By Adedayo Akinwale
A member representing Andoni/Opobo/Nkoro Federal Constituency from Rivers State in the House of Representatives, Hon. Awaji-Inombei Abiante, has vowed to re-present a bill that seeks to alter the Constitution by increasing the derivation fund from 13 per cent to 50 per cent in order to ensure the development of all the States and regions where mineral resources are being extracted.
The bill which was presented at the plenary on Tuesday was stepped down for further legislative deliberations by the Speaker of the House, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila.
Abiante said the bill also seeks to ensure justice and equity in the polity and also fast-track the development and protection of the region and indeed any part of the federation.
The lawmaker said that the Independence Constitution of 1960 and the Republican Constitution of 1963 in Sections 134(1) (a&b) and 140 (1) (a&b) respectively recognize payment of 50 percent of proceeds of any royalty received by the federation in respect of any minerals extracted/ mining rents derived in any region in the country.
Abiante said the unfortunate military intervention disrupted the people’s participation and keeping faith with agreements reached before independence and unilaterally shifted the bulk of collectible revenue to the federal government on the premise that it needed resources to prosecute the war and maintain Nigeria’s unity.
He said the military also put in place a decree that gave the federal government 100 per cent right of off-shore rents and royalties, adding that the provisions of Decree 13 of 1970 made it mandatory that 80 per cent of all onshore mining rents should be transferred to the Distributable Pool Account (DPA), leaving 20 per cent for the states to be shared on the basis of the principle of derivation.
Abiante said the implication of Decree No. 13 of 1970 was that it marked the first step toward fiscal centralization in this country, stressing that it strived in its entirety to strengthen the financial position of the central government but the states began to suffer from severe funds constraint.
The lawmaker noted that even if there was anything to give justification in the desire to prosecute the post war reconstruction, the war and post war reconstruction are over and the military regime is also over, hence, the call for “true” federalism has been made by Nigerians.
Abiante stated: “The pooling of our commonwealth at the center and its administration is mired with corruption and misappropriation of funds meant for the development of Nigeria’s economy.
“The dogged transparency of the process is responsible for embarrassing embezzlements going on and subsequently the deprivation of resources for development of states and local government areas where these resources are needed. This is evident in the crisis in the North-West, North-East, North-Central, South East and South-South Zones in form of militancy, terrorism, kidnapping, ethnic cleansing and banditry.”
Abiante said the recent tussle in Zamfara’s gold mine between communities was worrisome, stressing that if the revenue allocation formula was not reviewed soon, “we fear that the resulting massacre for mineral resources will mirror the unfortunate unending bloodbath in the Democratic Republic of Congo from 1998 till date with over
5.4 million killed.”
The lawmaker noted that justice in allocation as previously enshrined in both the Independence and Republican constitutions would certainly resolve this issue and make for greater patriotism and a sense of commitment from all.
Abainte added that It would also make for greater development hinged on healthy competition as witnessed in the pre-independence Nigeria and the First
Republic where the country had the famous Cocoa House, the University of Ibadan, the University of Nigeria, the University of Ife as it was called then, the Ahmadu Bello University, the Western Nigeria Television and several others.