Governor Bello Matawalle of Zamfara State on Saturday, hit back at South-South governors who reportedly accused him of illegally controlling the gold mineral resources in his state in contravention of the country’s constitution.
BIGPENNGR.COM reports that South-south stakeholders and governors had intensified the agitation for resource control, true federalism and restructuring since reports had it that Zamfara governor sold gold worth N5billion wholly to the Central Bank of Nigeria, a development which is a departure from management of Nigeria’s oil and gas revenue accruing from the Niger Delta region.
Specifically, National Chairman of Pan Niger Delta Forum,(PANDEF) and former military governor of Akwa Ibom, Air Commodore Idongesit Nkanga (rtd), had criticized the Zamfara government reported control of gold in its state whilst oil and gas resources in the Niger Delta region are made collective wealth of the nation.
“That is why Zamfara gold is for Zamfara people while Niger Delta crude oil is for the whole of Nigeria. And why they have not added an inch of construction to the critical East-West road in the over five years of the administration”, he said in reaction to earlier botched south-south assembly meeting with Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, Chief of Staff to President Buhari.
Following the development which have sparked a renewed agitation in the Niger Delta, the South-south Stakeholders meeting had x-rayed issues of fiscal federalism, restructuring, power devolution and resource control against the backdrop of recent sales of gold by the Zamfara State Government to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
Chairman of the South-South Governors’ Forum and Governor of Delta, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, who presented the region’s demand, had said “The region demands true federalism and devolution of powers to the states, including creating and managing their own police and security architecture, true fiscal federalism guided by the principle of derivation, revenue sharing and control of resources by each state”.
But reacting, Governor Matawalle who belongs to the PDP, expressed concern that many PDP governor had joined the rumour mill to peddle all sorts of claims about the Zamfara gold, saying that instead of reaching out to him to confirm the true situation of things, some unleashed their “venom on him in the media”
He, however, commended President Muhammadu Buhari for being supportive of Zamfara effort at organising the economic sector to avoid using the mineral deposits to promote insecurity in the state.
The governor was speaking about the recent defection of his Ebonyi State counterpart, Dave Umahi, from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC) when he made the assertions.
While commending Umahi for taking the ‘bold step’, Governor Matawalle, in a statement by issued by Zailani Bappa, his Special Adviser on Media in Gusau, said that he would “rather commend Umahi for his bold decision rather than condemn him “because everyone feels welcome only in a house where he feels comfortable’’.
According to him, he had a very bad experience recently from some of his PDP governor-colleagues which, according to him, he found “very puzzling’’.
“For instance, the South-South governors accusing me in the media are PDP governors and they are the same people who brewed controversy over the so-called Zamfara gold, premised on deliberate misinformation and outright lies”, Matawalle was quoted as saying in the statement.
The governor said that curiously, it was the APC-led Federal Government that came out to defend him in the saga, noting “as PDP colleagues, I expected the governors to contact me first and find out my own side of the story before unleashing their venom in the media’’.
He commended President Muhammadu Buhari for being supportive of Zamfara effort at organising the economic sector to avoid using the mineral deposits to promote insecurity in the state.
“If this trend of generating bad blood among us continues unabated, our great party (PDP) will increasingly be on the receiving end as we move towards 2023″, Matawalle declared.
The governor pointed out that the Federal Government was currently issuing licences to deserving companies to operate in the mining sector in Zamfara and that the biggest company with a multi-billion naira investment was owned by a Nigerian from Anambra State.
“I wonder where the idea of Zamfara State owning the gold mines emanated from.
“As at now, the state government does not have a hand in any of the mining activities in the state because the constitution does not empower us to do so,” Matawalle said.
BIGPENNR.COM had reported that the controversial sale of the gold became public knowledge after the Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, while contributing to a debate on the general principles of the 2021 Appropriation Bill, raised the issue at plenary in the senate, saying that it was wrong for the Federal Government to allow Zamfara State to sell the gold bar to the CBN for N5b against constitutional provisions.
Omo-Agege who represents Delta Central Senatorial District in Delta state had argued that the action of the Zamfara State Governor, Bello Matawalle on the sale of the gold bar to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), was a ‘breach of the constitution.’