- Â Benue, Plateau say itâ€™s the way to go
- Restructuring will not lead to Nigeriaâ€™s breakup, says Nwabueze
- Â Govs demand release of federal roads to states
- Â House: Passage of Devolution Bill not automatic
Omololu Ogunmade, James Emejo in Abuja, Seriki Adinoyi in Jos, Christopher Isiguzo in Enugu and Ibrahim Shuaibu in Kano
Kano, Katsina, Nasarawa and Jigawa States have expressed support for a strong and united nation, even as they rejected the growing clamour for the restructuring of the country.
Kano, Katsina and Nasarawa also rejected demands for the devolution of power. However, Jigawa went against the grain of its neighbours in the North-west zone by advocating the removal of education and agriculture from the Exclusive List to the Concurrent List in the constitution.
Benue and Plateau States, on the other hand, differed completely, saying restructuring was the way to go, as it would address all the current agitation from all sides.
Jigawa, Kano and Katsina made their positions known at the All Progressives Congress (APC) zonal forum on true federalism held in Kano Thursday, while Benue, Plateau and Nasarawa voiced their opinions at the same meeting held in Jos for the North-central zone.
The APC Committee on True Federalism headed by the Governor of Kaduna State, Nasir el-Rufai, had kick-started the regional public hearings on September 18.
But as the ruling party held its zonal meetings, renowned constitutional lawyer and leader of the Igbo Leaders of Thought, Prof. Ben Nwabueze (SAN), Thursday reiterated the urgent need for the restructuring of the country, dispelling concerns that it would lead to the breakup of the country or encourage separatist groups to secede.
Ironically, even as some Northern states rejected restructuring and devolution of powers from the federal government to the states, the 36 state governors in Abuja asked the federal government to give them control over some federal roads in their states.
At the APC true federalism committee hearing in Kano, the state subtly rejected tinkering with the structure of the current federating units of Nigeria and equally opposed amending the current devolution of power format.
Articulating the position of Kano, Governor Abdullahi Ganduje said even if any constitutional amendment would be effected, it should be a gradual process.
â€œWe are of the view that power should, in a process of gradual constitution amendment, continue to be shared among and between the current tiers of government in keeping with the dictates of the principles of federalism,â€ he said.
Ganduje added that Kano people believe in one united nation, saying: â€œKano is in total support of the indivisibility and oneness of Nigeria as a single geographical entity based on the solid principles of democracy, liberty, justice and federalism.â€
On the creation of more states, the governor said the nation needs not be saddled with extra financial burden such extra states would entail.
Ganduje also said the derivation formula pegged for oil-producing states should not exceed 13 per cent.
â€œEqually the Federal Republic of Nigeria should maintain the present presidential system of government, the three tiers of government consisting of the 36 states and 774 local governments as provided in the 1999 Constitution,â€ Ganduje said.
In his contribution, the Katsina State Governor, Aminu Bello Masari, blamed the militaryâ€™s foray into politics, saying this was the primary reason the calls for restructuring were mounting daily.
He also said Nigerians needed to be on the same page regarding the true meaning of true federalism to be able to proffer solutions on the way forward.
â€œMany have forgotten that we, in the first place, need to be even enlightened on what true federalism and restructuring is, because as it is, many have given it different meanings,â€ the Katsina governor argued.
He also reiterated the belief in the indivisibility of the nation as presently constituted.
â€œKatsina rejects devolution of powers and restructuring as being pushed, but believes in one united Nigeria that takes care of every section of the nation,â€ he said.
He assured the APC committee that Katsinaâ€™s position aligned with that of its sister states in the North-west zone, which he listed as Kano, Kaduna, Jigawa, Sokoto, Zamfara and Kebbi.
â€œThis is because whatever touches them or concerns them, concerns us,â€ he added.
Speaking also, the Jigawa State Governor, Alhaji Muhammad Badaru Abubakar, who was represented by the Secretary to the State Government, Alhaji Adamu AbdulKadir, while rejecting restructuring of the country, advocated the devolution of power from the centre to the states.
