In what appears a unanimous verdict, opposition political parties led by the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, have taken a swipe at the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, over claims that President Muhammadu Buhari has, by the policies and programmes of his administration, commenced the gradual process of restructuring the country.
The APC had earlier in the week in “The Progressives,” a monthly in-house publication, lauded President Buhari for taking tough steps in repositioning Nigeria for good.
Titled, “Calm Down! Restructuring has begun,” the APC chided previous administrations for spending billions of taxpayers’ funds convoking national conferences which recommendations, they ended up not implementing, adding that under the leadership of President Buhari, things have changed for the better and the president has evidently and progressively began restructuring the country in line with the 2015 election promise to ensure true federalism and devolution of powers.”
The partly also cited President Buhari’s approval of a new minimum wage of N30, 000 per month for workers and granting of financial autonomy to third tier of government as an indication of a gradual take off of the much craved restructuring of the country.
This claim has however not gone down well with other political parties who have wasted no time in dismissing same as empty and deceptive.
APC lied, Buhari not restructuring —PANDEF chair
National Chairman of Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, Air Commodore Idongesit Nkanga (retd), yesterday, dismissed the declaration by the All Progressives Congress, APC, that the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government had started restructuring of the country with financial autonomy granted to local governments and approval of N30, 000 minimum wage.
Nkanga, a former military administrator of Akwa-Ibom state, said: “Except APC wants to leave us with the conclusion that they do not even know what restructuring means, otherwise, we either do it right or we do not do it at all. We have been very clear about the restructuring we are talking about.
“That they gave money direct to local government areas is not part of restructuring that we are talking about because we are not even one of those that said that they should have three tiers of government, where federal government will be dealing directly with the local government and state government.
“To start with the 774 local government areas- how did they come about them, they just sat down, that is the military and created them. Today, we have more local governments in the north than the south, so how could we have accepted that. That is even aside, the restructuring we (South-South) are talking about is the same thing the South-West is talking about through Afenifere, South-East through Ohaneze Ndi-Igbo and Middle Belt Forum. It has three pillars and the first one that is very important to us in the Niger Delta is fiscal federalism.
“By fiscal federalism, as it was practiced in the First Republic by our founding fathers, 50 per cent was sent to the area where whatever you found was derivable from, the other 30 per cent went to the distributable pool. At a time, it was north, east and west, and then 20 per cent for the development of the national capital, which was then Lagos. This arrangement was that we can move from there and eventually have resource control, which is the first pillar. It was because of this that South-West was able to have free education, the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo was able to establish the first television station and did so many things.
“In the Eastern part of Nigeria, it was not as if the late Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe did not understand what it was all about, but the oil they were having was not enough for them to do all those things and not that he did not know the worth of free education.
“If you look at Niger Delta for example, development of Niger Delta is not the same as development of Kaduna or Kano states, if you want to construct a road in Niger Delta, by the time you go 10 kilometres, you must have put almost about three to four bridges, so the cost is not the same. So when you forget that one and just share on the basis of population, land mass, it means you have neglected a very important aspect.
“The second pillar is true federalism, we said there are about 65 items in the exclusive legislative list, which will not give the tiers, the federating units, the power to do what they should be doing. Put foreign affairs, put monetary and security there, then give the rest to the federating unit so that they can also participate in the development of the country. But they say no because they want to do everything.”
The PANDEF chair asserted: “So when we talk about devolution of power, state police and all that, it is to avoid this kind of situation where somebody will sit at one place in Abuja, share money like Father Christmas and even like a prophet, prophesying what will happen in every part of the country. That is unitary system and it is not what Nigerians want.”
“The third pillar is the restructuring of the federating unit, if you like you call it local and central governments or state and central governments but it does appear that people are more at ease with central and state governments. Creation of local governments should be left to the states because they are the ones paying, not just sharing, they will not just start local governments anyhow.
