully well that the DSP is the chairman of the Constitution Amendment Committee, did your group submit any memorandum for the control and management of the 13% by the Communities be enshrined in the Constitution?
No, we don’t need to go there. We quoted the law. The law is in the exclusive legislative list. Does the President need to go to the National Assembly before he posts the Army, the Police, the Navy and others? No. The Army and Navy is in number 38 on the exclusive legislative list. We are number 39. So, why go elsewhere. It is Mr. President’s political courage to do the right thing. If he has the courage to do the right thing, he will correct all the wrong they have done.
A former President, Shehu Shagari did the right thing. You don’t need to go to anywhere. So, what the Deputy President of the Senate said was that he was going to discuss and put up a small committee to look at it. There is a precedent. What we are saying is that follow the law. Follow your conscience. I was a member of the State Implementation Committee at the state level and one Alhaji Alhaji was a member of the National Monitoring Committee monitoring what was being done with the money. And the money was going to the people. We don’t want this money to pass through any political appointee or elected governor. Do you need to go to school before you know how to spend your money?
Finally, sir, while reacting to the growing agitation for the control of the 13% by the communities, Governor Okowa said they should fight for the release of the balance 87% rather agitating for the 13%. What is your reaction to that?
Okowa is not well informed. Otherwise, as a former Senator, he was in the Senate when we made representation that this money, the 13% derivation fund is in the exclusive legislative list. And the 13% is first line charge. Therefore, our money should come to us directly. Mr. President should find a platform to send this money directly to the people. As a first line charge the money should go directly to the people. So, for Okowa, he may not have been well-informed. May be if he reads the provisions in the Constitution, he will not say so. We don’t want to take him up on that. The facts are there, they speak for themselves.