herders crisis
Garba Shehu

By Johnbosco Agbakwuru 

ABUJA – THE Presidency, Wednesday, accused governors elected on the platform of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, of refusing to support the initiative to end herders crisis in the country and thereby save livestocks and lives. 

The Presidency also accused the opposition PDP Governors of  profligacy and contradiction in its call to the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, to appreciate the value of the Naira, saying that the position of the governors would damage exports – including oil revenues on which NNPC depends as well as damage small businesses and employment. 

The Presidency’reaction came on the heels of the communique issued by the PDP Governors Forum at the end of their meeting in Uyo, Akwa Ibom state on Monday. 

The PDP Governors had at the meeting took a swipe at the operations of both the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).  

In its reaction the Presidency in a statement issued by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, in Abuja said that the PDP Governors provided no solutions to the problems of the country but more interested in what comes to them. 

According to the statement: “When the governors claim a lack of federal institutions’ money pouring into their States’ coffers is an affront to democracy, constitutionalism, and federalism, they fail to mention the ugliest trend against the integrity of Nigeria comes by own hands with their refusal to support the Federal Government’s earnest desire to reinstate the local government as the third tier and finding a lasting solution to farmer-herder conflicts costing the nation lives and livestock.

“This initiative brings rights and support for generations of all ages to bring solutions to challenges that  different communities of our country have faced but the PDP governors reject it – denying all Nigerians their constitutional right to live and work in any state of the Federation – preferring to appeal to ethnic division and hatred rather than support the first practical solution offered since independence.”

The statement further stated that the governors communique “was a spectacular demonstration to the people of Nigeria as to why this party and its representatives should not be entrusted with national leadership of our country any time soon.”

Continuing, it said: “In bemoaning the decision by the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) not to make contributions to the Federation Account, the governors appear to believe NNPC can spend the same money twice: once on the petroleum subsidy – which they all support – and then on their States via the Federation Account.

“NNPC is a trustee for the nation – and this means it must manage its finances with prudence and for the long-term to safeguard the financial support it bestows on our country. 

“What the governors are asking of NNPC is to ‘break the bank’ for their own profligate political ends.”

The Presidency posited that the call by the governors for the CBN to stop further devaluation of the naira would have negative consequences on exports, oil revenues, small businesses and employment. 

The statement argued: “Similar profligacy and contradiction are in full view with their call to the Central Bank to appreciate the value of the Naira. This would damage exports – including oil revenues on which NNPC depends – as well as damage small businesses and employment. 

“But an appreciated currency would benefit those spending on luxuries from abroad – this, no doubt, being the leading desire of a typical PDP governor.”

On the governors call for states to be allowed to involve in mining, the Presidency said, “Similarly, the governors appeal to each other for more involvement of States in mining and geophysical activities within their States. 

“The question must be asked: ‘Why has this taken you so long?’ Such opportunities and States’ powers have been fully available since independence – yet only now the PDP realises it?

“And, of course, the PDP grieve over the Federal Government’s action over Twitter – for it represents the curtailment of their ability to use the platform to spread fake news and invented stories to the detriment of community and good-neighbourliness between the peoples of Nigeria.

“The PDP Governors propose no solutions to any of our nation’s challenges in the face of COVID and global economic downturn: instead, they grasp for more money and mourn their lack of access to social media to spread falsehoods and hate. 

“Their statement is evidence, if any were needed, as to why the President and the APC ended the PDP’s one-party rule in 2015, were re-elected by an increased margin in 2019, and why their winning trend is set to continue far into the future.”

In their communique, the PDP governors had warned the All Progressive Congress (APC) administration that its rate of borrowing could lead the country into bankruptcy and leave a huge burden for coming generations. 

They frowned at the N36 trillion current debt profile coming after the previous PDP administration had eliminated foreign debt. 

 After deliberating in particular on the deteriorating economic and security situation in the country, and worsening social and political tensions, the meeting’s communique said: “The PDP Governors frowned at the rising and seemingly uncontrollable debt profile of Nigeria with over 80% of normal Appropriation spent on debt servicing. 

“All the gains of the PDP Government under Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, GCFR, where Nigeria exited its foreign debt obligations has been destroyed. 

“Borrowing for frivolous items such as funding the Nigerian Television Authority is scandalous. Money should only be borrowed for productive purposes as Nigeria’s current debt of over N36 Trillion Naira is becoming clearly unsustainable relative to our earnings and GDP.

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“We should not saddle incoming generations with undue debt burden. The borrowing spree of the APC administration if unchecked, will certainly lead Nigeria into avoidable bankruptcy.”

The governors expressed alarm at the opaque manner of the operations of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), condemning its decision not to remit statutory contributions to the Federation Account, thereby starving states of funds. 

The communique added: “The Forum examined the operations of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), and expressed alarm at the opaque manner it carries out its operations. 

“It decried the recent NNPCs decision not to make its statutory contributions to the Federation Account, thereby starving the States and Local Governments and indeed Nigerians of funds needed for employment, development and general wellbeing. 

