As calls for restructuring and resource control gradually garner momentum, stakeholders across the country have differed in their view of the true essence of the subject matter. Erstwhile Secretary to the Delta State Government, COMRADE OVUOZORIE MACAULAY, in this interview with Iteveh Ekpokpobe, took a stand on the restructure brouhaha, state policing and the Herdsmen imbroglio. Read on…
WHAT IS YOUR TAKE ON THE CLAMOUR FOR RESTRUCTURING?
Restructuring is defined from the perspective of different persons. For me restructuring of Nigeria does not mean Balkanizing Nigeria, which is the focus of so many people. My own understanding of restructuring is especially as it affects the issues at stake. Nigeria was brought together by the Britain in 1914 for administrative convenience. They amalgamated a people with different socio-political background, made a constitution and gave to them and thereafter, gave them independence.
After a while we saw the need to fashion out our own system of governance. We went to America and borrowed a constitution and adopted the presidential system of governance, but in implementing it, we added unitary system. So it’s a mixture of two different constitutions and that is where we have our problem.
First, the constitution we practice in Nigeria is too expensive. The number of people involved in governance is just too much. Secondly, unlike the America system of government which we tend to have borrowed, the central is too powerful. The American President may rule and never visit some is the states in America throughout his two tenures. A governor in America may never visit Washington throughout his term of office, simply because their roles and limitations are clearly defined in their constitution.
So when you talk of restructuring, the question we should nurse in our mind is. Why should Delta State make so much money and yet be so poor? What is the business of the president of the Federal Republic and a hospital being constructed in Owhe-Ologbo, my village, or any part of the country? In my perception, restructuring must be hinged on devolving power from the central. The federal government should be made less attractive. Let me state that, If not for the manner the military left government disgracefully to say, by now we would have heard another martial song. So must remove that attraction.
We must practice true fiscal federalism. We have being saying it for so long yet no body seem to listen, but that is the way to go. Let states control what they produce. I said it when I was even in the labour that any man who wants to become governor today does not have to put on any thinking cap because the thought is once I am elected, in every thirty days, my commissioner for finance, will go to Abuja to bring money. They are not thinking of, what can be done to make money for the state, to pay workers’ salaries on time among others. There are no longer joint ventures. How did joint ventures in those days happen? It was because there was no ‘thirty days Abuja ideology’. And when the money comes from Abuja there is no thought to invest part of it for the future until this recession came in.
Why am I saying this? I am not saying governors have fared so badly; because that is what they met on ground. Lagos state makes so much money on value added tax and the money is supposed to go the central purse? You who said you don’t consume alcohol why should you share from the money which comes from alcohol? Akwa- Ibom, Bayelsa or even Rivers producer so much oil and all of that money go to the central. When we were fighting for resources control we were tagged saboteurs. Today, I laugh because the problem the federal government is having with the NNPC wouldn’t have been there if they had adopted the principles of resource control. Well that is part of what took Chief James Onanefe Ibori to jail. Let me not go into it anyway, but not that I am afraid to talk about it.
The issue is, if they had listened we wouldn’t be here at this time. They had a myopic understanding of what resource control was about. Their understanding of resource control was that everything produced in a state particularly the oil producing state, would be taken by the state. No, what we clamored was for states to have a hold on what they produce. For instance if Chevron is exploring in Delta State, Chevron should be accountable to the Delta State government. Supervision is easier if it is done within the territory. The governor should know the quantum of oil being explored in Delta State and the export chart. It is not the minister sitting in Abuja with his directors that should know what is happening in Delta, Rivers, Bayelsa or Akwa- Ibom.
That is why you hear stories of money meant for the federal government being diverted by the NNPC or that NNPC did not remit so and so funds to the federal government. Why should they when they are not supervised appropriately? I keeping saying that the quantum of oil that is being diverted to illegal sales in this country, is more than what is being delivered officially. What they do is to collaborate because there is no serious supervision; hence you see so many illegal vessels on the high sea. I have being to the high sea; I use to do some consultation for Shell BP in those days so I know what happens there. If you go into the sea you will see vessels floating. These vessels are for bunkering. Some term it illegal bunkering; so is there any bunkering that is not illegal? The quantum of oil the government takes away is nothing compared to the quantum our boys are refining which the government is destroying on daily basis.
When you say restructuring, it is not as narrow as people look at it. It is not about tearing the country to pieces. It is all about doing something that will make everybody have a sense of belonging. The reactions round the country today are because people feel they are not being fairly treated and which to some extent you cannot deny them. All the oil block in the south, how many of us know where they are or let alone benefit from them? Who are the people controlling them? What criteria were met by the people controlling the oil blocks?
It was published some time ago. Let’s bring it to the table and explain why people from Niger Delta cannot own 60 percent of oil blocks and the other 40 percent go to the generality of Nigerians; because we are all Nigerians. But today you deny them. Today if anybody from the Niger Delta owns an oil block, he is a joint partner with somebody from another region that does not produce the oil. These are the unfair treatment meted on the people and you see some reacting because everybody cannot be docile.
