South-South Governors and leaders on Tuesday, insisted that Nigeria needs to be restructured along the lines of true federalism and devolution of powers to the federating units.
The leaders and people from the region made the demand at a consultative meeting with a Federal Government delegation at Government House, Port Harcourt, Rivers.
The Chairman of the South-South Governors’ Forum and Governor of Delta, Sen. Ifeanyi Okowa, who presented the region’s demand, said that the nation is not at peace because the country has failed to practice true federalism.
He said now is the 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 centre 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.
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 its 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 region further requests the completion without delay of the East-West Road and all federal roads in the region;
*Construction of the Lagos-Calabar railway,
*reconstruction and rehabilitation of the region’s major seaports notably the Port Harcourt, Calabar and Warri,” he said.
Governor Okowa 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 leaders also demanded the privatisation of the Port Harcourt and Warri refineries after several failed turnaround maintenance attempts.
The region 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.
The leaders also decried annual flooding challenges in the region and called for the establishment of buffer dams to control flood waters.
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.
The Leader of the Presidential delegation and Chief of Staff to the President, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, thanked the people of the South-South for their co-operation, and assured that all issues raised at the meeting will be communicated to the President.
Gambari apologised for the failure of the meeting to hold as earlier slated on Nov. 17.
“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, Sen. Ifeanyi Okowa, for his tireless effort in ensuring that this meeting was 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-point demands.
“All over the world, people have right to protest but in doing so, 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
Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, said the excuse of insecurity by the multinationals for not relocating to the South-South region is not tenable.
He stressed that the relocation of the multinationals oil companies to the region will help stem restiveness.
He urged the Minister of state for Petroleum to make history by ensuring the oil companies relocate to the region during his reign in office.
The Deputy President of the Senate, Obarisi Ovie Omo-Agege, urged the leaders of the region to avail themselves of the on going review of the 1999 Constitution by the National Assembly since most of the issues contained in their demands are constitutional matters.
He commended the youths 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.
The Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, said that aside 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 gruesomely murdered while 196 persons were seriously injured.
Also, the Director-General, Department of State Services (DSS), Mr Yusuf Magaji-Bichi, said the unity of the country, in spite of the diversity, remains the strength of the nation, adding that all hands must be on deck to ensure that peace returns to the country.
Gov. Nyesom Wike of Rivers, in a vote of thanks, commended the federal government delegation and stakeholders of the region for attending the meeting and urged the federal authorities to ensure the implementation of the region’s demands.
Other governors at the meeting were Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River; Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom; Governor Douye Diri of Bayelsa State and Godwin Obaseki of Edo State.
Ministers who attended the meeting were Godswill Akpabio, Minister of Niger Delta; Timipre Sylva, Minister of State for Petroleum; Goddy Jedy Agba ,Minister of State, Power; Festus Keyamo, Minister of State, for Niger Delta; Osagie Ehanire, Minister of Health.
The Minister of Information, Lai Mohammad was also at the meeting.
But conspicuously missing was the Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi.
Other eminent persons at the meeting were the National Chairman of the Pan Niger Delta Forum, Air Commodore Idongesit Nkanga, rtd and former President, Nigerian Bar Association, Onueze Okocha (SAN).