As Rivers State celebrates 54th anniversary, today, following its creation on May 27, 1967, as a distinct geo-political entity from the then Eastern Region, some stakeholders have expressed their views on the position of Rivers State in the comity of states visa-vis its achievements, challenges and way forward. The stakeholders, in an opinion poll, harnessed by The Tide’s team consisting of, John Bibor, Akujobi Amadi, Taneh Beemene, Chinedu Wosu, Enoch Epelle, and coordinated by the Deputy Group News Editor, Igbiki Benibo, described the creation of Rivers State as the best thing that had happened to the minorities of the Niger Delta since Nigeria’s Independence in 1960. They also said that the creation of the state gave a voice to the oppressed minorities of the Niger Delta in the politics of Nigeria. Excerpts.
Eze Ndubuisi Nwankwo (Traditional Ruler- Eze Odinta Nanya): “The creation of Rivers State has brought good things to the people. The position occupied by Etche ethnic nationality today in the geopolitics of Nigeria would not have come without a Rivers State. Etche would have been subsumed by the bigger ethnic groups of the state. I commend the present administration in the state for living up to the vision of the founding fathers of the state”.
Eze Cassidy Ikegbidi (Eze Igbu Akoh II of Akoh Kingdom/ex-chairman, Ahoada East Local Government Area): “The creation of Rivers State has also brought unity among minorities in this part of the country. This would not have been possible if the state was not created. By the creation, development is now at the doorsteps of every community in the state. I commend the present administration for continuing with the vision of the founding fathers of the state”.
Eze Christopher Wonodi (Eze Mbam Abali/Eze Risi Ohia Rebisi Kingdom): “Successive administrations in the state have done well to bring to fruition the visions of the founding fathers of the state. Governor Nyesom Wike is a super-project governor; the present administration has lived up to the expectations of Rivers people in project execution”.
Eze Ken Onuoha Iwezor (Paramount Ruler/Nyeweli Mgbuesilaru/Rumukwuru-Okwurusi Kingdom): “The anniversary should serve as a moment of reflection on the vision of the founding fathers of the state. The state should reflect on where it was yesterday, where it is now, and it will be in the future. I commend Governor Wike for achieving so much in infrastructural development”.
Barrister Chika Aleruchi Wobo: “Well, it is a long journey to arrive at this very point. I think we have made tremendous progress as a state. We were blessed with good leaders such as governors from 1999 to the present day. Our governors have done very reasonably well in infrastructures development, but the major defects we are having is to see how the youths can be empowered. Manpower development is a panacea to peaceful co –existence, and the issue of power rotation has also been a problem here in Rivers State. I think the political class and the stakeholders should assemble and ensure equitable distribution of power and appointments for the good of the state.
An opinion leader, Elder Abraham ThankGod, said, “Actually, Rivers State is trying at 54 compared to other states of the federation. There may be little hiccups, but the state is trying, because Rivers State accommodates a lot of people who had come for the good and bad of the state. The resources that are meant for the state alone are now used for taking care of the entire population of the state.
“Rivers State is a golden state, if you are not there; you have not gone to anywhere. Yes, at 54, our children are educated, going to schools. Today in Rivers State, we have many professors, academics, doctors and professionals unlike before creation. Again, at 54, companies’ headquarters are located outside Port Harcourt, all in Lagos, making it difficult for our youths to access employment opportunities.
“At 54, the state resources can no longer go around due to population explosion. In terms of infrastructures, the state is doing well. On security, the state government should improve on protecting lives and property across the 23 local government areas. Community policing should be improved to reduce crimes and criminality”.
Logistics expert, David Ogbolodi, said, “At 54, Rivers State is progressing. In the area of sales and logistics, the state is progressing because of the construction of networks of roads and dualization of roads. We in that aspect are benefiting from that gesture to an extent. In security, the state Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, inaugurated the Neighbourhood Watch vigilante outfit to complement the regular police to check crimes for the good of the citizenry. I call on the state government to improve on the employment backwardness and reduce the unemployment ratio in the state to curb crime rate. Job creation is a necessity for the teeming unemployed youths of the state to curb piracy, armed robbery, kidnapping and cyber crimes indulged by the youths”.
