News

June 12, 2016

Pro-Biafrans, Niger Delta Avengers and Buhari’s restructuring dilemma

Pro-Biafrans, Niger Delta Avengers and Buhari’s restructuring dilemma

Militants vs Buhari

By Charles Kumolu

NIGERIA, a nation perennially on the cliff, is once again at a crossroads, no thanks to renewed calls for restructuring.

The rebound of this familiar agitation, at a time the emergence of President Muhammadu Buhari is perceived to represent a social re-engineering of the polity, suggests that such calls are daily assuming longevity.

Virtually every aspect of the latest round comes with surprising uniqueness. It is more understood from what seems to be the tripod of unusual traction, approach, growing legion and calibre of proponents which the fuss sits on.

Unlike in the past when similar calls were only birthed and promoted by progressive minded citizens, the movement is currently being powered by a mixture of commoners and the latter group.

Mixture of commoners 

At the last count, prominent champions of the latest phase include former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, pan-Yoruba and Igbo socio-political organisations, Afenifere and Ohaneze Ndi Igbo.

Afenifere and Ohanaeze, which had been the traditional movers of restrucdturing, when blended with the new entrants, the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB,  Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) and Middle Belt interests, produce a non ignorable synergy.

The outcome of this concurrence, provoked by the activities of the IPOB and NDA, is such that observers think requires more than official aloofness.

While the IPOB wants a sovereign state on the raft of Biafra, the NDA daily embellishes its vandalization of major oil installations with similar demand for the Niger Delta.

Instructively, the activities of IPOB and NDA, when juxtaposed with their inherent self determination noise, present a bigger picture of a curious kind of  consciousness for Nigeria’s restructuring.

Fittingly corroborating the above recently, Atiku said  it is wrong to assume that everyone who calls for restructuring is advocating the dismemberment of the Nigerian state.

Interestingly, this is one area where both protagonists and antagonists of restructuring seem to have found a common ground.

”The call for restructuring is even more relevant today in the light of the governance and economic challenges facing us.  And the rising tide of agitations, some militancy and violence, require a reset in our relationships as a united nation,” he explained.

Notwithstanding, analysts argue that the situation, when probed from how it resurged from relativity occasioned by the recommendation of the 2015 National Conference, leaves the country with growing socio-politically explosive implications.

Hence, the expectations are for the government to face the situation with a re-evaluated approach in accordance with the altering dynamics.

Damaging results 

IPOB-Onitsha9Strengthening the position in a chat with  Sunday Vanguard, a long-time proponent of restructuring and National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, Mr Yinka Odumakin, likened the situation to an idea whose time has come.

Consequently, he said urgent restructuring becomes imperative.

His assertion was laced with a caveat to the effect that failure to heed the calls may snowball into damaging results for the country.

Hinging his argument on the activities of the IPOB, NDA and other patterns of demand for reworking the federation, he advised against using military might to address the challenges.

”The calls to restructure Nigeria are the only way out for Nigeria at the moment. On two fronts, the economy has collapsed and  centrifugal forces are now at play  ”, he said.

Explaining his submission, Odumakin said:”Nigeria is on the verge of disintegration. In the last two weeks, I have seen the Biafran currency. I have seen the Middle Belt currency, IPOB is on the prowl. Avengers are avenging. Herdsmen are on the rampage and there is unease in the country. Now, the President wanted to travel and some people threatened him not to travel. That is not the kind of country we have to be proud of.”

Confab report as working document

The matter was also the thrust of a protest attended by Sunday Vanguard, penultimate Thursday, where leading pro-democracy leaders made same demand, adding that it could only be realised through the implementation of the Confab report.

They visited the embassies of the US, Germany and Italy to seek the support of their Presidents in the bid to get Nigeria restructured.

At the event, Executive Secretary of Nigeria National Summit Group,NNSG, Mr. Tony Uranta, said the wave of violent agitation in Nigeria is pushing the country to the edge. Hence, he supported the calls for restructuring using the Confab report as working document.

“A lot of work went into that report from seasoned Nigerians representing all walks of life and states of Nigeria. We cannot sit and watch this nation crumble when we have a workable solution that would settle every demand as well as set the nation on the part of greater development,” he added.

The group’s Head of Research and Strategy, Mr. Efiye Bribena, however, used contemporary examples to buttress Uranta’s argument.

First, he explained that the choice of visiting the foreign missions was to query why the international community is ”standing by while Nigeria is going the way of Rwanda and Bosnia.”

Bribena said: “The President Muhammadu Buhari government as a result of its actions is putting the country in a situation where you have crisis all over. As we speak, there is a serious deficit in governance and the international community is nonchalantly looking on, even as innocent civilians are being detained without recourse to the rule of law, whilst hundreds are being extra judicially tortured and murdered.

African Charter of Peoples Right

”Restructuring is the only solution we can use to right the wrongs. There is a lot of dissatisfaction among the different ethnic groups and regions and we are saying that the National Conference report of 2014 should be implemented.”

On her part, Secretary General, Youths Arise for Change, Mrs Vera Okei-Shomefun, said, “Our differences as a nation need to be addressed. As we speak, the federal government is not doing anything about the incessant atrocities of Fulani herdsmen attacks. We are here to demand that the president should seriously consider implementing the recommendations of the 2014 National Conference report.”

Ayodele Akele of the Joint Action Front explained that ”the demand for self determination is legitimate within the African Charter of Peoples right, adding thus, “every ethnic group has the right to determine whether they stay in a nation, and, I want to advice the president that the language of democracy is dialogue, not force.”

That this is coming when President Buhari seems to have dismissed the Confab report in so many reports on Democracy Day, leaves the impression that the calls may attract nothing but official indifference.

The President had said: ”I advised against the issue of National Conference. I never liked the priority of that government. That is why I haven’t even bothered to read it  or ask for a briefing on it and I want it to go into the so-called archives.”

Key recommendations 

In respective of that, a cursory look at the report shows the following key recommendations among others:

Creation of 18 new states

It recommended the creation of 18 new states from each of the six geo-political zones.

In addition, it recommended one new states for the South-East to make the zone have equal number of states with the other zones except the North-West which has seven. It also recommended that states willing to merge can do so based on certain conditions.

Derivation 

The Conference averred that assigning percentage for the increase in derivation principle, and setting up special intervention funds to address issues of reconstruction and rehabilitation of areas ravaged by insurgency and internal conflicts as well as solid minerals development, require some technical details and consideration.

Revenue allocation

It said  the sharing of the funds to the Federation Account among the three tiers of government should be done in the following manner: Federal Government – 42.5%, State Governments – 35% and Local Governments 22.5%.

Land tenure

It called for the retaintion of Land Tenure Act in the Constitution, stating that it should be amended to take care of those concerns, particularly on compensation in Section 29 (4) of the Act.

Religion

The Confab recommended that there will be no government sponsorship of Christian and Muslim pilgrimages to the holy lands. It also mandated churches and mosques should begin to pay tax to government.

Anti-corruption

Provision was made for special courts to handle corruption cases in the light of the longevity  of   prosecution of corruption cases in the regular courts. A non-conviction-based asset forfeiture law should be enacted with broad provisions to deal with all issues of proceeds of crimes by the anti-graft agencies and the courts.

Independent Candidacy

It recommended that every Nigerian who meets the specified condition in the Electoral Act should be free to contest elections as an independent candidate.

Power sharing formula

Recommended was made for the rotation of  presidential power  between the North and the South  while the governorship will rotate among the three senatorial districts of a state.

Immunity clause

It called for the removal of the immunity clause  if the offenses committed attract criminal charges to encourage accountability by those managing the economy.