Speaker of the Akwa Ibom state House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Onofiok Luke has called on the federal government to ensure proper reflection of national oil revenue in federal allocations to Akwa Ibom state. He also condemned lopsided federal appointments as well as a situation where remittances to Akwa Ibom state are not in line with national income and constitutional sharing formula.
He said there has not been a commensurate increase in revenue allocation to the state in spite of the increase in oil price and relative peace in the oil producing communities of the Niger Delta region.
The speaker made the remarks when a non-governmental organization, Friends of Democracy in Nigeria, paid him a courtesy call in his office on Monday.
“We understood the reduced allocation to the state when there was a drop in oil price. We understood when there were disruptions in oil producing communities in the region. But we have had a consistent rise in oil price in the past months, and we are meeting our production targets without any disruption. But we are still getting same allocation as we did when the price of oil per barrel was down and when there were disruptions by militants in the region. When explanation has the federal government to give?”
He said fairness and justice is paramount in the sustenance of democracy and peace in the Niger Delta region.
“Democracy can only thrive in an atmosphere of justice, peace and fairness. We are not agitating for an increase in the percentage of allocation. We are only saying that which is produced and that which the constitution has reapproved for sharing should be so done. If we do this, this issue of agitation will be stemmed. The question may be asked on how well previous earnings were put to use by the people. But there are improvements today. The people of the region are holding their leaders accountable today than they did in the past.”
He urged the group to make agitation for the federal government and international oil companies to fully remit funds due to the Niger Delta to the region.
“Let all the funds due Niger Delta be remitted by the IOCs and even the federal government. While you are funding the North East Development Commission, you must fund the Niger Delta Development Commission to the fullest. Agitation for our full remittances by the IOCs and the federal government should be a priority of Friends of Democracy. When this is done, the Friends of Democracy should follow up by asking how these funds are put to use by the governments in the region for the development of the region.
“Beyond this, Friends of Democracy must begin to talk about recruitments into security agencies in the country. A situation of lopsidedness in recruitments is unjust. These are the things which can disrupt democracy, and to strengthen our democracy, we must be able to correct these imbalances. There has to be fairness, equity and balance. I am not saying because we produce everything, we should take everything.”
Earlier, the Friends of Democracy in Nigeria delegation said it was in the state assembly to dialogue with the leadership of the house ahead of the 1999 constitution review exercise.
“While the state houses of assembly has the constitutional mandate to vote on the amendments, it is expected that they will consult with their various constituents before casting their votes in line with the wishes of those they represent”, the group said in a constitutional amendment bill information sheet presented to Speaker Luke.
Speaker Luke said the house will in line with its open legislature policy keep the constitution amendment bill open for public input when transmitted to it by the national assembly.
“We are going to subject the bill to public hearing. We need our inputs to be a reflection of Akwa Ibom people. They will be made up of traditional leaders, representative of youth and women groups, professional bodies, religious leaders and non-governmental organizations.”
He said the house will also embark on a sensitization of the people so they could make proper inputs to the bill during the public hearing. He informed the group that a constitution review ad hoc committee had been set up by the state house of assembly in anticipation of the amendment exercise. The ad hoc committee is headed by the House Leader, Sir Udo Kerian Akpan from Oruk Anam state constituency.