By Akanimo Sampson
Oil-producing governors of Southern Nigeria are persuading President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately constitute the governing board for the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
According to them, the interventionist agency will play a great role in the regional development of the Niger Delta.
The governors have also agreed to restart the BRACED Commission and ensure that they provide the necessary logistics for it to function properly.
The commission as established was to help the governors look into the issues of the regional economy and the need for them to develop the environmentally despoiled oil and gas region collectively, instead of working as individual states.
They equally resolved on Thursday to set up a regional security outfit like Amotekun of Western Nigeria to complement the effort of the Police and other security agencies in the task of policing the region.
The oil governors who met in Asaba strongly resolved to revive the Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa-Ibom, Cross Rivers, Edo and Delta (BRACED) Commission.
BRACED states in their last summit in 2012 in Asaba, mapped policy frameworks aimed at deepening regional integration.
Those in attendance at the meeting then were Seriake Dickson (Bayelsa State), Chibuike Amaechi (Rivers), Godswill Akpabio (Akwa Ibom), Liyel Imoke (Cross River), Adams Oshiomhole (Edo State), and the host, Emmanuel Uduaghan (Delta).
BRACED states had planned to review the policies and regulations on power and gas to enable the states to generate, transmit and distribute power.
In pursuit of this, they agreed to set a Niger Delta Energy Corridor, a project with the potential for connecting the people, industry and natural resources and creating jobs.
To maximally reap the benefits of economic integration, the BRACED states agreed also to develop integrated transport facilities in the region through a balanced development of rail, roads, waterways, and airport facilities.
The latest meeting was attended by all the oil governors, except Governor Ben Ayade of Cross Rivers. They, however, agreed that the BRACED Commission will handle the formation of the local security outfit.
Briefing newsmen after the closed-door meeting which lasted for about two hours, Chairman of the South-South Governors’ Forum, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa says they have also resolved to tackle the Presidency on the need to remove 13 percent oil derivation for the oil-producing states as enshrined in the constitution before allocations to all the states by the Federal Account Allocation Committee (FAAC.)
“Five out of the six state governors of the South-South geopolitical region have just finished with our South-South Forum’s meeting, where far-reaching decisions were taken. Our colleague the governor of Cross Rivers, Prof Ben Ayade was held up at Abuja, so could not make it,” he said.
Continuing, he says, “we had a very enriching meeting and a decisive decision was taken concerning the BRACED Commission, which was started about ten years ago by our colleagues, who were former governors before us.
“A lot has been done in terms of documentation in the past. And in the last five years, the commission has almost gone to sleep. But we have agreed we have to restart it with headquarters in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, with our next meeting coming up in May, in Port Harcourt.
“We also took other decisions concerning the issue of FAAC allocations and the need to be able to stress very importantly that in every allocation that is being done, thirteen percent derivation must first be taken out from the funds that come from oil economy before the rest of the money is shared at FAAC. The 13 percent is meant for oil-producing states. That has not been the situation for a very long time. We have agreed as governors to take up the matter at the appropriate levels.
“We have also taken on the issues of the NDDC and the need to urge Mr. President to constitute the governing board by the advisory board of the NDDC, which has a major role to play in advisory capacity, because we believe there are lots for NDDC to do in terms of regional projects, rather than taking on small projects. This we have to work on as quickly as possible.
“With the briefing by the DG of the BRACED Commission, Ambassador Joe Keshi, who is with us, there are lots of documentations that have taken place in the last few years, which we will look into. We also took on the issues of security, which I am sure a lot of you are waiting on that, we have agreed as a region there is a need to have a regional security outfit. We have mandated the BRACED Commission to work out details, which they will brief us at our next meeting in Port Harcourt.’’
On Lassa fever and looming coronavirus, he said, “Our decision is that the commissioners for health in the six states, who are experienced and who understands the protocols we need to urgently meet, they are going to meet almost immediately on how to contain the Lassa fever epidemics that is on and how to tackle the issue of Coronavirus, in case it extends to this region. It is important we prepare ourselves should it spread to our region.”