“Absolutely, they are not restructuring and we have said that if we do not restructure, Nigeria will restructure itself, we have said that over and over. Instead of doing the right thing, they have been trying to go round the corner, we talk about devolution of power, in other climes, you see federal police, state police and local government police, etc, instead of doing that, they have been prevaricating, today, they are talking about community policing.
“At the end of the day, we saw offshoot of regional police, Amotekun in the South-West, we know that there is insecurity but they do not want to do the right thing. I do not know what offence Nigerians have committed that it is blessed with bad leaders, they should pity this country and allow the right thing to be done. They go round and want to do some few things from the back and it does not even work out,” he added.
It’s insulting to proponents of restructuring—Ohaneze
Ohanaeze Ndigbo and another Igbo elite group led by Prof. Uzodinma Nwala, Alaigbo Development Foundation, ADF, have also dismissed the claim by the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, that President Muhammadu Buhari has commenced restructuring with financial autonomy to Local Governments and the implementation of the N30, 000 minimum wage, saying that restructuring was far more than that.
According to Ohanaeze Ndigbo, “it is either the APC are naive and don’t know the basic principles of restructuring or they are being out rightly mischievous and deliberately insulting the proponents of restructuring. APC should know that restructuring is an idea whose time has come and there is no stopping it”.
The President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Nnia Nwodo who spoke through his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Chief Emeka Attamah said that granting the local governments financial autonomy does not translate to states or geopolitical zones being in control of their natural resources.
He said, “it is either the people claiming that are naive and don’t know the basic principles of restructuring or they are being outrightly mischievous in which case they are deliberately insulting the proponents of restructuring.
Such people don’t wish the country well. Granting the local governments financial autonomy does not translate to states or geopolitical zones being in control of their natural resources; it does not translate to devolution of powers to the geopolitical units in the country; it also doesn’t translate to people having equal access to employment and justice.
“What such people don’t know is that for an idea whose time has come, there is no stopping it. No one part of the country can hold others in perpetual bondage. Something must give, and it will be sooner than some people expect it”, the apex Igbo body said.
APC claim shameful, fraudulent—PDP
Deputy national publicity secretary of the PDP Diran Odeyemi said the ruling party “having run out of smart arguments now make bogus claims that are not only false but baseless.”
According to him, “The restructuring Nigerians are yearning for is one that will free the states to leverage on their comparative advantage and not the approval of a minimum wage. The PDP has always insisted that the APC has run out of smart arguments. If to them, financial autonomy for local governments is what Nigerians have been asking for in their clamour for restructuring, we make bold to tell them that they are wrong.
“This is the way they claimed that they had technically defeated Boko Haram and yet, Nigerians are being killed on a daily basis. Nigeria is failing under their watch. It is shameful, fraudulent to link minimum wage approval to restructuring of Nigeria. Have they even started the implementation of the new minimum wage?” he asked.
Nigerians ‘ll know when restructuring truly commences —YPP
Similarly, the Young Progressives Party, YPP, faults APC’s understanding of restructuring noting that the term has a foundational connotation to Nigeria’s evolvement as an independent, sovereign state.
National publicity secretary of the party, Comrade Egbeola Martins said, “I completely disagree with the APC as restructuring goes beyond the granting of financial autonomy to local governments or approval of a minimum wage of N30, 000.
“Nigeria is currently structurally defective and fixing the nation goes beyond these two interventions that the APC perceived to be the commencement of restructuring as it’s impossible to restructure without the input and support of all stakeholders.
“Restructuring means visiting the very foundation of our existence as a nation and not amending the blocks that have been used to build on that foundation. It’s only when foundational issues that border on devolution of powers, resource control and system of government are addressed with the input of all stakeholders that the APC-led government can claim to have commenced the process of restructuring.
“In any case, the so called financial autonomy is currently not implemented neither has the increment of minimum wage translated into better standard of living for Nigerians as any gain the government ought to have made through the increment of minimum wage to N30, 000 has been eroded with the increment in Value Added Tax, VAT, pump price of petrol, electricity tariff, stamp duty, rent, transportation and food to mention but a few.
