Chairman of South-south Governors' Forum, Senator Liyel Imoke
•Want fiscal federalism too
By Okon Bassey in Uyo
Governors of the South-south states yesterday rose from a one-day meeting in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, and frowned on the long delay in the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), noting that it had impacted negatively on the geo-political zone.
The enlarged meeting, which also had in attendance members of the National Assembly and speakers of state Houses of Assembly from Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Edo, Delta (BRACED), tasked the Federal Government, Ministries of Petroleum Resources and Finance, and various committees involved to urgently finalise the drafting of the bill and re-submit same to the National Assembly.
A communiqué issued at the end of the marathon meeting, which lasted till the early hours of yesterday, also challenged members of the National Assembly to ensure the expeditious passage of the Bill once it is submitted, so that the nation at large could benefit from its resources.
The communiqué, which was read by Chairman of South-south Governors' Forum, Senator Liyel Imoke, reaffirmed the position of the South-south governors as contained in an earlier communiqué issued in Calabar on March 13, 2012 and the communiqué issued by the speakers of the South-south States’ Houses of Assembly in Uyo on March 29, 2012 over the attempt to link increasing insecurity in parts of the North of the country to the revenue sharing formula and campaigns for review.
Insisting that the issue to be addressed now was the introduction of fiscal federalism, the forum questioned the rationale of not exploiting other mineral deposits in different parts of the country while depleting the oil and gas reserves in the BRACED states.
The meeting expressed strong conviction that the introduction of fiscal federalism and resource control would encourage each state of the federation to control its resources and develop in accordance with its capability.
Rather than the over-dependence on oil from the South-south, the governors urged the Federal Government and the states to focus on agriculture which would allow all states to contribute significantly to the national purse.
On the security situation and the continued violence in some parts of the country, the meeting noted the efforts of the Federal Government to arrest the spate of violence and commended President Goodluck Jonathan for his efforts in containing the violence; calling on the Federal Government to put machinery in place to restore law and order throughout the country.
Participants at the meeting appealed to those who are aggrieved to utilise available constitutional process to seek redress rather than embark on destroying innocent lives and properties.
On the proposed constitution amendment, the meeting agreed that it was necessary to put together ideas and appreciate the commonality of “our people to speak with one voice on national issues during the constitution amendment which the National Assembly will soon embark upon”.
Explaining the purpose of the meeting, Imoke and host Governor Godswill Akpabio said it was necessary for the leaders of the zone to come together to deliberate on how to pool the huge resources of the area to transform it.
The meeting agreed that there was need for the political leaders of the South-south to meet regularly in order to harmonise their positions on issues that affect the zone.
In attendance were the Governors of Akwa Ibom, Akpabio; Bayelsa, Hon. Henry Seriake Dickson; Cross River, Imoke; Edo, Adams Oshiomhole; Delta, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan; and the Deputy Governor of Rivers, Mr. Tele Ikuru.
Also in attendance were Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba, Senate Leader for South-south members in the Senate; Hon. Leonard Ogor; Deputy Leader in the House of Representatives for South-south members; Cross River State House of Assembly Speaker; Hon. Larry Odey, for South-south speakers; and Director-General, BRACED Commission, Ambassador Joe Keshi.