A businessman, Emmanuel Sunday Elee, said, “So far, so good at 54. In certain aspects, the state government is moving forward because the governor is trying, but on employment, government should do more to improve on job creation and redeem its pledge by employing the 5,000 youths he promised since last year.
“On security, government should improve on the security architecture of the state. There is poverty in the land; people are really suffering to eke a living, no jobs, and insecurity ravaging the rural communities, killings and abduction of innocent persons by hoodlums, cyber crimes by jobless youths. Graduates are roaming the streets of Port Harcourt seeking for means of livelihood every day, and young girls are taking to prostitution. The government should tackle this ugly menace of insecurity and lack of employment ravaging the state, and create gainful employment for the teeming youths.”
A civil engineer, Engr. Akintude Adewuyi, said, “As a resident of the state for over 20 years, yes, Rivers has achieved much at 54. It is a good thing, great thing, we must recognize this very time. The state had experienced insecurity, backwardness in areas of employment of its young youths. Actually, the governor is trying to put in place infrastructures such as the flyovers along Port Harcourt-Aba Expressway, and other places, but we are still lacking a lot in terms of roads, drainages and good amenities for the citizenry.
“I think, we need to do more. The rate of unemployment should be curbed by creating employment and redeeming his pledge on 5,000 jobs to Rivers youths since 2020. The rate of unemployment has worsened in Rivers State. The governor needs to do more in this aspect to improve on employment generation”.
A clergy, Rev. Canon Friday A. Wosu, said, “Looking at the state creation 54 years ago, I think that Rivers State is now a matured child. Since the creation, Rivers State has made tremendous progress in terms of its economy, politics and religion. On the economy, the state is the economic hub of the nation with several oil wells and platforms, including higher institutions. In politics, we are also making progress, while on religion; so many churches have sprung up, making more people to worship God and reducing sinful acts.
“Of course, we have insecurity created by lack of jobs, employment for the youths. The state government under the able leadership of Governor Nyesom Wike should employ the youths and redeem his promise of engaging 5,000 unemployed youths into the ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) to alleviate poverty and reduce crimes. Insecurity for now is at its ebb in the state, and should be proactively tackled by the government in power.”
A trader, Madam Omasirichi Okocha Chinedu, said, “Rivers at 54, I congratulate the state government and its residents. I sincerely appreciate what the state governor is doing in terms of infrastructural development and building of roads, flyovers across the city. I call on the state government to provide jobs for Rivers indigenes to reduce poverty and crimes.
“I am appealing to the governor to empower Rivers women by giving them soft loans to start small-scale businesses to better their lives and families. Women and traders should be empowered economically by the government, granting them soft loans to start small business outfits.”
A politician, Hon. Achineke Jackson, said, “At 54, Rivers State is doing relatively well. I want the empowerment of youths across the state to better their lives”.
The General Overseer of Gateway International Church, Pastor George Izunwa, expressed the need to celebrate Rivers State at 54 years, especially with the present administration’s developmental strides in the state.
He said, “Though the development level has not marched the age of the state, but there is need to celebrate Rivers State at 54 years. If you look back to the state 20, 25 years ago, and compare it to the present state of this state, you can testify that there is an improvement, especially, because Governor Nyesom Wike is trying for Rivers State when it comes to infrastructural projects.
“There is need to celebrate all the projects put in place by the past governments, and the present one. The projects, including all the flyovers, I thank God for them. But there is need to do more. My concern about the country is that: do we have a working system? Does this system allow fast development initiatives? Does it allow people to do their best? We want a system that will drive human capital development, that is what we are praying for”, the cleric said.
On democracy, Izunwa said there is no evidence to prove that Nigeria is a democratic country.
