The Southern governors’ position on raging national issues, on Tuesday, 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 the removal of electronic transmission of results from the Electoral Act Amendment Bill.
They also agreed to commence an open grazing ban on September 1, opposed a 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 a three per cent share of oil revenue for host communities, the House of Representatives’ version provided for five per cent. The southern governors rejected three per cent and accepted five per cent.
Meanwhile, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, has assured that only the authentic Electoral Act amendment report would be passed into law.
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.
Southern Reps Caucus’ Stand
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”.