Amaechi tasks govt on fiscal federalism

RIVERS State Governor Chibuike Amaechi has urged that irrespective of the success of the amnesty programme, the Federal Government should not ignore the issue of fiscal federalism .

Amaechi, who commended the Federal Government for the success of the amnesty programme which led to the surrender of different types of weapons by ex-militants, appealed to the government to ensure that sincerity was its watchword.

He made the appeal in a paper titled “Militancy and amnesty: Good and bad governance in the Niger Delta” delivered at the Royal African Society at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London yesterday.

The governor noted that it was not strange that discussions around the Niger Delta, especially in international circles continued to revolve around the matter of violence, militancy and disruptions of oil flow.

He explained that though the Niger Delta region was at the heart of oil production in Nigeria, the level of poverty in the region was heart-rending. The discovery of oil in Nigeria and the attendant annual oil revenues of tens of billions of dollars, according to him, have ushered in a miserable, undisciplined, decrepit, and corrupt form of ‘petro-capitalism’.

According to Amaechi, after a half century of oil production from which almost $300 billion in oil revenues have flowed directly into the Federal Government’s coffers, Nigeria’s per capita income still stands at $2,748, which he said was abysmally low, compared to Ghana’s $10,748 and Cameroun’s $10,758.

“Indeed, for the bulk of Nigerians, living standards are perhaps worse now than they were at independence. The story is infinitely worse in the Niger Delta region. In more than 20 years, Rivers State, which I now have the privilege of governing, has not felt any touch of federal presence,” he said.

Recalling the origin of militancy in the Niger Delta, the governor recalled that one of the conditions for independence as proposed by politicians from the Oil Rivers Protectorate was assurance of protection from the dominant partners in the federation.

According to him, agitations by Harold Dappa Biriye and his colleagues from the minority ethnic groups in the South led to the Henry Willinks Commission in 1958 and the eventual setting up of the Niger Delta Development Basin Authority.

In their 1958 submission to the Willinks Commission, they identified such issues as flaws in the electoral process, resentment of Nigeria’s national army and inequities in the allocation of oil receipts.

According to him, “since then, participatory continuity is what their descendants in present-day petroleum-rich Niger Delta seem to be clamouring for. But in later years, criminality seemed to take over the struggle.”

He indicted the oil companies, businessmen – both foreign and local – as well as political and military leaders for contributing to the unrest in the Niger Delta.

The governor, whose effort to rehabilitate ex-militants predates the Federal Government’s amnesty programme, urged government not to renege on its promise to the ex-militants that accepted the amnesty offer.

“We must objectively ask ourselves: ‘why did the boys in the creeks take up arms against the Federal Government in the first place?’ We cannot just sweep the issue of resource control under the carpet. Until the aggrieved party is truly assuaged and fully re-intergraded, it is not yet uhuru,” he said.

Noting that bad governance and a corrupt leadership could only serve as catalysts for brigandage and an unwholesome environment, he said his administration had entered into an unwritten charter to change the development indices and deliver good governance to Rivers people.

He said: “Our major policy thrust therefore is to improve living and working conditions as well as the quality of the workforce, through rapid infrastructural development. In keeping with this mandate, our critical areas of focus are roads and bridges, education, health, agriculture, water and urban renewal.”



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