. Akwa Ibom Deputy Governor, Mr Moses Ekpo (M), Speaker of the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, Onofiok Luke (L) & others at the public hearing/stakeholders meeting on the proposed constitution amendment on Monday
Following the announced withdrawal of 1billion dollars by the federal government to fight Boko Haram in the North-east region of the country, the Speaker of the Akwa Ibom state House of Assembly, Onofiok Luke, has reiterated his call on the Federal Government to take necessary steps to ensure an equal release of funds for development programmes in the oil-rich Niger Delta region.
Mr Luke also questioned the imbalances in the remittances to federal government accounts which reflect in the remittances to states, especially those of the Niger Delta region.
Making the remarks at the public hearing and stakeholder meeting on the proposed constitution amendment, Speaker Luke said meeting the development needs of the region would be a direct reward for the drastic reduction in restiveness in the region.
“There has to be a reward for the peace in the Niger delta; we must learn to reward peace and decorum in this country.
“We have today approved the release of 1billion dollar in one fell swoop to quell boko haram activities; we have no problem at all with securing our brothers and sisters.
“But the money approved for the cleanup of Ogoni has not been released till today.
” That cleanup has not gone to the level that it ought to go to, but we have gotten one billion dollars for the fight against Boko Haram. We are not quarreling with this. All that we are demanding is a level playing turf.
“The same way you are making quick release of jumbo funds for the fighting of Boko Haram, you should be able to give even more towards development and as an appreciation of the peace that we have ensured in Akwa Ibom.
“You should be able to do this through developing the states and funding federal projects in the region which produces the wealth from where the Excess Crude Oil account is funded.”
Speaking on the issue of devolution of power which the House will also vote on after Monday’s public hearing, Speaker Luke said: “So many times, the federal government has failed to give the Niger Delta region its dues.
“Our dues have not been given to the state governments as they ought to. These are issues that devolution of power and restructuring will address”.
He questioned the imbalances in the remittances of the dues from what is earned by the federation to the respective states.
“When this administration started in 2015, we had plunging oil prices. At some point, price per barrel stood at about 30 dollars.
“What we were sharing monthly from the federation account at the time sometimes stood at just about 400 billion and 500 billion.
“The situation was hardly different in 2016. When we got to 2017 however, prices rose from 30 dollars per barrel to 40 dollars, then to 50 dollars and to more than 60 dollars per barrel, and we are still producing more than 2million barrels per day as it used to be the case; there is no force majeure that has affected production. Yet we are not sharing what we ought to share from what is accrued.
“Now, where is the remaining money? Why are we still sharing the same sum that we shared while oil price was as low as 30 dollar per barrel?
“We are asking for the remittances of these monies from NNPC and from subsidiaries to the federation account and for improvement in the monies shared to the state.”
He urged participants at the public hearing to ask questions and to hold government at all levels accountable.
“And when we come back to the state, I am asking you the stakeholders of Akwa Ibom state not to allow familiarity and complacency to make you not ask us in public offices to make accounts.
“Whether you are my brother or sister, you have given us the mandate ranging from the Governor to the Speaker and to members of the Akwa Ibom state House of Assembly.
“Please ask us to account for the monies that have come into the state. Ask the state legislature to say what our appropriations are, what we have done with the public accounts.
“When we don’t ask for accountability, the people suffer. It is our thinking that Akwa Ibom can attain the future that we hope to see.
“And we can only achieve this if the populace ask for accountability and we make accounts and run a transparent government as is currently the case under the leadership of Governor Udom Emmanuel with the support of the state legislature.”
The Akwa Ibom state House of Assembly is one of the 36 state assemblies nationwide expected to vote on 15 items for alteration in the 1999 constitution as forwarded to the assemblies.
“Hundreds of participants were present at Monday’s public hearing to speak on the items in the 15 items transmitted to the house for the proposed alterations.
Speaking also on Monday, the state governor, Mr Udom Emmanuel, who was represented on the occasion by the Deputy Governor, Mr Moses Ekpo, thanked the House of Assembly for organising the public hearing on the amendment of the constitution. He promised that the leadership of the state will accept the position of the people on the amendments.
Present at the public hearing were former federal and state lawmakers, local government chairmen, royal fathers, youth and student groups, civil liberties organizations, labour and trade unions.
The house had earlier set up an ad hoc committee headed by Rt. Hon. Udo Kerian Akpan to meet with stakeholders and members of the public on the proposed amendments so as to enable the house vote on the 15 items in line with the wishes of Akwa Ibom people.