Rivers State Governor, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Amaechi has appealed to the National Assembly to revisit the constitutional amendment and come up with a new revenue sharing formula for States and the federal government.
Amaechi spoke when the Senate Finance Committee led by its Chairman, Sen. Ahmed Makarfi paid him a courtesy visit at Government House, Port Harcourt on Wednesday.
Amaechi said the current revenue sharing formula does not give States fair share of the country’s revenue and urged the National Assembly to make haste in amending the constitution to promote fair sharing which is a concern for all Nigerian State Governors.
He said: “It is important that we appeal to you that the Nigeria Governors’ Forum is waiting for the National Assembly on the constitutional amendment. Currently, the revenue formula is cued towards the Federal Government and you are aware that governors are doing quite a lot in their states to improve on infrastructure which the federal government is not paying back. The power to address or amend the revenue sharing formula Act or law is not in the hands of the Governors’ Forum, but in the hands of the National Assembly. If you amend the law, it would be a lot easier to change revenue formula from time to time.”
“Currently, it is put in the hands of the President and I have not seen any President who has done anything about it. Obasanjo did it by fear and he couldn’t come to the National Assembly because he knew that there would be fair share for the states. Yar’Adua submitted the law and withdrew it. President Goodluck Jonathan has not done anything yet on that and we think the reason why its like that, is because of the fact that the constitution says only the President on the advice of the Revenue Mobilization Commission can come forward to seek such change in the revenue formula. The current situation makes it difficult for the states to operate and we carry out federal projects and get no refund.”
“The road you drove on from the airport was done by the Rivers State Government, from the beginning to the boundary between Imo State and Rivers State. The one from Imo State to Owerri, from the boundary to Owerri is being done by the federal government but on our side we are doing it ourselves.”
“We are doing the road from the boundary between Rivers and Abia, that is the Enugu road to Port Harcourt, we are not getting any refund. We have done the flyovers and interchanges on all the federal roads; we are not getting any refund. The only way we can continue to survive is if the National Assembly is able to amend that part of the Constitution. But you see, you cannot amend only part of the constitution, we need a total amendment because the problem with getting federalism in Nigeria is that anybody who becomes President even if it is me tomorrow or you, never accepts to do anything to change or to implement federalism. So I think that there are two ways we can get that federalism, either by a pronouncement from the court or by clearly writing it out in the constitution.
“For us to practice true federalism, Nigeria may have a very huge constitution where everything is spelt out. Anywhere there is ambiguity or anywhere you just make one short sentence, people implement it anyhow they like, so we may now need to spell out everything one after the other including when we go to church or when we don’t go to church so that people will be able to implement.”
Amaechi also urged the Assembly to address the issue with seaports in Nigeria. “Why is it too expensive to import through Port Harcourt?” Amaechi queried, urging the senators to try to stop the collection of some charges by federal government agencies at the Port Harcourt Seaport that increases the cost of exports and imports compared to the Lagos Seaport where it is cheaper.
“We have a problem in the Port Harcourt Seaport. I hear Onne is extremely expensive to import or export any item whatsoever and the same to the Port Harcourt seaport that is just nearby here, popularly called NPA. I hear of the Federal Government agencies, try to charge some fees that are not more necessarily legal and that increase the cost of importation to Rivers State. So you will be surprised that people in Aba, in Port Harcourt import from Lagos other than Port Harcourt. You can ask, it is not a hidden matter, I had empanelled Atedo Peterside when he was my Economic Adviser and he came up with that report. I had empanelled two more persons, they all came up with that report. I spoke to Peter Obi that came up with the same report, that what you will pay N10,000 for in Lagos, you will pay N20,000 here.”
“Ordinarily you should expect people from Anambra, Imo, Abia to import through Port Harcourt, but instead of importing through Port Harcourt, they import through Lagos. So, we will be glad if you can either investigate or find a way to appeal to those who collect those monies to please try and pity the Rivers people because the more importations that take place here the more jobs we are able to create and the more businesses that are able to flow. If they can reduce the unnecessary cost that are not necessarily legal, then we will be happy because the same cost, legal cost that are collected in Lagos are the same cost that can be collected here but the difference is the non-legal cost that increase the cost of importation to Rivers State. It is important we look at that,” Amaechi said.
Earlier, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance and former Kaduna State Governor, Sen. Ahmed Makarfi said he and other members of the committee were in the state for oversight functions to the Port Harcourt Seaport to determine if the Nigerian Customs Service was ready in terms of equipment and manpower to take over services currently being provided at the country’s Seaports by service providers.
Makarfi said: “Your Excellency, we are in your territory for a few hours of oversight function having spent two days in Lagos visiting Ports facilities especially the services being rendered by service providers namely – Cotecner, SBS, Globoscan and other associated consultants who have been rendering various services for the past eight years in order to ease clearing process so that we can meet the 48-hour target for goods to be cleared through the ports. As you are aware the initial contract expired by 31st December of last year, a six months extension was granted to enable the government to properly assess whether the Nigerian Customs Service is now ready in terms of equipment and manpower to take over the services provided by these service providers. That is essentially why we are here.”
“Port Harcourt is one of the key trade hubs of this country, both oil and non-oil trading and I am sure efficient working at the ports will not only boost the economy of Rivers State but also the economy of the country in general. In brief, Your Excellency, that is why we are here for and as is customary we cannot come into your territory without coming to tell you we are here and to seek your blessing and also to hear from your perspective if you have any such experiences that we need to listen to in relation to the issues we are here on that may help us in coming to some conclusions that can help in promoting trade between us and our trading partners,” he said.