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Published On: Fri, Feb 3rd, 2017

Goodluck Jonathan: True, Fiscal Federalism Is The Only Option To Niger-Delta Crisis

Former President Goodluck Jonathan

Former President Goodluck Jonathan

LAGOS FEBRUARY 3RD (URHOBOTODAY)-Former President Goodluck Jonathan says the only option that will solve the agitation in the Niger Delta is true and fiscal federalism as practiced in the United States from whom the country copied its presidential model of government.
He said states should be allowed to exploit their natural resources as they deem fit and pay adequate taxes to the Federal Government, noting that this was also the position of the 2014 National Conference.
He also linked religious killings in parts of the country in recent time to lack of political will to check impunity among citizens and adherents of certain religious sects.

Jonathan stated these in his presentation to the US House Sub-Committee on Africa on Wednesday, February 1, 2017, as chairman, Goodluck Jonathan Foundation with theme, ‘Challenges of Nigerian Christians and the Niger Delta Question.’
It would be recalled that in checking the agitations of the regional militants his administration, an off-shoot of the Umaru Ya’Adua administration, started the amnesty programme to pacify the region.
Resource Control The Only Solution
Jonathan said, “The only option that will solve the agitation in the Niger Delta is true and fiscal federalism as practised in the United States from whom we copied the presidential model of government.
“States should be allowed to exploit their natural resources as they deem fit and pay adequate taxes to the Federal Government. This is also the position of the 2014 National Conference.
“The conference strongly recommended the adoption of fiscal federalism as the only panacea to these agitations and other challenges.”
Jonathan stressed that the issue of the Niger Delta is that of exploitation of natural resources, economy and development, adding that the complaints and restiveness are not unique to the Niger Delta alone.
He maintained that in most African nations where resources are domiciled in minority regions and the control of such resources are in the hands of majority regions, such agitations are commonplace.
Jonathan said the Niger Delta people feel that they had been suffering from the environmental hazards of the exploitation of their God-given resources, which they do not commensurately benefit from.
Going down memory lane, the former president said that in the Niger Delta, the agitations predate Nigeria’s existence in 1914, as oil palm produce (palm oil and kernel) the major raw material that fed the growth of the Industrial Revolution in Europe, largely came from the region.
These agitations, he said, took a new dimension with the discovery of crude oil in the Niger Delta, which on February 23, 1966, culminated in the declaration of the first secessionist state in post independent Nigeria, the Niger Delta Republic, proclaimed by Isaac Jasper Adaka Boro.
“His 12-day revolution was crushed by the Federal Government. It is instructive to note that Isaac Boro declared the Republic of the Niger Delta a full year and three months before May, 1967 when then Colonel Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu declared the secession of the Eastern region to form the Republic of Biafra leading to the 30-month civil war.”
Interventionist Agencies Politicise Projects
Jonathan stressed that from the end of the civil war till date, the Federal Government had come up with many interventionist initiatives to pacify the Niger Delta, like the Oil Mineral Producing Areas Development Commission (OMPADEC), set up by the military administration of General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida and the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
He said, “The greatest stumbling block of these interventionist agencies was lack of continuity, resulting from an over politicisation of projects as each successive management awarded new contracts rather than continue with those awarded by their predecessors and as such, the Niger Delta is littered with many abandoned projects with very few completed projects to show for the huge monies spent.
13% Derivation Benefits Niger Delta
“During the Obasanjo era, the Federal Government, in line with our constitution and revenue laws, set aside 13 percent of oil revenues to be paid as derivation funds to oil producing states and shared on the basis of proportion of oil they produce.
“As a person from the Niger Delta, I can say that the 13 percent derivation has benefitted Niger Delta states and their people more than the interventionist agencies. For example, those who knew Akwa Ibom State before the 13 percent derivation became law will agree that the derivation fund has changed the face of that state making it almost overnight one of the most developed states in Nigeria.
“The same is true with other oil producing states though with varying degrees of development.”
Blames Govt On For Religious Killings
On religious killings in parts of the country, Jonathan traced the trend to lack of political will on the part of current political leaders to check rising wave of impunity among the citizens.
“I want to emphasise by citing these incidences that my administration had the political will to halt impunity in Nigeria and that is why killings due to religious extremism was localised to the North East with occasional killings in other zones of the North.”
He maintained that in the North East, his administration had rolled back the Islamic terrorist sect, Boko Haram, by the end of the first quarter of 2015 after the government was able to get weapons to arm the Nigerian military.
According to him, the killings did not spread to the mainly Christian South “and I believe that the fight back against impunity by my administration was the main reason for this.”
Applauds Efforts Of Religious Leaders
Jonathan applauded the efforts of then president of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, who he said persuaded the Christians not to engage in any retaliation or reprisal killings, even as the association saw a genuine desire on his part to bring religious extremists to book.
He also lauded efforts of the head of the Muslim Ummah in Nigeria, His Eminence, the Sultan of Sokoto, who he said was able to get the mainstream of the faith to publicly condemn Islamic extremism in Nigeria, which, he said, was important to show that a clampdown on extremism was and is not a clampdown on the religion
He said that he, as the nation’s president, worked through the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council (NIREC) to bring Christian and Muslim leaders together so they could talk to each other not at each other.
As a solution, Jonathan said: “To summarise on the issue of ethnic and religious conflicts, I recommend the establishment of the Religious Equity Commission, enforcement of our laws without fear or favour and maximum cooperation by all Nigerians especially our revered religious leaders and clerics.”
In making the submission, Jonathan said he totally agreed with the 2014 National Conference on the need to establish such a commission “that will have powers to arrest and prosecute those who contravene the law. If, as a nation, we do not kill religious persecution and extremism, then religious persecution and extremism will kill Nigeria.”
Jonathan recalled that even before setting up the National Conference in 2014, his government took certain initiatives to end impunity and reorient the minds of Nigerians through education, listing the establishment of 12 conventional federal universities and two specialised ones.
“Nine of the 12 federal universities were located in those states in Northern Nigeria that previously did not have any federal university. The Specialised Police University was located in Kano State, also in the North, bringing the total number of universities I established in the North of Nigeria to 10. The Specialised Maritime University was located in the Niger Delta.
“In addition to these, I also established 165 Almajiri elementary and high schools in each of the nineteen states of Northern Nigeria to combine Islamic education with Western education.”

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