How South/South states, aside from Rivers spent their 13 per cent derivation arrears from the federal government is causing ripples among the people in the Zone.
This followed the revelation of Governor Nyesom Wike that President Muhammadu Buhari approved and paid the arrears to Rivers, Bayelsa, Delta, Edo and Akwa Ibom states.
Wike spoke on the arrears last Friday during the inauguration of the N17billion Port Harcourt Campus of the Nigerian Law School.
The governor said President Buhari’s gesture was the major source of revenue for his projects, including the flyovers, the law school and the cancer centre.
He said: “Monies that were not paid to the Niger Delta states since 1999 mainly 13 per cent deductions, the President approved and paid all of us in Niger Delta states.”
Wike repeated his comments at two other events afterwards.
Stakeholders have started asking questions of their governors on how they spent or are spending their shares of the money.
Delta Governor Ifeanyi Okowa said the state had drawn only N30billion from its accrued share of N270billion from the 13 per cent derivation arrears.
Okowa said his administration earlier disclosed to Deltans the state’s share of N270billion.
He said his administration opted to access its share through a bridge finance loan of N150billion from a bank.
Okowa, who spoke through his Chief Press Secretary, Olisa Ifeajika, said the N150billion bridge finance loan was a discounting of receivables from the Federal Government for petroleum subsidy payments made without recourse to the 13 per cent derivation due to oil-producing states from 2010 to date.
He said the funds totalling N270.6billion ought to have been received long ago but because the Federal Government could not pay it in bulk, the oil-producing states agreed for some part of it to be paid within three years and the other within five years.
He said: “Okowa told Deltans that the Federal Government owed Delta arrears of 13 per cent, which amounted to N270 billion. Okowa did not hide the fact that the Federal Government promised to pay the arrears.”
He said of the N150billion loan, only N30billion had been drawn by his administration.
Bayelsa stakeholders took to social media over the slow pace of development amidst huge resources.
A resident, Nimizuo Pereseigha, said: “So, the big question is, What happened to Bayelsa’s share of the money paid by the Federal Government?”
Commissioner for Finance, Maxwell Ibiba, said: “The state will address the issue tomorrow (today). Kindly contact the Commissioner for Information.”
Commissioner for Information, Orientation and Strategy, Ayibaina Duba, did not pick up calls or respond to messages sent to him.
A coalition, Bayelsa Non-Governmental Organisations Forum (BANGOF), an umbrella body of over 40 active NGOs in the state, said it was expecting answers.
Its coordinator, Dauseye Torki, said: “We just wrote a letter to the Bayelsa State Government through the Ministry of Finance for the procurement plan on what they planned to do in 2022.
“That will help us to monitor the projects that are done in the state.
“We will also have the information on how much they are receiving every month and there will be a thorough analysis of what they have done.”
Chairman of Phase 2 of the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP), Imoh Okoko, urged the Federal Government to probe the usage of the funds, especially by Akwa Ibom.
He lamented the deplorable state of infrastructure and condition of living in oil-producing local government areas of Eket, Ibeno, Eastern Obolo, Mbo, Ikot Abasi and Esit Eket.
He said: “The oil-bearing areas in the state lack basic infrastructure such access roads, internal roads, hospitals, and potable drinking water, among others.
“I want the Federal Government, civil society groups, traditional rulers, stakeholders and the ordinary people to ask Governor Udom Emmanuel what he has been using the derivation money for.”
Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) plan to use the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act to compel the Obaseki administration to account for the money.
One of their leaders, Kola Edokpayi, said the residents would no longer keep quiet but would demand accountability from the governor.
The frontline rights activist said: “God bless Governor Wike for exposing the non-performing governors in the crude oil and gas-rich Niger Delta region, who collected huge derivation funds and arrears, but without any project on the ground to justify the monies.”
The Itsekiri Liberation Group (ILG) urged Governor Okowa to account for Delta state’s share.
Its coordinator, Oris Mone, said the funds should reflect in massive developmental and infrastructural projects, as seen in Rivers.
“The only thing we can do is to call out our governor, Dr. Okowa. We are asking him: ‘Where is our money?’ Is he saying it? Has it been looted? Has it been diverted for other purposes?”