•Says draft bills ready since 2018 but lawmakers failed to take action
•On 2023: I don’t believe in rotation but zoning favours South
•On Zabarmari killings: Governors are frustrated
By Chris Onuoha
Governor Nasir El-Rufai was the Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Committee on True Federalism which was raised by the ruling party at the federal level to look into structural defects in the nation and point the way forward.
The committee completed its job in 2018. In this interview, El-Rufai says contrary to the view in some quarters, President Muhammadu Buhari is not opposed to the recommendations of the committee, including the one on state police, insinuating that the reason some of the recommendations have not been implemented or become law is because National Assembly members have failed to act.
He also speaks on the security challenge facing Nigeria and explains why governors are feeling frustrated. The governor also shares his perspective on the killings in his state. Excerpts:
On the latest killings in Kaduna
It is most unfortunate that after months of relative peace in Kaduna, some people decided to recklessly kill fellow people and as usual those who felt aggrieved decided to carry out reprisal attack at a pace much faster than we are used to.
We are trying to contain the situation by deploying security forces. It is unfortunate that these lives were lost. As our government has always said, people should not take the law into their own hands.
When there is a breach of the law, the appropriate thing is to report to security agencies or traditional rulers or even community leaders to intervene and ensure that due process of law talks it course.
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So long as people resolve to self help, this kind of situation will not go away and it is most unfortunate.
And I am happy to report that the special forces on the ground have arrested suspected perpetrators of the killings on both sides and we are going to vigorously investigate and prosecute them.
On long term solution to the problem
The long term solution to the problem is for people to realize that there is law and order, that there are security agencies, that there are constituted authorities and comply with the law.
If someone does anything to you that you consider unlawful, you report to the appropriate authorities and wait for the wheel of justice to take its course.
You should not resort to self help because if everyone has the capacity to resort to self help and if we do that we return to the state of nature where no one is safe. We have been preaching this and we believe communities must learn to live in peace.
No one will chase anyone away. We are all Nigerians and we have the right to be where we are in any part of the country. We have seen a lot of progress because of the involvement of our traditional rulers and community leaders in preaching this message and we hope that more and more of this will happen across the state and people will rely on constituted authorities to resolve disputes and prosecute those who have been indicted on criminal offences rather than resorting to self help.
On local police
We have always made the argument that centralized police does not work. Nigeria is the only country in the world that is a federation that has only one police force, we have made the argument that states should be allowed to have their own police and that even local governments should be allowed their own police.
The number of the police we have is inadequate, we have less than half of what we need and a large number of them are engaged in non-police duties by carrying the handbags of the wives of important people.
We need to have a greater footprint of policing in Nigeria. And the only way to achieve that in a fast track manner is to amend the constitution and put policing on the concurrent list as recommended by the APC Committee so that we have adequate policing. Even today more state governments are responsible for the running cost of the police.
The Federal Government only pays the salaries of policemen but the running cost, the logistics, their vehicles, their fuel are all the responsibility of state governments across the country.
So what are we afraid of? Let us just amend the constitution and allow state police and in fact go further and allow local government police.
That way you have more security footprint and there will be very strong regulations to restrict the activities of the local government police and state police and differentiate between state and federal crimes as we have in virtually every federation.
On why APC Committee recommendation on state police is difficult to implement against the backdrop that people are killed everyday due to insecurity
Look, the status quo is always difficult to change. People don’t want change and you have to understand that we have a history of coming from military rule.
We have a constitution that was written under the military that still sees Nigeria through unitary lenses. But it is clear that this has not worked. We have submitted our report.
The President agrees with the content, main crux of the report and we drafted bills that will enable the amendment of the constitution as well statutory amendments that will give effect to our recommendations.
You don’t need the President or even the Federal Government or even the APC to put this into effect. Any member of the National Assembly can pick our report, any of the bills and sponsor as private member bill.
The reason this hasn’t been done is inertia, the fact that people don’t want change but Nigeria is overdue for the redesigning of our security architecture and many other aspects of our polity and the economy.
I call on members of our National Assembly to take our report, look at the bills we have drafted and work on them, try to give us state police, state judiciary, vest control of oil and minerals in the states, offshore in the government of the federal while states pay royalty and tax.
That’s what it should be, that is how a federation should run and we should go back to it.
On solution to insecurity
I don’t think the solution lies with President Muhammadu Buhari alone. Yes I can always call Mr President but we presented this report to the President in January 2018 along with then Chairman of our party, Chief John Oyegun, and he (Buhari) accepted virtually all the recommendations we incorporated in the report before we even finalized it.
