The President-General of the Igbo socio-political organisation, Ohaneze Ndi Igbo, and a delegate representing South-east zone at the ongoing National Conference, Chief Garry Enwo-Igariwey, has called for the six geo-political zones of the country to serve as federating units in a new federal arrangement being proposed by the conference.
Enwo-Igariwey said this during yesterday’s deliberations by the Committee on Political Restructuring and Forms of Government in Abuja.
Also, delegates, during deliberations, advocated that local government should be removed as a third tier of government, while the committee recommended that there should be a central government with states as the federating units.
However, another delegate and President of the Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN), Nduka Obaigbena, recommended that self-funding states within the contiguous boundaries might form a commission to promote economic development, good governance, equity, peace and security in accordance with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The committee adopted his position.
However, prior to the adoption of Obaigbena’s contribution, the Ohanaeze president had held that the zones should serve as the federating units instead of the 36 states of the federation.
He was supported by a delegate representing the federal government and a member of the committee, Prof. Anya O. Anya, who said the method would drastically cut the cost of governance in the country.
He however, frowned at the way recurrent expenditure has risen over time, in contrast to current expenditure, which is not enough for the desired development.
"What we should be doing here is something that must be in the best interest of Nigeria and the people. We should look at things that are completely new to achieve our aim. Only four states can be said to be viable among the 36 states of the federation if asked to look for resources to better the lot of its people.
“If we are talking about a state being a federating unit. We are as well encouraging unnecessary spending, which has brought us where we are today.
He said the regions, as the federating units, would in turn create states for administrative convenience, saying that the expenditure of government is very enormous.
"We are consuming and distributing in the name of maintaining government and little or nothing is left to develop the country,” he said.
Senator Gbenga Okurounmu, representing the South-west geo-political zone, also supported that the regions be made federating units, stating that the arrangement as it is today has created imbalances, which have reflected in all departments of the states’ lives, especially in the composition of National Assembly.
However, the former Governor of Ebonyi State and a delegate representing his state, Dr. Sam Egwu, who said thematic issues were not captured in the activities of the committee asked the committee to invite stakeholders to give the necessary advice to enrich their deliberation. He proposed that states should serve as federating units instead of regions.
The former Ebonyi State governor said his people were very happy having their own state and could not afford to lose it on the alter of using regions as federating units.
The Co-chairman of the committee, Ike Nwachukwu, said there was no need to invite stakeholders, since they have stakeholders and former lawmakers like Senator Okurounmu who could help the committee when the need arises.
A delegate representing Katsina State and a lecturer at the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, Abubakar Sadiq Mohammed, said federalism varies in nature and practice.
The university don mentioned that the onshore, offshore dichotomy was only practiced in Nigeria, adding that it was not adopted as part of the constitution but one that will favour Nigerians, which is federal in nature.
He also blamed the problem of Nigeria on wide spread corruption and faulted a situation where a person who looted public funds suddenly becomes friends to political office holders.
The former Deputy Governor of Delta State and a delegate representing the state, Chief Benjamin Elue, also opposed the use of regions as federating units and pitched his tent with proponents of states as the federating units.
He said he could not afford to go to Benin instead of Asaba to do state activities in the event of regions being recognised.
On his part, Senator Nimi Bariagha Amange, a federal government delegate advised the members to always treat issues on merit and follow it to a logical conclusion.
He supported states as federating units, but said local government should not be a federating unit. "The states will create local government areas. So much of our resources go to political office holders. We will also think of how we can check extreme poverty and insecurity. Local government should be abolished. We could have municipalities or council associations,” the senator from Bayelsa State said.
Prior to deliberations, the committee had earlier adopted federalism as the political structure best for the country, but was yet to agree on the system of government the country would practice.