“I don’t think we have democracy. I don’t even believe in our Independence. And I don’t think we have any country yet. If we have, we will know. Tell me what we have achieved that anybody would be celebrating. Nigeria is a prayer project; we can’t just celebrate a prayer project,” Izunwa added.
Also, the former chairman of All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief Davies Ibiamu Ikanya said Rivers State has a lot to celebrate, but the state also needs serious prayers to grow faster than it is.
He thanked Governor Nyesom Wike for renewing the state on a faster lane.
According to him, some visitors might miss their way in Port Harcourt, especially those who had not visited the state in the past seven years.
Ikanya said Governor Nyesom Wike’s administration has added value to the state, and gave reasons why the people should celebrate Rivers State at 54.
Furthermore, the Chairman-elect of Andoni Local Government Area, Barrister Erastus Awortu said, “If in the past, Rivers State had nothing to celebrate, under the present administration of Governor Nyesom Wike, people have reasons to celebrate the state at 54.
“What I know is that, Rivers State people have good reasons to celebrate the state, even if in the past, we had nothing to mark any progress in the state. But with the administration of Governor Wike, there is a lot to celebrate the birthday of the state.
“Look at the state in all corners, why will one say that Rivers is not far better than some states that were created alongside the state?” Erastus explained.
The Chairman of Akwa Ibom Community in Rivers State, Evangelist Francis Ekpima, said “there is excellent need to celebrate Rivers State”, saying that the state has been positioned for robust investment by Governor Nyesom Wike.
According to him, all bottlenecks hindering development in the state have been taken care of drastically.
He said Governor Wike has done massive expansion of the city through urban development to rural areas by dualizing and linking roads from urban areas to rural areas.
“Imagine, a governor building nine flyovers at the heat of Covid-19, when other state governments can’t pay even salaries. Soon, all the streets of Port Harcourt would be free from traffic jams. I am from Akwa Ibom State, but I have been resident in Rivers State for over 40 years today. So, I know how the state was, and I can say that Rivers State has a lot now to celebrate than before,” Ekpima said.
Bravo! Rivers Turns 54
On May 27, 1967, the dreams, earnest yearnings and several years of sustained struggle for freedom to determine and pursue their social, economic, political and cultural aspirations by the people of the tributaries of the lower Niger within the context of the Nigerian Federation saw the light of day. Indeed, exactly 54 years today, Rivers State was proclaimed into existence by a military Decree 14 of 1967. And since then, the state has grown in leaps and bounds in all facets of human industry while contributing its quota to the welfare, wellbeing and prosperity of the nation economically, socially, politically and otherwise.
On this occasion, therefore, The Tide believes that Rivers people have sufficient reason to celebrate and to thank God for the journey so far, while trusting Him for more grace to attain greater and loftier heights. There is no denying the fact that the state is yet to rise up to the full stature of all it can be but the reality is that it has achieved much against the odds within the period of its existence.
Its inception in 1967, therefore, was seen as liberating Niger Delta people who since the amalgamation of Nigeria in 1914 had suffered untold hardship in the Nigerian federation.
In more sense than one, Rivers State in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria, is unique. Popularly known as the Treasure Base of Nigeria, the state’s uniqueness is not without basis or justification. The abundance of human and natural resources coupled with the hospitality of its people, among other considerations, make the state to stand out shoulder high among its contemporaries.
Its proclamation by Gowon as a distinct and unique state was, indeed, a realization of the vision of the founding fathers of the state, who over several decades, lamented the obvious marginalization by the dominant ethnic groups in the Nigerian project, particularly the Ibos, who co-habited the then Eastern region with its capital in Enugu.
Beginning with the young Navy Commander Alfred Papapriye Diete-Spiff’s in 1967 to the present administration of Governor Nyesom Wike, successive administrations, both military and civilian alike, have made notable contributions to make the state the enviable one it is today. From the creation of Bayelsa State in 1996 to the exponential growth in the education sector, human capital development, infrastructural revolution, health sector development, national political relevance, active participation in global economic renaissance and bold presence on the world entertainment stage, Rivers State can indeed be said to have come of age.
