President Mohammadu Buhari yesterday in Abuja pledged that the Federal Government would revisit the constitutional 13 per cent derivation benefit to the Niger Delta region to ensure even spread of developmental projects that meet the needs of the people.
He made the promise during the visit of the Isoko Traditional Rulers Council in Delta State to the Presidential Villa in which a long list of demands including establishment of gas plant, rehabilitation of federal roads, upgrade of Ofagbe Technical College, setting up of Federal Polytechnic, appointment of Isoko indigenes as ministers and ambassadors, among others, were presented to the President.
High Chief Iduh Amadhe, who led the delegation of the royal fathers from Delta State, appealed to the President to direct the Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachukwu to call on the Management of the Nigerian National Petroleum Cooperation (NNPC) and SPDC to immediately commence production in Isoko Section of OML 28-Uzere East to increase revenue to government and development of the area.
Similarly, the monarch who is the President General and mouth piece of Isoko people asked the government to direct the oil companies operating in Isoko land namely; NPDC, Heritage, SPDC and AGIP to create an enabling environment for investors to convert the gas flare to electricity and for the existence of a modular refinery.
The traditional ruler noted that about 15 oil wells in Isoko Section of OML 28 have been locked up since November 29, 2011 by SPDC, thereby depriving the country of daily production of 19,000 barrels of crude oil, which is a huge financial loss.
He said Isoko land is a major oil and gas producing area with eight oil fields but lamented that the wealth generated from the area has been used to develop other parts of the country at the expense of the people, even when they have remained peaceful.
“It is on record that the Isoko people have not only remained peaceful but had always thrown their weight behind the government, we are not known for pipeline vandalism and no Avengers in Isolo land.
“The Isoko Nation has been grossly marginalised in allocation of projects by this Ministry. It will gladden our hearts sir, if you may graciously direct the Ministry to remember Isoko in its activities including projects, skill acquisitions centers and other related programmes.
“The management of NDDC should also be directed to execute projects advertised for award and completion since March 2 and give special attention to Isoko Ethnic Nationality because of our peaceful nature.
“In addition, our Isoko Riverine Communities in Sagbama Local Council of Bayelsa State should be given special attention in the area of land reclamation.”
The Council Chairman said the exclusion of the youths in the area, despite directives to the Amnesty Office to include them, might send a wrong signal that to be peaceful is a crime.
He further demanded for a Federal Institution to be cited in Isokoland, particularly a Federal Polytechnic, as none exists in Delta State at the moment.
“We shall be very grateful if the State-owned Ozoro Polytechnic can be converted to a Federal Polytechnic.
“It will be appreciated also, if you consider the Ofagbe Technical College in Isoko North Local Government Area, be converted to a Federal Science and Technical College (FSTC) since we have only two in Delta State instead of three.
“Since the civil war, two Federal Roads have been abandoned in Isoko Land Emede – Oteri – Igbide – Uzere Road, and Ofagbe – Awa – lyede Ame Onogbokor – Umuoru Road.
It is our fervent appeal that you use your good office to direct the NDDC or Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs to take over the construction of the above roads.
“With the Isoko Nation’s Oil Fields and Flow Stations the Isoko people will be happy if Mr. President will graciously approve the location of a modular refinery in the area to help boost the economy.
It will be beneficial to the Nigerian nation and create employment opportunities that equally engage our teeming youths in the area.
“Since 1975 when the late Chief Dr. Benard Mafeni was appointed minister for Agriculture and National Resources, no lsoko man has been made Minister or Ambassador of the Federal republic. We will be most glad if you can break this jinx as one way of recognizing the Isoko people for their peaceful disposition.
“We join other well-meaning Nigerians on the appeal to set all machineries in motion to curb the incessant killings in some states in the country.
The menace is creating negative image for the country and we believe that stemming the trend quickly before the 2019 elections will be the best for the government and the nation at large,” the monarch said.
Responding, President Buhari emphasised that the constitutional provisions for Niger Delta development would be carefully studied for inclusiveness, especially in the prioritization of Federal Government projects.
“I have listened attentively to your address and I will still update myself with details of development in your area as it relates to oil and gas, and lack of infrastructure.
“I will look at the constitutional 13 per cent derivation and what previous governments have done, in order to know what we can do,’’ the President said.
President Buhari said the Isoko kingdom has very qualified citizens that have distinguished themselves in various professional and entrepreneurial skills in the country, expressing surprise that the domain was not adequately captured in Federal Government appointments.
“I will revisit your address and ask for clarification. I will do my best on this issue,’’ he added.
Meanwhile, the former President of the Ijaw National Congress, Professor Kimse Okoko, has described the promise by President Buhari to review the 13 percent derivation as a mere political statement in an election year.
Okoko described the issue bothering on 13 per cent derivation a constitutional matter, and since the president’s relationship with the National Assembly is sour, it was not feasible for him to achieve any form of upward review of the derivation principle.
“It is a political promise. I will certainly not take it serious. On his own he cannot change the 13 per cent.
It is a constitutional issue. For him to make that promise, I won’t take him serious.
Only the gullible will take him serious especially in this election period.
Let him tell the people how he intends to work with the National Assembly. Let’s be more serious please,” he said.
When contacted the spokesperson of the Pan Niger Delta Forum, Chief Anabs Sara-Igbe, said the group would review the president’s promise.