…Southern leaders divided, receive call with suspicion, cautious optimism
…It’s exciting, suspicious— PANDEF, S’South stakeholders
…It raises hope of another opportunity to save Nigeria— Afenifere
…Their onshore/offshore proposal unacceptable to Ndigbo — Ohanaeze
…My state can’t return to Ibadan — S/West gov
…Need for restructuring urgent, diabolical delay dangerous— Ikokwu
By Emma Amaize, Clifford Ndujihe, Anayo Okoli, Sam Oyadongha, Egufe Yafugborhi, Emma Una, Davies Iheamnachor, Chioma Onuegbu & Perez Brisibe
SOME southern leaders and groups, yesterday, received northern leaders’ call for restructuring of the country to 12 states, devolution of powers and 100 per cent resource with suspicion and cautious optimism.
PAN-Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, umbrella group of monarchs, leaders and stakeholders of the coastal states of Niger-Delta, said the news that Northern leaders, who identified themselves as Friends of Democracy, advocated a return to the 12-state federal structure of 1967 and 100 per cent resource control was thought-provoking, but calls for restraint and further cross-questioning.
Elder statesman, Alhaji Othman Tofa, Alhaji Sule Hamma, Dr Abubakar Mohammed, Ambassador Fatimah Balla; Mr. Sam Nda-Isaiah; Bashir Yusuf Ibrahim; Mai Bilya Bala; Mr. Hubert Shaiyen; Dr Kabir Az-Zubair, Professor Jibrin Ibrahim and Dr Usman Bugaje, had in a memorandum to the National Assembly Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution had, among other recommendations, said: “The 12 states shall be designated as regions and shall have control of their resources, while paying appropriate taxes to the Federal Government.”
They also canvassed that “mining should be reassigned to the concurrent list with on-land mining under the federating units and off-land mining under the control of the government of the federation.’’
Northern leaders’ submissions raise hope on saving Nigeria — Afenifere
The Pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, said it agrees with most of the views of the northern leaders and hoped to inter-face with them later.
National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, told Vanguard: ‘’We agree with most of their submissions, which show there may be yet another opportunity to save this country from total collapse. We shall be interfacing at some point.’’
My state can’t return to Ibadan— S/West gov
However, one of the six South-West governors, who prefers the 36 states to remain as the federating units with full devolution of powers. opposed making the six geo-political zones or the 12 states of 1967 as the federating units.
‘’We want a Nigeria that meets the yearnings of Nigerians. Powers and functions must be devolved to the states with the accompanying funds to handle those functions. Any restructuring that will make my state return to Ibadan (the capital of old Western region and Western State) is not acceptable to us,’’ he told Vanguard.
On-land, off-land resources mining proposal unacceptable— Ohanaeze
The apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, rejected the Northern leaders’ proposal on control of natural resources, saying it is still skewed in favour of the north.
Noting that it was good that some people in the north have realised the need to restructure the country, President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief John Nnia Nwodo, who spoke through his Adviser on Media and Publicity, Emeka Attamah, said their proposal on onshore/offshore resources mining was unacceptable to Ndigbo.
It said: “While it is refreshing to know that some people in the North are beginning to realise the inevitability of restructuring as the only panacea to the country’s multifarious problems, their onshore/offshore prescription is unacceptable as it still leaves greater control of the nation’s wealth in the hands of the Federal Government.
“The states or the federating units should control all the resources in their areas and pay some percentage to the centre. Their proposal is still skewed in favour of the north.”
Need for restructuring urgent, diabolical delay dangerous— Ikokwu
Second Republic politician, lawyer and elder statesman, Chief Guy Ikokwu, said: ‘’Nigeria needs urgent restructuring not an indefinite talk shop represented by a rubber stamp legislature.’
‘’The last Federal Government decision of the geo-political equitable representation after the 12- state Gowon structure of 1967 before the civil war, was Abacha’s reform of six geo-political zones with three in the North and three in the South. The only shortfall was that the real federal structure for these zones was not legalised for governance purposes.
“It was after this uncompleted political reform that one minority ethnic nationality unilaterally aborted our advancement and with military fiat foisted by a decree the current diabolical 1999 Unitary/Federal Constitutional miasma unknown to Constitutional Jurisprudence which has rapidly foisted corruption, impunity, brigandage, unemployment, criminality and insecurities as a Nigerian ethos leading to our world award of the Capital of Poverty with a per capita income of one USD per day with three recessional economic developmental index in a row.”
