Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governors now hold their meetings outside Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). ONYEKACHI EZE reports that besides their snide attack on President Muhammadu Buhari’s government, this may also be a way of accessing their performance
For three consecutive months, governors elected on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have held their meetings outside Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
Before now, the meetings were held at the Abuja lodge of whoever emerges as Chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum, the umbrella body of the governors. But since April this year, Makurdi, Benue State, Ibadan,
Oyo State and Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, had played host to the governors.
And except last week’s meeting in Uyo, the PDP National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, also travels to the venue of the meeting to address the governors before they go into technical session.
In Uyo, Secondus was represented at the Gala Night by the National Legal Adviser, Emmanuel Enoidem, who incidentally is from Akwa Ibom State.
Despite being a partisan association, the state chief executives go beyond partisanship to treat nonpartisan issues, which they consider necessary for the good governance and welfare of Nigerians. For instance, at the Makurdi meeting, the governors called for devolution of powers and restructuring of the country “in a way that brings together various groups … as Nigeria cannot afford another civil war.”
They also called for allocation of resources to state and local governments, as well as transparent and accountable running and operation of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). Far-reaching decisions, which border on security, transparency and good governance, were reached at the governors’ last meeting in Uyo.
Apart from expressing disappointment that their earlier resolutions at Makurdi on revenue allocations and transparency in the operations of the NNPC were not heeded, the governors decried the high debt profile of the country.
Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, who read the communiqué in his capacity as Chairman of PDP Governors’ Forum, said Nigeria’s over N36 trillion debt is becoming unsustainable relative to the nation’s earnings and Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Tambuwal said the governors frowned at “the rising and seemingly uncontrollable debt profile of Nigeria with over 80 per cent of normal appropriation spent on debt servicing. All the gains of the PDP government under Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, where Nigeria exited its foreign debt obligations have been destroyed.
“We should not saddle incoming generations with an undue debt burden. The borrowing spree of the APC administration if unchecked, will certainly lead Nigeria into avoidable bankruptcy. Borrowing for frivolous items such as funding the Nigerian Television Authority is scandalous.”
Other issues the governors treated were the deteriorating economic and security situation in the country, as well as worsening social and political tensions. Tambuwal said the governors were disturbed at “the opaque manner” the NNPC operates, especially “the recent NNPC’s decision not to make its statutory contributions to the Federation Account, thereby starving the states and Local Governments and indeed Nigerians, of funds needed for employment, development and general wellbeing.”
He argued that under the Nigerian Constitution, the NNPC is duty bound to make proceeds of sale or business of petroleum available to the Federation Account, which belongs to the three tiers of government, “excluding reason able and verified and verifiable cost of operations.
“The Federal Government, through NNPC is a manager of our oil wealth merely as a trustee for all Nigerians. The meeting frowned at a situation where the NNPC decided in a totally discretionary and often whimsical manner, how much to spend, how to spend it and how much to remit to the Federation Account, contrary to the letters and even the spirit of the 1999 Constitution.”
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) did not escape the criticism of the governors, who viewed its activities as operating “an independent government within a government.
A situation where CBN creates money, decides how much of it to spend, on what to spend it on without any form of controls or supervision is patently subversive of our constitutional order.
“It has become not just a Leviathan, but also a Father Christmas of sorts, dabbling into every sphere and scope of governmental activity, not just as a lender of last resort, but as a full executing agency of government.”
Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, had earlier stated that CBN engaged in money minting spree.
Though CBN governor, Godwin Emefile, made a veiled admittance when he told Nigerians that the job of the bank is to print money, the Federal Government and the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) however, denied that. More worrisome to the PDP governors is the apex bank’s threat on state governments with sanctions on any attempt to question its modus ope- randi.
They also called for a halt on the depreciation of the national currency, the naira. When they met in Makurdi in April, the governors demanded for a review of revenue allocations formula, and called on the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) to send a new revenue allocation formula to President Muhammadu Buhari for onward transmission to the National Assembly.
They described as scandalous that 21 years after the 1999 Constitution came into effect, no new revenue formula is in place. According to them, such enactment would make more resources available to states and Local Governments where ordinary Nigerians reside.
At the Uyo meeting however, PDP governors expressed disappointment that the RMAFC failed to act on their earlier suggestion, and called for the resignation of the Chairman and members of the commission, or they should be relieved of their duties, “if they cannot discharge this sacred constitutional duty entrusted by the Nigerian people to it.”
Also treated was the spate of insecurity in the country, especially “the mindless killings of innocent civilians,” as well as attack on security personnel.
While demanding that the perpetrators should be brought to justice, the governors reiterated the need for the decentralisation of operations of the security apparatus “even within the existing legal framework, to ensure the input of local operators in state and Local Governments in policing and security
“Mr. President seems not to be aware that the coercive instruments of state security are firmly within his hands and not the governors, considering his recent media interview on the subject. Mr. President has ultimate authority under the constitution over security organisations, even though the states have a role to play.
“Cooperation and synergy between states and the Federal Government in security operations is critical in securing Nigeria. In any case, even though, police is on the Exclusive List, the states, as a practical matter spend huge sums of money to support the security agencies to carry out their duties.
