The 36 state governors may have reached a dead end in their search for consensus over the clamour for the decentralisation of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF).
After about two hours meeting in Abuja late on Wednesday, the governors, once again, failed to harmonise their differences over the clamour for state police which has split their ranks along the North-South divide.
Wednesday’s meeting, which began at about 9pm at the Rivers State Governor’s Lodge, Abuja, was unusual in many ways, a sign that all is not well with the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF).
The meeting, which was called to harmonise positions of the governors on state police and the renewed clamour by Northern governors for a review of the onshore-offshore oil dichotomy, ended at about 11.30pm without a communiqué or formal briefing of reporters who had waited for the outcome of the meeting.
However, THISDAY checks revealed that the governors failed to resolve their differences that would have allowed the NGF to speak with one voice on the ongoing efforts to amend the 1999 Constitution.
Signs of a stalemate appeared earlier on Wednesday when Northern governors met under the aegis of the Northern State Governors’ Forum (NSGF) to harmonise their position on their opposition to the demands for the decentralisation of the NPF.
The 19 governors from the North had last month recanted their support for state police, which the 36 state governors had adopted as their position that would be communicated to the Constitution Review Committee of the National Assembly.
Efforts to save the proposal on state police failed at last month’s meeting of the NGF in Abuja, as many of the Northern governors were absent and only sent their deputies to represent them. This necessitated the postponement of the meeting to Wednesday where it was expected that the governors would be able to forge a consensus again on the matter.
Before the commencement of Wednesday’s meeting, the Chairman of the NSGF, Dr. Babangida Aliyu of Niger State, had lamented the declining revenue profile of the Northern states, explaining that some states in the North could not pay salaries as at when due without allocations from the Federation Account.
Sources told THISDAY yesterday that the dire financial situation facing the states was the main reason the Northern governors are not willing to shift ground on their opposition to state police.
According to one of the governors who spoke in confidence, “Would it not be fair to first implement the N18,000 minimum wage before adding additional burden of state police?
“By state police, it entails all the logistics details, including arms, ammunition, vehicular and other necessary requirements. Where do you expect me to get the funds from when I am battling to pay the minimum wage and the Nigeria Labour Congress is on my neck?”
It was also learnt that the NGF did not have fruitful discussion on the simmering campaign for the review of the onshore-offshore oil dichotomy because the Northern governors were unwilling to discuss the issue yet.
Already, the Northern governors have set up a committee, comprising the Attorney Generals and Commissioners for Justice in the zone to study the onshore-offshore dichotomy, as a basis for calculating the 13 per cent derivation fund to oil-producing states, with a view to recommending a position to the NSGF.
With a position already taken on the major issues for discussion at the Wednesday’s meeting of the 36 state governors, some of the Northern governors, it was learnt, deliberately stayed away, after attending the earlier meeting at the Niger State Governor’s Lodge in Abuja.
For instance, Aliyu, who chaired the Northern governors meeting earlier in the day, was absent from the main governors’ meeting. He sent in his deputy, Ahmed Musa Ibeto.
Aliyu’s counterpart in Benue State, Gabriel Suswam, who also attended the morning meeting of the Northern governors, was represented at the evening meeting of the governors’ forum by his deputy, Chief Steven Lawani.
Bauchi State Governor, Isa Yuguda, and his Zamfara State counterpart, Alhaji Abdulaziz Yari, who were in Abuja, did not attend either the Northern governors’ meeting or that of the larger governors’ forum.