Perhaps except for the period of the pioneer administration, at no other time in history has the state experienced so great a level of transformation of the landscape of the state as is being realized under the present administration. From extensive urban renewal effort that has seen the rebuilding of state-owned assets and city roads to meet present day needs and the construction of nearly 10 new fly overs, to the massive road infrastructure being built in all parts of the state, the Wike administration is truly working hard to realise the objectives of the founding fathers of the state.
It is worthy of note that by the effort of the state government, Bonny and Opobo have been made accessible to the state capital by road while the same fortune is soon to be enjoyed by erstwhile disconnected people of Kalabari Kingdom through the construction of the Trans-Kalabari Road. By the same token, a bold and courageous move has been initiated to create more urban centresin Rivers State through the siting of campuses of the Rivers State University in Etche, Ahoada and Emohua.
However, as we celebrate the giant strides attained and the progress made so far, we must not lose sight of the evil forces of annexation, domination, subjugation, oppression and suppression that are once again raring their ugly heads today. The present threat posed by the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and their allied secessionist elements to the unity, peace and stability of the state calls for a spirited concerted resistance by all Rivers people so as to preserve the gains made so far as a state and as a people.
To this end, Rivers people of all persuations, be it political or tribal affiliation, must rally round the governor who has sounded the warning that the state won’t succumb to any secessionist agenda. With security formations and personnel being brutally attacked and mindlessly murdered on Rivers soil, there can be no greater threat to the very existence of the state and the return of our people to slavery, servitude and frustration. Never have we had it so bad and nothing must be left to chance in dealing with this danger with a view to protecting, preserving and promoting our heritage.
The political class in the state in particular, must use this occasion of the 54th anniversary of the creation of the state to reflect and resolve to eschew bitterness, rancour and acrimony in their contention for political power and leadership over the people.
It must be noted that the struggle for the creation of Rivers State achieved the desired results because, among other things, the Rivers political elite, traditional rulers and the youth of the time shared a rare and uncommon sense of oneness, purpose, selflessness and indeed drive for service to fatherland. More than any other time in our history, the need to re-enact and revive the values, sentiments, philosophies and spirit that formed the driving force of the founding fathers to victory is now.
Evidently, that widely acclaimed Rivers spirit of love and commitment to selfless service have waned significantly, leaving in their stead, threat to public peace activated by political greed, selfishness and unguided quest for personal and sectional aggrandisement far and above love for the state. The clarion call is, therefore, for leaders at all strata and sectors of the state to introspect and purge themselves of all tendencies that are inimical to the all overall development and prosperity of the state.
We must remind ourselves, especially the political class, that it took selfless sacrifices, personal denials and unrelenting activism from the foundational leaders to achieve for us the state that we now call our own. All must, therefore, embrace peace, tolerance, good brotherliness and seek civil and lawful means to address all grievances and disagreements because strife, violent confrontations and aggressive engagements will only destroy the time-endured bonds of togetherness that have bound our people for years.
This year’s celebration also presents an auspicious moment for Rivers State and her people to ventilate the grievances of the state and the people before the Public Hearing on Constitutional Review organized by the National Assembly,. By some stroke of divine arrangement, the events is scheduled to hold today, May 27 and tomorrow, May 28 with Port Harcourt hosting one of the sittings in the South-South region.
The Tide believes that the opportunity must be taken to register a unified strong Rivers’ voice as regards age long injustices meted on our people by the Nigerian State that had given rise to youth restiveness and its attendant destruction of not only the environment but the very livers of the people as well. All Rivers people must rally round the government to present a common position that will convey the resolution of the state and further the cause of the people regarding fiscal federalism or resource control, devolution of powers, revenue sharing formular, preservation of the environment and sundry issues that would guarantee the safety, security, welfare, wellbeing, prosperity and freedom of our people within the Nigerian federation.
