South-South Leaders Demand Restructuring Of Nigeria, True Federalism

South-South leaders and a delegation from the presidency attend a meeting at the Government House in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital on November 24, 2020.

 

Governors and people of the South-South geopolitical zone have demanded the restructuring of Nigeria, in line with the principle of true federalism to guarantee peace, security, and stability of the nation.

The South-South leaders believe the country is not at peace with itself and not working as it should, particularly for the people of the region.

Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State, who is the Chairman of the South-South Governors Forum, stated this on Tuesday as the position of the zone during the regional stakeholders meeting with a presidential delegation.

This followed an initial meeting which failed to hold as a result of an emergency National Security meeting.

The delegation, led by the Chief of Staff to the President, Professor Ibrahim Gambari, met with the governors and other leaders of the region at the Government House in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital.

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Governor Okowa informed the delegation that the people of the South-South were committed to the restructuring of the country in a way that would guarantee true federalism and devolution of powers to the states to create and manage their own police and security architecture under a federal structure.

He called for true federalism guided by the principle of derivation, revenue sharing, and control of resources by each state of the Federation as it was the case in the first republic.

 

Environmental Degradation

According to the governor, the kind of federation the South-South desires is one where federating units are constitutionally empowered to create their own structures like local government areas, manage their elections, and control their judiciary.

“We are all aware of the huge endowment of this country; as such, it is imperative to stress that with a little bit of efforts, imagination, hard work, sacrifice and leadership, every state of the Federation as of today, has the ability and capability to contribute to the national purse.

“This should be encouraged rather than the whole country depending substantially on a region of the country,” he said.

Some traditional rulers attend a meeting held at the Government House in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital on November 24, 2020.

 

Governor Okowa added, “What is worse and even more painful in this ugly situation is the deliberate lack of understanding, empathy and the uncompromising attitudes of some Nigerians, who have refused to understand the challenges of the South-South region of the country especially, the degradation of the environment and our waters.

“As a result, most of the demands of the region have remained unattended to while the resources of the region have been used continually to develop other parts of the country”.

On behalf of the region, he reiterated the call for the relocation of the headquarters of major oil companies from Lagos and Abuja to the South-South.

 

Privatise Them Now

The governor also requested the immediate implementation of the consent judgment entered in the Supreme Court Suit No: SC/964/2016 to enable the South-South region get its share of the $55billion shortfall of collection on deep offshore and inland basin production sharing contracts.

He called for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the region’s major seaports in Port Harcourt, Calabar, Warri, in order to enhance the economic development of the region.

In addition, Governor Okowa demanded that the two refineries in Port Harcourt and one in Warri should be privatised.

“Enough is enough. Let us now privatise them and in doing so, however, allow the states and the region among others, considerable equity in the name of fairness and justice,” he said.

The governor observed that one of the major failures of the intervention agency – Niger Delta Development Commission (NCDC) – was its refusal to forge and foster synergy, consultation, and cooperation with the state governments, especially on project location, development, and execution.

He stated, “We have resolved and we, as the state governments, will no longer allow NDDC to execute any project(s) in any state of the region without it consulting state governments.

“Frankly, enough is enough and we have a court judgment to back our position.”

In his remark, Professor Gambari explained that the stakeholders meeting was at the instance of President Muhammadu Buhari, to the delegation comprising all the ministers from the region to visit and consult with representatives of the people regarding the recent #EndSARS protest.

He noted that reports indicated that there were instances where the breakdown of law and order was recorded in various locations in the South-South states.

The Chief of Staff to the President, Professor Ibrahim Gambari, speaks at a meeting held at the Government House in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital on November 24, 2020.

 

Decades Of Mishandling

The presidential aide lauded the governors for their quick response and actions in addressing the crisis in the region.

Beyond the issue of #EndSARS, he said the President acknowledged that the people in the region have been dealing with other concerns that were particular to them, such as the degradation of the environment due to decades of mishandling and adherence to environmental standards.

Professor Gambari promised to convey the demands of the governors and leaders of the region to the President.

The Deputy President of the Senate, Ovie Omo-Agege, on his part, urged the leaders of the region to avail themselves of the ongoing review of the 1999 Constitution by the National Assembly, since most of the issues raised were constitutional matters.

Present at the meeting were Governor Nyesom Wike (Rivers), Governor Ben Ayade (Cross River), Governor Udom Emmanuel (Akwa Ibom), Governor Douye Diri (Bayelsa), and Godwin Obaseki (Edo).

