By Onwuka Nzeshi and Okon Bassey
Speakers of the six state Houses of Assembly in the South-south yesterday warned against the agitation for downward review of the 13 percent oil derivation principle being spearheaded by some leaders of the North.
They said the South-south region would rather demand an upward review of oil derivation to 50 per cent and no region could blackmail it to relent.
Rising from a one-day summit held at the Le Meredien Hotel and Golf Resorts, Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, the speakers described the demand and campaign by some Northern leaders and groups against the 13 percent derivation principle as “provocative, vexatious, ill-advised and unpatriotic”.
Some leaders of the North had in recent time questioned the 13 percent derivation to the oil producing states which they claimed leaves the states in the South-south region with too much money at the expense of their counterparts in the North.
About two weeks ago, the North took its agitation to redress what they perceive as inequity in the distribution of the nation’s resources a step further when 16 of the 19 states in the region filed a suit at the Supreme Court seeking to compel the federal government to pay them N7 billion.
They claimed the money is the outstanding value of the assets of the defunct Northern States Marketing Board (NSMB) taken over by the Federal Government in 1977.
Also recently, Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Malam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, suggested that the growing religious insurgency in the North might be a consequence of income inequality apparent between the North and South.
In a six-point communiqué signed by all the speakers, they said: “The recent calls by certain Northern leaders and organisations for the downward review or withdrawal of 13 per cent derivation principle on oil revenue allocation to the oil-bearing states of the South-South is provocative, vexatious, ill advised and unpatriotic, as the call is not based on any sustainable grounds of advocacy.
“The current 13 per cent derivation accruable to the oil producing states in the Niger-Delta region is hardly commensurate with the environmental hazards and degradation suffered by the people of the region”.
The communiqué was read by the Speaker, Delta State House of Assembly, Mr. Victor Ochei.
They condemned the recent spate of killing and suicide bombings in some parts of the North by Boko Haram, describing the development as “criminal, ungodly, provocative and injurious to the unity and progress of the nation”.
The speakers commended the various security agencies for their efforts in combating Boko Haram and protecting lives and property of law abiding citizens in every part of Nigeria.
According to the communiqué, “The forum, therefore urges the Federal Government to intensify its crackdown on the sect and its activities with a view to unmasking the master-mind of these dastardly acts and their sponsors so as to bring them to book to forestall further despicable act associated with the extremist sect.”
The summit adopted President Goodluck Jonathan’s agenda for reform and praised efforts of the government at safeguarding the security, territorial integrity and peaceful co-existence of nationalities in the nation.
The speakers also lauded the South-south governors for the massive infrastructural development in their respective states and urged them to sustain the tempo for the speedy growth and development of the geo-political zone.
They resolved to present one of them, the Speaker of the Delta State House of Assembly, Ochei for the chairmanship of the Speakers Conference of Nigeria at the election slated for April 12.
Meanwhile, the Chairman, South-South Parliamentary Caucus in the House of Representatives, Hon. Warman Ogoriba, has faulted the current clamour by some pressure groups and civil society organisations for the convocation of a sovereign national conference as well as the creation of more states in the country.
Ogoriba, a second term legislator representing Yenegoa/Okpokuma Federal Constituency of Bayelsa State, said he was opposed to the agitation for a sovereign national conference because such a conference would undermine the potency of the National Assembly. He acknowledged the right of those behind the proposed conference to agitate for what they believe was the solution to Nigeria’s problems but maintained that a sovereign national conference had no place in a constitutional democracy with a parliament in session.
In a chat with newsmen yesterday in Abuja, Ogoriba said the call for a sovereign national conference should not be contemplated and urged all aggrieved citizens, political parties or ethnic nationalities who are not satisfied with the present structure of Nigeria to pursue their proposals for changes through the National Assembly.
He said: “I do not want to subscribe to the idea because it undermines the potency of the parliament. I think it is not right. However, I think that they are just expressing their opinion and as Nigerians, the 1999 Constitution guarantees every one of us the right to hold and express our opinions. We cannot begrudge anyone who holds such opinions although there are some opinions that will not really augur well for the unity of the country. It is very sad when you see some very prominent Nigerians coming out to say that what we need in Nigeria today is a sovereign national conference. It is very sad. Why is this so? It is sad because many of them are very learned and exposed and one would have expected them to know better.
“The symbol of any democracy is the parliament and once there is a parliament it is wrong for anybody to convene a sovereign national conference. It amounts to saying that there is no parliament in Nigeria. As parliamentarians we are the representatives of the people. There is no one citizen of this country who does not have a representative in the National Assembly. If you have an issue, you can bring it before the parliament through your representative. If you want to sponsor a bill, you can do so through any member of the parliament or give the idea to the executive who can then bring same to the National Assembly.”
The lawmaker also dismissed the current clamour for the creation of new states as misplaced, stressing that the solution to the problem of under-development cannot be resolved through state creation. Ogoriba said Nigeria’s problem was not the absence of new states but the willingness of its component parts to live together peacefully and under an atmosphere of mutual respect and understanding.
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