By Jonathan Ugbal; Government House Correspondent
Cross River Governor, Senator Ben Ayade has called on the Federal Government to review its mode of wealth sharing pointing out the need for the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission, RMAFC to step up from just wealth distribution to helping in its creation.
“We are particularly grateful that Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission is gradually increasingly focusing on solid minerals inputs in the computation of how you do the re-equalization of revenue distribution in the Federal Government” Ayade said Wednesday in Calabar, when he hosted a delegation from the RMAFC led by the commissioner representing Cross River on the commission’s board, Martina Odom who paid him a courtesy visit in his office.
The governor who said Cross River State has been short changed due to the loss of oil wells occasioned by the loss of the Bakassi peninsula, decried the lengthy processes involved in the exploration of solid minerals by states and called on the federal government to relax its stronghold on the sector.
He lamented a situation where the RMAFC has been operating below the statutory powers in its enabling act, therefore, creating a lacuna in the generation of wealth in the country and urged the commission to review the policy framework currently used in wealth redistribution so as to accommodate several other factors.
“Unfortunately, by the virtue of the law which makes it an exclusive thing, federal government has held the monopoly over the solid minerals exploitation making it very impossible for states to focus heavily. However, the new development where federal government is gradually easing out the stronghold on mining and the mining lease has made it possible for states to be able to reinvigorate and become more intense in terms of investment in solid minerals”.
“I have also advised at this point in time that the RMFAC has the singular responsibility of recalibrating the way and manner the federal structure distributes money. It is not sufficient to rely on the existing data that you are deploying. Apart from the issue of reliability, acceptability, it also does not show the sensitivity to the specific requirements, space and challenges of the people.
“Therefore it is the responsibility of the RMFAC to form time to time, make adjustments to the revenue formula to accommodate the challenges of a people. Example, the people of Cross River State have been denied access to the Crude Oil production that we still know that the Environmental Impact is wholly borne by Cross River State, yet we are denied the luxury of computing it as part of Cross River State derivative.
“We also have the challenges where some wells that we do know that fall within Cross River State are classified that they don’t belong to Cross River State. Consequently also, we have had also the Bakassi Peninsula which was part of what gave us the access to those oil wells. Having lost such locations without the fault of the state in a manner that is unappropriate and it is unacceptable to logical reason without the corresponding cognization from the federal government, I expect that the kind of injury to the side people and their dignity, I should call for part of what will rejig the calculus that you use in your computation. We believe that the people of Cross River State have had an unfair denial of what is theirs” Ayade said.
On the issue of liberalizing the monopoly enjoyed by the Central Government over mining, Ayade maintained that: “This is the time that Federal Government must liberalize and make it much easier for states to invest in solid minerals investigation and invest in hydrocarbon exploration and exploitation. Until you liberalize and open, and make that gateway easier, it becomes impossible to grow the sector” pointing out that, “Unfortunately, it is a torture to have the opportunity to exploit our resources and therefore we remain cap in hand, depending on federal allocation to be able to survive which is not even enough to pay salaries not to talk of investing in solid minerals.”
Earlier, leader of the delegation and Commissioner representing Cross River State at RMAFC, Mrs Martina Odom, noted that the federal government was exploring other viable sector with particular interest in the mining sector to diversify its economy and boost its earning.
Odom disclosed that the team was in the state to conduct a holistic audit of the activities of major operators in the mining sector with a view to ascertaining all mining companies licensed to operate including those at the local government level.
She maintained that the team’s scope of work will also cover verification and ascertaining the number of mining leases issued to operator as well as check the quantum of royalty and other taxes paid by them.
Mrs Odom said the exercise will also take note of artisan and informal miners operating in the state with a view to bringing taxable operators into the tax net to boost Internally Generated Revenue for distribution.
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