Restructuring: NEF backs Afenifere, Ohanaeze, SMBLF

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The call for restructuring Nigeria Tuesday received further boost with the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) saying citizens have a right to ask for a review of the country’s present structure.

The body also said it was wrong of the federal government to put down advocates of restructuring.

In a reaction however, the Presidency said agitators should avail themselves of the ongoing process of constitutional review by the National Assembly.

NEF is joining the likes of Afenifere, the Yoruba socio-cultural group in the South-west, that of Ohanaeze Ndigb in the South-east and the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF).

A similar call was   made Saturday by a leading cleric and  General Overseer  Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) Enoch Adeboye, who  said Nigeria should either be restructured or risk breakup.

NEF’s position

And featuring on a Channels Television programme Tuesday, Sunrise Daily, NEF spokesman, Dr Hakeem Baba-Ahmed said:  “The two basic functions of the state are to secure citizens and provide for their welfare. Now, the Nigerian state is failing in both camps. So, restructuring for us means addressing those failures and identifying ideas, suggestions, and changes that can actually fit into the process of improving them.

“Policing is a fundamental issue. Here in the North where I come from, you could spend three days with bandits ravaging communities and you will not see a single policeman. Something is wrong with the way the country is structured to provide security for citizens. So, we need to revisit some of these issues.

“We need to look at our constitution, look at the way it provides for the Nigerian state, the federating units, allocate responsibilities in power, the works of vital institutions, or the failure of vital institutions to work and how we can improve them.

“When we make demands for the restructuring of the country, we are not necessarily saying that the government is deliberately causing the problems – they are cumulative issues, matters that should have been addressed a long time ago but they were not addressed. Nations must accept to revisit how they live,” he said

Insisting on the demands for restructuring, the NEF spokesman further said:  “Nigerians have a right to ask for changes, for amendment, for improvement in the manner in which we live. There is nothing wrong with that. What is wrong is for the government to specifically say we don’t want to hear anything about restructuring.”

“Right now, no one will dispute that the federal government carries too many responsibilities most of which it doesn’t discharge, has too many resources and is not well run. It has become a focus of intense competition, the type of competition that makes the political system unstable. Everybody wants the Presidency. Everybody wants to go to Abuja. Abuja is everything. This is wrong.

“Many conferences whose recommendations have not been implemented need to be implemented.

 “We believe that Nigerians should never (be) tired about demanding that their country must be made to work. If the government is not going to do it on its own, it needs assistance. If it needs some pressure, we believe we can provide that pressure,” Baba-Ahmed said.

          Arewa Youths support

Also supporting the call, National President Arewa Youth Consultative Forum (AYCF) Yerima Shettima, said restructuring the country would wake northern governors from their slumber and harness the abundant resources in the region.

In a phone chat with  Blueprint Tuesday, Shettima said: “We cannot continue like this as a nation. The centre can no longer hold. The way governance is being run is too expensive for us as a nation. Some of us envisaged this trouble over a decade. For almost two decades, we have been one of the major stakeholders from the north, advocating for restructuring. 

“Let us restructure our economy, restructure the police, restructure the security itself and other components of our nation. On this basis, I have been advocating for restructuring. We have been in the forefront for years.

“You cannot run a government the way it is being run in Nigeria today. We cannot over concentrate power at the centre and expect a good result. No developed nation concentrates power as we have at the centre and make any meaningful impact. Power should be allowed to revolve among States.

“Achieving that, we have to arrive at a memorandum. This must be through a political process for people to take ownership of the process. And on that basis, some of us are of the view that we should start it from the zonal level, then to state, local government and then to the national level through a referendum, because what it requires is a complete system change.”

“This is what the people want, and if President Muhmadu Buhari is a listening President, he has to also join in the call for restructuring. This Presidential system of government has actually made our governors to be lazier. They are not productive, they are only waiting for federal allocation to come, so for how long will that continue? Today, instead of strengthening the economy, they are busy waiting for oil money, so that they collect their share. But today, oil money is no longer available and we are faced with challenges as regards to our economy. And there is a recession around the corner.

“The fact of the matter still remains that, if we run a system of government that give autonomy or certain powers to the state, there are possibilities that every region will begin to harness its resources,” he said.

‘ACF yet to take stand’

When Blueprint put a call through to spokesman of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Emmanuel Yawe, he said: “I am not authorised to say anything about restructuring because ACF has not taken a stand on it.”

Presidency

In a reaction, however, the Presidency said the process was on, though under a different name called devolution of powers.

Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity Garba Shehu stated this in a telephone interview with Blueprint Tuesday.

He said: “Restructuring is already on. Check the APC manifestoes, this is clearly stated and the administration is pursuing it. They call it restructuring but we call it power devolution. This has already begun with the parliament putting a process of constitutional review. The recent financial autonomy granted the local government is part of it.”

“Our problem with the agitators is that they don’t want to go through the National Assembly. The process of constitutional amendment is still ongoing and they should just take advantage of it.”

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