Ministers present included Godswill Akpabio (Niger Delta), Timipre Sylva (State for Petroleum), Goddy Agba (State for Power), Festus Keyamo (State for Labour and Employment), Osagie Ehanire (Health), and Lai Mohammed (Information and Culture).

While the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, was absent, the National Chairman of the Pan Niger Delta Forum, Air Commodore Idongesit Nkanga, and former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Onueze Okocha, among others were present.

‘True Federalism’: Buhari Must Not Make The Mistake That We Can Be Deceived – Prof Akintoye

 

Professor Banji Akintoye has said that the Nigerian people will not believe President Muhammadu Buhari’s new statement on True Federalism, till he puts his words to action.

While featuring as a guest on Channels Television’s News At Ten, Professor Akintoye said while the comments are surprising and laudable, still the people will not believe it, till the conversation is taken further.

“Buhari must not make the mistake that we can be deceived into thinking that merely saying it has done it. The taste of the food is in the eating”.

READ ALSO: ‘True Federalism Is Necessary At This Juncture Of Our Political, Democratic Evolution’ – Buhari

The historian said when the President starts to work on a program that shows a clear line to restructuring and to a true federation, then the people will accept and work with him.

Prof Akintoye said his skepticism stems from the President’s posture hitherto, making it clear from the onset that he (Buhari) has no business with restructuring the country and taking it back to a true federation.

He however noted that if the President’s intentions are true, then it is an agenda that all Nigerians should support.

He argued that Nigeria has not been properly governed since 1999 because a nation with such a teeming population and diverse cultures cannot be governed from the centre with excessive powers bestowed in the Federal Government.

Odumakin Backs Calls For True Federalism

National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, Yinka Odumakin

 

The National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, Mr Yinka Odumakin, has advocated the need for Nigeria to adopt true federalism in handling the country’s affairs.

He made his position known while appearing as a guest on Channels Television’s News At Ten on Wednesday.

“We cannot make any progress in this country except we go back to this issue (of true federalism),” he said.

His reaction comes after a former Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Mr Emeka Anyaoku, reiterated the call for the restructuring of Nigeria saying Nigeria needs a true Federal structure.

“Our country, Nigeria, was doing extremely well when it had a true federation of four regions with each region developing at its own pace with citizens feeling proud to belong to the Nigerian country,” he said in Lagos.

Odumakin believes that Africa’s most populous nation needs to get it right by adopting the federal system that was in practised years ago.

According to him, the then Shehu Shagari’s administration budgeted about $25 billion to cater for a population of about 80 million people unlike the President Muhammadu’s government is earmarking about $23 billion for an estimated 180 million citizens.

He, however, warned that the Federal Government should work hard to making the economy productive by reviving the Agricultural sector.

Odumakin stated further, “In 1983, Shagari’s government was $25 billion, then Nigeria was 80 million people. Now we are almost 200 million people, Buhari’s budget is $23 billion which means we are not producing anything.

“This economy is not productive and we cannot become productive until we go back to agronomy. For as long as you have it on the exclusive list, that all the mineral resources belong to the Federal Government, there is no way you can become a productive economy.”

APC Public Consultation Meeting Ends In Rowdy Session

Bayelsa APC Gets Acting Chairman

The All Progressives Congress (APC) zonal public consultation meeting on Federalism which was held in Akure, Ondo State capital on Wednesday ended in a rowdy session.

The meeting became rowdy when it was disrupted by some hoodlums who stormed the venue and attacked some members of the party.

Osun State Commissioner for regional integration, Honourable Bola Ilori, who is an indigene of Ondo State was allegedly attacked by a group of young men, when he came out of the main auditorium to grant media interview, thereby leading to a temporary disruption of the programme.

READ ALSO: True Federalism: APC Begins Consultation In South-South

 

The meeting which was held at the International Culture and Events Centre, Akure had in attendance representatives from the host Ondo state, Ekiti and Osun State including the Vice Chairman of APC, South West Zone, Pius Akinyelure; Ondo Deputy Governor, Agboola Ajayi; SSG, Ifedayo Abegunde;  traditional rulers and other top government functionaries.

However, the meeting turned to a rowdy session due to the attack, leading to interruption of the event. It took the intervention of security operatives to calm the situation and the programme brought to an end.

Healthcare Delivery: Ekiti State Commissions 300 Beds General Hospital

Atiku Abubakar and kayode Fayemi. The Ekiti State government in South East Nigeria has commissioned a 300-bed general hospital to further boost healthcare service delivery.

At the commissioning of the hospital on Monday, a former Nigerian Vice President, Mr Atiku Abubakar, called on the Federal Government to give more powers and resources to states to give room for  more development across the country.

