Let me, firstly, on behalf of the Leadership of PANDEF, and our National Leader, Chief Dr. Edwin Kiagbodo Clark, thank you for this opportunity to meet with you. I bring to you the national leader’s greetings and best wishes. He is pleased with your various efforts in the states and the region.
This opportunity could not have come at a better time because we are at a critical moment in our nation’s existence.
Today, as you again meet to discuss issues concerning the Niger Delta Region and the country at large,it is our utmost pleasure to briefly present to you, our thoughts on three issues of critical concern viz: Regional Cooperation, Regional Security Architecture, and the Restructuring of Nigeria, for your consideration and necessary action.
There is a growing rebirth of regional bonding and alignment in the country, the reasons may not be farfetched. We see it happening among the Northern States; we see it happening in the South West and the South-East Zones, as well.
We know that the complexities of the Niger Delta region are quite peculiar however, we cannot afford to continue in our republican stance, and become a poaching ground for the rest of the country. We must, therefore, thrive to overcome the internal drawbacks and work together in the best interest of our people.
That is why we are glad, and indeed, the entire Region is delighted at the cordiality that exists among you.
We wish to see this posture among the different layers and strata of the political leadership of the South-South Geopolitical Zone. We want to see the Members of the National Assembly from the region, collectively meet with you; we want to see Speakers of the six South-South State Houses of Assembly meet, and we wish to see Ministers and Heads of federal MDAs meet with you to discuss and proffer solutions to issues of the Region, and the country. That is the only way we can make a significant difference in the Niger Delta, given the humongous developmental challenges of the Region.
Your Excellencies, the need for a robust regional organization like PANDEF cannot be overemphasized. We need your support and cooperation to consolidate this effort. We have been working closely with Afenifere, Ohanaeze Ndigbo and Middle Belt Forum; we see how intertwined they are with the governors and other political office holders of their Zones.
*Regional Security Architecture*
With the state of insecurity in the country, the whole of the Niger Delta region is apparently under existential threat.
We, therefore, further appeal that whatever is needed should be done to fast track setting up of a regional security structure, to complement the efforts of the nation’s security agencies, and enhance the safety and security of lives and property, of not only our people but all Nigerians who reside or do business in the region.
PANDEF had engaged some of our retired top military and Police officers, including former Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Kenneth Minimah, rtd, and former IGP, Solomon Arase, to develop a Regional Security Blueprint. They had since concluded the assignment and submitted the report.
There are other such patriotic efforts in the region. The Niger Delta Dialogue and Academic Associates Peace Works, an NGO working in the Region, recently, presented to us Reports of extensive research work on issues of insecurity in the six South-South States.
The knowledge, information and data needed to develop and structure a regional security architecture, would not be a problem. I would think that the D-G of BRACED Commission, Ambassador Keshi, will agree to that.
On that note, may I also thank Your Excellencies for reviving the BRACED Commission.
*RESTRUCTURING OF THE COUNTRY*
PANDEF together with other regional groups- Afenifere, Onanaeze Ndigbo and Middle Belt Forum, under the auspices of the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum, heralded the attending uproar for restructuring. While we agree to a united, indivisible Nigeria, it must, however, be based on equity, fairness and justice.
The Niger Delta region is the biggest victim of the present flawed federal system. How do we explain the situation in which the Zone that produces the Resources of this Nation, benefits little or nothing whereas Zones that do not contribute anything significant to the national treasury, appropriate and monopolize favourable benefits to themselves? These inequity and marginalization manifest in several realms, in terms of developmental projects, policies and programmes, appointments, etcetera.
Interestingly, the clamour for restructuring has gained considerable momentum, lately, with an increasing number of prominent Nigerians, across the country, acknowledging the reality that the country cannot continue with the extant flawed structure.
Recall that the 19 Northern States inaugurated a 12-man Committee, they named “Northern Committee on Restructuring”, which was chaired by His Excellency, Aminu Tambuwal, Governor of Sokoto State. This Committee was given the responsibility of collating views from the North on the restructuring of the country.
The ruling political party, All Progressives Congress (APC), in 2018, also set up a Restructuring Committee which was chaired by Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, Governor of Kaduna State. The Committee made recommendations on 13 issues out of 24 issues that were brought before it, which were largely in tandem with the 2014 Confab recommendations.
The restructuring may mean different things to different sections of the country, but it is fundamentally a call for the restoration of the foundational structure to which all Nigerians subscribed as was encapsulated in the Independence Constitution of 1960, and the Republic Constitution of 1963.
