Babangida Aliyu, Chairman, Northern State Governors’ Forum
By Chuks Okocha
Northern governors have expressed their displeasure over the way the Federal Government has disbursed funds to address the security challenge bedevilling the geopolitical zone.
They bared their minds to President Goodluck Jonathan last Thursday at a meeting between them and the president that held at the State House, which discussed the security of the area in view of the challenges posed by the Boko Haram insurgency and flooding in the North that has rendered thousands of people from Katsina, Niger, Kaduna and Kano States, among others, homeless.
Of the N4.8 trillion budget for this year, security took the lion share with an allocation of N921.91 billion.
Sources told THISDAY at the weekend that the governors told the president that government was spending the bulk of the money on the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to the detriment of other parts of the North.
THISDAY also gathered that the North is in a quandary over how to go about to actualise its campaign for a review of the onshore-offshore oil dichotomy, which the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mr. Mohammed Bello Adoke, said last week was a settled issue warranting no reviewing.
At the Thursday meeting in Abuja, sources said Jigawa State Governor, Alhaji Sule Lamido, and his counterparts from Bauchi, Mallam Isa Yuguda, and Niger State, Dr. Babangida Aliyu, who doubles as the Chairman of the Northern State Governors’ Forum (NSGF), lashed the Federal Government for paying less attention to other parts of the North in addressing the security challenges in the 19 Northern states.
Lamido was said to have accused the Federal Government of paying lip service to the question of addressing the security challenges in the North and was not releasing all the funds required to purchase the necessary security tools to tackle the crisis.
He was said to have added that where such funds are made available, attention is only concentrated on security in the FCT.
Yuguda, who backed Lamido, was said to have complained of the extra financial burden placed on the governors in funding security in the North, which is impacting negatively on development projects in their various states.
According to a source, “Yuguda complained of the extra budgetary funding of the various state police commands and the Department of State Security Service, whereas little or no help comes from the Federal Government.”
Aliyu also complained of the extra budgetary funding of security by the governors, citing the recent example of the purchase of vehicles, communication gadgets, bomb detector machines and other logistic equipment by the states for security agencies without help from the Federal Government.
One of the governors added: “It is not that we are regretting our position over the demand for state police, but we are saying that the right thing should be done and let there be a holistic approach to the challenges of security.”
The governors, who had also set up a committee comprising their attorneys general and commissioners of justice to fashion a way forward on the controversial onshore-offshore oil dichotomy may, however, have a tough time rallying support for their agenda.
It was learnt that the task is a difficult one for the committee to accomplish because of two major legal impediments.
These are the Supreme Court judgment of 2002, which held that the powers and authority of the Federal Government over the entire maritime belt or territorial waters of Nigeria are beyond doubt, as well as the Allocation of Revenue (Abolition of Dichotomy in the Application of the Principle of Derivation) Act, 2004, which set aside the judgment.
The Supreme Court, in another judgment in 2005, held that the Act did not conflict with the 1999 Constitution.
One attorney general from a Northern state and a member of the committee told THISDAY that they are in a dilemma over what recommendations to make to the governors because of the judgment and the Act.
According to him, “We are aware of what is on the ground. There is the supposed Supreme Court judgment that has been set aside by an Act of the National Assembly.
“To this end, the best way out is to go for an outright amendment to this particular Act of the National Assembly through the constitution. But can we get the required two-thirds of the state Houses of Assembly and the National Assembly to amend the Act?
“Some of our colleagues have suggested that we go back to the Supreme Court, but the big question is, can the same Supreme Court revisit a judgment it gave 10 years ago? To some of us, the way out is a political compromise on the onshore-offshore dichotomy.”
The state attorney general said with the opposition of the Northern states to state police, there is concern that any constitutional amendment on the littoral states issue would be resisted by governors from the Southern states, adding that “this is our dilemma.”