The 11th Speaker of Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Onofiok Luke, in this interview with OLAYINKA LATONA, explained why the Federal Government should shed some of its current powers to the states.
Mr. Luke, a member of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, who was in Lagos for Mid-Year Word and Prayer Conference of United Evangelical Church, also appealed to leaders at different levels to deliver dividends of democracy to the masses.
WERE you disappointed at the Senate’s position on devolution of powers to the states?
I will not use the word disappointed. I will say I differ with the Senate on that matter because for me, presently Nigeria is talking about restructuring and I believe that devolution of powers to other levels of governance is at the centre of the debate. My thinking on restructuring is devolution of power; we have too much power concentrated at the centre. There is need to devolve lots of power to the states, if we need to have constant power supply.
Let me use my state as a case study. The little that the constitution gives us the liberty, past governments in my state have been able to initiate independent power plants; and my governor has been able to further that based on the level that the constitution has been able to grant power generation and distribution; but we are hamstrung at the level of transmission. However in partnership with Electricity Distribution Company, we have been able to commission a 33 by 11KV, 2X15 MVA electricity injection sub station and this is based on the level that the constitution has devolved power to the state.
Devolution of powers is at the centre of restructuring. States should be given the leverage to be able to do so many things, and the majority of the population of Nigeria reside at the state level. If the states could feel an impact collectively, the nation will feel the impact of development and the governance at the state leadership are so much interested in fulfilling their campaign promises, but they are hamstrung.
Take for example, we are talking about deep sea ports, people are asking what the governor is doing about our deep sea ports when we are having challenges on the policies from the Federal Government and the people are blaming the state government. There is an extent to which a state government can do at the level of port development and you cannot take away politics. But if so much power has been devolved to the state, we would have been able to move the state further from where it is today.
Mining, for instance, should not be in the exclusive legislative list. Most of the environmental challenges that we are facing are caused by the people who are dredging in our waterways and when you confront them, they flaunt a mining licence obtained from the Federal Government and they say the state has no power to legislate. I raised that as an issue in my first term and they said State House of Assembly lacks competence to dwell on that. However, the residents of the state are adversely affected by activities of those mining.
We have lots of erosion and gully issues and most of the communities where dredging is taking place do not have potable water and the state is saddled with the responsibility of providing them potable water. If mining is made subject of residual list then we can legislate and know those who are mining on our waterways and hold them responsible and also give them certain conditions. I think the state will be interested in devolution of power, you are not ready to give us and you are already taking from us. It is not obtainable to take away the power of the state Independent Electoral Commission to conduct election.
We are watching what the National Assembly is doing. They called us for a joint retreat of National Assembly and Conference of Speakers in Lagos and we agreed to certain things but they have gone to do others that were not part of the agreements at that conference. At the level of Conference of Speakers and state assemblies, we will be able to look at these issues critically and come out with a position that will reflect the yearning of Nigerians residing at the state level.