Zonal leaders at the National Conference yesterday took steps to forestall a looming deadlock on the agitation of oil producing states of the Niger Delta for an increase of the 13 per cent derivation principle.
The zonal leaders engaged in promoting consensus at the conference after two days of intense negotiation, recommended for the adoption of delegates, 18 per cent derivation formula, an increase of five per cent.
The leaders also recommended for the adoption of delegates, that five per cent from revenue allocation to be made available for solid mineral development.
Members of the group said they recognized that the country had been over relying on oil, which is a depletive asset hence the need to develop solid minerals.
The leaders recommended that another five per cent fund for stabilisation, rehabilitation and reconstruction should be set aside principally for the Northeast which will have about 50 per cent, while the remaining 50 per cent would be for Northwest and Northcentral.
Ambassador Ibrahim Agboola Gambari, announced the recommendations after General Ike Nwachukwu, leader of the Southeast and a member of the group, requested him to brief the house.
There was a revolt after Gambari’s announcement by some delegates which forced the conference to adjourn abruptly.
Before handing over to Gambari, Nwachukwu told delegates that he had the honour to brief the house on key issues that had the capacity to divide it.
He noted that delegates were aware of how emotional and emotive the issues of derivation were, hence zonal leader elected to seek consensus.
Gambari, who took over from Nwachukwu said apart from the zonal leaders, the membership of the consensus building group was expanded to include labour leaders, women leaders, civil societies and others.
He noted that for two nights and three days, the group engaged in promoting consensus on way forward with regards to the issue of derivation and related matters.
He added that after two days and several hours of consultations, “we arrived at, among us, that there will be shift of positions on the part of two poles of positions already taken by our members.”
The resolution, he noted, was done in the spirit of compromise and the context of putting Nigeria first and “above the interest of our respective constituencies, recognising that status quo is not sustainable.”
Gambari said, “We have always felt that any time we reduce our discussion to primordial village, state or zonal level, we are bound to run into a lot of disagreement.
“But when we raise the level to what unites us rather than what divides us, that was the basis of agreement.
“We began from what was contained in the Committee’s recommendation on Devolution of Power, the way from 13 per cent to 15 per cent to 17 per cent but should not be less than 18 per cent.
“Another position shifted from very high figure 100 per cent to 50 per cent to 21.5 per cent to 20 per cent and finally to not less than 18 per cent to be reviewed after every 10 years.
“Therefore, this group adopted a position and recommend to the plenary not less than 18 per cent as the derivation formula.
“We didn’t leave it there, as a package, we proposed two recommendations, one, for five per cent from revenue allocation to be made available for solid mineral development. We know we have been over relying on oil, which is a depletive asset.
“The time has come to pay attention to other resources that this country has in abundance and are fairly well spread throughout the country.
“For the second and perhaps most urgent, we have recommended a new fund to be established which we called, Fund for stabilisation, rehabilitation and reconstruction.
“Five per cent of revenue is proposed to be allocated to the fund that would be principally for the Northeast which will have about 50 per cent, Northwest and Northcentral.
“This recommendation, if endorsed, will be reflected in the Revenue Allocation Act.
“We all know, the peculiarity is now where, the greatest victims of what is happening is not a Northeast problem but a Nigerian problem manifesting itself most traumatically in the Northeast.
“We have also recommended broadly, a safeguard and mechanism to ensure that monies go to those who need them the most and to also enhance the production of important mineral resources our country is endowed with.
“Finally, in reaching this conclusions, this group was only motivated by one goal which was just to provide an avenue for reaching consensus rather than voting. We do not believe that voting would really move us forward.
“Yes, there will be some winners and losers but in so doing, but in so doing, we believe Nigeria may be the biggest loser, which was not why we are here.
“We realise that several members of the Conference would not be entirely happy with these recommendations, no one is completely happy. But with our recommendations, we produce a situation whereby no one will be completely unhappy, which was precisely what consensus is all about.”
The revolt was in the form of murmuring as the recommendations seemed not to have gone down well with many delegates.
Sensing danger, Deputy Chairman of the conference, Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi, said voting would take place on the recommendations today.
He quickly called for a motion for adjournment apparently to give room for frayed nerves to calm down.
It is not clear how delegates would vote.
Apart from Nwachukwu, (South East), Gambari (Northcentral) and Hon. Mohammed Kumalia (North East) other zonal leaders said to have participated in decision included Chief Edwin Clark (South South), Alhaji Ibrahim Coomasie (North West) and Chief Olu Falae (South West).
Delegates representing Southeastern states described as deceitful, the recommendations.
In a statement, Chief Goddy Uwazuruke, said the recommendations were uncalled for.
Uwazurike said if any five per cent would be given, it should be done for all the zones, insisting that it would amount to cheating the Southeast, which is also begging for development.
“We, the southeast delegates reject the recommendation of five per cent of the national fund to any section. It is uncalled for. This is very deceitful. If they want to allocate any five per cent, it should be for the entire country.
“You do not need to cheat any particular region. We completely oppose it,” Uwazurike said.