“The need for an appropriate legal framework to involve the states in policing has become even more urgent by the day. To this end, we reiterate our call for the National Assembly to expedite action in passing the Electoral Act and Constitution amendments to ensure restructuring and decentralisation of governmental powers and functions.”
It is expected that these resolutions would not go down well with the All Progressives Congress (APC) led Federal Government, notwithstanding that it was not a direct attack on the administration. Barely two days after the meeting, the presidency said the governors were mourning their lack of access for more money and “social media to spread falsehoods and hate.”
Mallam Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, who authored the statement, said the PDP governors “proposed no solutions to any of the nation’s challenges in the face of COVID and global economic downturn,” adding that the communiqué was a spectacular demonstration to Nigerians as to why the opposition party and its representatives should not be entrusted with the national leadership of the country at any time soon.
The presidency argued that in bemoaning the decision by the NNPC not to make contributions to the Federation Account, the governors appear to believe NNPC can spend the same money twice: once on the petroleum subsidy, which they all support, and then on their states via the Federation Account.
Shehu stated that NNPC as a trustee for the nation, “means it must manage its finances with prudence and for the long-term to safeguard the financial support it bestows on our country. What the governors are asking of NNPC is to ‘break the bank’ for their own profligate political ends.”
According to him, the call to the CBN to appreciate the value of the naira would damage exports, including oil revenues, as well as damage small businesses and employment. He argued that PDP governors want an appreciated currency to “benefit those spending on luxuries from abroad,” which he claimed is “the leading desire of a typical PDP governor.”
But Hon. Cyril Maduabum, Director General of PDP Governors’ Forum, said the presidency reacted out of ignorance.
He reminded the presidency that Section 162(1) of the Nigerian Constitution provides that all revenues collected by “the Government of the Federation, except the proceeds from the personal income tax of the personnel of the Armed Forces of the Federation, the Nigeria Police Force, the Ministry or Department of Government charged with responsibility for Foreign Affairs and the residents of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja,” shall be paid into the Federation Account.
“It is a demonstration of impunity and gross abuse of law for NNPC to continue to disregard the unmistakable mandatory constitutional provisions above. “It is even more shocking for the presidency as an institution to embody the desecration of our constitution in such a flippant, brazen and unserious manner as portrayed by the presidential spokesman,” the statement said.
Maduabum noted that NNPC and other revenue generating agencies of the Federal Government have the mandatory obligations to pay into the Federation Account all its revenue after deducting legitimate cost of operations.
He however, said fuel subsidy or other profligate expenditures are not part of the cost of production. Said Maduabum: “When NNPC makes its contributions to the Federation Account, the Federal Government’s share in the Federation Account can be spent by it in a manner it desires.
“NNPC cannot spend money belonging to the other tiers of government for them. This is the way the constitution is designed by its authors.”
According to him, state and local governments bear the brunt of education, healthcare, water, food production, infrastructure, such as roads and the security of lives and property.
“The case made by the PDP governors communiqué concerns all the states and local governments in Nigeria, not only PDP,” he explained. But why did PDP governors adopt rotatory instead of centralised meeting? No immediate answer could come from Maduabum.
He said he was in a meeting when New Telegraph called. The only answer one could hazard is that the meeting serves peer review of some sort. Prior to 2015, when the party lost power at the centre to the APC, there was peer review/ project inspection among PDP governors.
But this seemed to have been abandoned after the party lost the election. Perhaps, the meetings seem to be the resuscitation of the “good old day.” Before the Uyo meeting, the Akwa Ibom State government received two new 160-seater A220-300 series aircraft to boost its air fleet.
Tambuwal, who commissioned the new planes, said APC-led Federal Government and its governors should come from consultation on how best to develop their constituencies. The Sokoto governor, who spent a week in Uyo prior to the meeting, commissioning projects, said the state governor, Udom Emmanuel is “touching all facets of life of Akwa Ibom people.
In infrastructure development, you are there; in human capital development, in education, in industrialisation and now in aviation development, you have raised the bar, proving to Nigerians that this can be done.
“Since the APC government came in at the centre, they have been talking about a national carrier; and up till now, we have not seen even a local carrier.
I want to ask the APC government not to be ashamed, but to come down to Akwa Ibom and ask Governor Emmanuel how he is able to do it. I’m sure he will not object because he is a patriotic Nigerian and would advise them on how they can also make things work.” Some projects were also inaugurated when Makurdi and Ibadan hosted the meeting.
The decision might be also to meet the rural people and feel their pulse. PDP governors are now more bonded than before. Turn out at the meetings and other activities of the party have been impressive.
Almost all the governors were physically present at Uyo meeting. Only Zamfara State Governor, Bello Matawalle, who was having due security challenges in his state, was represented by his deputy, Mahdi Mohammed.
As the 2023 presidential election draws nearer, it is expected that the relationship will become stronger. About 10 of the governors are serving their final term in office, and might want to play another role to remain politically relevant.
Also, their desire for one of them to fly PDP flag in the presidential election, which they failed to do in 2019, is still alive.