“If only the Federal Government could devote more powers and resources to states, Nigeria will be better,” the former Vice President said.

He commended the governor of the state Dr. Kayode Fayemi, for his commitment to improving healthcare delivery and other relevant projects.

Mr Atiku, who is a member of the opposition All Progressives Congress, further stressed the need for a change in government at the 2015 presidential election.

Governor Fayemi told reporters that the 300 beds General Hospital was in line with the free health service delivery of his administration aimed at ensuring that the people of the state had full access to healthcare, which is one of the Millennium Development Goals.

Also present at the occasion were the Deputy Governor, Professor Modupe Adelabu, wife of the Governor, Erelu Bisi Fayemi, Speaker of the House of Assembly, Adewale Omirin, other top government officials and members of the All Progressives Congress.

Nigeria Needs True Federalism – Anyaoku

Emeka-Anyaoku3A former Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Mr Emeka Anyaoku, says some key issues that Nigeria’s National Conference should address are ‘achieving true federalism and cutting the cost of governance’, which he says is major for the country’s existence.

Anyaoku’s comment on Wednesday carried tones of high optimism that the National Conference will address critical issues plaguing the country.

He pointed out that the present structure of governance in Nigeria would not lead the nation to the peace, stability and progress that it sought.

He suggested a restructure of governance architecture, saying that “Nigeria needs to return to regionalism which would give its citizens a truer federation than what exists at the moment”.

“If we had a federation of six units, based on the existing six geo-political zones, with the existing states remaining as development areas within the regions, but without the full paraphernalia of full administration, which contributes to the fact that we as a country at the moment are spending over 70 per cent of our revenue on just administration, we could never develop on that basis.

“Also, the fact that we do not have a genuine federation means that there is what I have described as ‘destabilising competition for the control of the centre’. A competition that fans the embers of ethnic differences, religious differences and to check all that, if we had a truer federation of six units with each unit developing at its own pace, but with all of use coming together at the centre for the national institutions, we can be surer of greater peace and stability in the future,” he said.

Natl. Conference Modalities: There Should Not Be ‘No Go Areas’ – Adegbulu

A Security Analyst and Associate Professor at the Redeemers University, Dr. Femi Adegbulu has said that the forthcoming Nigerian National Conference should be a platform to discuss how the country would live together if at all it is to be together.

He made this assertion while appearing as a guest on Channels Television’s breakfast programme, Sunrise Daily, where he criticized the designation of the unity of Nigeria as a topic that should not be the discussed at the conference.

He explained that the unity of Nigeria was dependent on issues like the problems of Boko Haram, religion and the quota system which were rooted in culture and must be addressed at the conference. He provided his views on some of the issues.

While noting that Sharia law, as particularly practised in some parts of the country, has been politicised, he said that Nigeria’s security challenges had also worsened, with Boko Haram having grown into three categories; namely, religious, political and criminal. He pointed out that how to identify them was a responsibility of government.

He said: “We need a deterrent mechanism whereby culprits are well dealt with for the people to see”. He also berated the legal system in Nigeria and the slow judicial process, insisting that it affects the fight against terrorism.

Speaking further on the issues of Boko Haram, Adegbulu blamed the government for being part of the issues and berated the governments’ religious inclinations. He said that government should not have a hand in religion. “Why should government be sponsoring people to Hajj and Jerusalem? Religion is personal”, he queried.

While he suggested tactical interventions, he also admitted that there was no way the country could grant all the demands of the sect. “There is also a place for counter terrorism to ensure that they are wiped out,” he stressed.

Dr Adegbulu also said that the National Conference must also acknowledge that “one of the things to be discussed is true federalism”, which according to him is the same as resource control, which is a system that empowers regions to control their resources with government paying tax based on the resources of those regions.

“The system whereby states begin to go cap in hand to get allocation from government is an anomaly”, he said.

He also protested that a system whereby someone who scores 60% and is not admissible sees someone else with 12% having access to the commonwealth must not continue and must also be discussed at the conference.

Although Government representatives have said at different occasions that such irregularity would not be allowed anymore in the country, Adegbulu said that most of the policies must be seen implemented before he would believe any promises made by the government, because government officials would always tell Nigerians “we are working on it”.

Adegbulu insisted that the idea of having the unity of Nigeria as a ‘no-go area’ during the National Conference was not acceptable.

He asked: “Are we really united?” He noted that Americans do not ask questions about their citizens’ state of origin; because being an American was enough to enjoy privileges they are entitled to.

The Associate Professor admitted that the fear of the Nigerian government was a possible breakup, pointing out that the panacea for breaking up is to discuss it. “We must inaugurate a system of equity where everyone feels a sense of belonging.”

