Governors and leaders of Nigeria’s South-South region are insisting that the country be restructured and true federalism practiced.
As part of multiple issues raised, they demanded the relocation of the headquarters of major oil companies in Nigeria – as well as several NNPC (the state-owned oil company) subsidiaries currently in Lagos and Abuja – to the region.”
Those who attended the meeting were Governors Nyesom Wike (Rivers); Ben Ayade (Cross River); Udom Emmanuel (Akwa Ibom); Douye Diri (Bayelsa) and Godwin Obaseki (Edo).
Others were Minister of Niger Delta, Senator Godswill Akpabio; Minister of State for Petroleum, Chief Timipre Sylva; Minister of State for Power, Mr. Goddy Jeddy- Agba; Minister of State for Niger Delta, Mr. Festus Keyamo (SAN); Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, and Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed.
The Minister of Transportation, Hon. Rotimi Amaechi was absent.
The chairman of the South-South Governors’ Forum and Governor of Delta, Ifeanyi Okowa, who presented the region’s demand, said that the restructuring of the country should be one that includes the devolution of powers to the federating units.
Mr. Okowa said that it was time to restore the country back to a true federation with all the attributes and nuances of a federal state.
“For us in the South-South, the #ENDSARS protest is a metaphor of almost all that is wrong with us, our refusal to properly understand issues, and imbibe and entrench the virtues of justice, fairness, and equity.
“The previous system of true federalism was jettisoned and it created a powerful center controlling and distributing all the resources unevenly.
“There is now a strong desire to restructure the country in order to guarantee peace, security, stability and progress of the nation.
“The region demands true federalism and devolution of powers to the states, including creating and managing their own police and security architecture, true fiscal federalism guided by the principle of derivation, revenue sharing and control of resources by each state,” he said.
Their demands were made at a consultative regional meeting with a Federal Government delegation led by the Chief of Staff to the President, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari at the Government House, Port Harcourt on Tuesday.
Okowa decried the deliberate lack of understanding, empathy, and uncompromising attitudes of some Nigerians, who refused to understand the peculiar challenges of the South-South region, especially the degradation of the environment and the pollution of our waters.
“All we demand and ask for is fairness and equity and as we await actions to restructure the country, we hereby renew our demands for the relocation of the headquarters of major oil companies in Nigeria to the region; relocation of several NNPC subsidiaries from Lagos and Abuja to the region.”
The leaders further requested the completion without delay of the East-West Road and all federal roads in the region; construction of the Lagos-Calabar railway and the reconstruction, and rehabilitation of the region’s major seaports notably the Port Harcourt, Calabar and Warri.
The leaders also demanded the privatisation of the Port Harcourt and Warri refineries after several failed turn-around maintenance attempts.
The y also called for the release of all funds owed Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and for the amendment of the NDDC Act to place the commission on a first-line charge.
They decried annual flooding challenge in the region and called for the establishment of buffer dams to control floodwaters in the region.
They also called for the completion of the abandoned Gas Revolution Industrial Park at Ogidigben and the stepping down of electricity at the Okpai and Utorogu gas plants.
Leader of the Presidential delegation, Ibrahim Gambari, thanked the people of the South-South for their co-operation, and assured that all issues raised at the meeting would be communicated to the President.
Mr. Gambari apologised for the failure of the meeting to hold on November 17 earlier slated and said “we are here on behalf of the President as part of the ongoing and continuing conversation on how to make our nation better and I must thank the Governor of Delta, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, for his tireless effort in ensuring that this meeting held.
“Our youths took to the streets to express their bitterness on ill-treatment meted out to them by the police and the President, recognising the importance of the demands made by the protesters agreed to implement the five demands.
“All over the world, people have right to protest but in doing so, the respect for law and order must be adhered to and they must also respect the rights of others.
“The President commends governors, traditional rulers and other stakeholders for their role in handling the protesters,” he said
Deputy President of the Senate, Ovie Omo-Agege, on his part, commended the youth of South-South for their peaceful disposition during the protests.
He assured that all constitutional issues canvassed would be addressed by the Constitution Review Committee and urged the governors to prevail on their Houses of Assemblies to give the necessary concurrence at the appropriate time.
Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, in his remark, said aside from the massive economic effects of the protests, 243 public facilities were burnt, 71 warehouses looted, 610 vehicles destroyed, 134 police stations burnt,164 police vehicles destroyed and 136 firearms carted away.
He added that 65 civilians were killed during the protests and 37 policemen murdered while 196 persons were seriously injured.
On his part, Director-General, Department of State Services (DSS), Yusuf Magaji-Bichi, said the unity of the country, in spite of the diversity, remained the strength of the nation, adding that all hands must be on deck to ensure that peace returned to the country.
Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, in a vote of thanks, commended the Federal Government delegation and leaders of the region for attending the meeting and urged the federal authorities to ensure implementation of the region’s demands.
By Abel Ejikeme