Gbonigi Adds Voice To Calls For Restructuring | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Gbonigi Adds Voice To Calls For Restructuring

Posted: Sep 21, 2016 at 3:15 am   /   by   /   comments (0)




As Nigerians continue to discuss the possibility and need for the Nigerian federation to be restructured, Rt. Rev. Emmanuel Bolanle Gbonigi, a retired Anglican Bishop and the leader of the Yoruba Unity Forum (YUF), has given his backing to the now popular call.

The retired Bishop of Akure Diocese (Anglican Communion) and one of Nigeria’s most respected and outspoken priests, who spoke from his Oba-ile Estate, Akure North local government area, Ondo State, advanced reasons why the country should be restructured now.

Speaking through a statement, the clergyman cum Yoruba socio-cultural leader, told President Muhammadu Buhari that restructuring the federation now is a legacy this federal administration owes future generations.

Bishop Gbonigi recalled that in 1914, Nigeria as country, was created by the British Crown under Lord Fredrick Lugard, the Governor-General of the Colony, stressing that it was then that the peoples of Southern and Northern Protectorates, “from different socio-cultural, religious, economic, political and educational backgrounds were merged into one entity called Nigeria.”

According to him, the Union was never a popular one even consummated, adding that the British imperialists were only concerned with the financial and administrative exigencies, than the political, social, economic and cultural integration of the peoples of the new country.

Gbonigi recalled that as a policy, when the amalgamation took effect, the British government sealed off the South from the North between 1914 and 1960, about 46 years between amalgamation and independence, the British allowed minimum contact between the North and South as it was not in the British interest to encourage such.

He said the Richards and Macpherson Constitutions of 1946 and 1951 which introduced regionalism, prevented the mistrusts and lack of integration to degenerate into a national crisis as each region was granted the autonomy to control its resource and developed her land and people at its own pace.

He said: “This resulted in very healthy competition among the three regions. The emphasis then was developing the land and people. This was the period pioneering educational schemes as the highly successful free education was launched in the Western Region: great Institutions like the University of Ile Ife now Obafemi Awolowo University and the Ahmadu Bello University Zaria were established.
“It was the period of giant strides such as the establishment of the first Television Station in Africa, the construction of the then tallest building in Africa, the Cocoa House, the construction of the Liberty and the Ahmadu Bello Stadia in lbadan and Kaduna respectively.
“This period also witnessed the development of Industrial Estates and the establishment of huge manufacturing factories producing wide range of manufactured products from textiles and automobile tyres to household products, leatherworks and footwear.
“The three Regional governments heavily invested in the provision of financial services through majority ownership of banks and insurance companies in the country. In addition, many of the widely circulated newspapers then were wholly owned by the various regional governments.’
Gbonigi, however, regretted that this healthy competition among the regions ended with the military incursion in 1966 when the elected government of Prime Minister Abubakar Tafawa Balewa was overthrown and the independence constitution abrogated.
The military, he added, introduced a Unitary System of government and adopted the policy of creating states without equally putting in place fiscal policies to make the states become self-sustaining and supporting as it was with the regions. With this policy, General Yakubu Gowon’s Administration, created 12 states funded from a centralised pool of federally collected revenue.
Gbonigi lamented that successive military administrations succumbed to the increasing demands from citizens to create more states culminating in the present 36 states structure and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja even as agitations for more continued till date.
He said that present Federal structure and the revenue sharing formula where states go cap in hand to Abuja for monthly allocations has kept states perpetually dependent on federally collected revenues to fund as much as 90 per cent of their annual budgets, resulting in states losing a lot financially as they are yet to develop the needed capacity to harness their huge internal revenue potentials.
The current revenue allocation formula, he argued, is skewed in favour of the Federal Government, while states and local governments on whose shoulder the ultimate responsibility of providing basic necessities of life such as roads, health care facilities, schools, water, markets, agricultural inputs etc for the citizens rests are left cash strapped and inhibited by the constitution from exploiting the full potentials of the abundant natural resources for sustainable development and the common good of the citizens. Daily, the responsibilities of states and Local governments increase because Nigerians reside in states and seek to access public facilities in states.
During the era of high price of crude oil, states found it relatively easier to pay salaries and embark upon other capital projects due largely to the quantum of revenue accruing to them. However, with the sharp decline in the price of crude oil, states began to experience difficulties in funding capital projects and paying salaries and pensions as the total revenue accruing to them at the federation account meetings fall far short of what is required to just pay salaries and pensions of public servants.
This scenario, he added, has led to states accumulating salaries and pension arrears running into several months which incidentally constitute only a fraction of their debt profile. While the bailout fund received from the Federal Government has helped to reduce the salaries and pension arrears, it must be noted that it has also increased the level of the indebtedness of States. The bailout has not in any way fundamentally addressed the dwindling revenue profile of the States thus making the intervention a problem rather than a solution.
He said the current federal system, which was based on the 1999 constitution has created a well nourished and funded center at the expense of the states which are compelled to implement federal policies such as National Minimum Wage irrespective of their revenue profile. In reality, many states exist today just to pay salaries and pensions of public officers in spite of the fact that these public officers constitute less than five percents of the total population of any state. State governments now fund capital projects with loans, and since these projects are basic social infrastructural needs of the people they yield no revenue to government.
He stressed: “States are caught between servicing these loans, maintaining the projects and paying salaries and pensions from the dwindling funds accruing to them. Unfortunately, the states are not alone in this economic downturn, the Nigerian economy in the last couple of years has continued to deteriorate and the general indices do not show signs of recovery any time soon.
“Insecurity typified by the hydra-headed monsters of Boko Haram insurgency in the Northeast, Nefarious activities of armed Fulani herdsmen in the Middle Belt and Southern Nigeria, cattle rustling in the North. Niger Delta militancy in the South South, separatist agitations from the South East, kidnapping nationwide and armed robbery remains a huge challenge to security agencies. In spite of the appreciable successes recorded by the Security agencies in fighting crime and insurgency, insecurity nationwide still remains a huge challenge threatening the corporate existence of the country.”