These are the direct outcome of deception and lack of sincerity by our so called leaders to address our foundational problems. When restructuring truly commences, Nigerians will know without the APC government trying to explain it to us because it will address the cost of governance, high level of corruption and insecurity,” he added.
Restructuring more fundamental than that —ADF
ADF, on its part reminded APC that restructuring was more fundamental than that, saying it believes in the reconstitution of the federation in such a way that there would be regional autonomy.
Speaking through its spokesman, Hon. Abi Onyike, ADF said that “restructuring Nigeria is more fundamental than that. “We in ADF believe in the reconstitution of the federation in such a way that there would be regional autonomy. The federating units or Ethnic Nationalities making up Nigeria should be autonomous and have capacity to assert their rights to self—determination. Granting of autonomy to Local Governments is not the duty of the Federal Government.
Moreover, the Federal Government has no power to create local Governments in a true federation. Every region or federating unit should determine their local government system. Even the so-called autonomy granted to Local Governments is merely on paper. The emperor governors have sabotaged the effort. They still plunder the councils’ resources with impunity”, ADF stated.
Devolve more powers to states —SDP
Like the PDP, national chairman of the Social Democratic Party and former Minister of Education, Professor Tunde Adeniran wondered what minimum wage increment has to do with the clamour for restructuring as a means of getting the nation back on her feet. “Local government autonomy is in the direction of restructuring but imposition of a minimum wage nationwide is not,” he said even as he called on incumbent administration to devolve more powers to the component state governments in line with the principle of federalism.
APC’s understanding of restructuring warped —Afenifere
Also, spokesperson of Afenifere, Pan Yoruba socio-political group, Yinka Odumakin, in his reaction said, “If what this govt claimed to be the content of its restructuring is what it has stated, it must have a totally warped idea of what we are talking about. The subject is about return to Federalism and the only thing we see daily is the deepening of its anti-federal measures.
A member of 2014 National Confab and former commissioner in Ondo state, Chief Olusola Ebiseni said “Nigeria is diseased without restructuring. Therefore the treatment of only what the APC and the Buhari government consider as symptoms thereof will not suffice. It is only in a jaundiced federation bedeviled by military centralist mentality that the government of the federation will revel in the illogical interference in local government affairs. In the federal arrangement of the first Republic, the Action Group government of the Western Region was the first to introduce the idea of a minimum wage which could even be higher than that of the central government depending on its revenue.
A public analyst and Legal Practitioner, Banjo Ayenakin, said, “To state that President Mohammadu Buhari has commenced the process of restructuring Nigeria by granting autonomy to the Local Government is being mischievous and it is an indication that proponents of such opinions are oblivious of the true import of restructuring.
“The true import of restructuring is the enthronement of true federalism in Nigeria. Restructuring is not an esoteric or nebulous concept. It simply means the states should be given more responsibilities than they currently have while the federal government will oversee such issues as defence, foreign policy and economy. It presupposes more viable states which are technically referred to as the component units. It simply means devolution of powers. Apparently, the local governments are not the components units, but the states are.
Therefore, any purported autonomy given to the local governments although plausible; is far from being the implementation of the agitation for restructuring. If that is what the present administration sees or understand as restructuring; with due respect to them; they must be joking. Restructuring isn’t a gradual process; it is a spontaneous process.
It simply means too much power is concentrated at the center; weaken the centre and strengthen the components units which are the states by saddling them with more powers and responsibilities. I make bold to say that what we are practicing in Nigeria is a strange specie of federalism. And until we get it right by restructuring Nigeria; we will continue to wallow in chaos and underdevelopment.
Their claim is absolutely ridiculous —YCE
A prominent member of the Yoruba Council of Elders (Senior Elders Forum), Colonel Dansaaki S. Ade Agbede said, “it is absolutely ridiculous for the Federal Government to say that. The restructuring we are asking for is going back to the conference we had in Abuja in 2014 when Nigeria was 100 years after the amalgamation of 1914. The restructuring we are yearning for involves total federalism; devolution of power; going back to the 1966 Constitution which the military truncated when all the regions were self governing and had the freedom to manage and determine their own affairs.