PANDEF, Anietie Okon, Mitee, Annkio-Briggs, others kick
PANDEF, speaking through the National Publicity Secretary, Ken Robinson, described the proposal for a return to the 1967 12-state structure and 100 per cent resource control, as “intriguing,” adding: ”We received the news of that call with considerable feelings of caution.
“Recall that a few weeks ago, the Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, said Nigerians calling for restructuring of the country ‘are insulting the North.’
“Therefore, for a group of northerners to now be advocating for 100 per cent resource control, calls for caution and further interrogation. However, if they are sincere, then good. Though the Niger Delta people are not asking for 100 per cent resource control.
“But if ‘100 per cent resource control’ is what Alhaji Othman Tofa and his group want, then good and excellent. But they should take their advocacy beyond submitting a memorandum to the National Assembly. They should take the message to the northern oligarchy and their elite, who seem to be finding it difficult in coming to terms with the verity that the country cannot continue with its extant skewed and lopsided structure, and in the way and manner the affairs of state are being conducted.
“Whereby a section of the country is considered superior to other parts and where a presidential fiat in the form a presidential artisanal gold mining development initiative would guarantee persons in some parts of the country to ‘mine and refine’ their ‘gold’, and sell to the Central Bank of Nigeria, while natural resources in other parts of the country are for everybody with host communities benefiting little or nothing.
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“You may wish to recall that derivation principle, which first came up in 1946 at the Phillipson Commission, and was intended to make regions with natural resources benefit from their God-given endowment was the basis of the derivation principle, which existed before the discovery of oil in commercial quantity in Olobiri, Bayelsa state.
“When revenues from cocoa (in the West) and groundnut (in the North) were the nation’s economic mainstay, derivation in the Revenue Allocation principle was at over 60 per cent before Independence. It was dropped to 50 per cent in 1960 and 45per cent in 1969. It took a dizzying nosedive to 20 per cent in 1975 and further to 1.5 per cent in 1982; and one per cent in 1990. It was moved up to three per cent in 1992 before the current 13 per cent, as specified by Section 162 (2) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.
“Today, the situation is that those who contribute little or nothing get plenty; paradoxically, those who contribute so much, get so little. The stark reality is that if we do not restructure Nigeria, the country will restructure itself,” the South-South regional group stated.
Spokesman of Akwa Ibom Leaders Vanguard, Senator Anietie Okon and other stakeholders rejected the Gowon’s 12 -state structure, saying it was out-of-date and would be taking the country 60 years backwards.
His words: “To say Nigeria should be restructured according to the 12 states’ structure of 1967 is to draw us back to the pre-civil war days. They cannot ask us to go backwards. No, it is not possible, it is not acceptable.
“The 12 states regional structure under General Yakubu Gowon was merely a comfortable administrative arrangement structure for the military. And today they are asking us to return to that structure which is almost 60 years later.
North causing more confusion, not a brilliant scam
“It is the thinking of the North to cause more confusion about restructuring. They are trying to distract the pursuit of restructuring. They are asking us to dissolve ourselves and create a new entity; that is not possible.
“The demand is not a very brilliant scam and I want to advise the northern leaders to be a bit honest. Restructuring is a very straight forward thing.”
The pioneer national publicity secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, emphasized that the merger of states should be left for individual states to decide, noting that southern Nigerians were clearly demanding for restructuring that would correct the injustices and encourage states to develop.
“What we are demanding is a return to economic management concept where the states manage whatever resources they have and then maintain the centre, instead of the centre garnering all the resources and dishing out to the states” Okon stressed.
Former president, Movement for Survival of Ogoni People, MOSOP, and lawyer, Mr. Ledum Mitee, told Vanguard: “While one is wholly in support of the advocacy for resource control, I believe the issue of structure of the federating units should be on the basis of self-determination for the various component units.
“There is no doubt that the creation of states has all along been quixotic, mostly done to create fiefdoms for highly politically connected persons. It is thus my view that people should be free to determine who they want to form a federating unit with or if they feel they want to go alone, not minding their size, provided they can pass the test of being self-sustaining without reliance on handouts euphemistically called revenue allocation.
On her part, Convener, Niger Delta Self Determination Movement, Annkio Briggs, said: “In 1967, Gowon replaced the four regions of West, North, East Mid-West with 12 states. Out of the 12 states of the four regions, the North had six states. The West, East and Mid-Western regions where we of today’s Niger Delta remained minority, had six states.”