Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, and his Bayelsa counterpart, Seriake Dickson Tuesday advised the Federal Government to treat all geo-political zones with fairness, stressing that the withdrawal of $1bn from the nation’s savings should benefit the entire security agency and service and cover every part of the country.
The Edo state governor, Godwin Obaseki had announced that the money would be used in fighting Boko Haram insurgents, but Vice President Yemi Osinbajo clarified that the $1bn would be used in confronting all security challenges facing the country, not just Boko Haram.
But speaking while receiving the House of Representatives Committee on Local Content, Wike said the release of funds from the Excess Crude Account, ECA, should be used to tackle critical environmental challenges in the Niger Delta because there would be no ECA without the contributions of the oil producing communities of the region.
According to him, “There should be balance in the way the federal government handles issues affecting different parts of the country.
“We are not saying the federal government should not tackle Boko Haram. But, as they tackle Boko Haram with $1 billion, they must remember that the environmental challenges facing the Niger Delta is the major security challenge.
“If something happens or there is a crisis in the Niger Delta, there will be no excess crude for anyone to draw from.”
The Rivers governor stressed that issues of development and security should not be politicised because political parties are mere vehicles that convey politicians to desired destinations.
“This country belongs to all of us. We must work to salvage Nigeria. We shall always talk about the interest of Nigerians,” he said.
He commended the committee members for their contribution towards ensuring that Shell Plc did not leave Rivers state.
On his part, Governor Dickson of Bayelsa state requested the Federal Government to exclude the 13 per cent derivation funds accruable to oil producing states from the $1bn to be deducted from the ECA for national security.
He demanded that the 13 per cent derivation component of the $1 billion should be deducted and sent to the various oil producing states in order for them not to be making double contributions to the security funds.
In a statement by the state Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Mr. Daniel Iworiso-Markson, the governor posited that the implication of the withdrawal inclusive of the 13 per cent, was that the oil producing states would be making double contributions to the security funds.
He stressed that the oil producing states would be contributing not only their statutory allocations like other states, but also their 13 per cent derivation fund constitutionally designed to address special circumstances including security, occasioned by the hazards of oil production.
Dickson disclosed that he had discussed the issue with both the Vice President who is Chairman of the National Economic Council and the Chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum.
He noted that while Bayelsa was not against the withdrawal of the funds to enhance national security, the utilisation of the funds should benefit the entire security agency and service and cover every part of the country.
The statement reads, “Our position generally has been that leaders should collaborate on issues of national security and the economy. On these matters, there should be no partisanship or showmanship because these issues touch on the core of our nation and the individual well being of everybody.
“Secondly, as it has been done before, Bayelsa has no opposition to the withdrawal of money for national security expenditure targeted at improving the capacity of our military and security agencies to protect the territorial integrity of the country and all Nigerians.
“Our position is that the 13 per cent derivation element be deducted and sent to the states. Not to do so means that the oil producing states would be contributing from both ends. We will be contributing our statutory allocations like every other state, and then the 13 per cent derivation which is meant to address special circumstances as oil producing states, including security challenges.”
The governor also demanded that a committee of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, NGF, be set up to interface with the Chairman of the National Economic Council, NEC, and leadership of national security agencies to receive briefings on the details of items to be procured.
He stated that it is necessary for the committee to be briefed on the modalities of procurement to allay concerns already expressed by a cross segment of the populace.
Dickson asserted that Bayelsa like other states, would be interested in knowing what component of these security procurements would directly benefit the security architecture in Bayelsa State.
“That a committee of the Governors’ Forum be set up forthwith to liaise with the Vice President as Chairman of the National Economic Council, and heads of national security agencies to receive briefings on details of the proposed procurements in order to allay the concerns being expressed segments of our population. We would like to know specifically what aspects of these investments are coming to Bayelsa,’’ he added.