By OLASUNKANMI AKONI
Leadership of the Yoruba Assembly in Lagos has made a passionate demand for regional autonomy, saying it is the minimum condition for Yourubas to remain in the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
They also reiterated demand on special status for Lagos, which they said would continue to be the economic nerve centre of Nigeria and the West Africa, hence, there should be appropriate budgetary provision that is part of the First Line Charge in the federation account.
The groups include Afenifere Renewal Group, O’dua Foundation, O’dua Nationalist Coalition, Afenifere Youth Forum, Atayese, Agbekoya Reformed Society and Coalition for O’dua Self-determination Group, among others.
The ethnic group made the demands at a joint news conference addressed at Gani Fawehinmi Park, Ojota, Lagos on Monday.
National Secretary, Chief Ayo Afolabi and Chairman of Atayese Yoruba Group, Chief Tokunbo Ajasin, who read the text of the conference theme: “Regional Autonomy… or Nothing” on behalf of other ethnic groups, acknowledged that it was inconceivable that northern leaders “are the ones leading the campaign against devolution of power and restructuring of government.”
The ethnic group said it was baffled at the take-it-or-leave-it attitude of delegates from other ethnic nationalities, particularly the Northern delegates at the on-going National Conference, who circulated a document full of fallacies few weeks ago claiming that the North “has about 80 percent of Nigerian population and that its resources were used to develop oil sectors.”
It therefore said, if any region in the federation “needs a stronger federating unit with greater capacity to provide education, health, security, wealth creation and other social amenities, it is the North where strong links exist between the level of poverty and conscription of innocent youths into extremist tendencies.”
According to the ethnic group, it appears Northern leaders were not concerned, and indeed have no plan for the teeming youth from the region, as long as they are able to continue clinging to their hold on power.
Canvassing regional autonomy, the group stressed, was the most viable instrument for a stronger and united Nigeria, noting that the Yoruba People of Nigeria would not accept anything less than what it called minimum demands.
They demanded that states in Yoruba land “want a regional government with its own constitution and unfettered political and fiscal autonomy, except on issues it agrees to cede to the federal government.”
The ethnic group also declared that the South-west geopolitical region “must include all Yoruba people outside the imposed artificial boundaries in Edo, Delta, Kogi and Kwara States.”
Part of its demands includes; a negotiated legislative, exclusive, concurrent and residual list; unicameral legislature at the center; details of the Regional legislature shall be clearly set out in the constitution; parliamentary form of government at the center; and the right to self-determination on and up to the right to secede.
Other demands include a just and equitable taxation system that “will treat the federating units with equality and better coordination at the federal level in order to eliminate the current rentier syndrome and fiscal federalism and resource control.
“A system whereby a substantial part of the proceeds accrue-able from every federating unit will be retained and an agreed percentage contributed to the center by the federating units for the responsibility of the Federal government.”
The group demanded establishment of regional police and a new people’s constitution, which the resolutions and conclusions of the 2014 National Conference shall lead “to an autonomous constitution that is a home-grown and all inclusive draft that shall be submitted to the Nigerian electorate voting in a Referendum.
They, however, said: “We are not enforcing our demands on others. They are free to explore whatever suits them while we should be free to organise our governance the way it suits us.”