Abubakar argued that some key issues including education and agriculture should be removed from the Exclusive List in the Nigerian Constitution, thereby enabling states and local governments to effectively manage their own affairs.
Abubakar also posited that the government was in support of true federalism, review of the fiscal and federal allocation and the federal system of government.
The Jigawa governor, however, opposed the creation of more states.
The three states representing the North-west zone present were in agreement on unity and strong federating units for the country.
They were also unanimous on balanced economic development and the spread of social growth across the country.
Also, in their different speeches, they declared that the unity of the country remained sacrosanct and non-negotiable, pointing out that it will not be in the interest of any part of the country to break off.
Former Governor Sullivan Chime of Enugu, who represented the committee in Kano, said Nigerians needed to communicate with the same language concerning the agitations so as to fashion a way forward.
Chime urged Nigerians to â€œcritically examine the calls for restructuring and give their input on how best the clamour could be tackledâ€.
The committee, according to a statement issued by el-Rufai at its inauguration, was expected to organise 13 public hearings across the nation before finally fashioning out a position on the matter at the national level.
However, the position of the Kaduna State Government created an obvious vacuum at the forum Thursday as el-Rufai was not only conspicuously absent, but did not send a representative, nor did he submit a memoranda on behalf of his state.
Zamfara, Sokoto and Kebbi were also not represented at the meeting.
Also speaking Thursday at the North-central meeting on true federalism held by the APC, Nasarawa State Governor, Umaru Tanko Al-Makura, said his state was not comfortable with restructuring, adding that the country had benefited immensely from the presidential system and all that was needed was to fine-tune it and make it work better.
He said: â€œWe are comfortable with the presidential system that has been in practice for over 40 years. The word restructuring is often misused; all we need is to fine-tune the existing practice and make it better.
â€œSome people think that restructuring is to create more states, while others think it is to merge states. But the truth is that the presidential system remains the best practice.â€
But Plateau and Benue States, which were represented at the forum, differed with Al-Makura, saying restructuring was the way to go, as it will address all the agitation from all sides.
Presenting his paper, the Director of Research and Documentation in the Plateau State Government House, Professor John Wade, said restructuring was born out of agitation, so it should be applied to address all aggrieved zones, adding, nonetheless, that agitators should pursue their demands through legal and constitutional means.
On its part, the Benue State government also consented to restructuring, saying it couldnâ€™t have come at a better time.
Speaking while presenting the stateâ€™s position, the APC Legal Adviser, Mr. Omale Omale, who represented the Benue State Government, added that the state was gunning for local government autonomy, power devolution and land tenure as its restructuring bid.
Nwabueze Allays Concerns
But even as the states in the North could not agree on restructuring, renowned constitutional lawyer and leader of the Igbo Leaders of Thought, Prof. Nwabueze (SAN), Thursday reiterated the urgent need to restructure the country and dispelled concerns that it would lead to the breakup of the country or encourage separatist groups to secede.
In a press statement on restructuring to mark the nationâ€™s 57th anniversary, the elder statesman said restructuring would herald a new Nigeria that would have enormous regard for her people.
According to him, restructuring should be seen as a â€œclamour for the setting up of appropriate platforms or fora to renegotiate suitable governmental structures for the pursuit and realisation of our common needs for development, good governance and national transformationâ€.
He said it had become imperative for the restructuring of the nationâ€™s model of â€œfederalismâ€ as a governmental structure, which according to him was no longer what it used to be under the 1960/1963 Constitutions of Nigeria before the military interventions that changed everything.
In an envisioned â€œNew Nigeriaâ€, Nwabueze said ethnic nationalities should, for the purpose of the restructuring, be grouped into six or eight zones or regions as federating units, without prejudice to the existing 36 states, noting that the implementation of restructuring imperatively requires a new constitution adopted by the people through a referendum.
