Governors of the Niger Delta region, during the week, started mobilizing forces to quell the rising agitation by oil-producing communities for the Federal Government to stop paying 13 per cent derivation fund through state governments.
Leaders of the oil communities in Niger Delta, under the aegis of Oil and Gas Producing Communities of Nigeria, have in the past few months, led powerful delegations to the Presidency, National Assembly, Revenue Mobilization, Fiscal and Allocation Commission, RMFAC, and other government agencies, campaigning for direct payment of 13 per cent derivation fund to host communities.
Clearly, the governors who are benefitting in billions while the region remained dilapidated than ever, were not at ease with the campaign that payment of 13 per cent derivation to state governments was unconstitutional, as well as the allegation that they (governors) misappropriated N7.282 trillion in the last 13 years.
Some of the protesting communities warned that they would shut down oil flow stations in their areas if the Federal Government did not redress the anomaly.
The communities argued that the 13 per cent derivation fund did not belong to the state, as it was not part of the money that should have been credited to the state’s consolidated revenue fund account.
An informed source hinted that the recent outburst by South-South leader, Chief Edwin Clark, during a visit to him by leaders of the group that payment of 13 per cent derivation to state governments was illegal, was a source of concern to the governors, knowing the weight of the opinion of the elder statesman on matters affecting the region.
Due to the increasing pressure, but not really to address the crisis of corruption that made the 13 per cent derivation to the oil producing states useless, the Presidency had directed a probe into the increasing complaints and agitation by the communities over alleged misuse of the fund by governors.
In one of the several letters to the RMFAC, the communities said: “Thirteen per cent derivation fund is not part of any consolidated revenue of state governments; it is not part of any state allocation. The fund is a benchmark for revenue allocation for host communities in Nigeria. It is, therefore, illegal to allocate 13 per cent derivation fund through a third party to the host communities.”
On the probe by the Federal Government, DESERT HERALD magazine gathered that the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, NEITI, had been named to conduct the audit. The purpose of the audit, if it will ever be useful, is to determine how oil revenues are applied to entities such as Niger Delta Development Commission, Petroleum Trust Fund, and the 13 per cent derivation revenue allocated to some oil producing states.
In addition, the government said the planned audit will determine how other monetary and fiscal transactions in the sectors have been utilised during the period under review. The agitation is more vociferous in Delta State, where Senator Francis Okpozo and former chair of the Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission, DESOPADEC, Chief Wellington Okirika, are leading the offensive.
DESERT HERALD magazine also learnt that Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan is among the first governors in the region to set up an oil commission, known as (DESOPADECO) to manage the 13 per cent derivation fund. But the truth is that what is remitted to the commission is only 50 per cent of the 13 per cent derivation fund, not the entire 13 per cent that comes from the Federal Government which many lawyers believe is unconstitutional.
While the situation remains lamentable to the communities, investigation by this magazine reveals that in some states of the region, there is no commission at all to manage the 13 per cent derivation fund. Except in Edo, Ondo, Imo and Abia States, where the governors also set up commissions, all the governors just use the money the way they like without challenge from the lawmakers.
This magazine believes that the 13 per cent Derivation Fund currently being managed by the oil and gas producing state governors is an aberration, because apart from the current agitation by the oil communities against their governors, the north too even though most of the northern state governors are equally corrupt and often divert the oil revenue for their states also did not see any justification behind giving the 13 per cent derivation to the so called oil producing states.
Governor Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso and the Central Bank Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi are some of the notable northern leaders that openly criticized the special allocation to the Niger Delta states and argued rightly that no section of the country is more important than the other and that the oil was developed for exploration by monies generated from the groundnut from the north.
While the north in its usual characteristic has decided to lower the campaign for the abolition of the 13 per cent derivation to the oil producing states from the constitution, the war is now among the oil producing communities and their state governors. On one hand, leaders of the communities are no longer satisfied with the largesse they are getting from the state governors and wants to have power over such resources, while the governors having been enjoying billions every month with the absolute monopoly to decide what to do with the billions are determined to fight to the last even if increasing the gratification they are giving to the community leaders to maintain their power over the huge 13 per cent derivation fund.
In all and at the end DESERT HERALD believes that the 13 per cent derivation war from within the Niger Delta states on one hand and the northern part of the country agitating for equal distribution of national wealth on the other will continue to linger and affect the security of the nation if the leadership continue to be unaccountable, corrupt and insensitive in managing what they have. The political leadership must above all, ensure justice by way of amending the constitution to reflect national character in the distribution of national wealth.