• Order member states to promulgate anti-open grazing law by Sept. 1
• Security agencies must inform govs before any operation in states
• Ohanaeze Ndigbo demands presidency for Southeast
• Afenifere, DAWN Commission, others hail resolutions
Two months after their May 11 meeting in Delta State tagged the ‘Asaba Accord’, the Southern Governors Forum, yesterday, met in Lagos State where it declared that Nigeria’s next president should be from the southern part of the country.
Other far-reaching decisions arrived at as contained in the communiqué released, which was signed by the convener, Ondo State Governor and Chairman, Southern Governors’ Forum, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu (SAN), include a rejection of the proposed allocation of at least 30 per cent of the profit generated by the proposed Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited for the exploration of oil in ‘frontier basins’ as identified by Section 9 of the recently passed Petroleum Industry Bill; setting a timeline of September 1, 2021 for promulgation of the anti-open grazing law in all 17 member states; and asking that security agencies must notify them as chief security officers of their states before they carry out any operation within their domain.
The class of 17 governors in the now famous ‘Lagos Declaration’ unanimously agreed that the presidency of Nigeria be rotated between Southern and Northern Nigeria. The incumbent, President Muhammadu Buhari, from the Northern region will complete his two terms of eight years by May 29, 2023.
Specifically, the Southern governors want all the major political parties to field politicians from the South as their presidential candidates as they did in 1999.
Akeredolu, who read the communiqué on behalf of his colleagues, said: “The Southern Governors Forum re-affirm its commitment to the unity of Nigeria on the pillars of equity, fairness, justice, progress and peaceful co-existence between and among its people.
“The Forum reiterates its commitment to the politics of equity, fairness and unanimously agrees that the presidency of Nigeria be rotated between Southern and Northern Nigeria and resolved that the next president of Nigeria should emerge from the Southern Region.”
ON the PIB recently passed by the Senate and the House of Representatives, the governors commended the “National Assembly for the progress made in the passage of the PIB, but rejected the proposed three per cent and support the five per cent share of the oil revenue to the host community as recommended by the House of Representatives.”
The Forum while rejecting the proposed 30 per cent share of profit for the exploration of oil and gas in the basins, also rejected the ownership structure of the proposed Nigeria National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC), saying that “the company be vested in the Federal Ministry of Finance but held in trust by Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA), since all tiers of government have stakes in that vehicle.”
The bill will regulate the oil sector if signed by President Muhammadu Buhari. Although the proposed law doesn’t identify the frontier basins, a statement by the President in 2019 identified the frontier basins as Chad Basin, Gongola Basin, Sokoto Basin, Dahomey Basin, Bida Basin, Benue Trough, among others.
Currently, crude oil is obtained from eight states in the Niger Delta region, which include: Abia, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Delta, Edo, Imo, Ondo and Rivers states.
ON security, Akeredolu said the Forum reviewed the security situation in the country and commends security operatives for their relentless efforts in restoring security and safety while commiserating with families and loved ones of those who have fallen in the line of duty.
While emphasising the need for state police, it, however, resolved that henceforth, security agencies must notify governors as chief security officers of their states before they carry out any operation within their domain.
The communiqué didn’t explicitly mention the recent raid of the Department of State Services (DSS) on the Ibadan residence of Yoruba activist, Sunday Adeyemo, also known as Sunday Igboho, but the decision of the governors was a veiled reference to the incident.
It would be recalled that last Thursday around 1:00 a.m., DSS officials invaded the residence of Igboho in a Gestapo style. Though Igboho escaped the raid, his house and vehicles were riddled with bullets while bloodstains splattered on the floors of the house as two persons living with him were killed, while 13 other close associates were later paraded in Abuja on Thursday night.
The governors also frowned on selective criminal administration of justice and resolved that arrests should be made within the ambit of the law and fundamental human rights.
Other positions canvassed in the communiqué include: “That funds deducted from the Federation Account for the Nigeria Police Security Trust Fund should be distributed among the States and Federal Government to combat security challenges; In order to consolidate our democracy and strengthen the electoral process, the Forum rejects the removal of the electronic transmission of election result from the electoral act; and also rejects the confirmation of exclusive jurisdiction in pre-election matters on the Federal High Court.”
Governors present at the meeting included host, Babajide Sanwo-Olu (Lagos); Oluwarotimi Akeredolu (Ondo); Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti); Dapo Abiodun (Ogun); Seyi Makinde (Oyo); Nyesom Wike (Rivers); Adegboyega Oyetola (Osun); and Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu).