The legal control of the country’s natural resources by the Federal Government had been at the core of the quest for restructuring Nigeria.
Furthermore, restructuring is intended to remove the impediments of intolerance and abuses inherited from decades of dictatorial, military rule (1966-1999). Resistance against restructuring is from beneficiaries of the extant skewed system.
*THE THREE PILLARS OF RESTRUCTURING*
The organizations and individuals involved in the advocacy for restructuring want political and economic power devolved to the federating units for better democratic governance.
PANDEF considers the following three broad areas as the essence of the quest for Restructuring:
*1. True Federalism and Devolution of Powers, State Policing and Internal Security; Electoral System, Judicial Reform, etc.*
The 1999 Constitution undermines the principle of federalism by the overt concentration of power and resources at the centre, which has, impeded national development, security, peace and stability.
For-profit and administrative convenience, the British colonial government centralized political and economic power in the capital, Lagos. Yet, in recognition of the need to diversify and localize the centres of power, the British created provinces and divisions. In the 1930s, there were 24 provinces in the country, and their governance capacity was enhanced through the existence of the city and urban councils.
In fact, from about 1900, the British established village-based customary courts in most areas of Southern Nigeria in support of their intention to devolve judicial power to the grassroots levels.
*i. DEVOLUTION OF POWERS*
There is need for decentralization and devolution of power as much as possible to the states or federating units from the federal government. And therefore, Second Schedule, Part 1 of the 1999 Constitution (the Exclusive Legislative List) should be amended.
There are 68 items in the Exclusive Legislative List and only the federal or central government has exclusive power to legislate on them. Including Arms, Ammunition and Explosives; Aviation; Bankruptcy and Insolvency; Banks, Banking, Bills of exchange; Borrowing; Census; Citizenship; Control of capital issues; Copyright; Creation of States; Currency, Coinage and legal tender; Customs and Excise duties; Defence; Diplomatic, Consular and Trade Representation; Drugs and Poisons; External Affairs; Military (Army, Navy and Air Force); Nuclear Energy, etc.
Some are fundamental to the practice of a functional federal system, most are not.
We, therefore, subscribe to the removal of the following items from the Exclusive Legislative List:
Item 10. Commercial and industrial monopolies, combines and trusts;
Item 29. Fishing and fisheries other than fishing and fisheries in rivers, lakes, waterways, ponds and other inland waters within Nigeria;
Item 32. Incorporation, regulation and winding up of bodies corporate, other than co-operative societies, local government councils and bodies corporate established directly by any Law enacted by a House of Assembly of a State.
Item 33. Insurance;
Item 34. Labour, including trade unions, industrial relations; safety and welfare of labour; industrial disputes; minimum wage;
Item 39. Mines and minerals, including oil fields, oil mining, geological surveys and natural gas;
Item 43. Patents, trademarks, trade or business names, industrial designs and merchandise marks;
Item 45. Police and other government security services established by law;
Item 46. Posts, telegraphs and telephones
Item 48. Prisons
Item 51. Public holidays.
Item 55. Railways
Item 58. Stamp duties
Item 59. Taxation of incomes, profits and capital gains, except as otherwise prescribed by this Constitution.
Item 62. Trade and commerce, and in particular –
(a) Trade and commerce between Nigeria and other countries including import of commodities into and export of commodities from Nigeria, and trade and commerce between the states;
(b) Establishment of a purchasing authority with the power to acquire for export or sale in world markets such agricultural produce as may be designated by the National Assembly;
(c) Inspection of produce to be exported from Nigeria and the enforcement of grades and standards of quality in respect of produce so inspected;
(d) Establishment of a body to prescribe and enforce standards of goods and commodities offered for sale;
(e) Control of the prices of goods and commodities designated by the National Assembly as essential goods or commodities; and
(f) Registration of business names.
Item 64. Water from such sources as may be declared by the National Assembly to source affecting more than one state.
*ii. STATE POLICING AND INTERNAL SECURITY*
We support State Police!
The fundamental and primary purpose of government as enshrined in Section 14 (2b) of the 1999 Constitution is the security and welfare of the people.
The current state of insecurity and anarchy represented by insurgent movements, violent crimes, felonies, and wanton abuse of fundamental human rights completely contradicts that provisions and is symptomatic of the dysfunctional federal structure being operated.
