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South-South leaders demand restructuring, fiscal federalism

The governors and leaders of the South-South geopolitical zone have called on the Federal Government to restructure the country in line with the principle of true federalism, so as to guarantee peace, security and stability of Nigeria.

The leaders made the demand during the regional stakeholders’ meeting with presidential delegation led by the Chief of Staff to the President, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, at the Government House, Port Harcourt, yesterday.

Chairman of South- South Governors’ Forum and Governor of Delta State, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, who presented the region’s demand, noted that the country is not at peace with itself. Okowa also said that the country is not working as it should, particularly, for the people of the South-South, stressing that the people of the region are committed to restructuring of Nigeria in a way that guarantees true federalism and devolution of powers to the states to create and manage their own police and security under a federal structure.

His words: “For us in the South-South, the #End- SARS protest is a metaphor of almost all that is wrong with us, our refusal to properly understand issues, and imbibe and entrench the virtues of justice, fairness and equity. “The previous system of true federalism was jettisoned and it created a powerful centre controlling and distributing all the resources unevenly. “There was now a strong desire to restructure the country in order to guarantee peace, security, stability and progress of the nation.

“The region demands true federalism and devolution of powers to the states, including creating and managing their own police and security architecture, true fiscal federalism guided by the principle of derivation, revenue sharing and control of resources by each state.”

Okowa said the kind of federation the South-South geopolitical zone desires is one where federating units are constitutionally empowered to create their own structures like local government areas manage their elections and control their judiciary.

“We are all aware of the huge endowment of this country. As such, it is imperative to stress that with a little bit of efforts, imagination, hard work, sacrifice and leadership, every state of the Federation as of today has the ability and capability to contribute to the national purse.

This should be encouraged rather than the whole country depending substantially on a region of the country. “What is worse and even more painful in this ugly situation is the deliberate lack of understanding, empathy and the uncompromising attitudes of some Nigerians who have refused to understand the challenges of the South-South region of the country, especially the degradation of the environment and our waters.

“As a result, most of the demands of the region have remained unattended to while the resources of the region have been used continually to develop other parts of the country.” The governors reiterated the call for the relocation of the headquarters of major oil companies, NNPC subsidiaries, from Lagos and Abuja to the South-South region.

“All we demand and ask for is fairness and equity. As we await actions to restructure the country, we hereby renew our demands for: The relocation of the headquarters of major oil companies in Nigeria to the region; relocation of several NNPC subsidiaries from Lagos and Abuja to the region.

“The region further requested the completion without delay of the East- West Road and all federal roads in the region; construction of the Lagos-Calabar railway, reconstruction and rehabilitation of the region’s major seaports notably the Port Harcourt, Calabar and Warri,” the governor said. Okowa requested for immediate implementation of the consent judgement entered in the Supreme Court Suit No: SC/964/2016 to enable the South-South region get its share of $55 billion shortfall of collection on deep offshore and inland basin production sharing contracts.

The governors further called for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the region’s major seaports in Port Harcourt, Calabar and Warri in order to enhance the economic development of the South-South region. The South-South leaders also demanded that the two refineries in Port Harcourt and the one in Warri that have continued to bleed the country’s resources in the name of turn around maintenance, should be privatised.

Okowa said: “Enough is enough. Let us now privatise them and in doing so, however, allow the states and the region among others, considerable equity in the name of fairness and justice.” Concerned about the rot in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), the governors observed that one of the major failures of the intervention agency is its refusal to forge and foster synergy, consultation and coopera-tion with the state governments, especially on project location, development and execution. “We have resolved and we, as the state governments, will no longer allow NDDC to execute any project(s) in any state of the region without it consulting state governments.

Frankly, enough is enough and we have a court judgement to back our position.” In his remark, the Chief of Staff to the President, Gambari, said the stakeholders’ meeting was at the instance of President Muhammadu Buhari, to the presidential delegation comprising of all the ministers from the region to visit and consult with representatives of the people regarding the recent #EndSARS protests.

Gambari noted that reports indicated that there were instances where breakdown of law and order was reported across various locations in the South-South states. He lauded the governors of the South-South states for their quick response and actions in addressing the #EndSARS crisis.

Beyond the #EndSARS issue, he said, the president acknowledges that the citizens in the region have also been dealing with other concerns that are particular to the region such as the degradation of environment due to decades of mishandling and adherence to environmental standards. Gambari said he will convey the demands of the region to the president.

Deputy President of the Senate, Ovie Omo-Agege, urged the leaders of the region to avail themselves of the on-going review of the 1999 Constitution by the National Assembly since most of the issues contained in their demands are constitutional matters.

Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, in his remark, said aside the massive economic effects of the protests, 243 public facilities were burnt, 71 warehouses looted, 610 vehicles destroyed, 134 police stations burnt,164 police vehicles destroyed and 136 firearms carted away. He added that 65 civilians were killed during the protests and 37 policemen murdered while 196 persons were seriously injured. Adamu alleged that intelligence has confirmed that the #EndSARS protests were funded from within and outside the country. On his part, Director- General, Department of State Services (DSS), Mr. Yusuf Bichi, said the unity of the country, in spite of the diversity, remained the strength of the nation, adding that all hands must be on deck to ensure that peace returned to the country.

Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, in a vote of thanks, urged the federal authorities to ensure implementation of the region’s demands. All ministers from the South-South except the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, were present at the meeting.

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