â€œThe federal system under the two constitutions (1960 and 1963) may fairly be described as a model of true federalism.
â€œRegrettably, the intrusion of absolutist military rule for 28 years after 1965 has brought about the accretion of a vast amount of additional powers to the centre, over and above what they were under the 1960/63 Constitutions, resulting in the system being turned virtually into a unitary system; the system is still tagged federal, but it is so largely in name,â€ Nwabueze said.
He further described the undue concentration of power and financial resources at the centre as an anomaly, adding that the notion of true federalism demands a separate constitution and coercive forces at the federating units.
â€œRestructuring, as it is presently being demanded, seeks to revert our federal system to the true federalism of the 1960/63 Constitutions, to further reduce the powers of the federal government as may be thought necessary, and to reverse the specific matters mentioned above.
â€œThe intention, furthermore, is to assuage, to an optimal extent, the demand for self-determination or self-government consistent with the territorial sovereignty of the country.
â€œSelf-determination connotes essentially, not independent government, but the right of each group, within the territorial sovereignty of the country as one state, to govern itself in matters that concern it alone, without undue control by the federal government; the control is oppressive because it is being exercised without due regard to the requirements of justice, fairness and equity.
â€œThe ethnic nationalities, other than those in the meantime in charge of the federal government, are groaning under the emasculating yoke of federal control, as evidenced by the recent authoritarian proscription of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), without first resorting to dialogue as a means for amicable resolution of disagreements in a democracy, and without a hearing by a court of law.
â€œRestructuring is being demanded as a means of release from the choking federal yoke.
â€œThe term â€˜self-governmentâ€™ expresses the essence of re-structuring in our understanding of it. To reiterate, self-government requires that the ethnic nationalities, grouped together by reference to culture/language and geographical contiguity, should be enabled to govern themselves in matters that concern them alone, within the sovereignty of a central government common to all, with powers appropriately circumscribed.
â€œSelf-government connotes therefore true federalism. The ethnic nationalities should, for this purpose, be grouped into six or eight zones or regions, as federating units, without (it is suggested) prejudice to the existing 36 states.
â€œThe implementation of restructuring imperatively requires a new constitution to be adopted by the people at a referendum,â€ he stated.
Govs Want Federal Roads
But as the arguments for and against restructuring gathered pace, the governors of the 36 states of the federation Thursday demanded the release of some of the federal roads to the states for rehabilitation and reconstruction in view of the deplorable state of such roads and the federal governmentâ€™s inability to fix them all.
Briefing State House correspondents at the end of Thursdayâ€™s National Economic Council (NEC), presided over by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo in the Presidential Villa, Abuja, the Governor of Ebonyi State, Mr. Dave Umahi, said in view of the deteriorating state of Nigerian roads, NEC approved the governorsâ€™ decision to write President Muhammadu Buhari to demand the release of some federal roads to them.
According to Umahi, the roads would be fixed through private public partnerships with the aim of tolling the roads and consequently save Nigerians the pains of plying collapsed roads.
He said if granted, concrete measures would be employed to construct the roads with a view to guaranteeing their longevity.
He also said the council resolved that the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola, should come up with strategies on how to control the weight of items being conveyed by trucks on the roads which he added was the major cause of frequent collapse of roads.
â€œCouncil was highly concerned about the state of our roads. Even after fixing the roads, the roads will collapse within six months and we identified that overloading is one of the major factors because in the road designs, you use an axial load.
â€œMost of the time, you donâ€™t use more than an axial load of 35 tonnes but a lot of our trucks carry loads of fuel, conveying 45 tonnes, 60 tonnes, 70 tonnes and that is a major concern to state governors.
â€œSo we said the Minister for Power, Works and Housing should come up with strategies to replace the weight of the trucks plying the roads fingered as the major cause of road collapse.
â€œThe state governors are very concerned. These failures have been agitating our minds and we are thinking about strategies to resolve the problem.
