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.’’
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.’’
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.
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.”
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.