He stated that Nigeria cannot expect the best of patriotism from a Nigerian who having scored good marks still feels cheated while seeking admission to a university, all in the name of catchment area.

Atiku calls for true federalism, state police and a two party system

Former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar on Tuesday called for the overhauling of Nigeria’s political structure in order to pave way for a true federalism.

Mr Abubakar said this during his opening remarks as the Chairman of the 2012 Leadership Conference and Awards Ceremony, at Ladi Kwali Hall, Sheraton Hotel and Towers, Abuja.

The former Vice President also regretted opposing his colleague, ex-Vice President Alex Ekwueme who had been championing the restructuring of the Nigerian federation into six semi-autonomous regions and a weak but coordinating central government.

He said: “I also want to recall that during the said 1994-95 Constitutional Conference, Dr Alex Ekwueme, GCON, the Second Republic Vice President of this federation, introduced and canvassed for the concept of geo-political zones. I was among those who opposed it because I thought that Ekwueme, coming from the defunct Republic of Biafra, wanted to break up the country again.

“Now I realize that I should have supported him because our current federal structure is clearly not working. Dr Ekwueme obviously saw what some of us, with our civil war mindset, could not see at the time. There is indeed too much concentration of power and resources at the centre. And it is stifling our march to true greatness as a nation and threatening our unity because of all the abuses, inefficiencies, corruption and reactive tensions that it has been generating.”

Creation of state police

Mr Abubakar also gave his support to the creation of state police saying “I see nothing wrong with the establishment of state police by the states that want it as long as it can be insulated from and is independent of the state or regional government.”

He decried the claim that state governors will abuse the state police, saying such argument is “rather specious.”

“Should we abolish the Nigerian Police because it is often abused by those in power at the federal level?” he asked, adding that “should we abolish the state treasuries because governors abuse them and should we also abolish local governments for the same reason?”

He urged Nigerians to “struggle for and put in place institutional safeguards against abuse of power by those in power at all levels.”

“We have a chance now to put many of those safeguards in a new constitution” he stated.

Two party system

The two-times presidential aspirant also advocated for a two-party system for the nation’s electoral system, claiming this has become essential, because of Nigeria’s diversity in class, ethnic, religious and regional fault lines.

He urged that the National Assembly to pass a law stating that “there shall be two political parties in Nigeria, full stop.”

“It does not have to decree their ideologies or platforms.  This, in my view, will produce two political parties that will cut across our various divides, and be viable alternatives capable of forming government after elections” he said.

The former vice-president admitted that the current political system in Nigeria allows the ruling party to undermine the development of opposition parties into a vibrant opposition.

“Ruling parties all over the world never want strong opposition parties and in contexts such as ours are capable of undermining efforts by opposition parties to coalesce into a single formidable alternative party.”

Read the full text of his address below:

Thoughts on the Structure of Nigeria’s Federation

Being the Opening Remarks of Atiku Abubakar, GCON, former Vice President, Federal Republic of Nigeria as Chairman of the 2012 Leadership Conference and Awards Ceremony, at Ladi Kwali Hall, Sheraton Hotel and Towers, Abuja 18 September, 2012.

Protocol

We have a keynote speaker, so I will take liberties as the Chairman only to make a few remarks on a key issue that has been on the minds of many Nigerians lately, namely the structure of our federation. I believe that it has a bearing on the theme of this important conference. Politics, including opposition politics, is played within the context of the structure of the polity.

I am a product of regional parliamentary democracy. I received free qualitative education from the primary to the secondary and university levels. I was even paid to attend school. The money which the government of the day, my local authority, used to pay for my education and those of my contemporaries was not derived from oil revenues. So I am not a product of oil boom Nigeria.

I followed a recent debate on the internet between some American professors and some intellectuals from the Niger Delta and a northerner. They were trying to answer the question of whether Nigeria or indeed the Niger Delta can be like Singapore. They all agreed that no nation in the world has developed without a combination of its natural resources and human capital. We have natural resources, but without human capital neither Nigeria nor the Niger Delta can be like Singapore, which did not have significant natural resources to start with. But a nation without natural resources can be like Singapore if it develops its human capital, as Japan did before Singapore.

This is an important lesson for all of us. We must, therefore, demand good governance at all levels of our government. The immense developmental strides achieved by our First Republic leaders were achieved without oil revenues, yet we have for over forty years now been behaving as though nothing can be achieved without oil revenues. We should all be thinking more about production rather than distribution or sharing. I do not know of any country in the world that has developed just by its leaders gathering in their capital city every month to share revenues from rent.