The founding fathers’ relentless struggle to question the imbalance and injustice of the Nigerian federation remains the philosophy behind the creation of the state. Their mission and vision were to ensure that Rivers State gets its pride of place in the geo-political entity called Nigeria. The question till date, however, remains whether that vision has been achieved or not.
As The Tide congratulates and felicitates with the government and people on this momentous occasion of the 54th anniversary of the creation of Rivers State, we wish to underline the need for all hands to be on deck to make the state a habitation of safety, security, peace, prosperity and an unhindered opportunity for the pursuit of happiness for everyone who live and do business in it.
Rivers: The Wheel Propelling Nigerian Economy
The economic importance of Rivers State to national development has never been in contention. It is easy to discern, even by the blind. It was not by happenstance that the state was christened the ‘Treasure Base of the Nation’. The state earns the sobriquet on account of its contributions to national development. What is rather in contest is the benefit accrued to the people of the state from the huge natural deposits the state is endowed with.
Generally known as the hub of oil and gas industry in the country, Rivers State accounts for 40 per cent of Nigeria’s crude oil production. It is also the largest economy in Nigeria after Lagos. It has vast crude oil reserves among other natural resources, and remains a leading supplier of the nation’s wealth with associated export revenue.
Apart from Lagos, Rivers State contributes the highest Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to the nation’s economy. It accounts for about 65 per cent of government revenue and 88 per cent of Nigeria’s foreign exchange earnings. As at 2010, Rivers State was contributing US$21,073 next only to Lagos with US$33,679 as GDP.
Despite its relatively low industrial base, the State has two of the nation’s four petroleum refineries at Eleme, two major seaports in Port Harcourt and Onne, an international airport at Omagwa, an oil and gas free zone, and a petrochemical and fertilizer plant in Onne, an industrial estate at Trans-Amadi, a gigantic liquefied natural gas plant in Bonny and tens of petrochemical related companies.
There is no gainsaying the fact that the aggregate growth of the Nigerian economy weighs heavily on the natural resources of Rivers State. For over five decades, the oil and gas sector has remained the mainstay of Nigeria’s economy till date. Little wonder that happenings in the oil and gas industry tend to have serious impact on the other sectors of the nation’s economy.
In the area of oil and gas which creates the wealth that sustains the nation, Rivers State ranks the highest contributor. Apart from playing host to two of the nation’s four petroleum refineries, the state also hosts major oil companies such as The Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC), Total Exploration & Production Nigeria Limited (TEPNL), Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and tens of petrochemical related companies. Added to these is the existence of a multi-billion naira Liquefied Natural Gas plant in Bonny which produces a million tones of gas per year.
It is, however, regrettable that in spite of Rivers State’s status as the hub of oil and gas in the country, these multinationals are reluctant to move their headquarters to the state citing insecurity and restiveness as excuses. It was even recently that NLNG relocated its head office to Port Harcourt.
Meanwhile, the new spate of development from marginal oil fields by the multinational oil giants has also created a vent for the participation of indigenous firms in the nation’s oil and gas sector. These firms include Minipulo, Nestoil, Belema Oil and Sahara Energy, among other upstream operators.
The import of this is that in spite of marginal neglect of the state by the Federal Government in terms of infrastructure and human development, Rivers remains the epicentre of Nigeria’s oil and gas activities, contributing a significant percentage of government’s revenue. That Nigeria was able to prosecute the three-year civil war successfully without borrowing a kobo was courtesy of the oil wealth. The oil boom of the 1970s also led to the mass importation of foreign manufactures, salary reviews and arrears payment, oversea scholarship and training of workers, among others.
Also given its position as a natural seaport and railway terminus, Rivers State has long established itself as an investor’s haven, with the bulk of its tenants in Trans-Amadi Industrial area of Port Harcourt.
Before now, there were several companies scattering around the state, such as Michellin, Pabod Breweries, Port Harcourt Flour Mills, Nigeria Engineering Works (NEW), West African Glass Industry (WAGI), Slumberger, Halliburton, Metalloplastica, Rivers Vegetable Oil Company (RIVOC), Riversbiscuit, Flag Aluminium, Indorama Eleme Fertiliser &Chemicals Limited, NAFCON, now Notore, among others.
