The group says a failure to raise derivation to oil producing communities could trigger unrest
Akwa Ibom State delegates to the ongoing National Conference have warned of an imminent implosion in the Niger Delta if the move to adopt 18 per cent derivation for the region is scuttled by Northern delegates.
In a statement signed by former minister of lands, housing and urban development and delegate to the Conference, Nduese Essien, and head of the state secretariat, Udeme Nana, the delegates warned that nerves were already frayed in the region over the issue.
The delegates, therefore, warned that the growing agitation by youth of the region may turn into a full-blown crisis unless the current derivation is reviewed upward.
“There is a strong possibility that the Niger Delta region could again snowball in an orgy of violence if the logjam on derivation principle at the ongoing National Conference is not resolved on the basis of justice and fair play,” the delegates warned.
The delegates also warned against attempts by those they describe as “political capitalists” to resurrect the onshore/offshore dichotomy, noting that the issue has further heightened tension in oil-bearing communities in the region.
The delegates noted that majority of those who are blocking moves to review the derivation formula are unaware how oil spills, gas flaring and other activities of multinational oil firms have devastated oil-bearing communities.
“Based on comments attributed to people from a certain part of the country, it is pertinent to indicate that Akwa Ibom State and indeed the Niger Delta region is disappointed by the posturing of people from a certain section of the country and would resist attempts by persons or groups to use the satanic policy to blackmail the region.
“Section 134 of the 1960 Constitution and Section 140 of the 1963 Constitution which formed the basis of the country’s Independence and nationhood had provided that Nigeria’s Continental Shelf of 200 nautical miles be deemed to be part of a region for the purpose of paying 50 per cent derivation.
“The two Constitutions had provided that for the purpose of derivation, a state that has a coast is deemed to be the owner of the continental shelf.
“But through Decree 9 of 1971, the then Head of State, Yakubu Gowon, had introduced the onshore/offshore dichotomy. From that time, the policy was abolished three times. The first abolition took place in 1975, the second in 1979 and the third in 1992. It was, however, President Olusegun Obasanjo who reintroduced the evil policy.
“Today, the dichotomy is still in place because the Abrogation Act of 2004 drastically reduced the constitutional provisions and the internationally recognised boundary definition of continental shelf from 200 nautical miles to 200 miles isobaths. What is used now is a mere measure of the low water mark of the land surface of a littoral state rather the universally accepted measurement.”
The delegates equally drew the attention of those opposed to the upward of the derivation to the oil spills that have ravaged parts of Akwa Ibom state in recent weeks.
“As delegates continue to procrastinate and disagree over the issue of derivation and other issues that are germane to the people of the state and indeed the region that has sustained the country’s economy for over five decades now, the Akwa State secretariat of the National Conference hereby draws attention to the rising tension and a possible backlash that may follow if the people of the region are short-changed by the Conference.
“While the bickering continues, youths from oil-bearing communities in Ibeno local government area of Akwa Ibom State have during the past two weeks occupied the operational base of ExxonMobil unlimited at Qua Iboe Terminal, QIT, and stopped the multinational oil firm from accessing its facilities. The youths are protesting against a recent oil-spill which devastated over 46 communities along the coastline in the state.
“Similar situations abound in many parts of the Niger Delta region and the Conference should have found time to visit the area for an on the spot assessment before taking any decision on what the derivation principle should be. They should not also constitute themselves as judges as to how the resources made available to the Niger Delta region are utilized. Such judgments should best be left entirely for the people of the area.
“Again, those who have been blocking the peaceful attempts of our people to demand for fair play and justice within the Nigerian project should desist forthwith because if the Niger Delta bursts into another level of crisis, the consequences will be felt not only in the country but globally.”
While the Niger Delta region has continually been subjected to what they described as the “worst level of abuse and depravity”, the delegates said funds derived from oil exploration have serviced every part of Nigeria.
They noted that oil-bearing and surrounding communities have been thoroughly polluted while several kilometers of land in the region has been washed into the Atlantic Ocean due to climate change and activities of multinational oil firms.
The statement continues, “It is also a fact that the 853 kilometers of Nigeria’s coastline runs through Lagos, Ondo, Bayelsa, Rivers and Akwa Ibom states. The continental shelf widens progressively from a western value of 35 kilometers in Lagos, 64 kilometers around the Cape of Forcados, to a maximum of 75 kilometers offshore in Akwa Ibom state.
“While experts have indicated that several kilometers of what is today the Atlantic Ocean was formerly land inhabited by peoples of Southern Nigeria, those who seek the annihilation of the Niger Delta people still push for the economic emasculation of the region. This is very unfortunate, unhealthy and unstatesmanly.
“It has been observed that the emission of dangerous greenhouse gases by the oil and gas companies, offshore discharges and tampering of barrier trees has made communities and the people living at the bank of the Atlantic Ocean and the seas to experience unbearable environmental and health hazards arising from ocean surge and flooding.
“Already, the 853 kilometer coastline has been undergoing severe coastal erosion with grave ecological concern because of the growing population and economic activities in the area. Today, our lands have failed to yield crops and our rivers, creeks, streams and estuaries bereft of fish. One, therefore, wonders how the over 25 million people living in the core coastal areas where oil and gas exploitation has negatively affected agriculture, fishing, and aquaculture; would survive.
“Currently, over 50 highly vulnerable sites have been identified along the coastline spanning the eight coastal states. Many coastal communities in estuaries along the coast have had to move upland regularly to escape being washed away by the encroaching sea.
“In the face of constant threats, insults and haranguing by delegates from a certain part of the country, delegates from Akwa Ibom State and indeed the Niger Delta region have continued to seek peaceful means of presenting their genuine case to Nigerians.
“But we wish to warn that no section of the country should claim to have the powers to dictate to the whole country. While Akwa Ibom State and the Niger Delta region recognise the challenges faced by our brothers and sisters in the North-East and support every move to rebuild the area devastated by insurgency, we will kick against attempts to localize any intervention in one part of the country.
“This is because every part of Nigeria has peculiar challenges that could be addressed if a National Intervention Fund is created and an agreed percentage of national revenue allocated to it.”
In the spirit of the Ramadan, the Akwa Ibom delegates appealed to their Northern counterparts, especially Muslims to sheath their sword and allow justice and fair-play to prevail in the current debate on what should constitute the derivation formula.
“After all, what has been recommended by the eminent members of the Consensus Group also covers solid minerals and other resources found all over the country,” it concluded.