The revelation by Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State about President Muhammadu Buhari’s release of the 13 per cent derivation funds to the states in the Niger-Delta generated dissatisfaction among the governors in the region who had initially been silent about receiving the funds.
Governor Wike had at the inauguration of the Renal Centre and House Officers Quarters at the Rivers State University Teaching Hospital in Port Harcourt, thanked President Buhari for the releasing the fund arrears, from 1999 to date, which according to him, previous administrations refused to pay.
Wike said, “Let me say it for the first time. So many people asked me, “where is he getting this money’? Let me say it. I want, through the Attorney-General of the Federation, to thank Mr President. Monies that were not paid to the Niger Delta states since 1999 — the 13 percent deductions — monies that were not paid, Mr President approved and paid all of us from the Niger Delta states.
“So, I want to sincerely from the heart and on behalf of the government and people of the state, thank Mr President for this, because as an opposition government, he could have said ‘don’t pay’. You can’t do anything. Since 1999, the money has not been paid. Did we do anything? So, I want to sincerely thank him,” he added.
Confirming the release of the funds to the Sout-South states, the presidency, in a statement, issued by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, disclosed that nine oil-producing states received the 13 per cent derivation funds totalling N625.43 billion, subsidy and SURE-P refunds from the Federation Account in the last two years.
According to the statement, Abia State received N1.1billion, Akwa-Ibom – N15bn; Bayelsa – N1.6 billion; Cross River – 432 million; Delta – N14.8 billion; Edo – N2.2 billion; Imo – N2.9billion; Ondo – N3.7billion and Rivers – N12.8 billion.
However, stakeholders in the region have continued to laud the Rivers governor for his courage but express disappointment at the other governors in the region. Aside keeping receival of the fund secret, they bemoaned the non-utilisation of the funds to develop the respective state which they govern, alleging that most of these funds had been diverted.
Speaking to Information Nigeria, Dortimi Kester Tawari, lawyer, Convener of the Forum of Ethnic Nationalities of Niger Delta, and President, Ijaw Community Law Center said the states had nothing to show for the 13% derivation funds they received.
Appreciating Wike for his openness and the infrastructural development in his state, Tawari challenged other Niger-Delta governors to list out the projects they had use the funds to execute, rather than condemning Wike.
“We’re not seeing anything. More so too, let’s start from somewhere. Building flyovers is not the end of it all, but it’s a right step in the right direction, especially for urban renewal and development. Port Harcourt has been a gridlock for years, so, opening it up and allowing traffic to flow is a good form of development. It opens the plan for urban development, and that is very commendable work by Governor Wike.
“If you now compare that to the other states, they don’t have anything to show, to say this is what I’ve used the money for. There should be a commensurate appropriation of funds you can tie to development. Wike has successfully tied the funds to development and you can give him kudos for that. Now, go back to the other 4 or 5 states, that’s Imo, Delta, Edo, Akwa-Ibom, Cross River, and Bayelsa.
“Now, if you say it’s going to be soft infrastructure, then show us, by tying it to a project, if you say it was on scholarship, then show us, based on the number of persons you have sponsored. If you want to show it to capital projects, say this is what I’ve done, I’ve build XYZ, I’ve built schools, I’ve improved universities, I’ve paid pension, tell us what you have done, tie it to something specific,” he added.
On his part, the Edo State Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, Col. David Imuse (rtd.) described Wike as God sent, stating no one would have known the governors received such funds. Imuse also condemned the state governor, Godwin Obaseki for being silent about receiving the funds and not reflecting it in the state’s budget, describing the Obaseki administration as a scam.
Imuse said, “We’ve made it very clear that in the first instance, the governor hid the money from the people. Nobody made mention of it, it was not reflected in last year’s budget, it was also not reflected in the proposed budget for 2023 that he had just presented to his illegal House of Assembly.
“Edo people are at a loss as to when he collected the money, the total collected and what it was used for. That’s why we challenged him to reveal the amount received, the projects he executed with the fund, the contractors who did the projects, how much the projects cost, so that Edo people would be able to evaluate what he has done and what he has not done. To us, everything surrounded by this government is a scam of the highest order, we have never had it so bad.
”I’ll say with all modesty that Gov. Wike is God sent. If he had not told the public about this fund, other governors would have remained mute. They became deaf and dumb, but they’re now suddenly trying to explain the unexplainable. It’s terrible because they didn’t even tell their people that they got any money, thanks to Gov. Wike who made his own public and even commended our president that if not for him, they wouldn’t have gotten this refund.
“The projects we are all seeing in Rivers today are a result of the 13 percent derivation. He (Obaseki) cannot account for it, you know it and I know it. But by the time he comes out with a belated explanation, you’ll discover that it’s all a scam. This is the greatest scam that has ever happened to this state since its creation in 1991.
“It’s one thing to receive money, it’s another to say what you’ve done with it. For those in Lagos, they can be showing you simulations on TV, showing the fantastic jobs that are being done but those in Edo on the ground, all those things you see on TV are all scam. Just mention one project you know, and let us go and show you the site,” he stated.