Niger Delta elders’ group urges federalism, 50% derivation
An elders’ group, Niger Delta Elders and Leaders Forum, has advocated true federalism and increase of derivation for the region from the current 13 per cent to 50 per cent as panacea to peace.
The elders said that the Niger Delta people were averse to Federal Government’s “cosmetic peace” approach in the region and insisted that only holistic approach, including the provision of needed infrastructure, could ensure sustainable peace and security in the region.
The group, which spoke through its Co-ordinator, Chief Mike Loyibo, in an interview in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, said the Niger Delta, which has been impoverished by successive governments wants the region to be upgraded to the standard of Lagos and Abuja.
Loyibo stated: ‘’In the Niger Delta, we want true federalism; we want derivation to increase from 13 per cent to 50 per cent; we want the infrastructure in the region to be upgraded to the standard of Abuja and Lagos, we want schools, hospitals, roads and empowerment, among others.
‘’We are averse to cosmetic peace approach by the government. We have a situation, for instance, when there are bombings, the government comes and deceives you with one approach and you will forget your agitations.
‘’After that one, there will be another set of freedom fighters that will come and fight for a better deal for the area. So, what we want is, if you address and turn the Niger Delta to Abuja and Lagos standards, it is we the leaders that will even help the Federal Government to identify the troublemakers in the area.
‘’Good things do not hide; your development will swallow every pocket of criminal aspects in the struggle. That is why we do not want cosmetic peace. We insist on a holistic approach by solving the problem once and for all. By so doing, there will be peace, growth and development of the Niger Delta.’’
He further urged the Federal Government to revert to the 1958 era where regions had control of their resources and paid commensurate tax to the centre (Federal Government), saying the principle would end agitations in the various zones of the country.
‘’During that era, the West was producing cocoa and paying tax to the Federal Government and the North, groundnut and they were paying tax to the government and that is true federalism.
‘’We must restructure Nigeria for every section to develop at its own pace. That is the thinking of the ordinary people that I represent in the Niger Delta.”
‘’We are concerned about the environmental problem, the economic problem, the infrastructure problem and even the political problem.
‘’We want to be seen to be actually involved because we are not second-class citizens; anywhere in the world, we are first-class citizens and Nigeria belongs to all of us. All of us are equal people, there is no part that can intimidate any other.’’