Nigeria with a population of over 200 million should have a police force of no less than five million but currently, has less than 500,000 police personnel.
To correct the gross inadequacy in personnel, arms and logistics, and enhance the security and safety of lives and property of citizens, Policing and Internal Security should be Constitutional Responsibilities of both federal and state governments. This is the practice in all major federations such as the United Kingdom, United States of America, Canada, India, Germany, Switzerland, and Australia.
*2. Fiscal Federalism, Derivation Principle, Revenue Sharing and Resource Control, Tax systems*
*i. Fiscal Federalism*
Fiscal federalism constitutes a set of guiding principles and concepts that guarantee efficient financial relations and equitable distribution of resources in a federal government system.
The military-imposed 1999 Constitution distorted the provisions of revenue sharing between the central government and federating units.
*ii. Derivation Principle and Revenue Sharing*
In the 1940s the British took measures to mediate the structural defects exemplified by the imbalance in the creation of the three Regions in 1939. The mediation was introduced by way of the application of the principle of derivation in the distribution of public revenues. Following Richards Constitution in 1945, four revenue commissions were set up from 1946-1958; the number of commissions reflected the intensity of the campaign by genuine nationalists to deepen the content of federalism. The Regions retained no less than 50% of revenue derived from their areas.
The derivation criteria were enshrined in Section 134 of the 1960 Independence Constitution and Section 140 of the 1963 Constitution.
The high derivation revenues accruing to the Regions empowered them, financially, at the time, to embark on substantial schemes of modernization and development. In the drive for self-reliant development, the Western Region outpaced all others in the fields of education, medical care, public infrastructure, communications, and agro-industrial investment. This is the sense in which it could be said that the years 1952-1966 marked the golden age of federalism in Nigeria.
It is important to underscore that we are not asking for increase of the derivation quota as provided in Section 162 (2) of the 1999 Constitution. Restructuring is demanding for a reversal to Derivation principal provisions of the 1963 Constitutional.
Professor Tekena Tamuno rightly opined, “13% derivation is equal to 87% deprivation.”
When revenues from cocoa (in the West) and groundnut (in the North) were the nation’s economic mainstay, a derivation was the Revenue Allocation principle, at over 60 per cent, before Independence. In the First Republic, the Regions received 50% of revenues through derivation.
Today, the situation is that those who contribute little or nothing get plenty; paradoxically, those who contribute so much, get so little. While, oil and gas exploration activities have degraded the hitherto luxuriant, healthy ecosystem of the Niger Delta, and damaged the indigenous people’s means of livelihood, with little or no effort to ameliorate their consequential dire standard of living.
The first “coup”, against derivation and fiscal federalism, occurred in 1969 with the enactment of the Petroleum Decree 51, now Petroleum Act (Cap. 350, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 1990). The decree dispossessed the people of the Niger Delta of their rights to the ownership of their oil and gas resources.
Decree 51 provided in part that the entire ownership and control of all petroleum, in, under, or upon any lands which this section applies shall be vested in the State (here meaning the Federation of Nigeria).
When the decree was promulgated the impression was created that it was a temporary measure to prevent the break-away Biafra from having access to oil revenues to prosecute its rebellion. The Civil War ended in January 1970, clearly more than 50 years ago, yet the petroleum obnoxious law has not been repealed or abrogated. Rather, it has been modified and adjusted to perpetuate the policy of discrimination against the Niger Delta region and Minority Groups of the country.
The substance of the 1969 Petroleum Decree has been retained in all laws about oil and gas resources from 1969 till date. It was reproduced in the 1979 Constitution of the Second Republic (1979-1983). The semantic and lexical structures of the Petroleum Decree 51 are reproduced in Section 44 (3) of the 1999 Constitution as follows: the entire property in and control of all mineral oils and natural gas in, under or upon the territorial waters and the Exclusive Economic Zone shall vest in the government of the Federation and shall be managed in such a manner as may be prescribed by the National Assembly.
*iii. RESOURCE CONTROL*
Another vexatious content of Nigeria’s flawed federal system is Item 39 in the Exclusive Legislative List.
Item 39 deals with Mines and minerals, including oil fields, oil mining, geological surveys and natural gas. Item 39 should be removed from the Exclusive Legislative List in the Restructuring process.
We subscribe that control of mining and minerals resources, both onshore and offshore, should be vested in the states, who would then pay applicable royalties and taxes to the Federation Account for distribution.
