For the umpteenth time, calls for a Fiscal Federation reverberated in various parts of the Nigerian State recently, have the familiar disgusting ungainliness of some selffish politicians, not withstanding. This time, however, virtually all states within the South-South geopolitical zone, which resources largely account for the country’s economic survival are united in calls for a truly Federal System of government that guarantees them management of their endowments.
With the opportunity afforded by the on-going public hearing convoked by the National Assembly towards reviewing the 1999 Constitution, the states have been agitating for a review of, among others, provisions under Sections, 44 (3) and 162-168 of the constitution.
Joining Rivers and Cross River States, Akwa Ibom and Bayelsa States, added their voices to the collective protest and demanded a constitutional relief that allows them control of their natural resources and the abolition of the current revenue allocation formula, enhanced by the vexatious provisions.
Section 44 (3) of the 1999 Constitution States, Notwithstanding the foregoing provisions of this section, the entire property in, and control of all minerals, mineral oils and natural gas in, under or upon any land in Nigeria or in, under or upon the territorial waters and the Exclusive Economic zone of Nigeria shall be managed in such manner as may be prescribed by the National Assembly.
By this singular provision, the oil producing states argue, they have been denied the inalienable right to manage their own economic resources, which, based on their persistent protests, negates the essence and spirit of a Federal System of government.
Even more worrisome are provisions in Section 162-168 which dwell predominantly on Federal revenue, and allocations.
Section 162 (10, a-c), for instance, states “For the purposes of subsection (1) of this Section,” revenue means any income or return accruing to or derived by the Government of the Federation from any source and includes
(a) Any receipt, however described arising from the operation of law;
(b) any return, however described, arising from or in respect of any property held by the Government of the Federation; (and) any return by way of interest on loans and dividends in respect of shares or interest held by the Government of the Federation in any company or statutory body.
Added to these is the obnoxious land use Act with its audacious annexation of all lands and resources there-in, there under and even above their land for the Federal Government, proceeds of which are distributed to all other states based on population, equality of states, internal revenue generation, land mass, terrain as well as population density.
Not only does the provision smack of natural injustice, it inadvertently appeals to communism as against the Federal System Nigeria today subscribes.
These protests are not new, but they have been overtly ignored by successive governments and the National Assembly, which membership, largely weighed in favour of the benefiting majority, who very frequently out-votes the Minority States whose natural resources are shared on daily basis.
But it must be said, and clearly too, that the refusal to heed to wise counsel has at various times threatened the peace and unity of the Nigerian State. Again failure to do the right thing has variously bungled the opportunity to correct obvious cases of injustice. The movement from Civil protest to armed militancy by youths of the Niger Delta area. Now, is yet another opportunity for the National Assembly to tinker with the statusquo and decide whether Nigeria needs the Federal System or not.
We are aware that a true Federation must be one of choice by all the Federating units who also work and agree on basis of such partnership. But sadly, since that is not the case with the Nigerian example, it will be everything but just to continue the way we have gone over the years, pretending that it was a consensus among all units in the first place.
The Tide believes that the right option is to embrace a Fiscal Federation that encourages healthy competition, research, ingenuity and hard work among the Federating Units and not the type of federalism that makes several units dependent on the spoils of a few.
This is why we support wholly the calls for resource control provided that the federating units pay to the centre, the prescribed taxes and earnings as may be decided upon by the National Assembly. We say so not because it affects Niger Delta more today, but that it could affect Kano or Ogun or any other state more tomorrow.
PIND’s Goof On Rivers
Last weekend in far away Abuja, a Chevron initiative for the promotion of equitable de-
velopment and peace building in the Niger Delta region, the Foundation for Partnership Initiative in the Niger Delta (PIND), in its Annual Conflict Survey Report for 2019, which it released at the weekend, named Rivers, Cross River, Delta and Edo States, as recording the greatest number of political, electoral and other violent crimes and their resultant casualty and fatality figures which are themselves mind-boggling.
