The Southern governors’ position on raging national issues, yesterday, raised dust in the polity, eliciting support and criticisms in many quarters.
Rising from a meeting attended by 15 of the 17 state governments in the South on Monday, the governors, among others, insisted on power shift to the South in 2023, and rejected removal of electronic transmission of results from the Electoral Act Amendment Bill.
They also agreed to commence open grazing ban on September 1, opposed three per cent share of oil revenue for host communities and 30 per cent share of profit for the exploration of oil and gas in the frontier basins in the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, just passed into law.
While the governors got the backing of southern members of the House of Representatives, Afenifere, Middle Belt Forum, MBF, and PANDEF, immediate past Secretary-General of the Arewa Consultative Forum, Mr. Anthony Sani; and the Coalition of Northern Groups, CNG, criticized them.
Indeed, the CNG said southern governors could not stampede the North to get the Presidency.
This came as the Senate raised a seven-member conference committee to look at the controversies trailing the PIB and alleged plans by the National Assembly to expunge from the Electoral Bill amendment the clause on electronic transmission of election results..
While the Senate version of the bill proposed three per cent share of oil revenue for host communities, the House of Representatives’ version provided for five percent. The southern governors rejected three per cent and accepted five per cent.
Meanwhile, speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, has assured that only the authentic Electoral Act amendment report would be passed into law.
READ ALSO: Akeredolu leads Southern govs in crucial Lagos meeting
Also, South-West governors held meeting with federal lawmakers from the zone on the PIB, amendment of the electoral law and other burning issues.
Held at Osun Hall, Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja, the meeting was on-going at press time.
We agree with our govs on power shift, PIB – Southern Reps Caucus
Reacting to the issue, the Southern Caucus of the House of Representatives backed the resolutions of the Southern Governors’ Forum that the next President of Nigeria should emerge from the South.
The legislators gave their support through a press statement by their leader, Victor Nwokolo.
They also supported the Southern governors’ rejection of Senate’s three per cent proposal for oil communities and exclusion of a clause proposing electronic transmission of election results in the 2023 elections.
“This resolution by the Southern governors reinforces our stance, as federal lawmakers, that our nation must and should exist on the pillars of justice, equity, fairness, peaceful co-existence and mutual respect, particularly in the political, economic and structural management of our national diversity.
“We note that the demand that the next President of Nigeria should come from the southern region unambiguously represents the opinion of majority of Nigerians across board, in tandem with the already established rotation of presidency position between Southern and Northern Nigeria.
“Furthermore, against the backdrop of our commitment towards free, fair, credible and transparent elections, the members of the House of Representatives from the South also support our governors in rejecting the moves to outlaw the electronic transmission of election result in the Electoral Act, as well as the confirmation of exclusive jurisdiction in pre-election matters on the Federal High Court.
“We hold that electronic transmission of results directly from the polling unit is a firm step towards the elimination of result collation related malpractices, including alteration of figures, mutilation of documents, snatching and diversion of ballot materials on transit to collation centres among others.
“The attempt to tamper with the Electoral Act to remove electronic transmission of result is therefore a malicious and unpatriotic act aimed to emasculate our electoral system, undermine our democracy and destabilize our dear country, and such cannot be condoned or justified under any guise whatsoever.
“On the Petroleum Industry Bill, the Southern members of the House of Representatives also support our governors in rejecting the proposed 30% share of profit for the exploration of oil and gas in the basins.
“We also reject moves to vest the ownership structure of the Nigeria National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC) in the Federal Ministry of Finance and support the governors in their resolve that such should be held in trust by the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) since all tiers of government have stakes in that agency,” the group stated.
“As lawmakers, we insist that the 30% share of profit as well as vesting ownership structure of the proposed NNPC on the Ministry of Finance instead of the NSIA do not reflect the desired essentials of justice, equity and fairness”.
