The Bayelsa State government has expressed disappointment at the decision by the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) for choosing to allocate funds to Rivers State based on disputed oil wells between the two states, even when the court was yet to give judgement on a pending case on the issue.
The state government said it was also not happy that the commission was using the number of local government areas in a state as a yardstick for sharing revenues in the country.
The state governor, Senator Douye Diri, spoke in Yenagoa, the state capital when he received the state’s representative in the commission, Barr. Alfred Egba, ahead of the stakeholders forum for the review of revenue sharing formula, which was organised by RMAFC in the state.
The governor who was represented by his deputy, Senator Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo, pointed out that Bayelsa was being shortchanged with only eight local government areas even though it had more square kilometers than several states in the country.
According to Diri, Bayelsa has about 11,000 square kilometers. He noted that some of its local government areas like Southern Ijaw is equivalent to five or more council areas elsewhere in the country.
He frowned at the decision of the commission to favour Rivers State government by allocating revenues accruing from the disputed Soku Oil wells to it, despite the fact that the case is yet to be finally determined.
The governor argued that the hurried implementation of the ruling in favour of Rivers State by a High Court
was unacceptable and subjudice, as the state’s appeal was pending at the Supreme Court.
“It is unfair that for a judgement that we are still contesting in court, RMAFC is in a hurry to allocate revenues coming from the Soku Oil wells to Rivers State.
He also said it amounted to ceding Bayelsa territory indirectly to Rivers State in order to pit the two states against each other.
The governor advised the commission to reconsider its decision until the apex court gives a final verdict on the boundary dispute between both states.
He said, “We had ordinarily expected that money would have been kept in an escrow account pending when the case is finally determined. We know that Rivers State has a lot of resources and connections, but our take is that the right thing should be done.
“We believe there is always a way of using history to guide the future. I say so, because this oil dispute we are talking about, RMAFC itself had taken a decision several years ago. So, we expect the Commission to stand by that decision.
“Secondly, we believe that some of the indicators, you are using to share revenues currently do not promote equity and fairness in this country and therefore not acceptable to us.
“For instance, we do not agree that you should continue to use local government areas as a basis of sharing revenues. It is faulty because the creation of local governments was not done scientifically.
“It was purely political and a case of who was holding the knife and the yam at the time of creating them. And so, those who had the knife cut more to themselves.
“You are aware that, if we are to take Southern Ijaw local government area and place it on some states, Southern Ijaw is equivalent to several local government areas in those states.
“Bayelsa has about 11,000 Square Kilometers with only eight local government areas. While some states with about 6,000 Square Kilometers have 13 local government areas or more. So, where is the justice and fairness?”
Also speaking, the Secretary to the State Government, Rt Hon. Konbowei Benson, also stressed the need for the commission to review the extant revenue sharing formula in an expeditious manner, as it has been in use since 2004.
Earlier, the team leader, Hon Alfred Egba, assured that the commission would consider the inputs of various stakeholders with a view to fashioning out a more acceptable revenue sharing formula.
He said, “RMAFC is committed to reviewing the current revenue sharing formula in line with the constitution of Nigeria.”