The 13 per cent derivation being agitated for by the
oil producing states is attracting criticisms from some Nigerians, just as many others see it as a palliative to the oil producing States. Infact, the issue is currently tearing the ongoing National Conference apart. In view of this, our Chief correspondent, Calista Ezeaku and photographer, Dele Obinna, went to town to seek the opinion of Nigerians on the contentious issue. Excerpts:
Eucharia Somiari Pepple – Lawyer
What I want to say is that oil is not the only resource we have in this country. I just want to tell you that so many states have resources and they are managing them. They use whatever resources they have for themselves, but all eyes are on this oil. Is it only oil that we have? We have cocoa, rubber etc. Does government go to take all these? The states, local governments, villages and towns use them, so any thing that is good for one section should be good for another section. Let government take control of all these resources we have in this country even if they are in little quantity. Let all eyes not be on oil, so that we will know that from this state, they have taken this, from that area, they have taken that. That’s one point.
Then now, they are giving us 13 per cent derivation. I will want us to go to places like Oloibiri, Bumu and see the extent of damage there. I want to talk about these areas because I have been there. When I was writing my thesis for my Masters Degree, I wrote on oil exploration, exploitation and compensation. That was when I went to Oloibiri. If you see the pictures, you will weep. You will see the level of devastation and damages. This people need reparation to bring back those land damaged by oil exploration. Is it that 13 per cent derivation that states will use to do the reparations?
This Oloibiri where oil was found in 1956 has been like that before the establishment of NDDC and the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, what has government done? Even allocation, it is the allocation given to them that they will use. If the budget is for roads, they can’t use it to repair Oloibiri, Bumu in Ogoni and all those places that made Ogoni people say “don’t come to our place again.”
So for me, that 13 per cent derivation is not enough. We can manage 35 per cent. But what we are agitating for is not increment per say. What we are agitating for is this, give us the resources, let us manage our resources we pay revenue to the Federal Government. When the West had cocoa, they managed it themselves. It was the proceed from cocoa, rubber and all the rest that Awolowo used to build the cocoa house, the tallest building in Nigeria. People that had groundnut, cocoa, rubber and all that managed them.
If they ask a child in primary school what and what does Nigeria produce? Is he not going to say oil? Will anybody say cotton, cocoa, rubber and all that, but I want to tell you that they are still producing cotton. Is the government taking control of that cotton they produce in the north? If they insist on 13 per cent derivation, they should harness all those things, manage them. Let us be getting something from them. Let them not be talking about oil, oil, oil.
Msgr Cyprain Onwuli – Priest
I must say I am disappointed by the committee’s report. I have not read it, but if truly the committee recommended that 13 per cent derivation formular should be maintained, I am disappointed, especially when the bulk of the members are from the South. They could insist on the status-quo being maintained because none of them is from the oil spot where the oil is coming from and they do not know what the people are suffering. How many of them are from oil well villages and towns? They don’t know what we are suffering.
I should have expected that even if there is no resource control, at least between 30 per cent and 50 per cent of the oil revenue should be pushed back to where the oil is produced.
For me the claim that NDDC, Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs and the amnesty programme are enough bodies and programme to cater for the oil producing areas is not solid at all. What impact is NDDC and the ministry making? Is NDDC not under the ministry? They depend on whatever budgetary allocation given to them. The money is still in the hands of very few persons.
All they should do really if they love the people of the Niger Delta and if they are feeling for them is for them to set up a group made up of people from every part of this country that will supervise the way the money allocated to NDDC and Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs is spent because the money is in the hands of very few. Look at all the roads that NDDC claims to have constructed for us, they are all bad. And before they even come to construct the road you bribe them. You spend between five and ten per cent of the money they will use for you which has been budgeted for. So what is the need? They are not reaching the people. They are not working for people. They are working for themselves.
If the bulk of the money in the country comes from the north, will the northerners agree that the money be spent for the whole country? They will never. Even the West will not. It is because when all this started, people from the South were not taken into consideration. Now that we have known the way they are stealing and spending our money and building up their different villages, why can’t they listen to us?
Let them go to the people in the villages, not those in township and see what the people are suffering. It is sad, how the oil producing communities are neglected. Can such thing happen anywhere in the world?