They continued: “We however note the support lent by our governors to the five per cent share of the oil revenue to host community as recommended by the House of Representatives and we assure that every effort would be made to sustain our position at the harmonization level.
“On security, the Southern members of the House of Representatives restate our support for the establishment of state police, ban on open grazing by southern states and that state governors, as chief security officers in the states must be duly informed before any security institution undertakes any operation in their states.
“We also fully support the resolution by the governors that deductions from the Federation Account for the Nigeria Police Security Trust Fund should be distributed among the states and Federal Government to combat security challenges.’’
Only authentic Electoral Act amendment report will be passed —Gbaja
Following controversies trailing the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, House of Representatives Speaker, Gbajabiamila said the House will only consider the authentic report submitted by the House committee.
While moving a motion on the matter during Tuesday’s plenary session, Ugonna Ozuruigbo from Imo State said his constituents have been calling him to ensure the inclusion of electronic transmission of results in the final bill.
He said he was confused as there was never a time “I and my colleagues were involved in such. My constituents have called my attention that in the new electoral bill that has not yet been submitted to the House, that we carefully amended Section 50 (2).”
In response, Gbajabimila said the lawmakers will vote on each clause of the committee’s report when it is submitted to the house.
“I really don’t want to speak to a report that has not been submitted to this House. We have procedures, time-tested.
“The committee has been given an assignment, they will do their work and present its report and the House as a whole will vote on that report, clause by clause. Only the committee’s authentic report like it has always been, will take hold on the floor of the house, nothing more, nothing less.
“I have asked the chairman of that committee, she is not aware of any such. So it remains on the realm of speculations and we will be waiting until the committee submit its reports. Like I said that will be done before we close on the 14th (of July).”
We suspect foul play — Afenifere
Also reacting, the pan-Yoruba socio-political organization, Afenifere, said it suspects foul play in the whole process.
Afenifere’s National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Jare Ajayi said: “On the removal of transmission of election results electronically by the National Assembly, Afenifere considers it very unfortunate because the in-thing now, in civilized climes, is for each stage of the electoral process to be made transparent as much as possible.
The transmission of election process including election results is part of making it transparent.
“We suspect that removing it from the bill is a way of creating room for electoral malpractices as it has been happening before. The process of amending the bill is to reduce to the barest minimum areas for electoral malpractices.
“If it has been removed, the question to ask then is: Why did they start the process in the first place?”
National Assembly wants to endorse rigging in Nigeria — MBF
The Middle Belt Forum, MBF, cautioned members of the National Assembly that Nigerians would not take it kindly with them if the provision for electronic transfer of election results is removed from the Electoral Act.
National President of the MBF, Dr. Bitrus Pogu, who spoke to Vanguard in Makurdi cautioned that by removing that section of Act, the National Assembly is creating way for the 2023 elections to be rigged thereby dragging the country backward.
Hear him: “It will be the most terrible thing that the National Assembly will ever do to the people of Nigeria at this time of our political development.
“It is also retrogressive when we are supposed to be moving forward and improving on what we have to give confidence to Nigerians and credence to the electoral system.
“By removing that section, the National Assembly is only preparing and telling Nigerians that it believes in rigging. Anyone against electronic transfer of results is only preparing for rigging.
“Some of us are even saying that it should not just be the election result that should be transmitted electronically but accreditation also.
“After the accreditation they should transmit the result, figure or outcome electronically indicating that a particularly number has been accredited at a particular polling unit.
“Then when the election proper is over, they transfer the result indicating everything to allow for proper protection and handling of the figures.
“I think that Nigerians will not take it kindly if the National Assembly passes the Act without ensuring that the transfer of results electronically is included in the document to ensure transparency in the process which is good for the progress and development of Nigeria.”
What is needed is a truly independent INEC — Ohanaeze
On its part, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo said that it is interested in seeing an INEC that is truly independent than the debate over electronic transfer of election results.
According to Ohanaeze, if INEC is truly independent, they will be able to take independent decisions and conduct free, fair and credible elections.
