- Â Panel to hold public hearing in 12 states
Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
In an apparent bid to respond to the deafening clamour for the countryâ€™s restructuring, the All Progressives Congress (APC) has said that no individual or entity in the country can lay claim to being a stronger advocate of restructuring than itself.
The National Chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, who made the remark Thursday while inaugurating the committee on restructuring headed by the Governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasiru el-Rufai, said right from the partyâ€™s constitution and the manifesto, there were very elaborate references to true federalism and devolution of powers.
â€œIf any group can claim ownership of the principle and the need for true federalism, that group is the APC. From our constituent units, that was one of the principal points and when we sat down to negotiate the union, this great union called the APC, it was one of the principal issues that were almost like a no go item.
â€œWe negotiated and agreed and as a result, the constitution of the party and the manifesto of the party were very elaborate in their references to true federalism and devolution of powers.
â€œIt is therefore totally inconceivable for uninformed members of the public to jump on this bandwagon of restructuring of the federation to give the impression that the party was in any way against the principle of taking a fresh look at the basis of our federalism,â€ he said.
Speaking further, Odigie-Oyegun said the idea of restructuring was almost like a mantra for the APC, adding that the party appreciated the fact that the current federal structure needed to be tinkered with.
Odigie-Oyegun charged the 24-member committee to make use of all the available sources of information and ideas, in order to arrive at a more comprehensive and acceptable position for the APC.
He also spoke on why the party refused to be part of the 2014 National Conference, saying: â€œAs a principle, we refused to attend because it was a very political affair.
â€œThat was the last gathering of the last administration. But I expect you to look at whatever document is available on this subject.
â€œFor us, it is already a mantra. We know that there are things that need to be tinkered with, without in anyway sacrificing or jeopardising the fundamental unity of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
â€œLet me emphasise that your task is both critical and very sensitive, especially in the light of the clamour for restructuring, devolution of powers, fiscal federalism, resource control, and all other issues that describe the various forms of reforms that are being suggested for the restructuring of the current political architecture of our beloved nation.
â€œThe APC constitution and manifesto vigorously canvass these issues and they are very elaborately provided for. The partyâ€™s position has been eloquently stated in the terms of references of this committee.
â€œIt is your duty, especially having regard to the emotive nature of the national discourse on restructuring, to distil from our partyâ€™s constitution and manifesto the various ideas being canvassed in the different constitutional conferences that have been held in this country.â€
Responding, el-Rufai said part of the APC manifesto and campaign commitment was to ensure that Nigeria has a balanced federation.
â€œWe believe in fiscal federalism. It is clearly written in our party manifesto. If there is any party that has moved towards trying to balance this federation, it is the APC government and this has been done in real practical terms.
â€œWe can give examples as state governors of the level of participation of states in certain economic policy directions for the country. We meet every month and the 36 states now play a part in setting the economic direction for this country.
â€œThis has never happened in this country. This government has also taken steps to devolve power and responsibility to states without any constitutional amendment.
â€œWe have seen more cases of federal assets and roads being taken over by states willingly,â€ he said.
El-Rufai who described the 2014 National Conference as a mere political gathering, listed some of the contentious issues in the clamour for restructuring to include state creation, regionalism, revenue allocation, the land tenure system, and resource allocation.
On the mode of operations of the committee, the Kaduna governor said he and members of the committee would move round 12 states of the federation in the six geopolitical zones to hold public hearings and to capture the positions of those who may share alternative opinions.
Members of the committee are el-Rufai â€“ chairman, Olubunmi Adetunbi â€“ secretary, Rauf Aregbesola â€“ member, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu â€“ member, Abdullahi Ganduje – member, Simon Lalong – member, Yahaya Bello â€“ member, Mohammed Abubakar â€“ member, Sullivan Chime – member, Kashim Ibrahim – member, Osita Izunaso – member, Bolaji Abdullahi – member, Ogbonnaya Onu – member, Aisha Al-Hassan – member, Aisha Ismail â€“ member, Sharon Ikeazor – member, Rachael Akpabio – member, Ismail Ahmed â€“ member, Oserheimen Osunbor – member, Fati Bala â€“ member, Jasper Azuatalem â€“ member, Rinsola Abiola â€“ member, and Stella Dorgu â€“ member.