Although a good number of these companies which once contributed to the economic growth of the state and Nigeria at large had since closed shop or relocated outside the country due to a number of factors ranging from poor electricity supply, general infrastructural decay resulting in high operational cost, multiple taxation and insecurity; a handful of them that are still in existence in the state make significant contributions to the nation’s economy in terms of employment generation and wealth creation.
Not too long ago, Pabod Breweries which was once moribund was revived by South Africa’s SAB Miller through a partnership that appears to be yielding good dividends to both the state and national economy, alongside Indorama Group.
Meanwhile, Rivers State also plays host to the second busiest seaport after Lagos. It hosts two of the nation’s seaports – Nigeria Port Authority (NPA), Rivers Complex and Onne Port. This suggests that the state constitutes a major commercial centre in the country. The state’s proximity to Aba in Abia State and Onitsha in Anambra State – two notable destinations for containerised imports, adds impetus to the commercial status of Rivers State, and also contributes in no small measure to the economy of the country.
Rivers State is not lagging behind either in the area of hospitality industry. Apart from the popular Hotel Presidential located along Aba-Port Harcourt Road, which has been in existence since the days of the Eastern Nigeria, there are several other hotels scattering around Port Harcourt and its environs. Prominent among them are Meridian Hotel at Old GRA, Port Harcourt; Landmark Hotel at Waterline area of Port Harcourt, Sasun Hotel at Trans-Amadi, and a host of others. The avalanche of these hospitality industries in the state does not only boost the economic base of the state, it also attracts and facilitates investment in the country.
Added to this impetus is the NEW vision of the present administration in the state led by Governor Nyesom Wike, which has led to a deluge of social infrastructures, thus attracting investments to both the state and the country at large.
It is, however, a painful irony that despite the avalanche of wealth tapped from crude oil sale and other economic opportunities in the state over the years, there has been a complete neglect of the state by the Federal Government in the area of basic infrastructure. For instance, the two major roads that link Rivers State with other parts of the country, namely, the Eleme section of the East West Road that leads to Onne industrial hub, and the Oyigbo section of the Port Harcourt-Aba Road have been in a state of disrepair for years without attention from the Federal Government.
Worst still, the multinationals that operate in the state and Niger Delta as a whole, and who ordinarily should be a propeller of development have only succeeded in adding to the sufferings of the people. They do not only devastate the environment with their oil activities and leave their host communities with destroyed farmlands, polluted air and deteriorating marine life, they also subject the indigenes to a second class citizens in terms of employment.
One of the most disturbing paradox is that crude oil for export is transported to Bonny and Forcados through a network of pipeline stretching across 6,000km over communities and living quarters approximately the distance between Cape Town in South Africa and Cairo in Egypt. Yet, little or no measure is taken to ensure the maintenance of the pipes which often corrode and burst, leading to oil spill, killing people and devastating environment, water and farmlands. Worst, the Federal Government that is supposed to be a regulator appears helpless and complacent as it lacks the political will to rein in on these oil conglomerates to stop the criminal environmental pollution in the state. This obviously accounts for occasional pockets of unrest and restiveness in Rivers and other Niger Delta states.
Many analysts and keen observers have decried the criminal neglect of Rivers State by the Federal Government. Piqued by the aberrant, incongruous structure of the Nigerian federation, especially the iniquitous disposition of the Federal Government in robbing Peter to pay Paul, a professor of Economics, Willie Okowa, had in a seminar presentation on Rivers State since 1967 said, “The use of oil resources derived largely from Rivers State in the creation of the infrastructure basis for development in other parts of the country while denying the same treatment for the territory in which oil is found speaks of a callousness that is numbing to the mind and an outrageousness that is a challenge to the ethics of civilised behaviour”.
