Published On: Wed, Mar 28th, 2018

KEY POINT ON THE SOUTH-SOUTH POSITION ON THE RESTRUCTURING OF NIGERIA

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PAN NIGER DELTA FORUM- PANDEF

Since the period of the nationalist movement which sought independence for Nigeria, the quest for a federal political system that would secure the interest of ethnic nationalities and consequently the peace, unity and progress of Nigeria has been in the front burner of national discourse. The most recent attempts in this direction was the 2014 National Conference that assembled the best of Nigerians to provide a framework for political reforms that would ensure national cohesion and development. This conference made numerous recommendations that bother on federal restructuring and governance reforms. Also, of note is the All Progressive Congress (APC) Committee on restructuring and true federalism which raised a number of legislative and administrative issues for the restructuring of the Nigerian federation. But without prejudice to these recommendations, we the people of the South-South geo-political zone hereby take the following positions on restructuring:

Model of Government

The South-South position is that the Presidential model or system of governance be retained in the Federal Republic of Nigeria but with clear prescriptions to curtail high cost of running government.

A bi-Cameral Legislature is recommended at the Federal tier while the federating units (the states) should maintain a Unicameral Legislature as it exists at present.

Federating Units

The South-South propose that Federating units should be called States. However, we demand that the number of such units to be arrived at finally in the country should be open to negotiations and collective bargaining in view of contestations/claims and/or case(s) being made by various ethnic nationalities.

We support the retention of the Federal Character Principle in the Constitution of the federation. Similarly, we recommend that State Character Principle should be entrenched at the level of the Federating units.

The principle of states adopting their Constitutions should be upheld. This will cater for their peculiar needs within the concurrent list.

All sub-units (or Local Government Areas) under the federating units shall be created independently and catered for by the federating units without recourse to the Federal Government. We therefore agree that it is an aberration for three-tier levels to sharing powers in a federal system of government as is currently practiced in Nigeria.

Devolution of Powers

We agree that most items contained as part of the 68 exclusive legislative items in Nigeria be devolved to the federating units without prejudice to onshore/offshore mineral resources exploitation, exploration and management.

The Place of Geopolitical Zones

The existence of geo-political zones should be retained to drive further intra-national and sub-national interactions as well as socio-economic development and cultural cross-fertilization.

Federal Character Principle

We support the retention of the Federal Character Principle in the Constitution of the federation. Similarly, we recommend that State Character Principle be entrenched at the level of the Federating units.

Creation of States

We demand in line with recommendations of the 2014 National Conference, the creation of additional four states in the South-South zone; namely, Toru-Ebe State, Oil Rivers State, Anioma State, and Ogoja State.

Rotation of Political Officers

There should be a constitutional guarantee for rotation of key Political Offices such as President of the Federal Republic and Vice President on the one hand and Governors of the States and the Deputy Governors on the other hand.

State of Origin and Indigeneship

Nigerians should continue to identify with extant constitutional provisions which require where either of the parents or grandfather is born and is indigenous to the particular federating unit.

Fiscal Federalism and Resource Control

The position of the people of South-South on fiscal federalism is full resources control of all-natural resources located onshore and offshore of the federating states, for reasons exhaustively elaborated under Part E, particularly Sections 8 to 8.5 and 9 to 9.4, of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended, as this principle of resource control is in keeping with global best practice of democracies and federations in other nations such as the United States of America, Canada, India and Australia.

We therefore support 100% ownership of mineral and other resources by the federating units and subsequent payment of taxes to the Federal Government. This will require amendment of relevant Acts and Laws on Petroleum Exploration and Exploitation and Revenue Allocation.

Secular Status of Nigeria and the Constitution

The position of South-South is that Nigeria should guarantee freedom of worship and be strictly a secular state where no mention is made of religion in the federal constitution.

Derivation, Fiscal Federalism and Revenue Allocation

The best practice internationally is for federating units to be allowed to retain royalties, revenues and profits from the proceeds from resources and assets within their territory and territorial waters and pay needed taxes to the Federal Government.

The Question of Offshore Resources

The conclusion of the United Nations Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in 1982 has put to rest all contentious issues at the level of international law and provides a best global practice for State-Parties. Nigeria was both a key party in all the negotiations leading to the conclusion of that landmark international treaty which reaffirmed and codified, very clearly, the customary right of littoral states to their Contiguous Zones EEZ, (12 nautical miles), Littoral Seas (12 nautical miles), Exclusive Economic Zone (200 nautical miles) and Continental Shelf, and to which UNCLOS Nigeria is a signatory.

Environmental Pollution Issues

Due to the age-old oil-induced environmental degradation in the region as a result of exploration and exploitation activities, the Zone strongly recommends the creation of special funds for the development of special infrastructure in special areas, particularly where mineral resources are explored and exploited, as remediation measures.

Special Development Area Status for Niger Delta

The South-South demands that this time-honoured prayer of our pioneer leaders, which was not objected to by the founding fathers of this country at the dawn of independence, following the outcome of the report of the Willinks Commission in 1958 all intents and purposes, that conforms with best global practice as it pertains to deltas and coastal areas.

Legislative Issues

We submit that all relevant Bills and Acts of Parliament on oil and gas exploration and exploitation as well as revenue allocation be abrogated to reflect position.

The Legislature

The National Assembly as presently constituted operates a heavy and cumbersome cost structure. This should be properly addressed in any major restructuring effort and constitutional processes put in place to correct this anomaly since the centre will now be less encumbered with responsibilities.

Judiciary

We uphold, the recent recommendations of establishing State Judicial Councils and State Courts of Appeal as well consider and welcome developments which will make for better administration of Justice.

 

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