During the 1994-95 constitutional conference some of us argued that such organs as Federal Ministries of Education, Health, Agriculture and Sports were unnecessary. We reasoned that their responsibilities should be devolved to states and local governments. At best the federal government should establish standards and regulatory bodies and give grants to states that conform to them. This proposal was not adopted by the constitutional conference, so the current structure was retained. Why should we be talking of federal roads and federal secondary schools? Decentralization is not an invitation to the breakup of the country and national unity should not continue to be confused with unitarism and concentration of power and resources at the federal level. Of course I am aware that some of the main beneficiaries of our erstwhile regional parliamentary democracy have been hiding behind a call for restructuring to push for the breakup of the country because of their proximity to a finite natural resource and transient political power.

One of the consequences of excessive centralization and the military rule that facilitated it, is that the Nigerian President is the most powerful President in the world. This is because he could quite literally unleash all security agencies on an individual or organization, undermine the National Assembly, and turn the judiciary into an almost pro-government and conformist organ. This is not in the realm of speculation; it has been happening in this country. Indeed I drew attention to it when I was in office as Vice President and was having a political face-off with my boss. It is not healthy for democracy and must be changed.

I also want to recall that during the said 1994-95 Constitutional Conference, Dr Alex Ekwueme, GCON, the Second Republic Vice President of this federation, introduced and canvassed for the concept of geo-political zones. I was among those who opposed it because I thought that Ekwueme, coming from the defunct Republic of Biafra, wanted to break up the country again. Now I realize that I should have supported him because our current federal structure is clearly not working. Dr Ekwueme obviously saw what some of us, with our civil war mindset, could not see at the time. There is indeed too much concentration of power and resources at the centre. And it is stifling our march to true greatness as a nation and threatening our unity because of all the abuses, inefficiencies, corruption and reactive tensions that it has been generating.

There is need, therefore, to review the structure of the Nigerian federation, preferably along the basis of the current six geo-political zones as regions and the states as provinces. The existing states structure may not suffice, as the states are too weak materially and politically to provide what is needed for good governance.

In the same vein I see nothing wrong with the establishment of state police by the states that want it, as long as it can be insulated from and is independent of the state or regional government. The argument that governors will abuse state police is rather specious. Should we abolish the Nigerian Police because it is often abused by those in power at the federal level? Should we abolish the state treasuries because governors abuse them? And should we also abolish local governments for the same reason? No. We should, as a people, struggle for and put in place institutional safeguards against abuse of power by those in power at all levels. We have a chance now to put many of those safeguards in a new constitution.

And, as is typical with working federations around the world, state flag or anthem should not get us overly excited. Local identities and symbols are not antithetical to and do not preclude national identities. I, for one, am a proud son of Adamawa, a proud northerner and I am a proud citizen of Nigeria. American states all have flags and anthems; yet I do not know of many countries that are more stable and united than the United States of America.

It is also absurd to say that all parts of the country should have a uniform wage structure for workers. Our states and regions have different revenue endowments and varying costs of living. And it is misguided for labour leaders to think that a uniform wage structure across the country is in the best interest of workers. Employers, including state governments and agencies, that have the capacity to pay more should be able to do so. That can spur competition for the best talent, which may indeed raise overall wage levels (and standard of living) in the country. Minimum wage standards should, therefore, be established by state/regional governments.

Our judiciary is bloated, and increasingly conformist and pro-establishment. Yet justice is always delayed. In the US, which has a larger population and land mass, we find that the judiciary, while not bloated, delivers justice faster. I would like to see a more activist judiciary at all levels – local, regional and federal – one that actually does justice rather than hide behind technicalities to do injustice. I would like to see a judiciary that is able to live up to its billing as the last hope of the common person.

On the specific theme of this conference (and without prejudice to the keynote address), I will just remark that I have long been an advocate of a two-party system because of our class, ethnic, religious and regional faultlines. My recommendation for legislative amendment in that regard is for the National Assembly to pass a law stating that there shall be two political parties in Nigeria, full stop. It does not have to decree their ideologies or platforms. This, in my view, will produce two political parties that will cut across our various divides, and be viable alternatives capable of forming government after elections. Ruling parties all over the world never want strong opposition parties and in contexts such as ours are capable of undermining efforts by opposition parties to coalesce into a single formidable alternative party.

I thank the Leadership newspapers group for organizing this event and for honouring me with the invitation to chair it. More importantly, I thank the newspaper for its commitment to the journalistic creed of holding those in power to account and reminding them and all of us that in a democracy power flows or ought to flow from the people. I congratulate the recipients of today’s awards.

Thank you and God bless.