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We won’t return to conference – South-South • Obasanjo pleads with delegates •The Patriots supports 25% derivation

Posted by Dotun Oladipo, Semiu Okanlawon, Musikilu Mojeed and Babatunde Oke on 2005/07/11 | Views: 336 |

We won’t return to conference – South-South • Obasanjo pleads with delegates •The Patriots supports 25% derivation

Delegates from the South-South have vowed not to return to the plenary session of the National Political Reform Conference, scheduled to resume on Monday (today), if there are no concrete assurances that the issue of increase in derivation would be revisited.

Delegates from the South-South have vowed not to return to the plenary session of the National Political Reform Conference, scheduled to resume on Monday (today), if there are no concrete assurances that the issue of increase in derivation would be revisited.

The Media Coordinator of the South-South delegates at the conference, Chief Mike Ozekhome; and the Bayelsa State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, who is also a delegate, Mr. Oronto Douglas, made the position of the zone known in separate interviews with our correspondents.

The two delegates spoke as the leadership of the conference was still locked in a meeting at the International Conference Centre, Abuja, with a group of 70 members of the conference made up of the zonal and states’ leaders and chairmen of the conference’s 19 committees, as at press time on Sunday.

Ozekhome and Douglas told our correspondents before the meeting that the zone was not likely to return to the conference.

But President Olusegun Obasanjo on Sunday said that there was no need for the anger at the conference since its decisions were still going to be subjected to the review of the National Assembly.

Ozekhome and Douglas spoke shortly before a group of eminent Nigerians under the aegis of The Patriots, supported the 25 per cent derivation fund being demanded by the South-South.

Ozekhome said, “We are still meeting. But I can say very clearly at this point that we are not likely to return to the conference on Monday if there is no change in position on the discussion of the derivation fund.

“Why did we come to the conference in the first instance if all we have come to do is to rubber stamp the decision some people have already taken before the commencement of the conference?

“Our position is that there must be a clear indication that we are going to reopen debate on the issue and there must also be a clear indication that there would be a shift in the stance of the people opposing our position on this issue.”

Douglas said that the North had carried its arrogance in the scheme of things in the country too far this time around and that if the only way to stop it was to boycott the conference, the South-South would not hesitate to do so.

He added, “We cannot allow things to continue like this in this country.

“We need to have respect for ourselves and the feelings of others on issues.

“But those from the South-South are being taken for granted by the North on this issue and we are not just going to fold our arms and allow the North to get away with its arrogance this time around.

“We have been patient enough; we have conceded enough; and we will not wait for our people back home to stone us if we fail to achieve their hearts’ desire this time around.”

But just as the leadership of the conference announced on Sunday, through its Media Coordinator, Mr. Eric Teniola, that the plenary session would resume on Monday, The Patriots announced its support for the demand of the South-South for 25 per cent derivation fund.

The group, however, suggested that the difference of eight per cent between the 17 per cent agreeable to the antagonists of the 25 per cent mark should be constituted into what it called a special mineral development and stabilisation fund.

It recommended that four per cent should go to each of the funds for the benefit of all the areas of the country.

Justifying its position, The Patriots argued that the hazards to life and property in the oil-bearing communities were ample reasons for the demand of the South-South.

The group’s position, signed and read by Prof. Ben Nwabueze, noted that most of the problems confronting the country arose from the abandonment of true federalism.

It reiterated its call for a return to models of the 1960 and 1963 Constitutions.

It added, “The crisis in our nation today has highlighted its root cause more forcefully than before, namely, the abandonment, the desecration of true federalism.

“It has shown that a country, as territorially extensive and ethnically diverse as Nigeria is, can be held together in harmony and attain significant progress in the social, economic and other aspects of life only under true federalism.

“That, in our view, is the inescapable lesson of the ever-recurrent crises facing the country.”

The group further called for a drastic reduction in the powers of the Federal Government, adding that the six geopolitical zones should be constituted as the federating units, each with its own constitution.

On financial relationship between the centre and the federating units, The Patriots suggested a review capable of reflecting the distribution of political powers between them and the legitimate interests of the areas from which any particular revenue was derived.

Those at Sunday’s briefing were Nwabueze, who presided over the meeting; former Minister of External Affairs, Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi; Chief Ayo Adebanjo; Senator David Dafinone; General Chris Ali (rtd); and the son of the late chairman of the group, Mr. Ladi Williams (SAN).

But Obasanjo on Sunday during the Presidential Media Interaction said that he was yet to be formally informed of any difficulty at the conference.

He said that he only heard that there was difficulty in reaching consensus on the issues of derivation and tenure for the president and governors.

He denied media reports that he intervened in the face-off at the conference, saying that all he did was to advise the governors from the North and the South-South on the need to prevail on their representatives not to abandon the conference for whatever reason.

Obasanjo added, "The purpose of the conference is to discuss issues, reach a consensus without any arrogance or walk-out and if there is walk-out there should also be walk in.”

He said that the conference may not be able to resolve the issues at hand but that its decisions would only complement the position of the National Assembly, adding, “If the decisions will still be subjected to the National Assembly, why is there so much angst?”

He promised to see what he could do to ensure that the conference ended on a peaceful note.

Organised labour, however, on Sunday, advised delegates from the North and the South-South as well as the Federal Government to employ dialogue to resolve the contentious issues.

The three labour unions, the Nigeria Labour Congress, the Trade Union Congress and the Congress of Free Trade Unions, agreed that the two major parties at the centre of the crisis, should tread the path of honour and not allow the issue of resource control to divide the country.

In a telephone interview with our correspondent, the NLC President, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, said that everybody should ensure that the lingering crisis was resolved in time to move the nation forward.

Oshiomhole said, “Even though labour is not interested in how much is given to which part of the country, because the issue is now political but, all we know is that something better must be done to alleviate the plight of the people of the Niger Delta.

“Everybody has seen that it would be unfair to get the resources from the Niger Delta and still refuse to plough anything back to the area.

The Punch, Monday July 11, 2005

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Comments (3)

Okfold(Sobe, Edo, Nigeria)says...

I want the meaning of female owan name Ekeke (Edo state)

Toluwalase Samuel Olufemi(Ijebu, Ogun, Nigeria)says...

Authority belongs to God, once He decrees it is final and binding

Ikponmwosa Osamede(Edo, Nigeria)says...

Your meaning of Osamede is wrong. Osamede means God has given me a crown