BARELY 48 hours after South-South governors and leaders made a seven-point demand, including restructuring and true federalism, on the Federal Government, a coalition of nine militant groups, under the auspices of Reformed Niger Delta Avengers, RNDA, yesterday, asked the Federal Government to throw away the request until the governors start releasing 13 per cent derivation fund directly to the oil-producing communities. They also asked the governors to account for about N50 trillion derivation fund they had so far received from the federal government.
South-South governors, leaders and others at a stakeholders’ meeting, Tuesday, in Port-Harcourt, Rivers State, with a federal government delegation, led by the Chief of Staff to the President, Prof Ibrahim Gambari, tabled the seven-point demand after a botched meeting, the previous week. Commanding Officer of RNDA, self-professed “Major General” Johnmark Ezonebi, aka Obama, in an electronic statement obtained by Vanguard, however, said the seven-point demand by six Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and governors of the South-South at this time has ‘political undertone.’ RNDA also accused the governors of under-developing Niger-Delta and misappropriating over N40 trillion derivation funds, saying they had no honorable standing to make demands on the federal government. In a swift reaction to RNDA assertion, the Akwa-Ibom State Government yesterday asked the group to focus more on the issues of deprivation, neglect and injustice affecting the South South States instead of issuing threats.
Also reacting, National Chairman of the apex socio-cultural Organization of the South South geo-political zone, Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), Air Commodore Idongesit Nkanga, Rtd, alleged that for such a message to come from freedom fighters of the region, it may have been sponsored. The militants in their demand said: “RNDA and the nine militant groups vehemently reject and oppose the seven-point demands made by the governors of the South-South region following their meeting with a delegation of the federal government, headed by the Chief of Staff to the President, Prof Ibrahim Gambari, at Port Harcourt, Rivers State.”
“The seven -point demands for restructuring, true federalism, resource control and others at this point in time after the #EndSARS youth protests which now negate 21-day ultimatum by RNDA should not be taken seriously because they lack the moral right to ask for any such seven- point demands. “If anything, and if at all, the governors should first of all come out openly to give proper account of the over N44.9 to N50 trillion that these South -South governors have collected from the federal government as 13 percent derivation fund through the Federation Accounts all these years without any tangible meaningful people -oriented human capital development to address the sufferings of the people of the oil rich region.
“This is why the oil and gas producing communities’ demand that the federal government should stop, henceforth, paying the 13 percent derivation fund to governors. The governors are owing debts to the tune of over N2 trillion. Records from the Debt Management Office shows the South-South states alone is indebted to the tune of N1.4 trillion,” militants said. According to the militant group, ” There is a break down to show that out of the 13 per cent derivation fund, the governors in the South-South region have collected from 1999 -2018: Akwa Ibom- N1. 47trillion; Bayelsa- N1. 09 trillion; Cross Rivers- N278.12 billion; Delta State- N39. 9 trillion; Edo- N84. 54 billion; and Rivers-N 1. 44 trillion.
“Yet the oil and gas producing communities which are the legitimate owners of these 13 per cent funds through the proceeds of the crude oil production from their backyard are still wallowing in abject poverty with all this huge amount in trillions in the hands of these South- South governors and now, they still have the temerity to demand for restructuring and resource control. “How will that be possible at this point in time? These South-South governors cannot fool us anymore. Our governors have embezzled and mismanaged these monies with their cronies and nothing to show, no meaningful projects, no people- oriented human capital development in the creeks and nothing reasonable to show for the huge amount.
“How can they now be pointing fingers at the federal government for the underdevelopment in the region and now coming up to demand for restructuring, resource control and true federalism when there is no equity, fairness and justice from the side of these South- South governors. The seven- point demands submitted by the governors are baseless, meaningless. “We see the seven-point demands as having political undertone from the PDP governors from the region and the presidency should not take them serious any day because they are the ones who contributed to the level of underdevelopment in the region.
“We also call on the federal government delegation headed by Prof Ibrahim Gambari with the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ovie Omo Agege and ministers from the region not to take the concocted seven-point demands seriously because their call for restructuring has a political undertone in order to gain favoritism and sympathy support from the region, having failed the region woefully. “The demands do not represent the general interest of the neglected, emancipated people of the oil and gas producing communities suffering from environmental degradation, environmental pollution and the hazard of the exploitation and the exploration activities caused by the multinational oil companies in the creeks of the region, compounded by their failure to properly utilize the 13 percent derivation fund.”
In his reaction, Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Ini Ememobong said that it was not possible to ask the incumbent governors to come and account for derivation funds since the payment didn’t start with their administration. He said, “My advice to the militants is that they should look at issues affecting the Niger Delta. They should go to Olobiri and take pictures, they should also find out how far the Ogoni clean up in Rivers State has so far been carried out.
“I also urge them to go to Ibeno in Akwa Ibom State, and analyse why corrugated zinc roofing sheet cannot last for more than two years? They should find out why railway line should be done from some states in the country to Niger Republic when there is none in the South South. ” If they do not draw attention to manifest issues of neglect, deprivation of the Niger Delta, evident in the poor state of federal roads like the East West road, Calabar-Itu Road, etc, then it will leave no conclusion other than the fact that their message has a political agenda. “So the tone of the militants, message seems to have the voice of Jacob, but the hand of Esau” Also reacting PANDEF National Chairman, Air Commodore Nkanga, Rtd, said, “Maybe they are sponsored because they don’t have the facts.
If somebody has been given trillions of naira and he has not accounted for it, there are agencies like the EFCC that you should take it to, and not to give a condition that if the Governors cannot give account they should not ask for true federalism. “I have always said that it is not an individual, group or the Federal government that will give true federalism, so they should not even go in that direction. They (Militants) don’t have the right to give condition for true federalism. “If they are sponsored, they should go back and tell their sponsors that PANDEF has rejected that line of argument, it is not even worth PANDEF reacting to. “The State governments, whatever money they have, they have ways of accounted for it. If they don’t, the agencies responsible for getting them to account are there. But it is not a condition for true federalism.”