â€œWe solicited that the federal government should give out some of the federal roads to states so that states can fix the roads and maybe toll them.
â€œWe believe this will be more effective because we believe that the number of federal roads being handled by the federal government, no amount of budget can fix them.
â€œBut if some of these are given out to state governments and they maintain a handful of them, of course, some of the budgeted funds, the annual budgets can be given to the states and that will help.
â€œSo we came to the agreement that we are going to write Mr. President to proffer some of the strategies by which we can participate in this kind of programme.
â€œWe believe that it is going to enhance our road situation. So we resolved that governors would write President Muhammadu Buhari to release some of the federal roads to fix them through private public partnership initiatives with the aim of tolling the roads and consequently saving Nigerians the pains of plying collapsed roads.
â€œHe said if granted, concrete would be used to construct the roads to guarantee their longevity,â€ he said.
Umahi also gave the current balances in Federation Accounts to include: N4.3 billion in the Stabilisation Account, N84.69 billion in the Natural Resources Account and $2.3 billion in Excess Crude Account.
Responding to a question on the ability of state governments to assume the responsibility of road rehabilitation and maintenance, given their inability to pay workersâ€™ salaries, the Kwara State Governor, Mr. Abdulfatah Ahmed, said despite the challenges of unpaid salaries confronting the states, they could still take on the responsibility of fixing federal roads through public private partnerships and achieve good results.
Also briefing, the Director-General of the Nigeria Export Promotion Council (NEPC), Mr. Segun Awolowo, disclosed that Nigeria lost over N30 trillion, the equivalent of $100 billion, to the fall in the price of crude oil in the last two years.
According to him, in view of the drastic fall in oil prices, NEPC conceived what it tagged a â€œzero oil planâ€ with the aim of generating $30 billion from non-oil revenue sources in the near medium term.
He said the objectives of the zero oil plan are to add $150 billion to Nigeriaâ€™s foreign reserves in the next 10 years, create 500,000 jobs, alleviate poverty and get the states of the federation integrated into the export value chain.
He also said sources of exports would come from food crops such as rice, wheat, corn and palm oil, among others, which he added would be exported to places such as France, Spain, Italy, and the like.
â€œThe NEPC made a presentation to the NEC on a plan to restructure the Nigerian economy to survive without crude oil. The plan is called â€˜the zero oil planâ€™.
â€œCouncil was informed that Nigeria is going through the sharpest falls of export revenues in her history, losing over $100 billion of national export revenue between 2015 to 2017 due to the crashing oil prices, which resultant effect was the recession.
â€œCouncil was informed that there was urgent need to rapidly ramp up non-oil exports as our future earnings from crude oil faces significant headwinds.
â€œThe zero oil plan aims at earning at least $30 billion from non-oil sources in the near to medium term as against the current earnings of about $5 billion.
â€œThe objectives of the zero oil plan are to add $150 billion to Nigeriaâ€™s foreign reserves in the next 10 years, create 500,000 jobs, lift 10 million Nigerians out of poverty and integrate each state of the federation into the export value chain.
â€œThe focus of the plan is on the export of the following items – rice, wheat, corn, palm oil, rubber, hides and skin, sugar, soya beans and automotive parts, among others.
â€œDestination countries for our exports include: Netherlands, China, Iran, Germany, United Kingdom, France, Spain, Italy, India and Saudi Arabia, among others,â€ he said.
Awolowo also said the Nigerian Export-Import Bank (NEXIM) briefed NEC on what he described as the â€œstates export development initiative being pursued as a medium to long term strategic plan aimed at stimulating and increasing deliberate funding intervention for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the non-oil sector for attainment of its objectivesâ€.
He said: â€œThe initiative is built on schematic transaction dynamics with key features like the provision of dedicated funding of a minimum of N5 billion as a pilot phase with a window for other facilities and partnership for transactional support.â€
Furthermore, Awolowo said the Managing Director of Nigerian Export Zones Authority (NEPZA) briefed the council on the need to have more special economic zones in addition to the Calabar Free Trade Zone.
