Confab: Minority Report Wants State Police, Resource Control
As the National Conference begins its journey to the end, a delegate , Ms. Ankio Briggs, has submitted a minority report, demanding the devolution of power to the states with respect to the mineral resources and their exploitation, land use and environmental degradation. In addition, the report demanded the creation of state police in the country. The 13-page minority report was submitted to the Conference leadership on Monday.
Briggs is an ally of President Goodluck Jonathan and served in the Committee on Devolution of Power co-chaired by a former governor of Akwa Ibom State, Victo Attah, and a former Inspector General of Police and Chairman, Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, Ibrahim Coomassie.
The Committee had retained Item 39, which deals with the exploration of mines, minerals, including oil fields, geological surveys and natural gas on the Exclusive Legislative List, but recommended that the state could only be involved in the exploratory activities, but not control. The Committee also retained the 13 per cent derivation fund to oil producing states.
The report said the central government could not guarantee the survival of communities in the sites of extraction hence it was imperative to devolve the power to control resources to the states.
“In effect, mineral resources and environment should be matters under the jurisdiction of states of the Federation,” the delegate added. “This will enable states to take the appropriate measures to protect the natural environment and the communities.”
She also called for the creation of a Development Fund for Communities as is obtainable with the Nigeria Mineral Act, 2007, stressing that the aspect of the Mineral and Mining Act that relates to communities and their development should also apply to petroleum bearing communities.
“What is good for one should also be good for the other. Nigerian laws should not discriminate against the minorities of the Niger Delta. Are we not supposed to be equal citizens of this country?” she stated.
On derivation fund, Ms. Briggs said, “My position on the Principle of Derivation with respect to revenues from all mineral resources is that Nigeria should revert to the principle and practice of federalism as was obtainable in the years preceding Independence and in the First Republic.
She recommended that the new Constitution of Nigeria should provide for the ownership of natural resources by the states, which should now pay no more than 50 per cent of the revenue from the exploration of those resources to the federation.
The delegate said, “As an addition, it is my recommendation that 10 per cent of the proceeds from the exploitation of mineral resources should be set aside for communities directly affected by minerals exploitation activities.
Such a fund would help in ameliorating the environmental degradation and other factors that lead to loss of community livelihoods in the state of extraction.
“It is important to note that the principle of state ownership of natural resources and the Derivation Principle are not for oil and gas alone, but for all mineral resources, including bitumen and solid minerals. States of the federation stand to gain badly needed development funds from abundant mineral resources in their various domain.”
The delegate stated that from 2006 to 2009, oil production in Nigeria was almost completely halted by militants and insurgents from the Niger Delta. According to her, it was only true federalism that could save the country from brinks.
“It is only a restoration of the principle of true federalism, including the ownership and co-management of natural resources by the federating units that can save Nigeria from brink to which it is so progressively tottering towards,” she warned.
Ms. Briggs also called for the implementation of the United Nation Environmental Program, UNEP, Report on the pollution in the Ogoni environment.
The report, she said, noted that it would take up to 30 years to clean up the oil spillage in Ogoniland alone and this could involve costs in this region of $1 billion. She argued that if it would take that amount to clean up Ogoniland, it would take over $250 billion to clean up the entire Niger Delta.
On state police, Ms. Briggs said it was not possible to have states making laws without having a police to enforce the laws.
“Let us not deceive ourselves, there are several pseudo state police arrangements in different parts of the country, from Bakassi Boys to Sharia Police etc,” she said.
“Regulating state police to perform properly defined roles, following due process would eliminate the negative attribute of informal security setups. I therefore suggest that state police be allowed to operate in cooperation and coordination with the federal police.”
In the 2005 National Political Reform Conference, NPRC, only a delegate from Bayelsa State, Oronto Douglas, submitted a minority report.
Mr. Oronto who served in the 21-member Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, in the reported dated May 9, 2005 said the report of the Committee did not contain far-reaching recommendations that would drastically address the multifarious problems of the Nigeria environment.