BY EMMANUEL AZIKEN, POLITICAL EDITOR
The National Assembly stood against parochial considerations to stop the dichotomy principle in the sharing of derivation proceeds in revenue allocation. Now some northern political gladiators want it back.
THE political feud between Governor Rabiu Kwankwanso and Speaker Ghali Na‘abba in the run up to the 2003 general elections was one that ultimately consumed the two leading lights of Kano politics that year.
Only fox-like political gladiators like Rep. Farouk Lawan were able to escape the landmines that were strewn around to win re-election under of the umbrella of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP in Kano that election year.
The two bitter political enemies were one; an unabashed supporter of President Olusegun Obasanjo and the other, a champion of the anti-Obasanjo political establishment, who used his position as Speaker of the House of Representatives to taunt Obasanjo.
Speaker Na‘abba is etched in history as the only presiding officer of either chambers of the National Assembly to receive an impeachment motion against a Nigerian president.
Remarkably, both men lost out in the election of that year. Kwankwanso was defeated by Ibrahim Shekarau of the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP, in his re-election bid while Na‘abba, after receiving the ticket of his party to seek re-election, was reportedly ambushed by his own party in the main election.
One of the most divisive issues between Kwankwanso and Na‘abba at that time was the Onshore/Offshore Dichotomy Abrogation Bill presented by President Obasanjo to the National Assembly in 2002.
Obasanjo Kicked against dichotomy while Attah championed it
In its consideration of the bill, the legislators amended Obasanjo’s proposal to limit the 13 per cent derivation accruable to the littoral states from the contiguous zone that is 24 nautical miles to include the whole of the continental shelf, about 200 nautical miles.
Many northern leaders including the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero were taken aback that their legislators in the National Assembly overrode their fears to pass the bill that was meant to abrogate the Onshore/Offshore dichotomy that came into effect through a 2002 decision of the Supreme Court.
The then National Chairman of the PDP, Engr. Barnabas Gemade, it was learnt, personally called up governors of the North to mobilise their legislators not to pass the bill. Kwankwanso, admitted receiving the call and calling on his legislators, but to no avail.
The northern leaders expressed misgiving that the bill, as passed by the National Assembly, would deprive the North of much revenue that would now go to the littoral states.
But Speaker Na’aba and his henchmen did not yield. For them the national interest and considerations of the wellbeing of the oil producing littoral states were of paramount importance and they proceeded to pass the bill abrogating the dichotomy extending the benefits to the littoral states to 200 nautical miles.
A determined Obasanjo ignored the legislators despite the emotions that ran through the political space ahead of the 2003 elections.
It was especially stressful in states like Akwa Ibom which at that time was worst affected by the decision given that its derivation revenue virtually disappeared on account of the fact that oil production attributed to the state was essentially offshore.
Obasanjo found solidarity with some northern elders on his position, but the rest of the political class rejected the proposition leading to a stand-off which was only brokered after a political solution fixed by a committee led by Chief Tony Anenih.
The solution was the adoption of the novel 200 meters depth as a replacement for the continental shelf which is equivalent to 200 nautical miles as earlier adopted by the National Assembly. Obasanjo quickly signed the bill as a compromise in 2004.
Nearly 10 years after that historic feud, the drums of war are again being beating as some northern power brokers push for the return of full dichotomy.
Dr. Kwankwanso who returned to power as governor of Kano State in 2011, consciously or unconsciously is now pushing to pull down what many regard as the pan-nationalistic legacy of his political rival, Na‘abba.
Though the former speaker has since lowered his political profile, the Onshore/Offshore dichotomy abrogation Act remains one of the legacies of a period when the National Assembly looked above primordial and other considerations in their enactments. It was also in that legislative period that the National Assembly overrode Obasanjo’s veto on the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC bill.
Na‘abba and Kwankwanso divided over dichotomy
Overriding of veto
Even though he proposed the NDDC bill, Obasanjo was peeved by the decision of the National Assembly to increase the amount of funding to the commission and as such refused to give assent to the bill forcing the lawmakers to override his veto in June 2000.
Championing the fight for the reintroduction of the dichotomy presently are Governors Kwankwanso and Babangida Aliyu of Niger State.
Interestingly, the two men are in the forefront of those speculated to be interested in vying against President Goodluck Jonathan in the 2015 presidential election.
Are the governors using the Dichotomy Abrogation Act to mobilise the northern political establishment? That may indeed be a tricky path as it would give them extremist credentials that may make them unsellable to the rest of the country.
Recounting the events that led to the passage of the abrogation bill, Kwankwanso said:“I remember…of course Obasanjo refused to sign the (initial) bill because it was not fair and it was taken back to the National Assembly for two-thirds (to override the veto).
“The night before (the veto override) there was nothing I did not do to my members in Kano, especially. In fact, the night before Senator Gemade, then national chairman of the PDP, called me, and also called all the governors in the North to beg us to talk to all our members, seeing that our members were going to give two thirds to the bill. I called all our members but to my dismay they went and supported onshore-offshore (abrogation) and sold out.
“That is the most unfortunate thing that happened to the North in this political dispensation from 1999 to date. We knew what happened. How could that bill get two-thirds without the support of our members? The unfortunate thing is that because our capacity is so low, even those who did that are pretending to be heroes of the North.”
Noting that the passage of the dichotomy abrogation bill led to the devastation of the economy of the North, the governor said: “Whether we like it or not, what we are seeing today is partly the consequence of the action of the past that made the North very poor. I think that is what is binding the North together –we are poor, we are illiterate, we are sick; I don’t see anything that is common to us which we can mention other than these.”
Governor Kwankwanso’s assertions are flayed by some opinion writers. Responding to his comments, Adulrasheed Mohammed writing in Vanguard said:“What the people want and have failed to get from their leaders are; access to education, potable water, health facility and infrastructure but the language our leaders understand is sharing – which must be why they are fighting over the oil in faraway places rather than develop agriculture which used to be the mainstream of the region’s economy in the past.”
Remarkably, the benefit of the Northern states arising from the reintroduction of the dichotomy remains debatable.
It has been suggested that Kano State for example may not get more than N180 million monthly to the estimated N4.7 billion it gets if the dichotomy is reintroduced as it would only shave off about N25 billion from the littoral states which is the amount derivable for offshore derivation as at July 2012. If that N25 billion is taken away from the littoral states it would not go to the Northern states but would be taken to the federation account for redistribution.
Whether that amount is worth instigating a battle from the littoral states and re-igniting the whole clamour for resource control and fiscal federalism is an issue that those championing the reintroduction of dichotomy would have to contend with in the immediate future. The other issues of pollution and other negative environmental impacts of oil production whether offshore or onshore, would meanwhile continue to be an issue for the littoral states alone to contend with!
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