Mrs Tochi Abinye-Pepple – Information Officer
I’m not too comfortable with the recommendation that 13 per cent derivation formular should be maintained because for a long time, we have been on that 13 per cent derivation, while the people that the oil is not being produced from their area are somehow, enjoying more than us. So there is nothing wrong if it will be increased to at least 50 per cent so that the lives of the youths in the Niger Delta will be touched better. We will have more roads, more infrastructural development and we will feel more comfortable with it. Even the Bible said that the husband, man should be the best partaker of the fruits.
We are producing this oil, there should be a clear cut difference between those that don’t have oil running under the soil and ourselves here.
It is true we have NDDC, Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs and the amnesty programme but if you want to measure the level of development in the Niger Delta even with these organs and programme in place, you will find out that we still need an increase in the revenue.
The oil is in our land yet, there is nothing to show for it in terms of development. Look at how developed Abuja is. Yes, Abuja is the capital of Nigeria but if there should be any difference at all in the development of Abuja and the Niger Delta, it should just be very small. We need more companies for our youth. We need more programmes to engage the youth and not general programmes from the federal level that cut across all the states.
Juliana Masi – Information Officer,
I believe that if Nigeria has been operating true federalism, the resource would have been for the states but we are not operating true federalism. And I don’t see anything wrong with the delegates from the Niger Delta at the National Conference demanding for an increase in the derivation formula.
Even if they don’t get 50 per cent at least 40 per cent is not a bad bargain. That will bring more development in the Niger Delta. The peculiar environmental challenges we have vis-à-vis the weather, environmental degradation and other challenges make it imperative that more attention be given to the Niger Delta.
Fine, the NDDC, Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs are doing some work but its actually not enough.
If you look at it critically, how many people are actually being impacted except we are saying that a lot of resources are being given to them but the resources are not being properly used.
If you go to villages and communities in the Niger Delta, you will see that the level of development cannot be measured with the resources derived from the Niger Delta. And I totally agree that the best solution to all these problems is true federalism. That will make the various states and individuals stronger, know who you are, know what you want and what belongs to you and go for it.
Mr. Iheanyi Ezinwo – Publisher
I will say that one is not perfectly comfortable with the submission of the committee but I wouldn’t mind because I was really scared when a crosssection of the delegates from the north were even saying the formular should be reduced to three or five per cent. So it is not bad, at least with that 13 per cent we still have an edge and it makes a lot of resources available to us, whereas it would have been better if the percentage were higher.
But I think our attention should be focused more on the use of the resources because even if they are giving us 50 per cent or 100 per cent and the funds happen to be in wrong hands, the poor man out there will not benefit from that. Can we in all honesty say that we are benefiting from that 13 per cent. What difference is it making in the life of the average Rivers man?
Yes one would have wished that they push it up a little but don’t forget that the constitution says a minimum of 13 per cent. But don’t forget that even if the conference did not push it up, a president can come and decide to improve on it. As a matter of fact, it was Obasanjo who implemented the 13 per cent. So a President can come and increase it to 30 per cent or 40 per cent because the constitution says a minimum of 13 per cent.
Infact, that matter should not even be debated because the constitution has given the bottom line which is minimum of 13 per cent. In other words, the maximum can be 100 per cent.
So for those of us who are from this part of the country, those who are supposed to benefit from the derivation principle, I think our attention should be focused more on the dividends of that 13 per cent. Is it robbing off on the targeted people – the oil producing communities and the average man on the streets of Rivers State?
The NDDC is trying but to me, the role of NDDC should be more streamlined. I believe that NDDC may achieve more if they focus on meagre projects and not a situation where you see NDDC patching road, constructing one road that leads to a close, buying transformers, boleholes and all that. As far as I am concerned, NDDC should concentrate on major projects like inter-state roads, rail lines, international hospitals and things like that, projects that will be very useful to people across the Niger Delta.
Mr. Aniefion Asuquo – Businessman
I read in the newspaper that the delegate, from the north wanted a reduction in the derivation formula to five per cent. That is very very wrong.
As oil producing area, we are supposed to be given more than 13 per cent but for peace to reign, we should allow it at 13 per cent because we want Nigeria to be one and united.
But if we truly want to share the revenue based on the contribution of the various regions, Niger Delta is supposed to benefit more than any other part of the country because 80 per cent of the nation’s wealth comes from Niger Delta. But for peace to reign, lets accept the 13 per cent.