Certain constitutional amendments will be needed in restructuring process: The Petroleum Act should be amended to give States right to issue oil mining licences; the Land Use Act, Nigeria Minerals and Mining Act, the Petroleum Profit Tax Act, 2007, would all need to be amended.
Other areas that need consideration are Judicial System, Electoral System, Citizenship; Referendum; etc.
*THE ZAMFARA GOLD SAGA*
We are in a country where the rules differ when it comes to certain sections. The Zamfara State gold saga has further exposed the inconsistencies of the Nigerian State.
Whereas the Presidential Artisanal Gold Mining Development Initiative guarantees persons from some sections of the country to mine, refine and sell their gold; with the implicit support of the federal government through the deployment of efficient mining and processing technologies to the artisanal miners, and access to markets through a National Gold Purchase Program; Niger Delta people cannot extract, refine or sell their crude oil or its by-products. Zamfara gold is for Zamfara, Niger Delta crude oil is Nigeria!
The question is whether gold and crude oil are both not natural resources? If they are, why the inconsistency?
*3. Federating Units, Structure and Tiers of the Federation*
*i. Federating Units*
We align with the suggestion that there should be only two tiers of government; the federal or central government and the States, the federating units. Having three tiers of governments in a federal system is an aberration.
Local governments should not constitute a tier of government as is currently the case by default. Consequently, the names of the 774 Local Councils should be removed from the First Schedule, Part 1 of the Constitution. This listing of Local Government Councils according to States makes it impossible for any State to create, merge or abrogate any local government.
*ii. Local Government Areas*
Creation and funding of Local Government Areas should be left to States. Federating units should determine, develop and enact laws for the local government administration system and structure depending on the peculiarities and needs of each of State.
This is, indeed, congruent with the spirit and letter of Section 7, which provides that, “The system of local government by democratically elected local councils is under this Constitution guaranteed; and accordingly the Government of every State shall …ensure existence under a Law which provides for the establishment, structure, composition, finance and functions of such councils.”
*iii) Creation of New States*
Demand for the creation of state sales has been re-occurring and needs to be considered in the restructuring process.
What is expected, ensuing from the restructuring of the country, with the ceding of greater political and economic autonomy to the federating units is improved democratic governance in terms of citizens’ participation, inclusiveness, accountability, equity, fairness and respect for the rule of law.
It is important to underscore that since the end of the Civil War, in 1970, accessible statistics indicate, only twelve of the 36 states, significantly, contribute revenues to the National Treasury. With the restructuring of the country and the removal of local governments as a tier of government, the creation of new States may become superfluous.
*MODALITIES FOR RESTRUCTURING*
Modalities on how the country could be restructured have been proffered in the Recommendations of the 2014 National Conference. The Report provides enough guidelines for the equitable restructuring of Nigeria, to accommodate stability and sustainability.
The cost and consequences of ignoring the clamour for restructuring will be dire.
The country must, therefore, without any further delay, begin a constructive dialogue process on the restructuring of the country to guarantee national security, economic growth, unity and peaceful coexistence. If Nigeria refuses to restructure, the country will restructure itself.
Let me conclude by again thanking you for this opportunity to meet with you, and particularly, thank our host Governor, His Excellency, Chief Barr. Nyesom Wike, CON, for his patriotism and developmental initiative. We appreciate the amazing work you are doing for Rivers State, I am particular, and the Niger Delta as a whole.
Let me also thank His Excellency Dr Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, Governor of Delta State and Chairman of South-South Governors Forum; His Excellency, Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State, my Governor; His Excellency, Senator Douye Diri, Governor of Bayelsa State; His Excellency, Professor Ben Ayade, Governor of Cross River State, for their leadership and support.
May I thank and congratulate His Excellency, Governor Godwin Obaseki on his re-election and inauguration for a second term as Governor? f Edo State.
Your Excellencies, PANDEF urges you to take a firm stand on the issues of Restructuring, Regional Cooperation and Economic Development through the BRACED Commission.
PANDEF pledges to work with you to foster peace, unity and development in the Niger Delta.
As Lillian Jean Williams inferred in the lyrics of Nigeria’s first national anthem:
“Though tribes and tongue may differ, in brotherhood we stand, and this we count as again”, to engender a Niger Delta of peace and possibilities for present and future generations.
Thank you all, and God bless!
His Excellency, Air Commodore Idongesit Nkanga rtd., OFR
National Chairman, PANDEF, and Former Military Governor, Akwa Ibom State