Posted by Boniface Okoro, Umuahia | 19 October 2016 | 2,178 times
The leadership of the Southern Nigeria Peoples Assembly (SNPA) has appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to set in motion, a process for the immediate implementation of recommendations of the 2014 National Conference for restructuring Nigeria.
Leaders of the group made the call at the opening ceremony of a three-day meeting of its Elders Council and Management Committee in Umuahia, attributing the problems currently facing the country to faulty restructuring foisted on the nation by the military.
Welcoming delegates to the meeting holding at Okpara Auditorium, Umuahia Tuesday, Coordinator of the South-South, Chief Edwin Clark, emphasised that restructuring Nigeria at this point in time was a “nationalistic action,” which would strengthen the unity of Nigeria as it “will greatly satisfy the various shades of current agitations in the country.”
Clark, a First Republic Minister Information, used the opportunity to allay fears in some quarters that the clamour for restructuring of the country was anti-North, explaining that “restructuring simply implies providing the platform for states, now the federating units, to explore and utilise their resources and develop, each according to its ability and pace, as the demonstrated by the defunct regional governments.”
“Restructuring has always been part of the fiscal structure of the country, way back before independence, through the First Republic, before the military interregnum that changed it unrecongisably,” the Ijaw leader said, going down memory lane.
According to him, the Richards Constitution of 1950 provided for administrative framework for a federation of three regions – Northern, Eastern and Western, while the federation, which came into being in 1951, provided for the equality of citizens in the country, and for each federating unit to develop at its own pace.
The federation also provided for fiscal federalism whereby each region had 50 per cent of resources produced in its own area, he added.
He further noted that the provision of 50 per cent derivation prescribed by the Richards Constitution was also adopted in the Independence Constitution of 1960, as well as in the Republican Constitution of 1963 and the same fiscal system adopted in both constitutions.
“The military coup d’état of January 1966 and the civil war from 1967 to 1970, led to the abrogation of the provision by the military government of General Yakubu Gowon which said that it needed money to prosecute the civil war, not minding that Peter was robbed to pay Paul,” Clark said.
He said that in present day Nigeria where a zone that produces the resources of the nation and yet benefits very little or nothing, compared to another zone that does not contribute anything significant to the national treasury, yet appropriating and monopolizing lopsided favourable benefits to itself was no longer tenable.
He stressed that inequality and marginalisation in Nigeria manifest in several spheres, including development projects and political appointments, among others.
“For instance, how do you explain that in the constitution of a 9-member NNPC board, only three members are from the South? If there was to be a Groundnut board of nine members and six are from the South that does not produce a grain of groundnut, will it be acceptable to the groundnut producing areas? Certainly not,” Clark argued.
Speaking in similar vein, the Coordinator of the South West, Rt. Rev. Emmanuel Bolanle Gbonigi, said that President Buhari should recognize that the various ethnic agitations, including Niger Delta and MASSOB, were products of the feeling of marginalisation, adding that attempts to minimise these problems formed part of the resolutions of the 2014 Confab Report.
“This is why the report of that conference must not be consigned to the archives. Nigeria needs to be restructured, it is the faulty structure imposed through military intervention that has stymied our progress as a nation since 1966.
“It will serve the President well to begin immediately, the process for the implementation of the recommendations of the 2014 National Conference,” advised Gbonigi who was represented by Senator Femi Okurounmi.
Earlier, the Coordinating chairman of SNPA, former Vice President Alex Ekwueme, represented by Chief Mbazulike Amechi, in outlining the agenda of the meeting, said it would deliberate on the many problems of the country, including restructuring, Niger Delta insurgency, kidnapping and herdsmen clashes, among others.
He said the forum would equally examine whether the government power was for the federation or a section of the country.
Abia State Governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, assured the group that he would ferry its communiqué to any quarters they desired to convey it to.
The SNPA is a platform for leaders from the 17 Southern states for proffering solutions to the challenges bedeviling the nation.
•Photo shows Abia state Governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu (middle) flanked by Elders of Southern Peoples Assembly during her Elders/ Management Committee Meeting in Umuahia. Photo Govt. House Press.
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