Atiku Backs Devolution of Powers, Resource Control

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Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja

The former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, has made a case for the restructuring of the Nigerian federation to enable the federating states assume more powers with regards to creation of local government areas and control of revenues it generates.

He emphasised the urgent need for all the federating units in the country to sit down and agree on how to share its resources in such a manner that would instigate healthy rivalry and competition.

Speaking at the formal public presentation of the Daily Stream Newspaper which took place in Abuja, Atiku said there was no doubt that the current structure of our federation has “constituted an impediment to our economic development, political stability and social harmony,” adding that  changing them would result in phenomenal and unhindered development of the country.

“We must sit down, discuss, and agree on the nature of our fiscal federalism – how to share our resources. I am on record as having advocated for the control of rents by the federating units from which they are derived while the federal government retains its powers to levy taxes. That will make us all productive again and our federating units to engage in healthy rivalries and competition, which will only result in more progress,” he said.

Atiku said restructuring would facilitate the emergence of a leaner bureaucracy, enhance efficiency, block wastages and promote more prudent management.

According to Atiku, the situation is made even worse by the cocktail of economic, social and political problems which the country has had to contend with.

On power devolution, the former vice president said a situation where the federal government is saddled with the creation of local governments and directly funding them, makes nonsense of the word “local.”

“Those powers should be vested in the state governments. And it should include an end to federal ownership of interstate roads, schools, hospitals and the uniformity in remunerations across the country,” he said.

Atiku also said he was opposed to the idea of states and local governments operating joint account, saying that the practice has absolved state governments of its responsibilities to fund local governments as they virtually confiscate the funds allocated by the federal government to the local governments.

The former vice-president who has been campaigning for restructuring of the federation, noted that the problem with the country’s federalism is that over the years it had become so skewed in favour of the centre, thereby impeding economic development and threatening Nigeria’s existence as a united country.

“However, I am not here just to lament over the sad and unenviable state of affairs in Nigeria. I firmly believe in the viability of the Nigerian Project, I remain unshaken and completely persuaded that we can eventually change the story of Nigeria for good by collectively making Nigeria a productive, prosperous, peaceful and united nation whose people are happy and contented and one that is able to really lead Africa and assume a pride of place in the comity of nations.

“But to achieve that, we must elevate and steer conversation away from empty rhetoric and platitudes. We must instigate and see to the full and faithful implementation of profound changes in the political structure, organisation, functions and performance of state, and a radical re-organisation of government, its organs and personnel,” he said.