“Our position is that INEC should be truly independent. It is only when they are truly independent that they can conduct free, fair and credible elections.
“I don’t want to bother myself with the electronic transmission of elections results, if INEC is truly independent, they will take decisions without be being influenced,” Chief Alex Chiedozie Ogbonnia, its spokesman, said.
ACF chieftain faults Southern govs resolutions
Immediate past Secretary-General of the Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, Mr. Anthony Sani, picked holes in the positions canvassed by southern governors.
In a chat with Vanguard, Sani said that electronic voting or transmission of result has never been a part of the nation’s electoral process.
He said: “I wish to point out that electronic voting process was never part of the Electoral Act of 2010 as amended; even the card reader has never been part of the Act.
“That was why Atiku Abubakar’s reliance on the central server in the nation’s electoral process was rejected by the presidential tribunal and the Supreme Court. So, the rejection of removal of electronic transmission cannot arise.
“That is to say removal from where? The Southern governors have therefore missed the mark in the struggles to include electronic voting and transmission in our electoral system.”
On the ban on open grazing by the governors, Sani said the move would have been applauded if the governors offered the herders credible alternatives apart from the ranching they are canvassing, saying: “I do not see how outright ban on open grazing backed by the state laws without provision for any viable alternative for the herders who lack the wherewithal can be implementable.
“To me, such a fiat approach can be likened to outright banning of subsistence farming of using hoes and cutlasses without any viable alternative for modern farming. Any law that is not implementable is as good as of no effect and of no use to the society,” he added.
The ACF chieftain further called on governors of oil producing states to justify the 13 per cent derivation funds being paid to them instead of demanding for more.
“Given the 13 per cent derivation to ameliorate environmental degradation of the oil producing host communities, any other provision, be it three per cent or five per cent for oil producing host communities amounts to double provisions for degradation of the environment arising from oil exploration and exploitation.
“It is therefore our view that rather than making another provision for host communities, efforts be made to manage the 13 per cent for the benefit of host communities whose environment have been degraded,” he added even as he reminded governors of the nine Niger Delta states that “the 13 per cent is not for states to build flyovers, five-star hotels and airports in state capitals.”
He also kicked against the clamour for the establishment of state police, “given the proclivity of abuse of power which state governors are known for as they have converted state electoral commissions and killed multiparty democracy at local government level.
“State police can exacerbate any conflicts that arise in those states that are diverse when pandering to their respective consanguinity, one wonders the wisdom of such misplaced agitations which should be directed at making adequate provisions for Nigerian police that would enable the force secure the nation.”
PANDEF backs Southern govs’ September timeline on open grazing ban
However, the Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, threw its weight behind the September ultimatum pegged by southern governors to enact and pass anti-grazing laws.
National Publicity Secretary of PANDEF, Hon Ken Robinson, said the target was commendable.
“His words: “We commend the governors of southern states for their commitment, determination and their courage to sustain the unity of Southern part of the country.
“Particularly, this meeting again just two months after their historic meeting at Asaba is commendable.
“We congratulate them for the far reaching decisions they made at the meeting on open grazing and rotation of power and power shift, state policing and the issue of electronic transmission of voted by INEC.
“They have realized that they are serving the people and the interest of the people should be paramount in their dealings and that is what they are doing.
“PANDEF congratulates and commends them and hopes that they will sustain this understanding and harmony that they have demonstrated so far. What they are doing is not to PANDEF, it is to the people of Southern Nigeria.
“Our people are being killed and their means of livelihood destroyed by this dangerous killer herdsmen and so this move is good for all of us.
“We expect that the governors will keep to their decisions and by September all state should have enacted and passed laws banning open grazing in their respective states.”
You can’t stampede North to get Presidency, CNG tells Southern governors
Responding to some resolutions of the governors, the Coalition of Northern Groups, CNG, said while the North may not be opposed to the democratic and credible transfer of power to any competent person from any section of the country, the North will not support power moving to the zones of those that are using threats, violence and falsehood as means for political ascendancy.
