Committee member, Ankio Briggs, kicked against resolution
After five hours of stormy session on Tuesday, the Devolution of Power Committee of the National Conference finally agreed to retain the 13 per cent derivation fund for the oil producing states in Nigeria.
The co-chairman of the Committee, Victor Attah, disclosed this while briefing journalists on the outcome of its meeting.
The committee members had for several days disagreed on whether to reduce or increase the fund which is paid to the nine oil producing states. The states are Abia, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Imo, Ondo and Rivers.
While the northern delegates pushed for the reduction to five per cent, the south-south delegates demanded an increase to at least 50 per cent.
The northern delegates also wanted the Ministry of Niger Delta, Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, scrapped and the Off-shore/Onshore dichotomy re-introduced.
Mr. Attah, a former governor of Akwa Ibom State, said some members of the Committee, who came with fixed positions on the issue of derivation fund as well as on other issues, dropped the positions and embraced the retention of the status quo.
He said, “Some came to this Committee that dichotomy must be introduced, some insisted that payment on derivation must be reduced, while some want the states to own and operate all resources within their areas and only pay taxes to the government.
“We went through all positions and it was unanimously agreed that the last position was not achievable because it is a constitutional issue and amendment must be made before that can be achieved because as it is now all minerals belong to the Federal Government.
“Given that understanding, those people agitating for that drop their position and opted for 50 per cent as minimum payment on derivation. This obviously seems like irreconcilable positions. Maturity and patriotism of the members came to play at this point as we recognized that there were so many mineral resources left unexplored which is causing discontent.
“We also recognized that the 13 per cent given to community with the resource is not enough and some still want government to reduce it because it was felt that with the 13 per cent the people are still impoverished because it was not judiciously applied.
“More than anything, we felt that we must try and maintain the equilibrium that we have in this country today. So that there will be no loser or winners. At the end, everyone withdrew their positions and we reached a unanimous decision that a special fund must be set up to enable the country, with the participation of the states to develop the mineral deposits within their areas.”
Mr. Attah said the committee also recommended that it must be enshrined in the constitution so that nobody could challenge it and also to enable everybody benefit from the derivation.
He added, “That final decision was that let status quo remain, and for sake of equilibrium don’t let us go back and re-open old wounds and inflict new ones.
“There were three components to the derivation, to increase the amount of money that accrues to the Federation Account, that every part of this country should benefit from the derivation payment and more importantly there should be employment all across the country.
“With employment through the development of these resources, the restiveness we are experiencing in this country today will go down.”
Also speaking, the co-chair of the Committee, Ibrahim Coomassie said it recommended the creation of National Welfare Fund, NWF, to take care of the rainy day as well as the establishment of the Office of the Accountant General of the Federal Government as distinct from the Accountant General of the Federation
If eventually adopted, the NWF would replace the Sovereign Wealth Fund, SWF.
“All the decisions reached are unanimous and the members are happy about it taking into consideration the interest of Nigeria moving forward so that development can be even,” he said.
However, a member of the Committee, Ankio Briggs debunked the claim by the co-chairmen that the decision on the derivation fund was unanimous.
She told journalists that she was not in support of the retention of 13 per cent, noting that her people in the South-South region wanted an upward review of the fund.
Ms. Briggs, who hails from Rivers State, said though she would not write a minority report, she would consult with other South-South delegates and the people of the region back home to know the next step to take.