Governors of the south-south have lamented the underdevelopment of their region, stating that their resources are used to improve the welfare of other regions.
Ifeanyi Okowa, chairman of the south-south governors forum, stated this on Tuesday during the regional stakeholders meeting with the presidential delegation led by Ibrahim Gambari, chief of staff to the president.
Details of the meeting were contained in a statement issued by Kelvin Ebiri, special assistant on media to the governor of Rivers.
Speaking during the meeting which held at the Government House in Port Harcourt, the Rivers capital, Okowa, who spoke on behalf of the region, said states should be given more control over resources in order to ensure sustainable development for their people.
“True federalism guided by the principle of derivation, revenue sharing and control of resources by each state of the federation as it was the case in the first republic,” he was quoted as saying.
“We are all aware of the huge endowment of this country. As such, it is imperative to stress that with a little bit of effort, imagination, hard work, sacrifice and leadership, every state of the federation as of today, has the ability and capability to contribute to the national purse. This should be encouraged rather than the whole country depending substantially on a region of the country.
“What is worse and even more painful in this ugly situation is the deliberate lack of understanding, empathy and the uncompromising attitudes of some Nigerians, who have refused to understand the challenges of the south-south region of the country, especially, the degradation of the environment and our waters.
“As a result, most of the demands of the region have remained unattended to while the resources of the region have been used continually to develop other parts of the country.”
The governors also made a list of their demands, including a proposal for the relocation of the headquarters of major oil companies, and subsidiaries of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) from Lagos and Abuja to the south-south region.
“Okowa also requested for immediate implementation of the consent judgment entered in the Supreme Court Suit No: SC/964/2016 to enable the South-South region get its share of $55billion shortfall of collection on deep offshore and inland basin production sharing contracts,” the statement read.
“The governors further called for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the region’s major seaports in Port Harcourt, Calabar, Warri in order to enhance the economic development of the South-South region.
“In addition, they demanded that the two refineries in Port Harcourt and one in Warri that have continued to bleed the country’s resources in the name of turn around maintenance, should be privatised.”
“Concerned about the rot in the NDDC, the governors observed that one of the major failures of the intervention agency is its refusal to forge and foster synergy, consultation and cooperation with the state governments especially, on project location, development and execution.”
They also cited the “major failures” of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), and said the NDDC would no longer be allowed to execute any project in any state of the region without consulting the governments, adding that “we have a court judgment to back our position.”
Gambari, in his remarks, said the meeting was at the instance of the president following the #EndSARS crisis, and commended the governors for their efforts.
He noted that the present administration is aware of the challenges of the region and is making efforts to address them, and promised to present the demands of the governors to the president.
Present at the meeting were other governors of the region — Nyesom Wike of Rivers, Ben Ayade of Cross River, Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom, Douye Diri of Bayelsa, and Godwin Obaseki of Edo.
Also in attendance were Ovie Omo-Agege, deputy president of the senate; Godswill Akpabio, minister of Niger Delta; Timipre Sylva, minister of state for petroleum; Goddy Jedy Agba, minister of state for power; Festus Keyamo, minister of state for Niger Delta; Osagie Ehanire, minister of health; Lai Mohammed, minister of information; Mohammed Adamu, inspector-general of police, and Yusuf Bichi, director-general of the Department of State Services (DSS).