“That time, each region was going on smoothly and healthy competition was encouraged. The issue of local government financial autonomy has nothing at all to do with it. YCE senior Elders Forum are worried that instead of addressing issue of harmonious living, the FG is not doing so.
“FG is just complicating issues and it appears that it wants to enslave other parts of the country especially the South West. Look at the issue of insecurity, if we are in a position to determine our own issue, we will manage our security better. Security is breaking down in Nigeria.
“So, the issue of financial autonomy for local government is just to stop state governors from sitting on the budgets of local government. It doesn’t have anything to do with self determination”.
In his own submission, a member of the inner bar, Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, said, “did the APC government not later withdraw the executive order granting financial autonomy to local governments even after I had supported it ? Have they ever implemented it whether by an Act of the National Assembly or by deeds? Does mere increase of workers wage, which successive governments before it had done over the years make it an APC restructuring mantra? I am shocked to hear this is their understanding of the meaning of restructuring”.
Barrister Iniruo Wills, a former Labour Party candidate for Bayelsa East senatorial district and ex Bayelsa Commissioner for Information and Orientation and Environment while reacting to the APC claim simply said: “That’s a poor attempt at comedy by the party.”
Eric Omare, immediate past president, Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) worldwide said: “I think it is laughable and ridiculous for the APC to claim that granting financial autonomy to LGAs in Nigeria and approval of minimum wage is restructuring. I think they are just jokers and they know that they are just joking.
Though we are not surprised because the wing of the APC in control of power now have never believed in restructuring because they feel that the present federal system with so much power at the centre suit their appetite to perpetually control the resources from the Niger Delta region.
This short sighted ambition to control the resources of the Niger Delta region has been the underlining reason for the blind opposition to restructuring to drastically devolve powers to the federation units.
To those who make the ridiculous comment that financial autonomy is the restructuring Nigerians have been agitating for, I wish to remind them that the restructuring that Nigerians want is the system of government where the federal government would be in charge of only few responsibilities like foreign affairs, currency, external security, national elections and allied matters while the items that would drive development of the country including resources would be owned by the federating units for every part to develop at their pace.
Abuja should not determine how states would develop and I strongly think that this would lead to healthy competition and will be better for Nigeria as a whole. It was this sort of restructuring that even the National Leader of APC Bola Tinubu and his people were fighting for before APC took over and he went mute because of this ambition to be president.”
For, the Convener, South South Reawakening Group, Joseph Ambakederimo, “Yes, the financial autonomy has been granted to the local government which is an ingredient of a true federal structure that we have always clamoured for but the question to ask now is how many of the states have allowed the local government breathe. Those who are the proponents of restructuring are the same ones fighting tooth and nail to kill the local government system. They deprive the local government of funds, they refuse to conduct local government elections and where they manage to conduct one, they sack officers of local government duly elected by the people as they too were elected even when it violates the law, they coerce the chairmen and take all the funds accurable to the council and leave the councils comatose and unable to carry out the functions assigned to them”
A civil society organisation, Joint Action Forum (JAF), described the claim of restructuring by the All Progressives Congress as being deceitful. Waheed Lawal, the group’s Coordinator while reacting to APC’s claim said either the party lacked proper understanding of the concept of restructuring or the party was deliberately deceiving Nigerians.
According to him, “the APC is either bereft of the idea of restructuring or it is deliberately deceiving Nigerians to have claimed that restructuring has started just because it has introduced autonomy at the local government level or due to introduction of minimum wage.
First, The two concepts are yet to be fully implemented but that is not what we are requesting from it. The restructuring we asked for is in the decentralisation of responsibilities from the central to the federating units, and the solution to that is in the implementation of the outcome of the constitutional conference. It is ridiculous to claim that local government autonomy and minimum wage is enough to believe restructuring has started in Nigeria”, he said.