There has been growing discontent among stakeholders over the delay by the federal government in correcting its implementation error that resulted in the payment of 13 per cent derivation fund through state governments.
The oil-producing states have also faulted such calls, threatening to go to court instead if the federal government should succumb to pressure.
A statement obtained by LEADERSHIP at the weekend said female activists in the nine oil/gas producing states now demand that President Goodluck Jonathan create a national derivation committee (NDC) to disburse the funds, as was done during the tenure of former President Shehu Shagari.
In a letter to the federal government dated October 18, 2013, the female activists under the aegis of 13% Derivation Amazons and 13% Derivation Women Foundation articulated their grievances. First, they argued that since oil/gas remained on the Exclusive Legislative List, only the president could put a stop to what they described as illegal and unconstitutional payment of the fund through state government accounts.
According to them, the practice is a violation of two mandatory provisions of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. These are provisions of the Separation of Powers which put oil and gas on the Exclusive Legislative List. Also, they submitted that section 162(2) of the 1999 Constitution makes 13 per cent derivation fund a first charge on the Federation Account. “As a first charge, 13 per cent derivation fund must not be paid through a third party or any state government account,” they stated.
The women group led by a frontline activist from Oben flow station in Edo State, Princess Nomwen Uhunmwangho, called on the president to discontinue the current practice and establish a national derivation committee (NDC) and state implementation committees (SICs).
The women reaffirmed that, from the two mandatory provisions, 3 per cent derivation fund was not part of any consolidated fund of any tier of government. They further affirmed that 13 per cent derivation fund does not form part of the fund to be included in the Joint State/Local Government Account. Other affirmations include:
• 13 per cent derivation fund is a benchmark of revenue allocation to oil and gas-producing communities.
• There is no need for RMAFC to send any submission on 13 per cent derivation fund to National Assembly for implementation as it has been constitutionally provided for.
• What is necessary is administrative implementation of the mandatory provision of section 162 (2) of the 1999 Constitution.
The women’s group recalled the series of consultations with the Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) on the matter and their submissions at zonal public hearings in Enugu, Ibadan and Yenagoa where they demanded direct payment of 13 per cent derivation fund through administrative committees.
The group further noted that by Act 1 of 1982 when derivation fund was 1.5 per cent of total oil receipts, the then president Alhaji Shehu Shagari established Presidential/State Implementation committees to disburse the 1.5 per cent derivation fund for the oil-producing areas.
Under the 13 per cent regime, Delta State collected N120.6billion in 2010, N178.4billion in 2011, and N156.6 billion in 2012.
Akwa Ibom and Rivers states top the chart in allocation, while Bayelsa is 4th on the collection chart.
Sometime in September last year, the chairman of the RMAFC, Engr. Elias Mbam, at a press conference in Abuja, submitted that the 13 per cent derivation from monthly allocation extended to oil-producing states ought to be exclusively spent on oil-producing communities who suffer most from the impact of environmental degradation occasioned by oil exploration in their domains.
Mbam said the clarification became necessary in view of the fact that a larger percentage of the 13 per cent derivation fund meant for the development of host communities was unjustifiably spent on the development of state capitals and other urban centres, thus negating the principle behind derivation which serves as reparation to the host communities whose land and water resources are devastated by oil exploration activities.
In a telephone conversation with LEADERSHIP last night, spokesperson for RMFAC Mr Ibrahim Mohammed confirmed that the position of the commission has not changed.
Ibrahim said that the right thing to do was to amend the constitution so that the money would be paid directly to the oil/gas-producing communities. He also said that the same should apply in the case of solid minerals.
But the oil-producing states have faulted such calls and, indeed, any moves to amend the rules governing the disbursement of the 13 per cent derivation fund.
The Ondo State governor, Olusegun Mimiko, who spoke through his chief press secretary Eni Akinsola, described such moves as mischievous.
“I can quickly say that any person or persons canvassing such do not have the facts regarding federation or federalism as it applies to us in Nigeria.
“States only contribute to the federal government from revenues accruing to the states and the other way round. Any suggestion in that direction is utmost mischief and cannot be sustained by any law. It is an unacceptable suggestion from any quarters,” Akinsola said.
His Bayelsa State counterpart, Iworiso Markson, was of the same position, saying RMFAC may have been misquoted.
“I don’t want to believe RMFAC made such position that 13 per cent should go to the oil-producing communities; the proposal has always been canvassed by the host communities.
“But the question is: under what law will the communities be involved in the disbursement or otherwise of the fund. Only the law can determine the status of oil-bearing communities,” Markson said on telephone
Also reacting to the development, the Delta State government said it would challenge the legality or otherwise of the move, if taken, in the court of law.
Delta State commissioner for information and strategy, Mr Chike Ogea, told LEADERSHIP that only the court could determine the matter.
“That cannot happen because there is a law in place. RMFAC cannot just shift the goal post the way it wants .What we can say is that only the court will determine this because we shall challenge the move if it is taken.
“For instance, there is nothing more than what we in Delta State give to the oil-bearing communities. We give as much as 50 per cent of the 13 per cent to the oil communities and this is novel in the Niger Delta region.”
But the special adviser to the Edo State governor on media, Mr Kazeem Afegbue, declined to comment on the issue, saying: “This is a very sensitive issue, as you know. I need to get across to my boss to be able to respond to this matter, please.”