A Militant group, Reformed Egbesu Fraternity (REF), has urged the Federal Government to investigate the over N11 trillion 13 per cent derivation funds accruable to the six states of the Niger Delta since the commencement of the payment in 1999.
Rising from its meeting yesterday in Yenagoa, the group enjoined the Federal Government to halt the payment through governors of the region.In a letter to President Muhammadu Buhari, the agitators maintained that the channelling of the funds, meant for the development of oil-producing states, through politicians had only ended up in enriching a few pockets while the majority of the people remained impoverished.
The agitation is coming on the heels of the under-development of the oil-rich region amid the allocations it gets. There has been the argument that even without additional support from the Federal Government over the years, the lot of the Niger Delta could have been bettered if the state governments were focused and deployed judiciously the much they got in close to the two decades since the return of democracy.
The All Progressive Congress (APC) in the Bayelsa State, however cautioned against such probe, saying that not all governors in the region squandered the funds made available to them. Publicity Secretary of the APC, Panebi Jones, citied political instability, militancy, pipeline vandalism and other oil and gas-related crisis in the region as the stumbling blocks to the effective use of the funds.
Efforts to reach senior officials of the Edo State government were not successful. But a source at the Ministry of Finance who spoke on the condition of anonymity said: “Every year, the Edo State government publishes its annual financial report on the basis of what comes from the Federal Government allocations, internally generated revenue and other sources of revenue for the state and these have been conditions of transparency required by international financial institutions and this is why the state has been getting support from institutions like ?the World Bank. So, Edo State has been transparent with its finances under the APC government.”
In the petition signed by its ‘General Officer Commanding’, Ebi Alagbakouriwei, REF argued that routing the funds through the governors contravened Section 162 (2) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and item 39 on the Exclusive List.
He said: “We, therefore demand that the Federal Government stops the allocation of 13 per cent derivation to the state governors of oil and gas-producing states and pay the derivation component to the communities through appropriate structures.”
The group claimed that attempts by the communities to seek redress through the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and a lawsuit had been frustrated.
REF contended that till date, over N277 billion of the N11 trillion remained unaccounted for, alleging that the anti-graft agency had refused to take necessary action.
“The host oil and gas- producing communities reported to the EFCC that N277 billion remains unaccounted for till today. The EFCC bluntly refused to take action.
“ They took the matter to the law court in Delta State for the past three years. The case has never been heard till now.“ But it has been transferred from one judicial division to another, including Owa Oyibu, Asaba, Udu and back to Warri. The case has been perpetually adjourned at every sitting over the last three years”, the group further alleged.
It warned that defying its calls could aggravate the fragile peace in the region.It added: “ We wish to warn that the continuous indifference to this demand and appeal is an invitation to chaos and violence. In as much as we do not subscribe to violence in the resolution of our demands, we condemn the Niger Delta governors for the diversion of the fund for the last 15 years.
“The Federal Government should partner host communities and not state governors. In this connection, we commend Prof. Yemi Osinbajo and the Minister of Petroleum for their commitment to the peace process and development of the region.
“ Consequently, we demand two modular refineries in each of the nine states producing oil and gas and the immediate cessation of the allocation of derivation fund to the governors.”
Source: The Guardian