As Nigeria is increasingly taking the shape of a fragile state, human rights lawyer, Mr. Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), on Tuesday appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to take the bull by the horn and lead the country to its full potential.
Agbakoba advised the president that the responsibility of restructuring the country cannot be delegated to the National Assembly, National Council of State or any other arm of the government, saying Section 5 of the 1999 Constitution vests the president with executive powers of the federation, including the power to restructure the country.
“The president should initiate the restructuring project by providing perspective that encompasses all section of the country. Restructuring can be implemented by executive and administrative orders and also presenting the 2014 national conference report to the National Assembly. The 2014 National Conference report actually examined and resolved a lot of the restructuring issues. So we should start with the report,” he said.
The human rights lawyer, who stated that the buzz for restructuring going on in Nigeria cannot be taken away from the fact that there is marginalisation, conflict and agitation everywhere in the form of IPOB, Boko Haram, Niger Delta militancy, Fulani herdsmen among others, added that Buhari must lead the process to restructure the country.
“Section 5 of the constitution vests the president with executive powers of the federation and this includes the power to restructure Nigeria.”
At a press conference which took place yesterday in Lagos, Agbakoba, however, noted that notwithstanding, “there is a lack of clarity, context and direction on the issue of restructuring the country. Restructuring the country is not only about political arrangements, namely, new regions. It is also about economic and administrative governance.”
According to him, political restructuring is not enough, “otherwise, the inefficiencies at the centre will simply be transferred to the new regions. Restructuring must address other connecting issues like the bloated size of the public service. Why should 80 per cent of the national budget be used to service 3 per cent of the population? The Orosanye committee reviewed 263 statutory agencies of government and asked government to scrap 102 agencies. Government should therefore implement the Orasanye report immediately.“
He advised Buhari that after finding the way forward to restructure the country, he should focus on government core mandate, which is policy, execution and regulation and stay completely away from business matters, adding that this will empower a new set of economic actors, including the civil society and the private sector.
”This type of restructure is critical for economic development,” he added.
Agbakoba, who said he wasn’t satisfied with the response he got from former President Olusegun Obasanjo when he asked the latter to “become the Red Sea for young Nigerian to pass through to leadership,” said the only solution to Nigerian current quagmire, is to inject fresh ideas into the system in form of young Nigerians who can provide the right leadership for the people. He strongly agreed that power has to shift to the new generation.
He advocated that every section of the country must be carried along in order to give the restructuring a national outlook, adding that the process must involve ‘give and take’.
“Restructuring must have a national outlook. Every constituent part of Nigeria must be carried along. In the South, there is consensus on restructuring. In the North, there is reluctance. The South needs to reach out to the North and allay their fears. The process of restructuring should involve give and take; otherwise it will fail. The calls for restructure lack coherence, content and advocacy. The restructure project must be taken to the people. Not enough to simply have meetings and issue endless press statements,” he said.
He lamented that the southern political leaders are not reaching out to the North to understand their concerns, adding: “I was at the 2014 National Conference so I know what the concerns are. We (the South) are the ones to reach out to the North to understand what their concerns are and how can we arrive at a common ground.”
While highlighting the process towards a successful restructuring, the activist said it must identify potential challenges; one of which is the contentious issue of fiscal federalism; how a balance between the federal and federating units in revenue sharing can be created.
According to him, “It is suggested that the first broad principle is for federal government to allow states control over natural resources in their domain.
“The second principle is the possibility to isolate hydrocarbons as it is for now crucial to the Nigerian economy, and create transitional provisions (a sunset clause) to transfer ownership to oil bearing states over a period but in the meantime review percentage derivation?”
A third possibility is to demarcate onshore hydrocarbon to be left to the littoral states, and offshore to the federal government.
The fourth and most important challenge is to develop a blue print on restructuring to be used to engage Nigerians.
“At this stage, it is not clear what is meant by restructuring, we need to have charity. This is what the subnational groups should work out.”
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