Chief Wellington Okirika, aka Mr. 13% Derivation, has been in the struggle for the emancipation of the people of the Niger Delta from deprivation and denial of their God-given resources. He was there when the first derivation principle was negotiated and approved by military administration and when in 1999, the then President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was foot-dragging on the implementation of the 13% derivation fund, as is contained in the 1999 constitution, Chief Okirika and other notable Niger Deltans piled up pressure on the authority, leading to its subsequent implementation under the then governor of Delta State, Chief James OnanefeIbori. In this interview, Chief Okirika traced the origin of the 13% derivation fund and how the present crop of governors of the Niger Delta region are insisting on managing the fund which originally is meant for the development of oil and gas communities.
What is your response to Governor Okowa’s position on the communities’ agitation for 13% derivation fund?
I have a response but you know, as a founding father and as a leader, I’m just listening to the comments and views of other people. As a founding father of this derivation agitation, I’m very happy that our people are getting more enlightened about their rights. First of all, it is good to talk about the origin of 13%. Many people did not know how it came about. Even the governors who are today managing this fund were in school when the communities started the fight. Can I just read a section of some of the write-ups that have been circulating so that you could be abreast? “It is necessary to recall that the advocacy and agitation for the actualization of 13% derivation fund were carried out solely by the oil and gas producing communities under the leadership of Chief W.O. Okirika, Mr. 13% Derivation Fund and others at the 1995 Constitutional Conference during the regime of Gen. Sanni Abacha. There was no state governor or any other per-son that assisted the oil and gas producing communities”. That is very important. “Gen. Sanni Abacha regime promulgated and gazetted the principle of increase of federal allocation to oil and gas producing communities as 13% derivation fund.”
Two, it is also important to recall that during the making of the 1999 Constitution, oil and gas communities still under the leadership of Chief W.O. Okirika, CON, piled up the pressure to ensure that the 13% derivation fund which was gazetted was enshrined as Section 162(2) of the 1999 Constitution as we see today. Therefore, 13% derivation fund is no mana from heaven. Oil and gas communities fought for it. During the 1999 and 1995 Constitutional Conference where were the governors? Some of them were in school at that time or somewhere else, the governors of today. Therefore, the oil and gas communities must benefit from the 13% derivation fund because they fought for it. So, that is the origin.
Now, 13% derivation fund, by the pro-vision of Section 162(2) of the 1999 Constitution, becomes the first line charge on the federation account. The remaining 87% of the total oil revenue, is now shared by the federal government, the state government, and the local government. The revenue formula confirms that, that the federal government, the state government, and the local government share the balance 87%. So, it is, therefore, true that 13% derivation is the first line charge, the federal government is the second line charge, the state government is the third line charge and the local government is the fourth line charge.
Why would you on earth, in view of natural justice and the provision in the constitution, pay a first line charge to a third line charge? What kind of madness is that? All first-line charges are paid directly to the beneficiaries. Today, we are talking about the judiciary and National Assembly becoming beneficiaries because they have become the first-line charge. So, their money goes to them directly. Why would you now take first line charge of this big amount of money and give it to somebody that is a third line charge? So, it is an invitation to chaos, confusion, and trouble. And that is what has happened. So, if 13% is the first line charge and you know that oil and gas is on the exclusive legislative list, any matter that is on the exclusive legislative list, it is the President that has the jurisdiction and the prerogative. It is not the state government or any State House of Assembly. This is because any matter on the exclusive legislative list the state government does not go there. They are now the people in charge of the 13% derivation fund. It is gross illegality; it is unconstitutional; it is so annoying that people just turn their heads away from it because they are benefitting from the proceeds of wrong-doing. That is what has happened. That is the cause of the Niger Delta crisis. If this money has been going to the oil and gas producing communities, why would there be a crisis Niger Delta? You go to the area there is abject poverty, penury, and hunger while somebody is using their money on their behalf without
Chief (Dr.) Wellington O. Okirika (CON), The pioneer Executive Chairman of Delta State Oil Producing Area Development Commission (DESOPADEC)
consulting them. So, that is the basis of the Niger Delta crisis. And we leaders have been saying, give this money to them. You don’t need to go to school to know how to spend your money. Must you be a governor before you know how to spend your money?
The governors have their allocation. They are third line charge. They should be satisfied with their third line charge allocation. The communities should manage, in whichever way, the federal government wants to direct or Mr. President wants to direct, to manage their own first line charge. This is what we have been saying. Today now, it has gone viral. The communities have now known their rights and they are shouting.
Even at that, there is a precedent already. During the presidency of Shehu Shagari, the money to mineral producing areas was 1.5%. So, because oil and gas has been on the exclusive legislative list from the beginning. Before the 1999 constitution, it has always been in the exclusive legislative list of Mr. President. So, he now directed because of the exclusive legislative list to man- age the 1.5% derivation fund to the mineral producing areas by creating a platform called Presidential Monitoring Committee, PMC, and State Implementation Committee, SIC. I was a member of the State Implementation Committee when we were in Bendel. Our leader, Barr. Jamie was a member, he is alive. So, these things have been done. There was a precedent. But the government of the day never believe in law and order, they never believe in anything. They knew this was the principle. The 13% has been managed by Shehu Shagari, an elected president. He had governors then. He did not send it through the governors. He knew the law. He set up Presidential Monitoring Committee to ensure that this money was actually used by the oil producing communities; he set up State Implementation Committee in each area where there is oil and gas.
So, these things are there but when you tell them they say go to hell. So, the truth of the matter is that there is a precedent. Mr. President wants to do it but the governors I know are piling pressure. Why piling pressure for the thing that was given to you by former President Obasanjo to manage on behalf of the people? Now, the people are saying enough is enough, don’t manage our money for us, give it to us. So, why the pressure, why are they agitated?
Sir, some persons are saying that Chief Wellington Okirika was made the pioneer chairman of DESOPADEC to manage the 13% on behalf of the communities. You were receiving 50% of the amount monthly and the people are saying that you did not complain of the illegality you are alluding to now as at that time. How do you react to that?
That is another issue. When this illegality started, as soon as President Obasanjo gave the money to the governors, we started advocacy and agitation. We went everywhere. Then there was a coastal meeting which was attended by President Obasanjo where he directed, because the problem was getting too much, that the state governors to go and set up oil commissions and give 50% to the Communities to manage directly. When President Obasanjo in good faith gave that order, only some states that created commis- sions. Bayelsa, Rivers and Delta ignored that order. So, after a long discussion, the then governor, Chief James OnanefeIbori now created the Commission, Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission, DES- OPADEC. But we insisted that it was an illegality. And that state government