Buhari absent again as South-South leaders demand restructuring, fiscal federalism

Political and traditional rulers from Nigeria’s oil-rich south-south have told President Buhari to restructure the country.

The call is coming weeks after Buhari accused those demanding restructuring as “unpatriotic elements”.

The president, after failing to meet the South-South leaders at an earlier date, sent a federal delegation to sit with the stakeholders in Rivers State on Tuesday. Buhari himself did not attend.

At the meeting, South-South governors demanded restructuring in line with the principle of true federalism, to guarantee peace, security and stability of Nigeria.

Chairman of the South-South Governors Forum and Governor of Delta State, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa 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 kind of federation the South-South geopolitical desires, is one where federating units are constitutionally empowered to create their own structures like Local Government Areas, manage their elections and control their judiciary.

“We are all aware of the huge endowment of this country,” Okowa said.

“As such, it is imperative to stress that with a few 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 attitudes of some Nigerians, who have refused to understand the challenges of the South-South region of the country especially, the degradation of the environment and our waters.

“As a result, most of the demands of the region have remained unattended to while the resources of the region have been used continually to develop other parts of the country”.

Gambari, Wike and Okowa.

The governors reiterated the call for the relocation of the headquarters of major oil companies, NNPC subsidiaries from Lagos and Abuja to the South-South region.

Governor Okowa requested for immediate implementation of the consent judgment entered in the Supreme Court Suit No: SC/964/2016 to enable the South-South region get its share of $55billion 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 in order to enhance the economic development of the South-South region.

In addition, 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 turn around maintenance, should be privatised. According to him: “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”.

Concerned about the rot in the NDDC, the governors observed that one of the major failures of the intervention agency is its refusal to forge and foster synergy, consultation and cooperation with the state governments especially, on project location, development and execution.

“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.”

In his remark, the Chief of Staff to the President, Ambassador Ibrahim Gambari, said the stakeholders meeting was at the instance of President Muhammadu Buhari, to the presidential delegation comprising of all the Ministers from the region to visit and consult with representatives of the people regarding the recent EndSARS protest.

Gambari, noted that reports indicated that there were instances , where breakdown of law and order was reported across various locations in the South-South states. He lauded the governors of the South-South States for their quick response and actions in addressing the EndSARS crisis.

Beyond the EndSARS issue, he said, the President acknowledges that the citizens in the region have also been dealing with other concerns that are particular to the region such as the degradation of environment due to decades of mishandling and adherence to environmental standards.

The chief of Staff said he will convey the demands of the region to the President

Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, said excuse of insecurity by the multinationals for not relocating to the South-South region is not tenable.

He stressed that the relocation of the multinationals oil companies to the region will 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.

The Deputy President of the Senate, Obarisi Ovie Omo-Agege, urged the leaders of the region to avail themselves of the on going review of the 1999 Constitution by the National Assembly since most of the issues contained in their demands are constitutional matters.

The Director General of Department of State Services, DSS, Yusuf Magaji Bichi, lauded Governor Nyeson Ezenwo 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.

The 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 alleged that intelligence has confirmed that the EndSARS protest was funded from within and outside the country. He further added that one of the primary objective of the protest was to effect a regime change.

Present at the meeting were: Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike of Rivers State; Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River; Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akw Ibom; Governor Douye Diri of Bayelsa State; and Godwin Obaseki of Edo State.

Others are: 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, the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammad. The Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi was however , absent.

Other eminent persons present included: the National Chairman of the Pan Niger Delta Forum, Air Commodore Idongesit Nkanga, rtd; former President, Nigerian Bar Association, Onueze Okocha (SAN); among others.

Via
Rivers State Government Press Secretary

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