Ahead of the rounding-up of the ongoing National Conference in Abuja on Thursday, delegates from Akwa Ibom State have warned of a looming crisis should their northern counterparts frustrate efforts to adopt the 18 per cent derivation fund recommended by the Consensus Group for oil-producing states.
A statement issued on Sunday in Abuja by a former Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, Chief Nduese Essien, on behalf of the delegates, warned that the series of existing agitations by youths of the region might degenerate to a full-blown war unless the current 13% derivation fund for the oil-producing states was jerked up.
The delegates said, “There is a strong possibility that the Niger Delta region agitation could again snowball into an orgy of violence if the logjam on derivation principle at the National Conference is not resolved on the basis of justice and fair play.
“Besides, recent attempts to resurrect the onshore/offshore dichotomy and to make political capital out of the issue have further heightened tension in oil- bearing communities that have witnessed persistent oil spills, gas flaring and constant devastation due to the oil drilling activities of the multinational oil companies.
“Based on comments attributed to people from a certain part of the country, it is pertinent to indicate that the people of Akwa Ibom State and indeed the Niger Delta region are disappointed by the posturing of people from a certain section of the country and would resist attempts by persons or groups to use the satanic policy to blackmail the region”.
The Akwa Ibom delegates quoted some sections of the constitution to back their argument.
They argued that Sections 134 and 140 of the 1960 and 1963 Constitutions respectively, which formed the groundwork for the country’s independence and nationhood, had provided that Nigeria’s continental shelf of 200 nautical miles be deemed to be part of a region for the purpose of paying 50 per cent derivation.
“The two constitutions had provided that for the purpose of derivation, a state that has a coast is deemed to be the owner of the continental shelf. But through Decree 9 of 1971, the then Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon (retd.), had introduced the onshore/offshore dichotomy. From that time, the policy had been abolished three times. The first abolition took place in 1975, the second in 1979 and the third in 1992. It was, however, ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo who reintroduced the evil policy.
“Today, the dichotomy is still in place because the Abrogation Act of 2004 drastically reduced the constitutional provisions and the internationally recognised boundary definition of continental shelf from 200 nautical miles to 200 feet isobaths. What is used now is a mere measure of the low water mark of the land surface of a littoral state rather than the universally accepted measurement”, the statement added.
They said, “As delegates continue to procrastinate and disagree over the issue of derivation and other issues that are germane to the people of the state and indeed the region that has sustained the country’s economy for over five decades now, the Akwa Ibom State secretariat of the National Conference hereby draws attention to the rising tension and a possible backlash that may follow if the people of the region are shortchanged by the conference.
“While the bickering continues, youths from oil-bearing communities in Ibeno Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State have during the past two weeks occupied the operational base of ExxonMobil Unlimited at Quo Ibo Terminal, QIT and stopped the multinational oil firm from accessing its facilities. The youths are protesting against a recent oil-spill which devastated over 46 communities along the coastline in the state…
“In the spirit of the Ramadan, we appeal to our brothers in the North to sheathe their swords and allow justice and fair-play to prevail in the current debate on what should constitute the derivation formula, after all, what has been recommended by the eminent members of the Consensus Group also covers solid minerals and other resources found all over the country”, the delegates said.