From Iheanacho Nwosu, Abuja
Southern and Middle Belt leaders have declared in Abuja at the weekend that there is no alternative to the restructuring of the country. Reading a communiqué at the end of the meeting between the two regions, National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, Yinka Odumakin, said the leaders had decided to work together to pursue a restructured Nigeria.
Those at the meeting included Chief Edwin Clark, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Gen Ike Nwachukwu, Prof Jerry Gana, Commodore Dan Suleiman, Prof Banji Akintoye, Chief Olu Falae, Chief A K Horsfall, Capt Idris Wada, Mr Labaran Maku, Chief Supo Sonibare, Obong Victor Attah, Ambassador Godwill Igali, Senator Bassey Henshaw, Air cdr Idongesit Nkanga, Gen Ishaya Bamaiyi, Dr Bala Takaya, Mr John Dara, Chief C O Adebayo, Elder Paul Bassi, Amb Wilberforce Juta, Gen DM Jemibewon, Chief Guy Ikokwu, Prof Ogbu and Senator Stella Omu.
The leaders, according to Odumakin who read the communique on behalf of the two regions, said only a restructured Nigeria would ensure a stable polity.
He said the leaders came together in their belief that issues affecting the Nigerian nation could be resolved through democratic ideals.
The meeting, according to the communique, was put together in their belief of peacefully resolving fundamental issues and conflicts through genuine dialogue and consultations. They said that the high level meeting was “considered wise and most appropriate” to peacefully consult and lay out an orderly process of finding viable solutions to the rising agitations for a fair, just, equitable and balanced restructuring of our federal system.”
The first high-level meeting thereafter resolved that it makes enormous sense to adopt restructuring in a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-religious country like Nigeria.
The leaders said that adopting a truly federal arrangement in such a society like Nigeria made sense because it would allow the federating units to fully look after their local affairs and to develop at their own pace. “We therefore renew our loyalty, love and fundamental support for the Federal Republic of Nigeria as ONE Nation under GOD,” the communique said.
The meeting insisted that the current federal structure was unbalanced, unjust, unfair, over-centralized, unstable, anti-development and therefore unacceptable. “Accordingly, we firmly support the demand to re-structure the federation in line with the recommendations of the 2014 National Conference to restore the country to the principles of federalism enshrined in the independence constitution negotiated by our founding fathers.”
The communique further indicated thus:
“For the federation to function properly in the interest of the constituent parts, there should be fundamental devolution of powers and functions to the federating units, so that each federating unit can effectively serve the development interests of the people. “This is the central essence of a good federation, not the current over-centralization of powers and functions in the central government.
“As a logical derivative, we must work out a new fiscal formula that will move Nigeria away from the current over-dependence on oil and gas revenue to a diversified economy where all federating units are encouraged to develop their abundant natural human resources for regional and national development. The federating units shall remit agreed percentage of their revenue to the federation account. “Since these fundamental matters were considered and resolved at the 2014 National Conference, we urge the Federal Government to take appropriate and urgent steps to ensure the full implementation of the resolutions and recommendations contained in the conference report. Accordingly, we support the recent resolution of the National Assembly that the report of the 2014 National Conference be placed before it.
“We draw the attention of the Federal Government to the fact that the Federal Republic of Nigeria is a secular state, in which the governments cannot adopt any religion as a state religion. Therefore, we ask the Federal Government to immediately review the discriminatory appointments into key offices of government and the public service and comply with section 14 of the 1999 Constitution.
“In addition, recent plans to adopt a combined syllabus of religious and moral education be immediately stopped, and a return to status quo be restored, so as to ensure the teaching of Christian Religious Knowledge and Islamic Religious Knowledge separately. ”