Fatima Ibrahim is a Kaduna state delegate to the National Conference and the immediate past Assistant Publicity Secretary of the Arewa Consultative Forum. She gave reasons why the Northern delegates are opposed to arbitrary increment of derivation percentage to the Niger Delta. She spoke to Patrick Andrew yesterday.
Suddenly, the calm situation seems to have degenerated into tense atmosphere at the confab, why is that?
As you know, we are talking about devolution of power. Sadly, we keep talking about sharing money to the detriment of other recommendations. There are so many things happening in this country which, if tackled, we will not be talking about devolution of power. For example, the insecurity in the country does not affect only one region but it affects the whole country. It’s frightening and there is the unemployment, Chibok girls and other concerns which should be our immediate concerns.
We have not even talked about the fate of those girls, instead, we are not talking about sharing of money. Every region is fighting for its interest, the oil producing areas want a certain percentage and at the end of the day it baffles me why some want so much money when they can’t account for the little they have got.
But the Niger Delta people have painted a picture of grievous environmental degradation of their region?
We know what they are going through: the gas flaring and environmental problems. These problems are causes for concern. Also, there is the issue of youth restiveness in the region. You can imagine your own house produces something and here you are unable to benefit from it. It is rather unfortunate.
But then, if you look at other regions, we all have our peculiar problems. For example, look at Plateau state, the mining issue; the people there need help as well. Again, look at the North East, we are advocating for a special fund for the people that are being subjected to problems innocently.
The innocent Chibok girls are at the receiving end. Why don’t we be fair by rubbing my back so that I can also rub yours! It’s all about fairness, justice, brotherhood.
We are ready to shake hands and be happy but when people are asking for too much consider the other region; their plight, the other states what is their plight too. We know money has been allocated to the people of the Niger Delta and is still being allocated.
So what’s the position now on the derivation fund?
We have to negotiate and we are still in the process of negotiation. We are searching for consensus because we have all agreed that consensus is the best way forward for this nation. Let’s look at ourselves as Nigerians not as coming from this or that part of the nation.
Of course, we have to protect our individual constituencies because we are here to defend them, be their voice and speak out for them. But I think we should look at the entity called Nigeria. We are saying to the people the money allocated to this region what have their governors done with it?
We know about the NNDC there is lot of money that has been given there but at the end of the day there is lot of argument over what has happened to this money. People are not accountable for whatever resources that come their way.
They should be accountable for whatever so that it will reach the grassroots and it will bring development. If there is development and it reaches most of the grassroots, all these restiveness will not be there. When there is fairness and justice, I think we will move forward in this country.
What are the core demands of the North?
We are not happy about one or two things because of breaches of the rules of proceedings: voice vote. This sometimes doesn’t work. There are issues that we believe there should be actual voting and counting of votes rather than depend on voice vote which may be too close to call. We believe the hardworking secretariat can do better without voice vote in some issues. And we, the Northern delegates, have made our concerns known because we are uncomfortable with the procedures adopted to arrive at the recommendations.
The removal of the local government from the constitution and making it come under the state, the land use act, the derivation principle, among others, are issues of serious concern to us and we want them looked into.