Restructuring better sought through courts than National Assembly ― Osinbajo
Anyone promising to restructure Nigeria in 6 months, 1 year joking ― Nnamani
CALLS for the restructuring of the country were resonated, on Thursday, by stalwarts of the All Progressives Congress (APC) with Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo noting that implementation of restructuring is better sought through the courts than the legislature.
Drawing from the successes of the government of Lagos state in the courts on issues of fiscal federalism and devolution of powers, during the tenure of Senator Bola Tinubu as governor, Osinbajo argued that states would initiate restructuring by contesting review of the revenue allocation formula, having more control over their resources and funds, local government areas among other associated issues in the courts.
Speaking at a colloquium to mark the 80th birthday of the former governor of Osun State, Chief Bisi Akande, in Ibadan, Osinbajo said pushing for restructuring through the National Assembly may be a waste of time compared to the process of litigation instituted by states.
Osinbajo noted that the need for restructuring, that is having stronger states, typified by the benefits that accrued to regions during the days of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, was no more contestable, urging states to take to the courts to push for more powers and their fiscal federalism.
He argued that the nation can only achieve restructuring through stronger states where states had more control over their resources, could make more of their own administrative decisions such as the creation of local government, community police, state police, state prisons, creation of special courts and tribunal.
“I don’t think there should be much argument about the fact that we do need restructuring of our country one way or the other. The question is how should this be done. One of the key things is that in order to achieve any kind of restructuring, we need stronger states.
“The truth is that the combination of visionary leadership and strong autonomous states is a winning formula for economic development. Awolowo was also a visionary leader but he had an autonomous region behind him. But the process of creating stronger sub-nationals is possible even without any major constitutional changes.
“Even within our current legal and constitutional framework, much is still possible. In the period from the civilian government of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu in Lagos, in which I had the privilege to serve, to date, the government of Lagos state demonstrated that it is possible to have restructuring, especially fiscal federalism, and devolution of power to states but by process of litigation as opposed going through the legislature.
“In my very first encounter with Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, he made it clear that as far as he was concerned, one of the most legal objectives for us to pursue was fiscal federalism and devolution of power to our states. It was very clear to us at that time that going through the National Assembly was going to be a waste of time and we then decided it will be through a process of litigation. As a matter of fact, we went to the Supreme Court, 12 different times and the federal government at that time opposed every such move.
“One of the reasons why the courts is a very effective place doing whatever restructuring we need is because you don’t need a majority of people as litigants. If you have a good case, you can push your case and you can make it law by judicial decision.
“We got a lot of gains of restructuring through the courts. What has happened with all the National Conferences and other conferences is that nothing much has changed. At the 2014 National Conference, when people were arguing about regionalization, the conclusions of the national conference is that 20 more states should be created, how will that be done?
“So, I think that, as a region, we need to look at how we can approach it from the point of view of the court system. The only way that has succeeded so far is what was done in Lagos under the leadership of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, that is going ahead to ensure that in the courts of law, using the same constitution, we can actually get a lot done. In fact, the very first amendment of the allocation formula was on account of the counterclaim of Lagos state in the resource control case. That is why President Olusegun Obasanjo, at the time, was forced to change the revenue allocation formula. So, any amount of agitation, complaining will not help, we need to contest these issues in the courts. And when states contest this issue before the Supreme Court, it is possible for us to make a lot of progress and advancement,” Osinbajo said.
Osinbajo, particularly, fingered presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, over his campaigns for restructuring, noting that Abubakar was part of the federal government that opposed restructuring by withholding the state’s funds.
“Today, our dear presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar says he is the expert of restructuring. But in those years when we were fighting for restructuring, he opposed it every step of the way. Every time we were in the Supreme Court, it was vehemently opposed by the federal government in which he served,” Osinbajo said.
The Bisi Akande Colloquium themed, Nigeria: Achieving National Unity Through Peaceful Restructuring held at Theophilus Ogunlesi hall, Ibadan, attracted personalities to include National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Bola Tinubu; Governor Nasir El-Rufai; Governor Akinwunmi Ambode represented by his deputy, Mrs Idiat Adebule; Governor Gboyega Oyetola of Osun State; Governor Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State; Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State; Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State; Governor Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State; gubernatorial candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Lagos State; Mr Babajide Sanwo-olu; Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism, Alhaji Lai Mohammed; Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole; Senator Sola Adeyeye; Archbishop of the Catholic Archdiocese of Ibadan, Most Reverend Gabriel Abegunrin.
Other guests are former Senate President, Ken Nnamani; Professor Adigun Agbaje of the department of political science, University of Ibadan; Secretary, APC Committee on Restructuring, Senator Olu Adetunmbi; former member of the National Assembly, Dr Usman Bugaje, Reverend (Mrs) Tola Oyediran; former Osun State Governor, Mr Rauf Aregbesola and wife, Sherifat; former Ogun state governor, Chief Olusegun Osoba; renowned legal practitioner, Mr Niyi Akintola; former Ekiti State Governor, Otunba Niyi Adebayo; gubernatorial candidate of the APC in Oyo State, Chief Adebayo Adelabu; former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mallam Nuhu Ribadu;
El-Rufai, who delivered the keynote address, lambasted Northerners who spoke against restructuring as representing themselves, noting that the North will embrace inclusive restructuring.
He decried the continued emasculation of the states owing to the concentration of power and resources at the centre.
In particular, he described as an aberration the building of primary health centres by the federal government and the current system that vests exclusive power to discipline every judge in Nigeria in the National Judicial Council, rather than each state having its own Judicial Council.
Noting that most of the challenges confronting the country were best resolved at the sub-national level, El-Rufai called on the federal government to devolve more power to the states.
He argued that the state and local government would better attend to its policing, education of children for the first nine years of schooling, providing primary health care, routine immunization, extension services to farmers, construction of feeder roads and aggregation centres for farm produce.
“The coincidence of the mindset of most of the military leaders being of Northern origin must not be confused with that of the ordinary Northerner! I want to state here and now, that not only is the North ready, willing and able to embrace inclusive restructuring of our polity, but to add that those that speak loudly against it represent no one. Most of them have never held elective office, and therefore do not appreciate that the North with its natural endowments stands to be the biggest beneficiary of restructuring,” El-rufai said.
Discussants on the theme, Bugaje, Nnamani, Agbaje and Adetunbi decried Nigerians’ lack of understanding of restructuring.
Nnamani described candidates mouthing that they will restructure Nigeria in six months or one year as jokers.
He decried that restructuring was being misconstrued as disintegration, noting that devolution of powers to states was expedient owing to the overconcentration of powers at the centre.
Agbaje, in his remarks, opposed the cancellation of local government and operation of a two-tier system of government of federal and state government.