BusinessDay

Nigeria can’t make progress unless restructuring, resource control embraced – Okowa

Delta State governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, on Wednesday said states in the SouthSouth region were united in the quest for restructuring of the country, asserting that the country was not making progress as it ought to because issues of restructuring and resource control were yet to be addressed.

Okowa stated this at his quarterly interaction with journalists in Asaba. The governor, who is the chairman, SouthSouth Governors’ Forum, said there was a need to restructure the country to pave the way for the devolution of more power to states and local governments.

He disclosed that restructuring and resource control, as well as security, would form a major plank of the discussion at a meeting between a Presidential delegation and leaders of the South-south billed for Port Harcourt on Friday.

“The South-south governors have been at the forefront for the devolution of power to states and local governments.

“Restructuring, resource control and security of the country, especially in the Niger Delta will be a major topic of discussion at the Presidential parley coming up in Port Harcourt,” he said.

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Responding to a question on the gold deposit in Zamfara and the state government’s claim of ownership, Okowa said that there were Acts of the National Assembly that deal with oil production and solid minerals.

“We cannot apply laws in such a manner that it becomes discriminatory because you cannot mine solid minerals somewhere in Zamfara and you can’t allow Niger Delta to manage their oil,’’ he said.

On complaints from oil-producing communities, he said that there was an ongoing process to ensure that what gets to the communities is statutorily enshrined in the constitution or in the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB).

Okowa said governors in the South-south were doing well in managing the 13 percent derivation fund to their states.

“The kind of money we spend, especially on road construction in the Niger Delta is very huge compared to what other states spend and we also spend lots of money securing oil facilities and keeping peace in the region.

“We have our DESOPADEC managing the derivation funds and I am convinced that they are doing their best to make life better for the oil-producing communities.

“We have been shortchanged severally because we are not in control of how the funds are distributed. There is a lot of money being owed us on the derivation and we are working very hard to get the Federal Government to pay us because it will help us in our budget to provide more for the oil-producing communities.

“If every community rises up to control their resources then there will be chaos and anarchy,” he said.

The governor hinted that the state government may employ more teachers in the first quarter of 2021 to cater for newly established technical colleges being constructed across the state.

“In 2021 we will employ more teachers basically in Science and Technical Education. We will employ according to needs and not according to pressure.”

He said that his administration had completed many road projects, including the OvworEffurun-otor Bridge in Ughelli South Council Area, adding that the government had also awarded and mobilised contractors for two major storm drainage projects in Warri, Uvwie and environs.

“We have mobilised them and I hope they work well in this dry season because without tackling the drainage systems in Warri, any road constructed there will not last,’’ he stated.