“The meeting emphasised that under the Constitution, the NNPC is duty bound to make proceeds of sale or business of Petroleum available to the Federation Account which belongs to the three tiers of government, excluding reasonable and verified and verifiable cost of operations. 

“The Federal government through NNPC is a manager of our oil wealth merely as A Trustee for all Nigerians. 

“The meeting frowned at a situation where the NNPC decides in a totally discretionary and often whimsical manner, how much to spend, how to spend it and how much to remit to the Federation Account, contrary to the letters and even the spirit of the 1999 Constitution.”

The governors called on other agencies of government such as Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC), Federal Inland Revenue Services, Customs and Excise and similar organisations that are statutorily required to make contributions into the Federation Account, to do more. 

They recommended that federating states should, going forward, now have a say in the determination of operating costs to ensure transparency and accountability.

The meeting called for urgent steps to reverse what the governors called “these ugly trends in  practice of our democracy, constitutionalism and Federalism.”

The PDP governors also expressed deep concerns on the operational system and methods of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), which they said now publicly threatens state governments. 

The communique further said: “It viewed with regrets that the CBN is operating as an independent government within a Government, which is a pervasion of the autonomy of the Bank. 

“A situation where CBN creates money, decides how much of it to spend, on what to spend it on without any form of controls or supervision is patently subversive of our constitutional order. 

“It has become not just a Leviathan, but also a father Christmas of sorts, dabbling into every sphere and scope of governmental activity, not just as a lender of last resort, but as a full executing agency of government. 

“The meeting observed that the CBN has become such an octopus that it threatens State governments publicly, without decorum, about sanctions on any attempt to question its Modus Operandi. 

“The CBN should take immediate steps to halt the depreciation of the Naira.”

The Forum reiterated its call, “which seem to have fallen on deaf ears,” for the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission to urgently send the revised Revenue Allocation Formula to the President for onward transmission to the National Assembly for enactment, such that more resources are made available to States and Local Governments where ordinary Nigerians reside. 

It called on the Chairman and Members of the Commission to resign or be relieved of their duties, if they cannot discharge this sacred constitutional duty entrusted by the Nigerian people to it. 

According to the governors, the present constitutional amendment process should make the Commission more independent and accountable to all stakeholders.

The meeting expressed support for the implementation of judicial and legislative autonomy in the Federation and States, in conformity with the extant provisions of the 1999 Constitution. 

The meeting also called for more involvement of states in mining and geophysical activities within their states, arguing that this is necessary not just to curtail harm to the environment but to further diversify the Nigerian economy and complement Oil as a foreign exchange earner for Nigeria.

The PDP governors further reviewed the emerging threats to our democracy, constitutionalism and rule of law and cautioned the Federal Government to exercise power with restraint. 

“The need for law and order is paramount to secure our nation but mindless killings of innocent civilians should be avoided and is hereby condemned.  It is in the same vein that the meeting reiterated its earlier revulsion at any attack on security personnel and their property anywhere in the country as a criminal and egregious act for which perpetrators should be brought to book,” the communique stated. 

The meeting also examined the suspension of Twitter from operating in Nigeria, and condemned what it referred to as the personalised reasons given for the action. 

The communique added: “The mere ego of Mr President is not enough for such a drastic action that deprives millions of Nigerians from such an affordable means of expression and communication. We hope that this is not a harbinger or early warning signs of descent into dictatorship.

“The meeting noted that social media regulation can only be done within the existing laws on the subject and should not be used as an attempt to punish or gag Nigerians from enjoying constitutionally guaranteed rights. 

“Nigerian youths do not have adequate access to employment and a lot of Nigerians rely on Twitter for their livehood, businesses and self-employment. 

“This will further worsen Nigeria’s 33% unemployment rate which is the highest in the world, improve Nigerias ranking as the country with second highest poverty rate in the entire world, all of which happened under APC’s unfortunate stewardship. 

“The meeting consequently requested Mr President to review the suspension of Twitter operations in Nigeria in the national interest.”

The meeting further called on the APC-led Federal government to think outside the box and find solutions to the challenges facing electricity supply in Nigeria as it observed that the current system is certainly not delivering power needed for Nigeria’s rapid industrialisation.

On the recurring question of insecurity of lives and property in Nigeria, the PDP governors reiterated the need to decentralise the operations of the security apparatus of state even within the existing legal framework, to ensure the input of local operators in State and Local Governments in policing and security. 

The governors lamented “the fact that Mr President seems not to be aware that the coercive instruments of State security is firmly within his hands and not the Governors, considering his recent media interview on the subject.”

The meeting reminded Mr. President that he has ultimate authority under the Constitution over security organisations, even though the States have a role to play. 

The communique further posited: “Cooperation and synergy between States and the Federal Government in security operations is critical in securing Nigeria. 

“In any case, even though, Police is on the Exclusive List, the States, as a practical matter spend huge sums of money to support the security agencies to carry out their duties. 

“The need for an appropriate legal framework to involve the States in policing has become even more urgent by the day. 

“To this end we reiterate our call for the National Assembly to expedite action in passing the Electoral Act and Constitution amendments to ensure restructuring and decentralisation of governmental powers and functions.”

Vanguard News Nigeria

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