• President lacks powers to restructure Nigeria, says Dogara
James Emejo in Abuja
Governor of Kaduna State and Chairman, All Progressives Congress (APC) Committee on True Federalism, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, Tuesday described the National Assembly as the ultimate stakeholder in the pursuit of true federalism otherwise known as restructuring.
The governor, who led members of the APC committee on a courtesy call on the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, said the work of the committee was merely to collect and collate the views of Nigerians particularly young people and other vulnerable groups and present them to the party which will then find a way to engage with parliament.
He said: “Ultimately, whatever discussion we have about federalism will have no value unless the National Assembly enacts whatever the people of Nigeria say they want. We felt that as ultimately the most important stakeholder in this project, we must come here and brief you because we started work while you were on recess.”
El-Rufai’s recognition of the powers of the National Assembly in resolving the current agitations for restructuring across the country appeared to have silenced some critics who held argued that consultations with various stakeholders was unnecessary since the president could single-handedly restructure the country.
The governor said: “We are here as APC committee on true federalism to pay you a courtesy call to give you a brief background on the assignment the party has entrusted on us; where we are so far and the important role of the National Assembly in this process.
“APC in its manifesto made very firm commitment towards devolution of powers and true federalism which is variously referred to restructuring and so on.
“However, because of other challenges, the administration has to deal with since assumption of office, the expeditious implementation of some of these commitments has not occurred.
“I am proud here to say that the National Assembly led by the APC went ahead to begin this process of constitutional amendment to make the federation better balanced. There’s some imbalance in our federation and this is why we’ve actually committed to do something about it.
“However, it’s better late than never.”
He noted that the party had approved the committee’s recommendations to expand the membership of the committee to move it from a technical committee to a broad-based political committee in order to include everyone.
The Kaduna State governor said one of the decisions of the committee was to invite the two houses of the National Assembly to nominate members to join the discussion to serve as a bridge “so that whatever we come up with will not be a surprise to you.”
Nevertheless, Dogara, in his response clarified that arguments that President Muhammadu Buhari has powers to restructure the country by the stoke of the pen was grossly misplaced.
He said: “When the president talked about the National Assembly being the proper forum for this discussions, so many people objected to that and some are even suggesting, including senior advocates that the president could just sit down and restructure the country.
“I don’t know whether by any stroke of imagination or magic, the green pen can actually restructure Nigeria. Unfortunately, most of the issues that are being raised are there in the foundational documents of this country which is the constitution.
“And even going by the elementary description and functions of the departments of agencies of government, the executive cannot make laws, and cannot tinker with the provisions of the constitution- it’s the National Assembly that must do that.
“I guess if the president even has powers, his powers will just amount to recommendations in form of an executive bill, if there’s any such thing that’ll be sent to the National Assembly or constitutional alterations in order to address fundamental basis for some of these agitations.
“This is the proper forum where the debate, outcome of those debates will be channeled for processing and for action. And I know we won’t let this country down when it comes to performing our responsibility as the institution that immediately represents the people.”
According to him: “Dogara when you talk about federalism, you are talking about distribution of powers in a given political setting. Now, whether this has worked, we can only get the result from the feelings of the citizens of this country and I guess agitations coming from various cultures shows that something is wrong with our federation and something must be done.
“Fortunately, we have people in our party, in Nigeria who can proffer solutions to the challenges that we have and if we don’t do it, no-one is coming to do it for us. Even if we pray, angels wouldn’t do this on our behalf-and as a matter of facts, we are the angels God has put in this country to solve our problems.
“And if we abdicate, sooner than later we will face a very dire consequences for our actions before whatever we permit we are responsible for it. And we’ve permitted all these issues to a point that they are threatening to consumers. And thank God we are beginning to take the right steps in the right direction to address this.”