National Conference adjourns midway over resource control, others #NGConfab

Zonal leaders at Confab to seek consensus on contentions issues of derivation, revenue formula, others.

The National Conference on Tuesday abruptly adjourned its plenary session to enable leaders of the zones at the Conference negotiate some contentious issues arising from the report of its Committee on Devolution of Power.

The Conference, which concludes daily proceedings at 3.30 p.m., cut short its proceedings at about 12.45 p.m. when the leader of the South East delegation, Ike Nwachukwu, requested for the adjournment.

It was to commence voting on the recommendations of the Committee and the amendments proposed by delegates.

Some of the contentious issues arising from the report of the Committee are resource control, 13 per cent derivation fund, and revenue sharing formula.

The Conference had previously disagreed on proposals for the creations of 18 new states, which the northern delegates kicked against, as well as the abolition of Land Tenure System.

The Committee on Devolution of Power co-chaired by a former governor of Akwa Ibom State, Victor Attah, and a former Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Coomassie, had recommended the retention of 13 per cent with a percentage of the derivation devolved to the host communities from which the resources are derived.

It, however, recommended that a Special Fund be set aside for the development of other mineral resources.

However, since the Conference opened debate on the 41-page report on Monday, delegates had made suggestions based on ethnic and sectional interests with those from the south canvassing an increase in the derivation funds while those from the north opposed.

Delegates who supported the raising of the funds suggested 21.5 per cent while others asked for 50 per cent or 60 per cent until ownership of the resources is achieved.

Some delegates from the north argued that if there must be an increment, it should only be restricted to the onshore. They argued that the oil-bearing states had not judiciously expended the 13 per cent they get at present.

The northern delegates also demanded that the Presidential Amnesty Programme, the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, and the Ministry for the Niger Delta should be abolished and their functions transferred to respective oil producing communities.

Mr. Nwachukwu, a retired army general and former external affairs minister, in a motion, told the Conference that he was mandated to speak on behalf of the leaders of other groups who were already making progress in their bid to forge a consensus on some contentious issues.

He urged the Confab to allow them continue deliberations and report back on the consensus on Wednesday.

The Conference Chairman, Idris Kutigi, announced that the adjournment would enable delegates interact, lobby, and possibly negotiate on certain contentious issues before amendment and adoption of recommendations.

The adjournment, which was unanimously supported by the delegates present and voting, would also afford members of the Consensus Committee to conclude their meeting on the best possible ways to amicably resolve all contending matters arising from the report.

Mohammed Kumalia, a delegate from Borno State, seconded the motion.

Meanwhile, before the adjournment, a delegate from Katsina State and former senator, Ibrahim Ida, canvassed the retention of the 13 per cent derivation fund and that there should be restitution for the degradation of the Niger Delta region.

He said just like the Niger Delta, places like Plateau State were also degraded due to mining activities. He said the Conference should ask the Federal Government to pay its debt to the NDDC.

A former Minister of Environment, Hassan Adamu, also supported the entire recommendations of the report. He, however, said the North East zone had been completely devastated and that the confab should come out with a Marshall Plan for the region.

The delegate from Adamawa State said the Confab should recommend seven per cent for the Marshal Pan.

A Civil Society delegate, Joe Okei Odumakin, said the Federal Government should have 40 percent of revenue while states (with LGS under them) should have 60 percent.

She reminded the Conferees that it took the blood of Ken Saro-Wiwa for attention to be shifted to the degradation of the Niger Delta.

Mrs. Okei-Odumakin said derivation should be increased to at least 21 per cent to go to the oil- producing communities.

A former Women Affairs Minister, Josephine Anenih, said allocations to the local government should be added to that of states. She said derivation fund should be increased in a way that the current 13 per cent was maintained while an additional 10 per cent should be set aside for environmental purposes.

She also asked the NDDC to note that Anambra and Enugu states now have oil and they should be included in the list of oil-producing states.

A former FCT Minister, Ibrahim Bunu, lamented that whatever increase being proposed might end up improving ‘Ali Baba’ and his colleagues.

He also said he would support the idea of royalties going directly to the communities and that the Confab should make a very strong recommendation that the Federal Government pay its debt to the NDDC.

A former Chairman of the Punch newspaper, Ajibola Ogunshola, said the Federal Government should not have more than 40 percent in the vertical revenue sharing formula being proposed.
He said derivation should be increased to 21 percent and that the decision would be political and not economic because delegates from the South-South must go home with something.

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