Northern Elders Forum, NEF, yesterday, again, weighed in on the state of the nation, saying while the region was not afraid of the persistent calls for restructuring, especially from other parts of the country, it would, however, not allow itself to be stampeded into adopting a premeditated design that could spell doom.
NEF’s declaration came on a day chairman of All Progressives Congress, APC, committee on restructuring, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, disclosed that his committee will submit its report to the national chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, by end of October.
President of the NEF, Dr. Paul Unongo, disclosed the group’s position at a news conference in Abuja, yesterday, saying: “We wish to reiterate our consistent position that there are no issues of disagreement and demands by individuals and groups in the country or anywhere in the world that dialogue cannot resolve. NEF acknowledges that we the citizens of Nigeria are capable of resolving our issues internally.
“The North recognizes and acknowledges that there are demanding and legitimate questions on the current operations of the Nigerian state. The North has very clear ideas on all issues and positions that the nation sees as challenges and is willing to dialogue on all of them.
“What the North will not allow, however, is to be stampeded into adopting an agenda and grand designs from other parts of Nigeria, which will hurt its basic interests. The North will demand a respectful and responsible approach to its participation in the search for answers to the many questions confronting our country.’’
According to him, responsible governance and the rule of law are the fundamental prerequisite for the realization of peaceful and prosperous societies, as well as the protection of human rights and dignity.
He said further: “It is with considerable disquiet, therefore, that the NEF has witnessed the recent developments in Nigeria, which have tilted towards subversion of the Nigerian State and violation of the principles and tenets of the rule of law and the protection of the lives and dignity of all Nigerians.
“These developments have primarily been triggered by some misguided elements of our country who have apparently harassed, threatened and intimidated the rest of the country.
“The recent unprovoked attacks against Northerners in some states in the South-East and South-South of Nigeria pose an existential threat to the entire country.
‘’NEF notes and commends the restrained and mature reaction of the Northern leadership represented by the 19 Northern state governors, senators, members of the House of Representatives and state assemblies, traditional rulers, religious leaders, community associations, politicians, elders, coalition of youth groups and the millions of citizens of Nigeria from the North who recognized the value of peace, and did not respond to the people from the states from where killings and recent atrocities were perpetrated against Northerners.
Meanwhile, Mallam El-Rufai, yesterday, disclosed that his committee will submit its report to the national chairman of the party, John Odigie-Oyegun, by end of October.
El-Rufai, who disclosed this at Chatham House in London where he delivered a paper on restructuring, admitted that although the Nigerian federation as it was currently was unbalanced, majority of Nigerians believed the country was better off as a united entity.
He said: “As I have argued since 2012, there is no doubt that the Nigerian federation is unbalanced and in dire need of structural rebalancing. This I think we all agree as Nigerians, but the devil is in the details.
‘’While some advocate wholesale abandonment of the existing political structure is probably unrealistic in their expectations, I believe most Nigerians appreciate and cherish our unity in diversity but seek the enthronement of a fairer, meritocratic system that puts social justice above everything else. It is not very hard to achieve this.
“The preponderance of opinion is that the Federal Government needs to shed weight and return powers and resources to the states where most government functions can be more efficiently undertaken.
“For states to take on these powers, they need to access a greater share of the nation’s resources. And we need to sort out the notion of citizenship so that every Nigerian can enjoy the protection of the Constitution wherever they choose to reside.
‘’In many communities, people still use the notion of ‘indigeneship’ to consign compatriots to a position of ‘settler’ and, by implication, perpetual exclusion from enjoying the full political, social and economic opportunities guaranteed by the Constitution to every citizen.”
He said after preliminary research and a careful review of history, literature, and reports, the committee has reduced the debate on restructuring into twelve ‘contentious issues’. ‘
’These are creation or merger of states and the framework and guidelines for achieving that; derivation principle; devolution of powers; federating units: Should Nigeria be based on regions or zones or retain the 36-state structure? And fiscal federalism and revenue allocation.
‘”Others are form of government – (parliamentary or presidential?); Independent candidacy; Land tenure system; Local government autonomy; Power sharing and rotation of political offices; Resource control; and Type of legislature – part-time or full-time, unicameral or bicameral?’’, The governor said.
Governor El Rufai noted that even “without any legislation, national conference or constitutional amendment” the APC government was already restructuring the country through “convention and pragmatic devolution”.
He said further: “For instance, my colleagues and I in Kaduna State Executive Council requested that the Federal Government should re-designate two major roads in Kaduna, our state capital, as state roads.
‘’The Federal Executive Council granted our wishes, restoring the two roads to our control and saving us the inconvenience of seeking permission from a federal bureaucrat before we can install street lights on a major road in our state capital.
“I also cited the fact that the Federal Government no longer just issues mining titles in Abuja; rather it now works with state governments that control the titles to land, unlike in our recent non-collaborative past.
‘’In Kaduna State, we are trying to devolve control of forests, management of fire services and other ‘state-level’ functions to our 23 local governments, in addition to many others.
“I do not believe that a single, centralized police force can deliver on the necessity to visibly project state power and enforce the law in this vast country of ours with nearly 200 million people, neither is the exclusive control of over-crowded prisons and an unmanageable number of federal trunk roads and railways.”