In the report, PIND said the above listed States recorded highest number of lethal violence in the Niger Delta in the year under review.
The report, which was signed by the body’s Knowledge Management and Communications Manager, Mr. Chichi Nnoham-Onyejekwe, indicated that 969 lives were lost in 415 recorded violent incidences in 2019 in the region, with the four States recording the highest number of crises and casualties.
It further claimed that the survey was carried out in the areas of political/election violence; violent crimes (armed robbery, kidnapping, piracy and ritual killings, among others); gang/cult clashes, as well as communal/ethnic clashes.
According to the document, “Available data/report has revealed that in the overall, the most reported incidents of violence related to criminality (including piracy, abductions, armed robbery cases, and ritual killings), which totalled 260 incidents resulted into 444 fatalities in all the States”.
It further indicated that gang/cult related clashes accounted for 272 fatalities while communal/ethnic tensions claimed 197 lives. During the period under review, the report said 100 lives were lost to political and electoral violence, especially in Rivers, Delta and Bayelsa States. The report equally said gang violence, on the other hand, was reported in all the states in the region but that it was more prevalent in Rivers, Edo and Delta States.
Also noteworthy is the disputable claim by the body that in the run-off elections held after the 2015 general elections and during the 2019 elections, political tension was heightened in the whole of the Niger Delta, adding that in February 2019, for instance, no fewer than 56 deaths were recorded in the area during the presidential election.
According to the report, conflict flashpoints in the region remained largely unchanged in 2019, from that of 2018. The body, therefore, in the report, listed 10 local government areas in six States as the most violent in the year under review.
While The Tide is not in any way encouraging violent crimes in whatever guise, we are appalled by the staggering figures released by the organisation in its report, particularly as it relates to Rivers State which has today been enjoying relative peace.
Infact, to rank the State as the most violent among the States of the Niger Delta region is not only discomfiting but also distasteful. We, therefore, dismiss such unfortunate generalisation about the State as alarmist.
We are tempted to believe that the PIND report is another calculated attempt by some faceless individuals and groups to paint Rivers State black among the comity of States in the country, with the sole aim of de-marketing the State and scaring away potential investors from the State.
While we whole-heartedly condemn and reject the report as it concerns Rivers State, we are glad to note that the State, under the watch of Governor Nyesom Wike, has been experiencing unprecedented giant leaps in all facets of human endeavours. The economy of the State, more than ever before, is swirling in unquantifiable prosperity. Businesses and economic activities are flourishing. Basic infrastructure are receiving significant boosts on a daily basis. The entire landscape of the state capital is wearing a fresh look. The Garden City status of Port Harcourt is fast returning.
Little wonder that the State has gone down in history as having hosted more persons and events than any other state in recent times. More organisations are today planning to host their annual conferences and other events in the state.
Thus, if the sordid pictures painted about the state by PIND and its co-travellers were true, this would not have been the case. The truth remains that today, Rivers State is very safe. Residents of the state are by no means inundated by woeful tales of insecurity and violence as experienced in several parts of the country, particularly in the North. At least, contrary to insinuations, the citizens are sleeping with their eyes closed.
However, we are not by any means suggesting that there may be no isolated cases of violent crimes perpetrated in parts of the fast growing oil rich state, but these are not enough to completely decapitate the state as some unrepentant propagandists would want the world to believe.
To this end, we are at a loss on how PIND got its staggering figures to the extent of ranking Rivers State as one of the most violent States in the Niger Delta region within the past one year. Against this backdrop, therefore, we state equivocally that the report is politically motivated.
If the report is not one of the ploys by the vocal majority to undermine the good works of the Wike administration, particularly its tireless efforts to rebuild the socio-economic base of the state, we wonder what it is. We strongly believe that PIND goofed in the report.
New Visa Policy, Good But…
The Federal Government, recently launched in Abuja a new visa policy to propel Nigeria to attain a globally competitive economy, with a view to improving the country’s business environment and boost tourism.
