Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu; a former National Vice Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Olabode George and the former Governor of Ogun State, Mr. Gbenga Daniel have harped on the need for the decentralisation of federal powers to make the federal system in the country more effective.
Sanwo-Olu who was represented by his deputy, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat at the 3rd Annual Lecture of Freedom Online Newspaper with the theme “Nigeria: Foundation, Fundamentals, Future,” held in Lagos, in his assertion insisted that the decentralisation will offer a fresh impetus on how true federalism can solve the current security challenges bedevilling Nigeria and put the country on the path of accelerated development.
According to him, devolving some exclusive functions of the federal government, including provision of security, would provide instant answer to the current agitations threatening the unity of the country, even as he lamented that the emergence of “beggar-states” as the major constituents of Nigeria’s federation would not take the country to the future it desires in a world that is developing rapidly.
He said the flawed federalist ideals enshrined in the 1999 Constitution had continuously limited the power of the states to pursue individual development at their own pace, stressing that Nigeria must holistically address the “fundamental question” of federalism if the political class was serious about lifting the country out of the current quagmire.
“One of the legacies of military rule was the abolition of powerful and largely financially independent regional governments and replacement with weaker entities known as States. These states were, of course, beholden to a very powerful central government that doled out resources to them and used every opportunity to make it clear that the states were appendages of the centre.
“At the time, the regions worked hard, earned their revenues from exports, from taxes, and so on, and kept a large chunk of what they earned. None of them came to Lagos – the then Federal Capital – with caps in hands for what we now refer to as ‘Federal Allocation’. Every region survived mainly on its internally generated revenue. There was also a healthy competition among the regions.”
Sanwo-Olu also called for a review of the terms of fiscal federalism between the centre and the state governments, saying that the federal government must consciously devolve more responsibilities and resources to states and local governments as those entities are the closest to the people.
“Today, the revenue sharing formula is 52.6 per cent for the federal government, 26.7 per cent to the states and 20.6 per cent to local governments. The Federal Government takes the lion share, out-muscling the State and Local Governments, which are the closest tiers to the populace. State and local governments ordinarily should be drivers of development. As it is today, it is common knowledge that most states depend on a monthly allowance from Abuja to survive.
“States should be free to control the drilling of oil and mining of solid minerals and pay the required taxes and royalties to the Federation Account. The many States have no business being poor or suffering a cash-crunch given their huge mineral deposits. There is also no reason why States cannot generate and distribute electricity and license the same, within their geographical limits. This can be done in a way in which necessary returns will be made to the federal government.”
On his part, George, who was the keynote speaker, said that for the country to move forward and to create a new Nigerian space, power must be devolved to the states, declaring that the centre must be stripped of what he termed its overbearing, crushing responsibilities.
According to him, currently, Nigeria is running predicated on charity, a situation he said encourages laziness, discourages hard work and creative enterprise.
“To move forward, to recreate a new Nigerian space, power must be devolved to the states. The centre must be stripped of its overbearing, crushing responsibilities. Let the states look within their localities and define their paths, cultivating their resources to be self-reliant rather than waiting for monthly handouts from the centre. To be sure, we are running a country predicated on charity, encouraging laziness, discouraging hard work and creative enterprise.
“Again, in a true federation, the states are the arbiters of their fortunes. They must create wealth by looking within their environment to exploit their natural resources to grow their economies,” George said, citing the example of Japan which he said had developed largely based on the vast human resources of its people.
“The Chinese industrial revolution of the 21st Century has broken many grounds in commerce, in technology, in medicine, in construction, in aviation and virtually in all fields of human enterprise. In less than two decades. it has removed more than 200 million people from the poverty roll.
Speaking, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media, Mallam Garba Shehu, denounced the attack on an entire race of people for the misdeeds of a few criminal few.
He lamented that some Nigerians taking to attacking the entire Fulani people for activities of a criminal few. “When you described criminals by their ethnicity, you are making things worse. Rouges are everywhere, we should deal with them for who they are instead of generalising,” he stressed.
The former Ogun State governor, Daniel, in his speech, commended President Muhammadu Buhari for closing the country’s borders to foreign rice, saying that what he did in that regard was in line with India and China model.
But he made it clear that he would not say the same in his handling of the nation’s security situation, even as he contended that the problem facing the country was not difficult to solve, saying the solution was simple.
“The challenge we have in Nigeria is capital flight, saying that China, with its huge population, decided to close its borders a long time ago to become a producer of nearly every good and service.
Also speaking, the publisher of Freedom online and host of the lecture, Mr. Gabriel Akinadewo, stated that until policing and security issues in the country are localised, there will continue to be insecurity in the country.