Others are Emmanuel Udom (Akwa Ibom); Diri Duoye (Bayelsa); and Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia); Ifeanyi Okowa (Delta). Edo State governor, Godwin Obaseki, was represented by his deputy, Philip Shuaibu, same for Imo, Placid Njokwu; Abia, Oko Chukwu; and Ebonyi, Kelechi Igwe. Those absent without representation were Anambra and Cross River State governors, Willie Obiano and Ben Ayade respectively.
At the first meeting in Asaba, key decisions were taken concerning the security and welfare of the country such as ban on open grazing in all southern states in a bid to provide a solution to the incessant herdsmen attacks, and advise to the Federal Government to convene a national dialogue to ensure greater inclusiveness in existing governance arrangements.
REACTING, apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, yesterday, applauded the resolution of the Southern governors for power to return to the region in 2023 and urged them to go further and allow the Southeast geo-political zone to produce the next president. Ohanaeze also gave full backing for the promulgation of the anti-open grazing law in the 17 states of the region by September 1.
National Publicity Secretary of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Alex Chiedozie Ogbonnia, insisted that political power at the centre in the country had always rotated between the North and South, stressing however, that for justice, fairness, equity and unity, the zone that had not tasted it in the region should be allowed to produce President Buhari’s successor.
Ogbonnia said: “As a matter of fact, there was this agreement reached at the NUC Hall at Abuja in 1998 between the North and the South. The agreement was that power should rotate between the north and the south. The man who spoke for the Igbos on that day was Chuba Okadigbo while Abubakar Rimi spoke for the North. It was agreed that the first shot should go to a southerner, which now became Obasanjo/Alex Ekwueme. Then after Obasanjo, it shifted to the North. It had been alternating between the two regions since then.
“Now that the North is serving out their tenure, it is supposed to return to the South. Ohanaeze is happy with their decision. We welcome the idea, but beyond that, when you talk about South, it should be Southeast. Having secured it in the south, we are now urging all the Southern governors to understand why it should be in the Southeast for purposes of equity, fairness and justice.”
Leader of Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, also commended the Southern governors, calling them true sons of their fathers and true elected representatives of their people. Adebanjo also lauded the courage with which the governors took the resolutions to tell the Federal Government the blunt truth.
He said: “I endorsed their resolutions. The insult Buhari administration is passing to the South is too much. The President challenged the Southern part of the country and for the first time we have governors who stood up to the excesses of the Northern oligarchy. No ethnic group can continue to dominate others, we all have equal stake in the project Nigeria.”
In similar vein, a chieftain of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Olabiyi Durojaiye, said the governors did well by the resolutions but said what they demanded was just a piecemeal instead of the total review of the 1999 Constitution.
Durojaiye said he was happy that the governors did not speak about secession, which according to him would have meant another thing, “but they emphasised on state police, determination to legislate on banning of open grazing and their stance against planned removal of electronic transmission of votes in the New Amendment Bill.”
Similarly, Director General, Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN), Mr. Seye Oyeleye, said the resolutions of the governors speak volume about the unity and corporate existence of Nigeria. According to him, “it is only appropriate for the presidency to return to the South after the eight years of the North.”
In another reaction, Yoruba Ronu Leadership Forum said the governors’ position will put the nation on a good road to the recovery of her beauty among the comity of nations. In a statement, President of the group, Akin Malaolu, said the objections of the governors over what host and producing communities will take for government’s mining of oil on their indigenous lands as stated in the PIB, including the reconfiguration of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) deserves scrutiny.
Also, prominent civil rights advocacy group, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has thrown its weight behind the landmark decisions of the Southern governors, which the group said are strategic towards sustainable development and promotion of enduring constitutional democracy in the country.
HURIWA said the essence of having a unified approach by the Southern governors is to ensure that Nigeria does not slide into one man’s dictatorship, which is exactly what President Buhari wants to achieve by seeking to appropriate ancestral lands of different ethnicities to be awarded freely to his Fulani kinsmen for the purposes of carrying out their private business.
In a statement by the National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, and the National Media Affairs Director, Miss Zainab Yusuf, the rights group said the decision of the Southern governors to give an implementable deadline for the enforcement of the ban on open grazing of cows is worthwhile.
The group said the arbitrary, unilateral and unconstitutional move by President Buhari to violate the extant Land Use Act of 1978 just to carve out lands from all over the country for the purposes of unbridled open grazing by private owners of cows who are mostly the President’s kinsmen, was an affront to the principles of federalism and the clear provisions of the Land Use Act.
HURIWA also asked the Southern governors to stand their ground and resist any attempt no matter how brazen by the President to illegally annex the ancestral lands of their states and their native peoples, a presidential action that is at variant with the provisions of the Land Use Act without due process.