Despite the recommendations by the National Conference committees for the creation of an additional state from the South-east geo-political zone and the abolition of local government councils as a tier of government, the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) has rejected any alteration in structure and form of the Nigerian government.
The position of the ACF is to reinforce the position of the northern delegates that stated their position to the conference which included the reduction of the 13 per cent derivation to five per cent and the scrapping of offices like the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and other palatitive.
In an apparent reference to the quest for additional state in the South-east, the ACF said creating more states in the country might be counter-productive, arguing that it was not in doubt of the contributions the creation of states had done to Nigerian project, too many states tend to convert into mere cost or effort centres at the expense of socio-economic development.
“The argument that creation of states should be on the basis of equality irrespective of population and land mass is inconsistent with elementary concept of justice, since injustice is not only when equals are treated unequally but also when unequal(s) are treated equally.”
The pan northern Nigeria socio-cultural group said in their position to the National Conference that there was nothing wrong in the present form or structure of government.
The chairman of the ACF, Ibrahim Coomassie, is a delegate to the conference and the co chairman of the Committee on Power Devolution.
Though, the group said it never advocated the National Conference, but agreed that any national dialogue aimed at improving the unity, stability and harmony of the country would be welcomed.
The group expressed its opposition to the zoning of political offices like the presidency and offices of governors, stating that it should be the duties and responsibilities of political parties to determine.
Apart from this, ACF said it was against recognising the six geo political zones, warning “would amount to four tiers of government with dire consequences on the cost of government and unity of the country.”
It further said the six geo-political zones as federating units with their own states, police and local governments would have centrifugal effects on the centre thereby making the nation a Confederation which would lead to an eventual separation of Nigeria as a country.
On power devolution, ACF said: “Any devolution of power can still be achieved with appropriate adjustment in the exclusive list.”
According to the ACF position paper, “It is therefore the considered view of ACF that there is nothing wrong with the current federal structure with states as the federating units. All that is required is purposeful leadership that is humane in spirit, moral in purpose and wise in uses.”
But it advocated a system where an incumbent president or governor is barred from supervising an election in which he is a candidate.
ACF further advocated for a multiple terms for the two offices and their deputies as this would make room for motivation and reward.
It called for multiple tenures that are not consecutive as practised in Chile or in the alternative the creation of caretaker system as practiced in Bangladesh.
According to the 11-page memorandum sub-divided into 20 headings and signed by Mr. Coomassie,, the group said, “ACF prefers multiple tenures for President/Governors because such system makes allowance for motivation and reward. But in the case of single term, the good and feckless are grouped together.
“As a result, the only incentive for leaders is ability to pillage public funds at collective peril. However, if the search is for a way of eliminating abuse of incumbency, it may be more productive to consider the practice in Chile which allows for multiple tenures that are not consecutive. That is to say, no President is allowed to conduct an election in which he is a candidate.
“Another alternative is to use the Bangladesh practice which uses Care-Taker Government to conduct the elections.”
ACF also advocated the continuity of presidential system of government in Nigeria, while opposing the parliamentary system, but called for the trimming down of the size of government to ensure effective management of resources and called for the merger of some government agencies including ministries.
Accordingly, it said: “Towards this end, some ministries should be merged while appointments of minister to represent geographical zones should be abolished. More so that such practice conveys the wrong headed impression that zones are also federating units.”
The pan-northern Nigeria socio cultural group said that while the presidential system of government has succeeded in the United States, explaining that the failure of the system in Nigeria have nothing to do with the system but way it is being operated in Nigeria.
It stated that what the country needs is a purposeful leadership needed for rewiring of the politics and reengineering of our sense of justice.
ACF explained that since a political economy makes the governments in Nigeria to determine who gets what, why, where, how and when, it may be difficult to do away with politics of identity called power shift, rotation and zoning.
On fiscal federalism said that there is nowhere in the world that there is true federalism, stating that it is not opposed to principle of derivation provided the aim was to compensate for the environmental degradation resulting from any exploration.
But it said: “The disagreement has arisen from the abolition of the onshore/offshore dichotomy. As a result, proceeds from the offshore activities that are not due to efforts of the states or any host communities, nor cause any degradation or environment, are factored into calculation for derivation with dire consequence to the economic well being of non-oil producing states.”
ACF therefore advocated that the revenue from the off shore should be shared among the states of the federation.
On the security crisis in Nigeria, ACF called for unity of all Nigerians and unity of purpose, stating, “We must avoid generalisation and stick to what we know. This is because generalisation tends to encourage criminals to hide under groups and perpetrate criminal activities,” regretting that terrorism in Nigeria “are regarded as regional or on account of faith and ethnicity. This is unhelpful therefore generalisation is counterproductive and so must stop.”