The Rivers State governor, Chief Nyesom Wike himself has, at several fora, complained about the inequities and apparent lack of visible federal presence in the state despite the state’s contributions to the nation’s economy. He believes the state deserves a special status and consideration from the Federal Government given its contributions to national growth.
Presenting a paper on ‘Institutional Weakness and Challenges of Development in Rivers State in Abuja in 2016, Wike observed that, “the state has suffered sustained neglect, marginalisation and injustice from successive federal governments and its agencies”.
The governor continued: “Even as no new development project has been initiated in the state for decades, what is most distressing is the failure of the Federal Government to adequately maintain some of the critical federal infrastructure in the state.
“I am referring to the Port Harcourt Terminal building, the Port Harcourt seaport, as well as the East West Road, particularly the section that leads from Eleme junction to the Onne industrial hub that has remained broken for years without attention from the Federal Government.”
Five years after Governor Wike made this cursory observation, has anything changed? Perhaps not. Apart from the Port Harcourt International Airport Terminal building which was constructed recently, all other critical federal infrastructure listed by the governor for attention in 2016 have remained unattended to by the Federal Government. It took the intervention of the state government under Wike to fix two of the federal roads in the state: the Industry Road that leads to the NPA, Port Harcourt seaport and the Igwuruta-Chokocho Road.
Indeed, this disturbing irony of an oil state wallowing in poverty and squalor speaks of an utter insensitivity and indifference that is not only numbing to mind, but also strange to all ethical conducts.
But how long will this criminal neglect and deliberate marginalisation continue? When will the Rivers people get a fair share of the national cake? When will the Federal Government realise that Rivers State is the the wheel that propels the nation’s economy and should be accorded honour and respect? Who will rescue the Treasure Base of the Nation from the oppressive claws of national inequities? Questions. Endless questions.
By: Boye Salau
Constitution Review: lt’s Time For FG To Shed Excess Weight -Akeredolu
The Chairman of the South-West Governors’ Forum, Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN, has asked the Federal Government to shed itself of the excess weight it has appropriated over time.
Akeredolu declared that the present arrangement “is the major cause of friction in the country and reason for politics of bitterness”.
The governor, who insisted that the current system was not sustainable, said that the Federal Government should only coordinate and receive royalties.
He said this at the Public Hearing by the Senate Committee on Review of the 1999 Constitution in Akure, the Ondo State capital, yesterday.
“All the agitations of the peoples of this country must be looked into with a view to improving the economic power of the average citizens.
“The best way possible is to allow each region flower in its areas of comparative advantage.
“The behemoth called the Federal Government must shed the excess weight unduly appropriated over time. It is the major cause of friction.
“It is the reason for the politics of bitterness. It explains why everyone wants the power at the centre. It promotes ethnic chauvinists and encourages mediocrity.
“The new law must view, critically, the current misnomer which sees the Federal Government appropriating humongous amounts for moribund agencies whose duties overlap with those of the states.
“The fiscal policy of the country must be restructured to encourage ingenuity and uncommon resourcefulness.
“The Federal Government should only coordinate and receive royalties. The current system is not sustainable. All of us are beginning to appreciate this fact.
“The current exercise will derive its legitimacy if taken to the people for revalidation.
“Nothing must be taken for granted. Everyone must be treated as an equal partner in this whole enterprise of nation-building.
“The constitution of a country should reflect the aggregate of the realistic expectations of the components parts which form the union.
“It is the basic law which must define the powers and responsibilities of the offices created to serve the people.
“It must address the possible areas of anxiety. Nothing must be taken as given. All aspects of concern must be looked into with a view to reaching a consensus.
“All disparate aspirations must be harnessed to evolve a national ethos. No section of the country must feel short-changed.”
“The document produced must be a true reflection of collective bargaining and concessions secured in an ambiance of frank exchanges among members of the same family.
“The current attempt at Constitution amendment should be taken beyond the usual jamboree conceived and executed to arrive at predetermined result.
Akeredolu advocated for the return to the 1973 Constitution describing it as “the best practicable guide towards nationhood”.
