prison breaks

•Say he has technically killed Constitution Review Committee

•Obong Attah lambasts Lawan, Gbajabiamila, backs southern govs on restructuring

By Omeiza Ajayi & Levinus Nwabughiogu

Members of the House of Representatives have descended on the Senate President, Ahmed Lawan for opposing the call of the southern governors for restructuring of the country saying Lawan through his utterances has shown biases, technically killing the constitutional review committee.

This is just as elder statesman and former Governor of Awka Ibom state, Obong Victor Attah has thrown his weight behind the southern governors’ call for restructuring, slamming Senate President, Lawan and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila for their rebuke of the governors.

It will be recalled that the Senate President had, while granting interview to State House Correspondents on Thursday after observing the Eid prayers alongside President Muhammadu Buhari and the Speaker of the House of Representatives at the Presidential Villa, Abuja expressed his opposition to the restructuring call.

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Some members of the House of Representatives who spoke however insisted on restructuring, saying it was long overdue in Nigeria. The lawmakers included Hon. Sergius Ogun, representing Esan North East/ South East Federal Constituency of Edo State; Hon. Kingsley Chinda, representing Obio/Akpor Federal Constituency of Rivers State and Hon. Bede Eke, representing Abor Mbaise and Ngor Okpala federal constituency of Imo State.

Lawan has technically killed the constitution review committee —Hon. Sergius Ogun

In his submission, Hon Sergius Ogun said “the senate president says the state governors should go and restructure their states, Edo state governor Mr Godwin Obaseki is restructuring our state and he doesn’t need the permission of the president of the country or that of the senate to do that. The president of the senate who is the chairman of the National Assembly has technically killed the constitution review committee as he showed his bias through his verbal deluge”.

I disagree with our Presiding Officers —Hon. Kingsley Chinda

Also speaking on the issue, Hon Kingsley Chinda said, “you cannot continue to do the same thing the same way and expect a different result. Perhaps, they will also tell Nigerians that they are satisfied with the state of the country. As public office holders, we tend to forget that there is life after office and that Nigeria is bigger and more important than any individual or group of citizens. I am aware that the Speaker has taken positions in the past Assemblies that support both fiscal and administrative restructuring like State Police and review of revenue sharing formula. He has an inalienable right to shift position but with respect, I disagree with our Presiding Officers and I support an urgent restructuring for a more efficient public service in Nigeria.

I stand by the position of the southern govs forum—Hon. Eke

As for Hon Eke, he said, “I stand by the position of the southern govs forum. It was one meeting where they stood by the pulse of those who elected them. Time has come for the truth to be told at all times. Grazing is a private business just like the trader that owns a shop in Onitsha, Idumota, Ogbomosho or Diobu and therefore, herders can do well to buy land from state governments or individuals to build ranches for their business. 

The country is gradually sliding into food insecurity which is even more dangerous than the bullets from herdsmen, bandits, kidnappers and other criminals. As long as farmers are not allowed to have access to their farms for fear of being attacked, raped and killed, there is no way food is going to be available to Nigerians. Go to the markets in Abuja and other parts of the country, you will understand what I am talking about. Food insecurity has set in. 

I have been an advocate of National dialogue and I’m excited that the southern governors saw it as not only necessary to solve the country’s nagging challenges but a way of calming the nerves of secessionist agitators. Every Nigerian irrespective of tribe and religion has a right to have a say in the affairs of this country which belongs to all of us”.

Obong Victor Attah lambasts Lawan, Gbajabiamila

Meanwhile, elder statesman and former Governor of Awka Ibom state, Obong Victor Attah has thrown his weight behind the southern governors’ call for restructuring, slamming Senate President Ahmad Lawan and House Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila for their rebuke of the governors.

Attah who is also the Co-chairman, Board of Trustees, BoT, of the Pan Niger Delta Forum PANDEF told Saturday Vanguard in an interview in Abuja that the position of the governors was well thought out.

He expressed shock that Messrs Lawan and Gbajabiamila could not see the need for a national dialogue aimed at restructuring the country in the wake of secessionist agitations caused by the imbalance in Nigeria’s federal system and the growing wave of killings and other criminal attacks across the country.

Addressing State House Correspondents Thursday in Abuja, the two National Assembly leaders had condemned the southern governors, saying as elected leaders, such advocacy should not have come from them, and that they would do well to first restructure the local government system in their various states before asking the President Muhammadu Buhari administration to restructure the country.

However, Attah said with current happenings in the country, there is no better way out than to sit down and talk, saying the governors were right to have called for a national dialogue.

He said; “It is disappointing that people would think along that line (of condemnation). What southern governors asked for shows that they accept the fact they are elected representatives of the people and if this is what the people want, that is what they must do. This has been the problem in this country. 

You elect somebody into a position and he becomes an authority unto himself, forgetting that he was elected by people to go and represent them and the peoples’ position becomes supreme in everything they have to do. Everybody is shouting about restructuring. People have been calling for this national dialogue. So, how can an elected representative of the people not say that okay, that is what we must do?

