Posted by By Sina Babasola & Sufuyan Ojeifo on
THE Oyo State government yesterday disowned the suit now before the Supreme Court, seeking to void the act abrogating the on-shore/off-shore oil dichotomy, saying it was wrong to refer to it as one of the plaintiffs in the matter.
IBADAN — THE Oyo State government yesterday disowned the suit now before the Supreme Court, seeking to void the act abrogating the on-shore/off-shore oil dichotomy, saying it was wrong to refer to it as one of the plaintiffs in the matter.
The suit’s originating summons listed the 19 northern states as well as Ekiti, Osun and Oyo as plaintiffs. The Oyo State government spoke on a day the National Chairman of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Audu Ogbeh, said the suit had not vitiated the basis of the political solution that propelled President Olusegun Obasanjo to initiate the abrogation of the dichotomy.
Oyo State Justice Commissioner and Attorney-General, Mr. Lekan Latinwo, told Vanguard in Ibadan that “we have no reason or reasons to file such a suit. We are not a party to the suit,” adding: “I will direct you to the registry of the Supreme Court to check whether Oyo State brief is in their file. We did not file anything regarding that matter before the apex court. We have no reason or reasons to file such a suit. I am the one who will file the suit on behalf of the state government and I’m telling you that I did not file any suit of such nature.
“I am very surprised and shocked to hear that Oyo State government is one of the states of the federation challenging the bill signed into law some months ago. I want to say for the purpose of emphasis that we are not a party to the suit. And I want to say for the purpose of clarification that I, as the Attorney-General of Oyo State, never attended any meeting where a decision was taken to challenge the abrogation act before the Supreme Court.
The commissioner who spoke to Vanguard in the deputy governor’s office complained to Deputy Governor, Otunba Adebayo Akala, on the bill in the presence of this reporter, saying: “Your Excellency, I’m just discussing this abrogation act with the Vanguard. I asked him the source of their information. It is not true. My brother, kindly check me back. The governor has mandated the deputy governor and myself to represent the state at the burial rites of Baba (Debo) Akande taking place in Lagos today and I am waiting for the deputy governor to come out. We shall talk more on the issue when I come back.”
However, National Chairman of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Audu Ogbeh, said yesterday that the decision of the 19 northern governors and three others from the south to go to the Supreme Court to seek the voiding of the
On-shore/Off-shore Dichotomy Abrogation Act had not vitiated the basis of the political solution that led President Obasanjo to forward the bill to the National Assembly.
Ogbeh also said that governors making illegal deductions from local government funds would be made to pay what he called compensation to the affected councils.
On the raging palaver over the dichotomy abrogation, he insisted that the political solution initiated by the president in concert with the chairman of the party’s Board of Trustees and the South-South governors remained the best option in the circumstance, pointing out that dialogue would be deployed to resolve the fresh offensive by the 22 state governors.
Chief Ogbeh, who briefed the press in Abuja after the series of meetings and consultations the party leadership guard had with the party’s governors on zonal basis, said the issue came up at the meeting with the South-South governors and said the party would wade into the matter.
His words: “The issue of the 22 governors going to court came up at our meeting with the South-South governors and we want to assure you that the party is going to wade into it at our own end and take a decision. It is something that we think should not go to court, but since they have gone to court, we will work on it. We believe that through dialogue and understanding we will come to a careful and happy conclusion of any matter, which will cause anxieties within the various states in the country.”
Ogbeh said the meeting with all the governors on a general note centred on the alleged deductions from the allocations to the local government from the Federation Account, pointing out that while many of the governors did not make illegal deductions, a few others ran foul of the law. He said, for instance, any governor found to have made illegal deductions from the local government fund would be made to pay compensation “where such deductions have taken place.”
“The meetings were prompted by certain developments, which came about as a result of the management of the joint state/local government account; and we thought there was the need for us to interact with our governors to find out exactly what the situation is in the states because the party is extremely concerned about the welfare of the rural people, those who account for our election victory, most of them, very poor farmers, youths, women, widows, old men and women in the villages.
“We are extremely concerned about what happens to them, just as we are concerned about the plight of city dwellers, young graduates and so on. We believe also that if the local government functions properly and monies are spent appropriately in the villages, that life will return to the villages and the real transformation in the economy can begin at that level.
“We have met with them and we will like to report that, by and large, we were quite satisfied with the explanation given by the majority of the governors. We were, however, not too satisfied with the few of them; and the party intends to follow it up by taking measures to ensure that untoward and illegal deductions are halted absolutely and that all deductions are limited only to the statutory and what we consider necessary ones, such like paying staff salary, teachers, paying traditional rulers’ stipends and so on and so forth.
“Any other thing, which certainly compromises the integrity of the local government system, we will not allow to continue. We were quite pleased with the majority of our governors and we will, therefore, like to put to rest this feeling that every governor is taking money from the local government. Certainly not. That was not the case.”
Ogbeh said further that the party had decided to undertake an assessment tour of the states and local governments starting from September to verify and establish the philosophy and modalities for implementing the massive projects going on at those levels.
He said: “But over and above just saying this, the party intends to begin a nationwide tour in September. It is a tour of the national executive of the party and we shall actually check on all that we have been told is going on in the local governments and the states and there and, then, we shall be able to say to you whether we are happy with a particular state or local government or not and many of you will be accompanying us on that tour.
This is slightly different from the media tour, which you saw before. This time, we are going to sit down and discuss the philosophy and modalities of implementation of some of these projects because the allocation to the states and the local government are quite heavy now.
“Therefore, as a party, we will like to see how much progress we are making. We know that a lot is going on in many states massive programmes of rural electrification, hospitals, roads are being built and it is very hard to sit in one part of the country and pass a general judgement. You cannot be here and judge what is happening in Abia without going down there or judge what is happening in Adamawa and draw conclusions. You need to go there and see for yourself.
“So, by and large, we have been quite impressed and many other things came out of that briefing, which have become useful for our own education as a party leadership. We are satisfied that when we draw up guidelines for the future and even for the present, that what we have heard will be very useful to us, even to posterity.” Ogbeh also denied reports quoting him as saying that the 2007 elections would be bloody, maintaining that he never said so. “I may wish to add that in Lafia, during the North Central zonal tour, I made a statement on behalf of the party about the anxiety which the party is experiencing in this business of premature campaigning. There is an election in Ghana at the end of this year. If you go there, you do not see any of the frenzy and the hype which 2007 is creating here and the party wishes to bring it to a halt.
“We have to govern and there are tons and tons of problems to solve; and anybody in office today who is aspiring to something higher or even aspiring to something new must concentrate on governance. And when we now blow the whistle, we want those who are contesting to tell us why they want to contest; what are their programmes; what are their agenda; where are they going to do, things to improve on what is going on or bring innovation to the process of governance?
“We are tired of just names and arguments about which zone it is and all that. Let us hear from those who want to run: why they want to run because they have to govern; and, in the last analysis we can only win if our programmes are attractive based on what we are doing now. I would like to appeal to you to sometimes, please, watch the headlines. Sometimes, there is a certain editorial you are tailoring, which creates certain anxiety for us where I read in one headline that I said that 2007 would be bloody.
“I did not say a thing of such in Lafia. As a matter of fact, I said that we should not get too anxious about 2007. I do not know where any journalist found this business of blood in my statement on 2007. I never said so. I am not a prophet of doom and nothing will be bloody. We have seen such prophecies before; we thank God that we have never experienced that kind of thing. We should not. We want happiness and joy for every Nigerian, not bloodshed.”