President Muhammadu Buhari, who performed the launch, in company of the Minister of Interior, Mr. Raaf Aregbesola; and the Comptroller General of the Nigeria Immigration Service, Mr. Mohammed Babandede, said the document sought to complement the Federal Government’s efforts towards protecting Nigeria’s national identity as well as the defence of its sovereignty and territorial integrity.
As it were, under the policy, Africans willing to visit the country without visa can now obtain visas on arrival at four entry ports excluding the land borders.
The new visa policy broadens the scope of visa obtainment in Nigeria from the hitherto existing six categories to 79.
The policy, according to the President, was aimed at attracting innovation as well as specialized skills and knowledge to complement what is locally available, and propel Nigeria to attain a globally competitive economy, improved business environment and by so doing, boosts the country’s tourism potentials.
It said the new policy also provides the platform to achieve what he described as African integration without compromising national security.
The visa on arrival policy could only be obtained in four international airports; namely; the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport; Murtala Mohammed International Airport; Aminu Kano International Airport; and Port Harcourt International Airport.
Briefing journalists after the launch, the Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, said the new policy comprises special offers to Nigerians in Diaspora with dual citizenships, as this entails that they will now be able to make use of the passports of their adopted countries to visit Nigeria without the need for short stay visas.
According to the minister, although there were three initial visa classifications, which include short visit, temporary and permanent visa categories, they were later increased to six classifications and have now been raised to 79 to address every aspect of human needs from entry to exit.
The minister further explained that the process has been digitalised in a way that the involvement of human elements in the process is drastically reduced as applications and payments will be made online, adding that the visa categories were expanded to 79 groups because Nigeria wants to be detailed with enhanced security in such a way that if anyone beats security watch at one point, he would be caught at the other end.
According to him, the 79 categories cover various spheres of activities which include visa to boost the economy, visa for education for students, visa for religious tourism, medical tourism visa, journalist visa, among others.
On measures to curtail the abuse of the new visa policy through the land borders, he said even though in line with the ECOWAS treaty, there is free movement among member states, any West African citizen entering through the land borders must possess the usual valid travel documents, adding, however, that such arrangement is only applicable for people paying a short visit to the country.
The Tide notes that several Nigerians and organisations have reacted to the launch of the new visa policy by the Federal Government with some applauding it and others picking holes in it.
For instance, the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) believes that the revised version unveiled by the Federal Government would aid economic integration, facilitate trade and investment in the country and creates jobs but cautions that individuals should be subjected to rigorous processes and screening before departure from the affected countries.
The Tide believes that as lofty and well-intended the new visa policy may be, it is a very ambitious project, because the country is not yet ripe and mature for it now. We say so because the Federal Government has not yet put measures on ground to make it work effectively.
It is unfortunate that the policy is coming on stream at a time the country is ranked third in the Global Terrorism Report Index. The fear that the policy may further compound the country’s deplorable security situation is not unfounded. This is because it has the capacity of making the country an all-comers’ affair and a place where criminals fleeing other countries may have a safe haven.
Again, it is not out of place to think that the notorious ‘Nigerian factor’ syndrome may also creep in to make nonsense of the new visa policy. This is because today, we do not have a reliable data base on the accurate number of foreign nationals in our midst. There is also nothing in place to regulate the movement of such persons in the country.
This is even made more worrisome by the sheer fact that there are no accurate statistics to show the correct population of the country. The figures we have at our disposal are based on conjectures. The Federal Government must first and foremost start addressing these anomalies.
It is unfortunate that the current leaders of the country dwell on the issue of attracting foreign direct investments into the country without making commensurate efforts to actually make the country very attractive for investors by taking more pragmatic steps to develop the country’s infrastructure: roads, power, schools, water, hospitals, among others. Whereas these things are taken for granted in other places, here, they do not seem to work.