According to him, “The 1963 Constitution retained regionalism and upheld the principle of autochthony, an organic development of the law using local experiences.
“The Republican status of the country was reflected. Each region had considerable latitude to blossom at her own pace. There was devolution of powers in the true sense of the term.
“This was the period when even outsiders noticed the potential greatness of the nascent post colonial country.
“The major provisions which allowed the three regions which existed before independence were retained in the 1963 Constitution.”
“That remains the best document for a country as heterogeneous as Nigeria. It was the best practicable guide towards nationhood.
The governor said, “Unfortunately, the military coup of 1966 destroyed that when it abolished regionalism and created the so-called provinces while imposing a unitary system on the country.
“Any honest analyst will agree that this act marked the beginning of the crises of confidence among the peoples of this country.
“This gross commission led to the civil war and the attendant loss of lives and property on monumental scale.
“The country still smarts from the effects the needless war among brothers till date.
“The 1979 Constitution was a departure from the 1963’s but it lacked originality. The 1995 Sani Abacha document was not used for a day.
“The 1999 Constitution has been described as a document which tells lies against itself. It was just decreed into existence by the departing military. This explains the several amendments in barely two decades of its existence.
“The current exercise, therefore, must not toe the path of the previous attempts at tokenism.
“The basic law of any country must not be reduced to frivolities reflecting preferred whimsies.
“It must not be oppressive of the minorities. Its provisions must indeed give teeth to the primary purpose for which the government exists.
“No provision of the law must not be justifiable as Chapter Two of the current 1999 Constitution seeks to impress on us.
The Leader of the committee, Senator Ajayi Boroffice, said that the review provides a platform for Nigerians to express their opinions on the fundamental law that governs their lives through proposals that will lead to the highest good for the greatest number of our people.
Boroffice said, “No doubt, we are going to have diverse and differing views on the different themes of the exercise. However, the focus for this committee is how to manage the review exercise in a fair, inclusive, credible, and transparent manner.
“Public Hearings are critical to participatory democracy and indispensable in a Constitution amendment exercise if the Constitution is to be seen as the people’s Constitution.
He noted that, “These Zonal Public Hearings have been designed in such a manner as to give citizens greater opportunities to make inputs more than ever before in the Constitution amendment process.
Similarly, the Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, yesterday, demanded state police, fiscal federalism and a special economic status for the state as constitutional review public hearing begin across the country.
Sanwo-Olu made the demands at the opening of the two-day Senate Zonal Public Hearing on the Review of the 1999 Constitution under the leadership of Senator Oluremi Tinubu, held at Marriot Hotel, Ikeja, in Lagos State, according to a statement by the state government.
He said, “For us in Lagos State, the issues of state police and fiscal federalism are at the top of the priority list for us, in this ongoing review process. Equally fundamental, particularly for us in Lagos State, is the issue of a special economic status for Lagos, considering our place in the national economy and the special burdens we bear by virtue of our large population and limited landmass.
“I believe the need for this special status has been sufficiently articulated and justified. It suffices for me at this point to restate that this request is by no means a selfish one, but one that is actually in the interest of every Nigerian and of Nigeria as a nation.
“The progress and prosperity of Nigeria is inextricably linked to the progress and prosperity of Lagos State. A special status for Lagos State, therefore, must be a concern not only for the people of Lagos State alone, but for all Nigerians.”
Sanwo-Olu also called on all Nigerians within the zone being covered by the Senate Committee on Constitutional amendment to embrace the opportunity of the zonal hearing so that their voices and opinions will count in the amended constitution that will emerge.
Sanwo-Olu, who commended the leadership and members of the National Assembly for responding to the concerns of Nigerians on the need to carry out a review of the 1999 Constitution to reflect current realities, assured them of the Lagos State Government support in any way necessary to make the assignment easier and highly rewarding for all Nigerians.
Representatives of several states, town, communities, associations and civil society organisations spoke on several issues that have to do with states creation, gender equality and special status, among others.
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