CNG said specifically, its attention was drawn to “the audacious resolve of the Southern Governors to shield felons, arsonists and mass atrocity perpetrators in their midst by challenging the prerogative of the Federal Government to enforce law and order in all parts of the country and to protect the state and innocent citizens from persons and groups whose conduct constitute grave threats to national security and public safety.”
The Northern Coalition in a statement signed by its Spokesperson, Abdul-Azeez Suleiman, noted “the gang-up against the North in particular, to force a regional shift of the presidency in 2023 by whatever means and tactics, including those that are clearly undemocratic.
“We also note the insistence by the Southern Governors on the retrogressive anti-grazing law that aims to selectively imperial the business of cattle herding and threaten the legitimate presence of pastoral communities in the South, irrespective of whether they are part of a crime committed or not.
“Having made these points clear, the CNG hereby wishes to address specific issues arising from the threats revealed in the communique released by the Southern Governors.
“The desperation of the Southern Governors to shield the assortment of criminals incite who carry out attacks, and wanton destruction of lives and properties of other citizens and national security assets has exposed the level of their complicity in the operations of the armed terror groups in the South.
“Their support for treasonable felony, by the subtle endorsement of the activities of such criminal separatist forces led by the likes of Sunday Igboho and Nnamdi Kanu, by warning the nation’s security agencies against operating in the region without obtaining permission from the governor of the particular state is a matter that must be given the seriousness it deserves.
“On national security and zoning, the CNG categorically affirmed that the North will not be stampeded or blackmailed into taking major decisions around rotating the presidency and shall insist that only a candidate who is competent and able to unite and secure Nigeria should be President in 2023, irrespective of where he or she comes from.
“On anti-grazing law, we emphatically repudiate the insistence on passing of the Anti grazing law by the Southern Governors that potentially jeopardizes the lives and property of pastoral communities in the South and call on the Federal Government to ensure their right to freedom of movement is not impeded by any legislation or obstacle imposed by a state or a community.
“We invite all northerners to note that clearly the pattern drawn from these strategies employed by the Southern Governors and elites are to achieve the results that the events of 1966 failed to realize, namely the destabilization of the country and in particular, bringing the North down on its knees by political and economic incapacitation.”
Senate constitutes 7-member conference c’ttee
The Senate has constituted a seven-man conference committee that will brainstorm with their counterparts in the House of Representatives on the passed controversial Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB
Disclosing this during plenary, yesterday, President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan, said the senators would meet with members in the lower chamber to engage them in a bid to harmonising the passed bill for onward transmission to President Muhammadu Buhari for assent.
The Conference Committee, which has the Senate Leader, Senator Yahaya Abdullahi (APC Kebbi North) as Chairman, has Senator Mohammed Sabo (APC, Jigawa South West) for North West; Senator Albert Akpan (PDP, Akwa Ibom North-East) representing South-South; Senator Danjuma Goje (APC, Gombe Central) for North-East as members.
Other members are Senator Opeyemi Bamidele (APC, Ekiti Central) representing South-West; Senator Stella Oduah (PDP, Anambra North) for South-East and Senator Gabriel Suswam (PDP, Benue North East) representing North-Central.
South West Governors, Senators, Reps insist on 5% for host communities
Governors of the South West geo-political zone of the country met with Senators and members of the House of Representatives from the Zone.
They resolved that both the two chambers must approve five percent (5%)of the actual annual operating expenditure of the preceding financial year in the upstream petroleum operations affecting the host communities for funding of the Host Communities Trust Fund in the new Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB
The Chairman of the South-West Governors and the Ondo State governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN at the end of the meeting did not mention the issue of PIB while briefing journalists.
But a source at the meeting told Vanguard that at the meeting, the governors and the Lawmakers agreed to throw their weights behind the members of House of Representatives on 5% for Host Communities.