Re­source con­trol tears c’ttee apart

Daily Trust - - NEWS - By Nu­rud­deen M. Ab­dal­lah

De­bates over re­source con­trol yes­ter­day al­most tore the Com­mit­tee on De­vo­lu­tion of Power apart at the Na­tional Con­fer­ence when del­e­gates dis­cussed the con­tentious is­sue.

Though the com­mit­tee was dis­cussing is­sues listed un­der the Exclusive and Con­cur­rent Lists in the 1999 Con­sti­tu­tion, the is­sues of fis­cal re­spon­si­bil­ity as it con­cerns re­source con­trol, shar­ing of rev­enue and the shar­ing for­mula took a cen­tre stage with del­e­gates talk­ing in highly emo­tional man­ner.

While ex­am­in­ing and trans­fer­ring items from the Exclusive List to the Con­cur­rent List, dis­agree­ment erupted on Item 39 of the Exclusive List which deals with Mines and Min­er­als, in­clud­ing oil fields, oil min­ing and nat­u­ral gas.

Del­e­gates from the South said mov­ing the item to the Con­cur­rent List would cre­ate op­por­tu­nity for state gov­ern­ments to have a say in the ex­ploita­tion of such min­er­als, but del­e­gates from the North be­lieved it was an­other way of en­dors­ing re­source con­trol.

In the course of the de­bate, del­e­gates from the South in­sisted that what was re­quired was not trans­fer of own­er­ship of min­er­als to the states but in­volve­ment of the states in the ex­ploita­tion of such min­er­als with­out a to­tal con­trol by the federal govern­ment.

But north­ern del­e­gates stood their ground, ar­gu­ing that un­like other items on the list, any at­tempt to shift the item from Exclusive to Con­cur­rent would amount to a breach of the con­sti­tu­tion.

The co-chair­man of the com­mit­tee and for­mer Gover­nor of Akwa Ibom State, Obong Vic­tor At­tah, who mod­er­ated the ses­sion, quickly stepped in and re­peat­edly ex­plained why del­e­gates should be guided by the need for a com­pre­hen­sive de­vel­op­ment of the na­tion us­ing avail­able re­sources in­stead of hold­ing each other in sus­pi­cion.

He also as­sured that he would be im­par­tial in de­ci­sion-mak­ing, though it would be im­pos­si­ble for him to pre­tend not to come from some­where.

De­spite his as­sur­ances, At­tah took side when he cau­tioned del­e­gates against re­open­ing the is­sue of rein­tro­duc­ing the on­shore/off­shore di­chotomy.

“Let us not even con­sider such a thing as the rein­tro­duc­tion of on­shore-off­shore di­chotomy or the other di­chotomy be­tween nat­u­rally oc­cur­ring and man-made re­sources,” he said.

He added that in­stead del­e­gates should think of “how to ramp up the deriva­tion per­cent­age over time, re­mem­ber­ing that it used to stand at 50%.”

In his com­ments how­ever, the co-chair and chair­man of the Arewa Con­sul­ta­tive Fo­rum (ACF), for­mer In­spec­tor Gen­eral of Po­lice Ibrahim Coomassie, cau­tioned against use of in­tim­i­da­tion in a bid to win ar­gu­ments.

Coomassie said re­source con­trol re­mains a set­tled is­sue “as con­tained in the con­sti­tu­tion,” ex­plain­ing that govern­ment’s over-de­pen­dence on oil, “which is the bone of con­tention,” has led to the stag­na­tion of other rev­enue-yield­ing sources.

He said federal monthly al­lo­ca­tions to Akwa Ibom, Rivers, Bayelsa and Delta States were far more than what all the states in the North earn within the same pe­riod.

“We should look for com­pro­mise. I know what my people in the North want. But I will leave that for other mem­bers to say. We have to be very care­ful of what de­ci­sion we take, we have to be care­ful about our opin­ion, we must not try to in­tim­i­date any­body,” the ACF chief said.

At the end of the meet­ing, At­tah ad­vised mem­bers of the com­mit­tee to re­turn on Mon­day with a sug­ges­tion on how the mo­nop­oly of con­trol of min­eral re­sources by the federal govern­ment could be ex­tended to the state al­though the federal govern­ment would al­ways grant the re­quired li­cense for the min­ing of such min­er­als.

Other items the com­mit­tee moved from the Exclusive to Con­cur­rent List in­cluded Bankruptcy and In­sol­vency; Reg­is­tra­tion of birth and deaths; Commercial and In­dus­trial Mo­nop­o­lies; Labour Mat­ters; and Ev­i­dence, fin­ger prints iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and crim­i­nal records.

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