Jonathan Meets US Reps; Discusses Niger Delta, Killing of Christians

 Former President, Goodluck Jonathan, last met the United States House of Representatives Sub-Committee on Africa and spoke on the Niger Delta crisis and the killing of Christians in Nigeria.

The meeting was attended by Chairman of Sub-Committee, Congressman Christopher Smith and other influential members and staff of the committee.

Mr Jonathan spoke glowingly on how the implementation of the 13 percent Derivation Funds accelerated development in Nigeria’s oil-rich region, drawing attention to Akwa Ibom State.

“During the Obasanjo era, the federal government, in line with the constitution and revenue laws, set aside  13 percent of oil revenues to be paid as derivation funds to oil producing states and share on the basis of the proportion of oil they produce,” Mr. Jonathan said.

“As a person from the Niger Delta, I can say that the 13 percent derivation has benefitted Niger Delta state and their people more than the interventionist agencies.

“For instance, those who know Akwa Ibom State before the 13 percent derivation become law will agree that the derivation fund has changed the face of that state making it almost overnight, one of the developed states in Nigeria. The same is true with other oil producing state though with varying degrees of development.”

Given the experience, the former president said what the oil-rich region required was not intervention agencies but adequate resources to tackle the challenges of the area.

To check restiveness and ensure the development of the country, Mr. Jonathan said states should be allowed to exploit their resources and pay taxes to the federal government.

According to him, the 2014 National Conference organised by his administration recommended the adoption of Fiscal Federalism as the panacea to the agitations in the region.

The former president blamed the continued killing of Christians in many parts of the country to the impunity of law enforcement agencies, saying Nigeria has a long history of failing to apprehend and prosecute the perpetrator of such heinous acts.

Such impunity, he said has emboldened and encouraged persons with such tendencies.

While there have been over 10 major incidences of ethnic and religious crisis in Kaduna since 1979, Mr. Jonathan said only once did the authorities made effort to punish the culprits based on the provisions of the law.

“This was in 1992, after the Zangon Kataf riots in which official death toll was 300. The military administration of Ibrahim Babangida constituted the Civil Disturbances Special Tribunal to try arrested persons and a total of 14 persons were sentenced to death, although the Babangida administration commuted the sentences to five years imprisonment,” Mr. Jonathan continued.

“Within the period I served as vice president and later as president, it became very clear to me that is the issue of religion is not handled properly, the unit of the country would be in great jeopardy. Religious and ethnic issues were becoming stumbling blocks towards societal cohesion and economic development.

In the face of attacks and persecution of Christians in the country especially in the North, Mr. Jonathan recounted how he personally prevailed on the leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) not to allow its members embark on reprisals.

The former president said under his watch, one of the masterminds of St. Theresa’s Catholic Church bombing on December 25, 2011, in which 44 persons died, Kabiru Umar, was arrested prosecuted and sentenced to life imprisonment.

He said the act was the first and only attempt by any Nigerian Government to prosecute and convict the crime of terrorism against a religious place of worship inspired by extremism since 1999.

Besides, he said his administration was in the process of prosecuting Aminu Ogwuhe, the mastermind of April 14, 2014, Nyanya bombing in which 75 people lost their lives.

With over 350 ethnic nationalities in the country which is supposed to be secular, he argued that the prevalence of religiosity and nepotism at all levels have undermined national unity and development.

Ibanga Isine