There is, therefore, the urgent need to create a conducive environment in the country for not only businesses to thrive but also to make Nigeria a great country for the citizens, where hunger, poverty, disease and insecurity which have today seemingly buffeted them on every side, will be a thing of the past.
We strongly believe that it is only in this way that the new visa policy of the government will make meaning. In this way, it would be able to achieve its objectives.
Oshiomhole’s Reckless Outburst
Last Thursday, the Supreme Court of Nigeria sacked David Lyon of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as the governor-elect of Bayelsa State and asked the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to immediately issue a certificate of return to the candidate of the party with the highest number of votes and required constitutional spread as the winner of the November 16, 2019 gubernatorial poll.
The Justice Mary Odili-led panel of the apex court gave the ruling based on the inconsistency of the name of the APC deputy governorship candidate, Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo, in the certificates he presented to INEC before the election and for which a lower court had earlier disqualified him.
INEC had declared Mr. Lyon as winner of the governorship contest with 352,552 votes while Senator Duoye Diri of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) came far second with 143,172 votes.
But the Supreme Court’s judgement did not go down well with the APC National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, who while addressing the press shortly after the ruling declared that nobody should be sworn in as the new governor of Bayelsa State on Friday when the eight-year tenure of Hon. Seriake Dickson would have ended.
He said that the nation’s apex court ought to have borrowed a similar case in which it nullified the election of governor-elect Adamu Muazu of Bauchi State in 1999.
Oshiomhole also claimed the fact that Senator Diri’s votes did not meet the geographical spread required for him to be sworn in as governor.
“If the Supreme Court has ruled that David Lyon cannot now be sworn in as the person who has the highest number of votes and the spread to be sworn in, it simply means from tomorrow there will be no government in Bayelsa State.
“From the facts available to us and in due consultation with our lawyers, it is clear that no candidate meets the requirements of the Supreme Court which means no one can be sworn in legally tomorrow unless there is deliberate attempt to abuse the legal process,” he boasted.
The Tide thinks that Mr. Oshiomhole’s outburst was rather reckless as it had the capacity to provoke mass rampage in Bayelsa. In fact, we believe that his utterances were responsible for the attacks by suspected APC protesters who destroyed the private residences of the erstwhile Governor of the State, Seriake Dickson, and his successor, Duoye Diri. Part of the PDP secretariat was also burnt while the state-owned FM station, Radio Bayelsa, was also reported to have been attacked, all leading to the imposition of a dusk-to-dawn curfew by the police in the state.
As a former labour leader in the country and two-term Governor of Edo State, Oshiomhole should have been more mature and circumspect in his choice of words. To say that the decision of the highest court in the land cannot and should not be executed is simply a call for anarchy.
Oshiomhole was once the beneficiary of a Supreme Court verdict and, as is now popular with the Nigerian political class, he must have then seen the apex court as ‘the last hope of the common man’.
Indeed, Nigerian politicians seem to have this trait of hailing court decisions when such favour them while criticising or rejecting judicial pronouncements which do not serve their interests.
While we sympathise with the APC chairman over his party’s shocking loss at the Supreme Court, we see his latest attempt at political grandstanding as being pushed a little overboard.
The candidate of the party with the highest vote and spread, Senator Diri of the PDP, was sworn-in on Friday contrary to Oshiomhole’s ranting. And until the same court reverses that judgement, there is absolutely nothing he can do in this matter.
We equally condemn the unwarranted attempt by Oshiomhole to drag the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike into the verdict of the Supreme Court. Like a true sportsman, he should learn to fight another day when failure comes knocking.
Oshiomhole should tread with caution. Being the national chairman of a ruling party calls for maturity and strategic thinking. Other chieftains of his party who spoke on the apex court’s pronouncement demonstrated more maturity by asking members to remain calm while the party decides the next line of action. That is always the position of statesmen across party lines. And that is what was expected from the embattled APC Chairman.
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