So I don’t think it is a call away from President Buhari. Buhari has no issues at all with having these recommendations implemented. This is in the purview of the National Assembly.
It is up to the National Assembly to take these recommendations and convert them into laws and constitutional amendments so that once they are passed by two thirds majority, they will go to the states; we made several recommendations that will make Nigeria fundamentally work better.
We had nine governors as members of that committee, several senators, several members of the House of Reps and ministers. So there was broad consensus across everyone that things are not working and that we need to do this for our country to work better; so it is not about President Buhari, it is the National Assembly that ought to take this and move it forward.
Of course, President Buhari can sponsor executive bills for that to happen but he doesn’t need to. Any member of the National Assembly can pick any of the bills, redraft and mould and put it through the process of legislation and if it is a matter for constitutional amendment, as soon as the two chambers of the National Assembly pass it, it will go down to the states Houses of Assembly and I can assure you, the Nigerian Governors Forum fully supports all the recommendations we made in that report.
In fact, at the time we made the recommendations, even PDP governors lke the former governor of Bayelsa State came to Kaduna and commended my chairmanship of that committee and put his weight behind it.
So this is something that enjoys the support of bi-partisan consensus and there is no reason it should not be done fast and quickly.
On partisan position becoming government position
First, it was a party’s committee but enjoyed bi-partisan consensus. Many PDP governors even supported the broad thrust of our recommendations and as I said former Governor Seriake Dickson even came to Kaduna and more or less adopted the report of the committee at a time he was the Chairman of PDP Governors Forum.
It enjoyed bi-partisan consensus, so it is not a matter of moving it from our party to the government or anything like that.
Like I said what we did was not just to write a report and made recommendations, we actually drafted the constitutional amendments required, so you don’t need anyone, any interlocutor; any member of the National Assembly can pick the bills tomorrow and present them to the chamber and the rest of the process follows.
On Zabarmani farmers’ killings
We are all frustrated, I am frustrated in my state, many governors are frustrated in their states, we are called chief security officers in our states only in name; we have no control over coercive instruments of state.
We are all frustrated. We are almost helpless. The #EndSARS protests clearly show we don’t have control over security. Some of us have more influence than others but to a large extent you ask the Commissioner of Police to do something, he tells you he has to clear with the IG.
This is the reality. I don’t have a say on who is posted to my state as CP and if I give him directives he can decide to flout them.
The Sultan says the North is the worst place to live. If you say you are frustrated, where then do you go?
We have made representations to the President and Vice President. One of the most important steps which I have taken, I have written to the President on the fact that the Police Council should meet regularly and he has concurred.
The constitution created a National Police Council which has the 36 state governors as members and it is that council that actually regulates the operations of the police. It should not only consider the appointment of the IG, it should meet regularly so that the operations of the police can be regulated by governors.
Right now the council does not meet and the IG just reports to the President when in actual fact he should report to the President and the 36 of us.
Secondly, there is the need to look into the disposition of the armed forces across the country and target them in the area of their greatest needs. In the North-West and North-East, we are dealing with banditry and Boko Haram insurgency and there is a need for sustained and coordinated bombings and ground operations to wipe out these bandits and remnants of Boko Haram insurgents.
And it can be done, it is a matter of continuously bombings and ground operations; it is not a matter of doing it in one state and they move into another state. There is a lot operations going on, there is a lot of troops, special forces, mobile police, but it is reactive, it is not taking into account that these bandits must be wiped out at the same time in all the states once and for all.
On zoning in 2023 and APC position
It is important to make this clarification. Personally, I am against zoning because I believe that no country… In the 30 years I have spent studying nations, I have not seen a single nation in the world that has progressed by picking leaders based on where they came from or based on religion.
So in principle, I am against it and I don’t practice it. If you look around me you will see that I work with people from every part of the country, every religion, I don’t care. I want to get things done and the most competent person to do it.
That is a person position. However I believe that as a party, after eight years of President Buhari, we should honour the informal agreement of ensuring that power goes to the South, whether it is South-West, South-East or South-South, that is a different matter. We have a gentleman’s agreement that power should go to the South and I support that.
I don’t necessarily agree with it, I don’t think we should select leaders that way but in our present day Nigeria it is an interim measure we need to pursue now. But having said that, our party has not taken a position as far as I know.
Interview first aired on Channels Television