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Niger Delta Rejects Proposal on Oil Revenue


Communities in Nigeria's troubled Niger Delta have rejected a proposal to increase their share of the oil revenue. The proposal is part of key amendments to the Nigerian constitution put forward by a parliamentary group.

Niger Delta communities are insisting on a minimum share of 25 percent of oil revenue instead of the 18 percent recommended by the constitution review committee.

Oil producing communities in Nigeria are entitled to a 13 percent share of the oil revenue.

Agitation for greater oil revenue has led to widespread violence in the region that accounts for nearly all of Nigeria's oil production.

Militants have repeatedly attacked the oil industry and disrupted production activities.

Wunmi Bewaji ,who represents Lagos in the House of Representatives, supports more revenue for the Niger Delta.

"The people of the area demanded for 25 percent, he said. "I will favor a situation whereby it is increased to 25 percent because there is no point, it is better to have a little of something than to have nothing of something. So, we are seeing what is happening, the militants are blowing up flow stations daily, hostages are being captured. Hardly, there is any time now you open television, even foreign television, that you do not hear news about disturbances and instability in Nigeria. The oil companies can operate freely only in atmosphere where there is stability and if giving them a higher percentage is what is going to guarantee peace and stability, then I think we should do that."

There is also a recommendation to remove the right to immunity from criminal prosecution for top officials. The current constitution grants the president, vice president, and state governors exemption from criminal and civil charges.

The arrest in London of two governors allegedly with suitcases stuffed with huge sums of money has prompted calls for a critical look at the immunity clause.

One of the indicted governors has since been impeached and is facing criminal charges in Nigeria, while the other is still in office.

Abuja-based lawyer Maxi Okwu says removing the immunity clause is very important for the government's anti-corruption campaign.

"In our own peculiar case, that provision has been abused," he said. "A lot of chief executives, particularly at the state level or even at federal level, have taken undue advantage of the immunity clause and played unnecessarily with government resources, public resources. So I think that aspect is welcomed, so long as it relates to criminal matters. Let no chief executive hide under that clause to corner public funds or public resources."

Several other constitutional changes have been recommended. The proposal to allow President Olusegun Obasanjo run for a third term has become the dominant issue.

A recent poll by a local newspaper suggests that about 80 percent of Nigerians are against current attempts to amend the constitution.

Analysts say skeptical Nigerians believe the president's supporters may ride on the back of recommendations that are widely accepted to push through an extension of the presidents term.