Southsouth zone calls for reform, power devolution
It was the turn of the Southsouth geo-political zone to make its demands within the Nigerian federation on Tuesday.
Leaders in the zone took advantage of the regional stakeholders meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari, held in Port Harcourt, to state their position.
President Buhari’s emissaries to the meeting were led by his Chief of Staff, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari.
Tuesday’s meeting completed the four-regional meetings which previously held in Kaduna, Lagos and Enugu.
Apart from the Southsouth governors, the critical stakeholders were traditional rulers and opinion leaders in the region, which produces Nigeria’s oil.
Delta State Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, Chairman of the Southsouth Governors’ Forum, who spoke on behalf of the region, said the zone is demanding restructuring in line with the principles of true federalism to guarantee peace, security and stability of the country.
The stakeholders also called for the revitalisation of all the ports in the region such as the Calabar, Port Harcourt and Warri ports.
They also asked the Federal Government to immediately privatise all the refineries to make them functional and boost the economy of the region. There are three refineries in the zone – one in Warri and two in Port Harcourt. They are currently comatose.
The stakeholders further demanded the relocation of all the subsidiaries of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to the region.
They observed that the country was not at peace with itself and not working efficiently for the people of the Southsouth region.
Okowa said Southsouth people were committed to restructuring the country to guarantee true federalism and devolution of powers to the states to create and manage their own police and security architecture under a federal structure.
He said: “True federalism guided by the principle of derivation, revenue sharing and control of resources by each state of the federation as it was the case in the first republic.”
He said the Southsouth geopolitical zone desired federating units constitutionally empowered to create their own structures like Local Government Areas, manage their elections and control their judiciary.
He said: “We are all aware of the huge endowment of this country. As such, it is imperative to stress that with a little bit of efforts, imagination, hard work, sacrifice and leadership, every state of the federation as of today, has the ability and capability to contribute to the national purse.
“This should be encouraged rather than the whole country depending substantially on a region of the country.
“What is worse and even more painful in this ugly situation is the deliberate lack of understanding, empathy and the uncompromising attitude of some Nigerians, who have refused to understand the challenges of the Southsouth region, especially the degradation of the environment and our waters.
“As a result, most of the demands of the region have remained unattended, while the resources of the region have been used continually to develop other parts of the country”.
The governors called for the relocation of the headquarters of major oil companies, NNPC subsidiaries from Lagos and Abuja to the Southsouth region.
Okowa requested immediate implementation of the consent judgment entered in the Supreme Court Suit No: SC/964/2016 to enable the Southsouth region to get its share of $55bn shortfall of collection on deep offshore and inland basin production sharing contracts.
The governors further called for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the region’s major seaports in Port Harcourt, Calabar, Warri to enhance the economic development of the South-South region.
They demanded that the two refineries in Port Harcourt and one in Warri that have continued to bleed the country’s resources in the name of turnaround maintenance, should be privatised.
He said: “Enough is enough. Let us now privatise them and in doing so however, allow the States and the region among others, considerable equity in the name of fairness and justice”.
Speaking on the rot in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), the governors observed that one of the major failures of the intervention agency was its refusal to forge and foster synergy, consultation and cooperation with the state governments especially, on project location, development and execution.
He said: “We have resolved and we, as the State governments will no longer allow NDDC to execute any project (s) in any state of the region without it consulting State governments. Frankly, enough is enough and we have a court judgment to back our position.”
Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike said excuses of insecurity by the multinationals for not relocating to the Southsouth region was not tenable.
He stressed that the relocation of the multinational oil companies to the region would help stem restiveness.
He urged the Minister of state for Petroleum to make history by ensuring the oil companies relocate to the region during his reign in office.
Prof. Gambari said the President ordered the presidential delegation comprising all the ministers from the region to visit and consult the representatives of the people regarding the recent EndSARS protest.
Prof. Gambari noted that reports indicated that there were instances, where breakdown of law and order was reported across various locations in the Southsouth states.
He lauded the governors for their quick response and actions in addressing the EndSARS crisis.
Beyond the EndSARS issue, he said, the President acknowledged that the citizens in the region had also been dealing with other concerns that were particular to the region such as the degradation of environment following decades of mishandling and adherence to environmental standards.
The chief of staff said he would convey the demands of the region to the President.
Deputy Senate President Ovie Omo-Agege urged the leaders of the region to avail themselves of the ongoing review of the 1999 Constitution by the National Assembly since most of the issues contained in their demands were constitutional matters.
Director-General of Department of State Services (DSS) Yusuf Magaji Bichi, lauded Governor Nyesom Wike, for his stance against the outlawed Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) which hijacked the EndSARS protest and killed 10 security operatives, torched stations and court buildings in Oyigbo.
Inspector-General of Police Mohammed Abubakar Adamu said fake news gave impetus to the nationwide EndSARS that culminated in the death of civilians, police personnel and their assets.
Adamu said that intelligence had confirmed that the EndSARS protest was funded from within and outside the country.
He added that one of the primary objective of the protest was to effect a regime change.
Those, who attended the meeting were Wike; Governor Ben Ayade (Cross River); Governor Udom Emmanuel (Akwa Ibom); Governor Douye Diri (Bayelsa State); and Godwin Obaseki (Edo State).
Others were Godswill Akpabio, Minister of Niger Delta; Timipre Sylva, Minister of State for Petroleum; Goddy Jedy Agba ,Minister of State, Power; Festus Keyamo, Minister of State, for Niger Delta; Osagie Ehanire, Minister of Health and Minister of Information Lai Mohammad.
The Minister of Transportation Chibuike Amaechi was absent.
Other eminent persons present were the National Chairman of the Pan Niger Delta Forum, Air Commodore Idongesit Nkanga, rtd; former President, Nigerian Bar Association, Onueze Okocha (SAN); President, Ijaw Youths Council (IYC), Worldwide, among others.