Governors and leaders of the South South region have demanded the restructuring of the country and a return to true federalism as practised in the first republic, stating that it will guarantee peace, security, and stability of the nation.
They made the demand at the regional stakeholders meeting with a presidential delegation led by Ibrahim Gambari, Chief of Staff to the President, at the Government House, Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, on Tuesday.
Ifeanyi Okowa, Delta State Governor and Chairman of the South-South Governors’ Forum, who presented the position of the region, said the nation was not at peace because the country had failed to practice true federalism.
Okowa lamented the current structure of the nation where other regions depend on the resources of the Niger Delta, stating that such an arrangement could not engender the needed development.
He therefore called for the restoration of true federalism “guided by the principle of derivation, revenue sharing and control of resources by each State of the federation as it was the case in the first republic.”
“We are all aware of the huge endowment of this country. As such, it is imperative to stress that with a few efforts, imagination, hard work, sacrifice, and leadership, every state of the Federation as of today, has the ability and capability to contribute to the national purse. This should be encouraged rather than the whole country depending substantially on a region of the country,” he added.
“What is worse and even more painful in this ugly situation is the deliberate lack of understanding, empathy and the uncompromising attitudes of some Nigerians, who have refused to understand the challenges of the South-South region of the country especially, the degradation of the environment and our waters.
“As a result, most of the demands of the region have remained unattended to while the resources of the region have been used continually to develop other parts of the country.”
The South South leaders’ Chairman further demanded the relocation of the headquarters of major oil companies and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation and its subsidiaries from Lagos and Abuja to the South-South.
Other demands include the immediate implementation of the consent judgment entered in the Supreme Court Suit No: SC/964/2016 to enable the South-South region to get its share of $55bn shortfall of collection on deep offshore and inland basin production sharing contracts and the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the region’s major seaports in Port Harcourt, Calabar and Warri in order to enhance the economic development of the South-South region.
Commenting on the issue of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Okowa observed that one of the major failures of the intervention agency was its refusal to forge and foster synergy, consultation and cooperation with the state governments especially, on project location, development and execution.
“We have resolved and we, as the State governments will no longer allow NDDC to execute any project (s) in any state of the region without it consulting State governments. Frankly, enough is enough and we have a court judgment to back our position,” he said.
However, Gambari who led the presidential delegation noted that reports indicated that there were instances where breakdown of law and order was reported across various locations in the South-South states.
He commended the governors of the South-South States for their quick response and actions in addressing the EndSARS crisis.
He said the President acknowledged that citizens have also been dealing with other concerns that are particular to the region such as the degradation of environment due to decades of mishandling and adherence to environmental standards, promising to convey the demands of the region to the President.
On his part, Obarisi Ovie Omo-Agege, the Deputy President of the Senate, urged the leaders of the region to avail themselves of the ongoing review of the 1999 Constitution by the National Assembly since most of the issues contained in their demands are constitutional matters.