â€œHe told the council that the major defect in the Calabar Free Trade Zone is that the zone has not been linked to the Calabar Port and that there is urgent need to do so in order to make the zone a lot more effective.
â€œPartnership between the federal and state governments as well as the private sector is needed. He urged council to ensure that the location of free trade zones should be done strictly on business considerations and not political considerations.
â€œHe also asked council to provide incentives for free trade zones to include linkage to rail and expressways and close the proximity to utilities and airports, among others,â€ he added.
Also, the Kwara State governor said the council constituted a committee saddled with the task of drawing up a plan to boost exports in pursuit of governmentâ€™s diversification programme.
The committee, which will be chaired by the governor of Jigawa State, also has the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Okechukwu Enelamah, as co-chairman.
He listed other members of the committee to include: Ministers of Agriculture, Power, Works and Housing, Finance as well as the governors of Lagos and Ebonyi States.
Ahmed added that the committee would also draw up templates on the structure of accessing information on exports.
In his briefing, the Governor of Kebbi State, Atiku Bagudu, said the Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbeh, briefed the council on Nigeriaâ€™s exports in recent times.
According to him, the minister said exports had increased by 82 per cent with rubber, kolanut and palm kernel, among others, being exported to other countries
A statement Thursday night by Osinbajoâ€™s media aide, also said Nigeria earned N30 billion from agriculture exports in the first quarter (Q1) of 2017.
Devolution Bill Not Automatic
Meanwhile, the spokesman of the House of Representatives, Hon. Abdulrazaq Namdas, Thursday clarified that the plan by the lower legislative chamber to revisit the Devolution of Powers Bill would not make its passage automatic.
He said the reintroduction of the bill would still be subjected to laid down procedures of constitution amendment when the lawmakers might have consulted with their respective constituencies before voting on the bill again.
He cautioned further that the bill could still either be passed or rejected.
Addressing reporters at the weekly media briefing, Namdas said the newly constituted Special Ad hoc Committee on Political Agitation in Nigeria was expected to meet all agitators across the country with a view to easing political tension across the country.
The ad hoc committee, which is chaired by the Deputy Speaker of the House, Hon. Sulaimon Lasun Yusuff, held its inaugural meeting Thursday.
Lasun, who presided over the meeting, called on Nigerians to give support to the National Assembly in ensuring that all political agitations in the country are resolved.
He said the committee was saddled with the responsibility of making sure that all political agitations from various quarters are stopped, adding that the committee would go from one location to another to investigate the cause of the agitations and also provide a lasting solution to the various concerns.
The deputy speaker appealed to members of the committee to take the assignment seriously, given the urgency and complexity of the agitations.
In a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Wole Oladimeji, Lasun assured the public that the committee would do everything within its power to come up with solutions that would stop further agitations in the country.
The 16-member committee has House Leader, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila as deputy chairman as well as seven principal officers and two members of the House.
Also Thursda,y the House denied the conclusion reached by the Supreme Court against House Speaker, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, whom it accused of disobeying court orders.
The Supreme Court had warned the Speaker of the consequences for disobedience to court orders and urged him to comply with the courtâ€™s decision that sacked a member of the House, Hon. Herman Hembe, and ordered him to refund all the monies collected as salaries and allowances from June 2015 when they were sworn in as a legislator.
The court further ordered that Mrs. Dorothy Mato be sworn in to replace Hembe.
Dogara was yet to comply with the June 25, 2017 judgment, hence drawing condemnation from the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, who argued that the seeming disobedience could spell doom for democracy.
But Namdas told reporters that Mato was yet to complete her documentation with the Houseâ€™s management, adding that there was nothing personal to it.
He said though Mato might have been cleared by the Code of Conduct Bureau, there are House procedures she must certify before she is presented for swearing-in.
He added that she will be duly sworn in whenever she does the â€œneedfulâ€.