SAN FRANCISCO, November 25, (THEWILL) – South-South Governors and leaders on Tuesday, insisted that Nigeria needs to be restructured along the lines of true federalism and devolution of powers to the federating units.
The leaders made the demand at a consultative meeting with a Federal Government delegation at Government House, Port Harcourt, Rivers.
The Chairman of the South-South Governors’ Forum and Governor of Delta state, Sen. Ifeanyi Okowa who presented the region’s demand, said that the nation is not at peace because the country has failed to practice true federalism.
“For us in the South-South, the #ENDSARS protest is a metaphor of almost all that is wrong with us, our refusal to properly understand issues, and imbibe and entrench the virtues of justice, fairness and equity. The previous system of true federalism was jettisoned and it created a powerful centre controlling and distributing all the resources unevenly. There is now a strong desire to restructure the country in order to guarantee peace, security, stability and progress of the nation.
“The region demands true federalism and devolution of powers to the states, including creating and managing their own police and security architecture, true fiscal federalism guided by the principle of derivation, revenue sharing and control of resources by each state”, he said.
The region decried the deliberate lack of understanding, empathy and uncompromising attitudes of some Nigerians, who refused to understand the peculiar challenges of the South-South region, especially the degradation of the environment and the pollution of its waters.
“All we demand and ask for is fairness and equity and as we await actions to restructure the country, we hereby renew our demands for: The relocation of the headquarters of major oil companies in Nigeria to the region; relocation of several NNPC subsidiaries from Lagos and Abuja to the region; the completion without delay of the East-West Road and all federal roads in the region; construction of the Lagos-Calabar railway; reconstruction and rehabilitation of the region’s major seaports notably the Port Harcourt, Calabar and Warri; privatisation of the Port Harcourt and Warri refineries after several failed turnaround maintenance attempts”, the said.
The leaders further 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.
They also called for the release of all funds owed Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC); the amendment of the NDDC Act to place the commission on a first-line charge; the completion of the abandoned Gas Revolution Industrial Park at Ogidigben and the stepping down of electricity at the Okpai and Utorogu gas plants.
The Leader of the Presidential delegation and Chief of Staff to the President, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari thanked the people of the South-South for their co-operation, and assured that all issues raised at the meeting will be communicated to the President.
Gambari apologised for the failure of the meeting to hold as earlier slated on Nov. 17.
On his part, the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu lamented the massive economic effects of the protests (243 public facilities were burnt, 71 warehouses looted, 610 vehicles destroyed, 134 police stations burnt, 164 police vehicles destroyed and 136 firearms carted away). He added that 65 civilians were killed during the protests and 37 policemen gruesomely murdered while 196 persons were seriously injured.
Also, the Director-General, Department of State Services (DSS), Yusuf Magaji-Bichi said the unity of the country, in spite of the diversity, remains the strength of the nation, adding that all hands must be on deck to ensure that peace returns to the country.
Gov. Nyesom Wike of Rivers, in a vote of thanks, commended the federal government delegation and stakeholders of the region for attending the meeting. He said the excuse of insecurity by the multinationals for not relocating to the South-South region is not tenable.
Wike, who stressed that the relocation of the multinationals oil companies to the region will help stem restiveness, urged the Minister of state for Petroleum to make history by ensuring the oil companies relocate to the region during his reign in office.
Other governors at the meeting were Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River; Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom; Douye Diri of Bayelsa State and Godwin Obaseki of Edo State.
Ministers who attended the meeting 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; Lai Mohammad, Minister of Information. But conspicuously missing was the Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi.
Other eminent persons at the meeting were the National Chairman of the Pan Niger Delta Forum, Air Commodore Idongesit Nkanga, rtd and former President, Nigerian Bar Association, Onueze Okocha.