“I am surprised that the Senate President and even the Speaker on his own said it might be legitimate but it is not the governors who should spearhead it. Who says the governors are leading it? People have been clamouring for so long and it is now that the governors are having a buy-in and you said they should not say so? Why should they not say so, if in fact they are representatives of the people as they ought to be? I am just disappointed at their reactions because I expected people like the Senate President and the Speaker and even my former colleague who is in the Senate and who said the governors are wrong to say, we will now look at it since this is what the people want. And so, I align with the Olusegun Mimiko position that says it is about time the Southern and the Northern Governors met to iron out the grey areas because there are many grey areas. It is not something you just wake up and do. I think that is the position that everybody should reasonably accept ought to be done.

National dialogue

“Then they called for convocation of national dialogue. How else do you resolve issues if you do not talk? How can anybody say they condemn that? Somebody said let them (Southern Governors) restructure their states. How do you do that when the constitution says something different? The basic error that was made was naming local governments within a federal constitution. 

Local governments are not federating units. The federal government deals strictly with the federating units which in this instance are the states. 

The local governments become the responsibility, entirely, of the states and there should be rules and regulations guiding those. If you look at this constitution, the local governments do not have a parliament. All their decisions are made by the Houses of Assembly which was why when I was governor, I said some things ought to change. You do local government elections and elect Councillors. Then, you don’t make Supervisors out of them, you allow the chairman to go and appoint supervisors for work, education, agriculture and so on. So, what is the work of the councillors? Just to go and share money every month? So, I refused, I didn’t do that. In fact, I didn’t even want to have chairmen. Everybody was elected from his Ward, they went there as local government representatives from their wards and from among themselves, they chose a leader and then chose supervisors from among them. 

That was what I did because I think that was what made sense than to say ‘presidential system’ at local government level. How does a governor without offending the constitution, change that? And you said they should first restructure at the local government level? If you are calling for a complete restructuring of the constitution which we agree with, if you are now ready for that, let us call for a meeting and then we organize ourselves and get along with a new constitution for Nigeria that will be truly federal in character and preferably parliamentary in administration.

“And then you condemn them on the issue insecurity, why should the governors not talk about it? The only reason there is conflict between herders and farmers is because the two are struggling for the same thing. 

The same piece of land that the farmer wants to farm, that is the same piece of land that the herder wants to graze his cattle on. So, they go and feed on people’s farm and then there is conflict. If you go by what Gov. Ganduje said and he is practising in Kano today which is to form ranches and keep those herders; one, you provide education for their children, and better healthcare. 

And we badly need both for those children while growing up rather than trekking up and down because our nomadic education system has failed totally and completely. We keep talking about people infiltrating them from other West African countries but if you had ranches, they would not infiltrate. You would also see ancillary businesses coming up.

“They said don’t regionalize the advocacy. What does that mean? Should an advocacy not start from somewhere? Just because southern governors have said this and aligned with their people, you now accuse them of regionalizing it. They are calling for a national dialogue, which means they have started from somewhere but they want it to be truly national in character and that is what it ought to be.

“However, it is not only southern legislators who agree with the governors. A lot of other legislators from the North have agreed with what the southern governors did. ALGON has even agreed with them and yet somebody said the governors should restructure the local governments. The local governments already see a reason why this has to be so. Those accusing the governors are the ones trying to regionalize it.

 The Arewa Consultative Forum, the Northern Elders Forum, Middlebelt Forum and many others have bought into this thing and so it is a national movement. The only way to control it is by national dialogue which will now bring order into what is being discussed.

“So, there should be a meeting of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum. Where do we go from here because this is now a national matter? They can expand it to bring in some lawmakers, some elders and other stakeholders because all the elected officials are representing the people and they must do what the people want.

“For the president to address the nation is absolutely essential but if he says he is still gathering intelligence or comprehensive report before he speaks, because once he speaks, it is like a decree under our faulty presidential system, but the sooner the better.

Restructuring will stop secessionist agitations

“There was one issue, secession which the governors were silent on and I thank them for that because that secession matter is controversial and has to be handled very carefully. I listened to the Sultan and he said we must take this as a wake up call. I listened to a lot of other very eminent people who speak in the interest of this country warning that we should not ignore this thing.

 I had said that this secessionist agitations have come out of people’s complete dissatisfaction with what is happening now. So, there is a need to address that issue. Let people know that things are being corrected and corrected along the lines of the demands of the people. 

That’s all that is required and you would see, this secession thing will die totally. Nobody, except a few die hards, would want this country to break up. God forbid, it should not happen. But nobody will also stay in a union, the terms and conditions of which they find totally unfavourable and unbearable. So, there is a need to discuss. If you start the discussion, all the agitations for break up will stop, that I can almost guarantee. That is what we should do rather than blaming the southern governors. Why should the governors not do what their people want?”, he queried.

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