Let me say that soon there will be no road from Benin to Asaba; it’s broken into two and nobody is talking about it. But if the powers were with the state government they will be appropriately repaired. Under Uduaghan’s administration, we took over the dualization of Asaba/ Ughelli road. Till today, has the money been refunded? If not for that dualization, after the flood, there would have been no road linking Ughelli and you know what economic hold this road is to the country not even to delta state; people leaving Warri to Onitsha on daily basis. Instead of concentrating attention on how oil money comes, how roads are built and maintained in the state which is a major reason behind the lack of roads, the federal government should face foreign policies, face currencies, face security, face immigration and they will make more impact in the African sub-region and in the world
So for me, restructuring is not about breaking Nigeria into pieces. There is strength in our diversity and population. But then, let us define how we live. One, we must devolve power from the central, two, there must be fiscal federalism. Federal government must remove their hands from some things. If you check, it is one of the reasons why the FG is not productive.
WHAT IS YOUR TAKE ON THE CALLS FOR STATE POLICE?
Again, I say the federal government is not doing enough. I am not exonerating the state, but if things are properly defined, security is supposed to be a natural thing as it is today, but we are not concentrating on it. For me again, we should look at the future of things country. Give the state some powers. You cannot give me a Commissioner of Police or Director of State Security Service who will not take directives from me. You hold meetings with them, they go back and call Abuja for final order; hence as a governor you don’t have a hold on this people. It is a misnomer to refer to the governor as chief security officer of the state, because, if they are your appointees, they should be able to listen to you.
As it stands, a governor of a state does not command a troop. Thus it makes a mess of his position as the governor or as the chief security officer of the state. Instead the chief security officer is the army commander, the police commissioner, and the director of SSS because they are obviously the ones with the troops. You can’t say I am a commander when I don’t have a troop. I remember as an SSG so many times we wanted the army to mount road blocks at the point where the state was really boiling, we had to write to the chief of army staff who had to give approval to the brigade commander in Benin, who also had to give approval to the man in Warri and the different units in the state and the state has to provide the logistics.
WHAT MAKES THE GOVERNOR THE CHIEF SECURITY OFFICER OF THE STATE?
You need an Armoured Personnel Carrier for the government house gate or to move around town, you have to write, the inspector general of Police has to approve, the commissioner has to approve for you to provide it. It doesn’t make sense. Where is the national security vote going that you cannot buy vehicles for all police formations and army units? Why should it be the responsibility of the state to provide and they are not given the authority to command? If I am going to give you a hundred million to do a job, I should be able to check, inspect and audit you. But today, if you give it to them, you cannot go back and ask them how it was spent; it is termed a free give. So all of these issues again, fall back to restructuring of this country.
The general insecurity today is as a result of how this country is structured. If the governor calls the army or the Police for an intervention, they will need permission. They immediately call Abuja, because if they loss one man, they will account for that soul. So we need to restructure our security system. It is not right, the way it’s structured. It does not guarantee the security of life and property. Again devolve some powers to the state. Hold less at the National so that you can do it well. There is nothing wrong with a state police, but you must define it well.
In the civilized country, you have the national security which is their police, the state and even the county. So when they encounter situations, you see ambulances coming from different directions to attack the development. They are working together, but they are independent. So when you have a situation, I can call the state, you call the federal and they all come together to solve the problem. I must say establish the state police.
I am not saying establish a state police for the governor to use them for elections, in short anything that has to do with security in this country should be funded from the consolidated funds. An appointment should not be in the hands of the governor alone but in the hands of the whole system. The governor may nominate, the House of Assembly must scrutinize and when they don’t agree with the nominee’s character, he or she should be dropped. If the person is appointed, he should be independent. He does not need to beg the governor or the House of Assembly to be included in the budget. It should be defined so that the man can look at the governor eyeball to eyeball and say his Excellency, with all humility, this is the way I feel it should be done and this is the way it has to be done.
If the House of Assembly summons him, he will say yes Mr. Speaker, this is the way it should be done and this is the way it will be done without exercising fear that if I don’t do it their way the governor or the house will sack me. There must be professionalism and independence of these bodies. If an I.G knows that a president can fire him tomorrow, why won’t he kneel down to beg him.
HERDSMEN INSURGENCIES HAVE ASSUMED AN ALARMING DIMENSION IN RECENT TIMES. WHAT DO YOU THINK COULD BE A VIABLE SOLUTION TO IT?
The herdsmen thing, we pray and pray seriously that it should not turn to another Boko-Haram because it is not an attack against the south. They are ever where in the north. Benue state has suffered more. Taraba has suffered immensely too. So it’s not about the south. I don’t want to also think it’s a Christian or Muslim affair. Because in this country is very easy for us to hide under the cloak of religion and ethnicity. In doing this we are hiding the weakness of our system. And people who want to be mischievous take advantage of these facts that once they canvass on the basis of ethnicity or religion, people will follow them.
We must devolve this from serious issues. The federal government has to sit up. We must call a spade a spade. If a man commits murder, he should be tried for murder. That you are grazing animals does not give you the audacity to carry guns and not just small guns but AK47 assault rifles. When we were growing up in those days, the herdsmen were known for carrying bow and arrows, but it degenerated to a level where they started moving about with double barrels. Today they are moving about with Ak47 assault rifles. Now they are not just fighting people on whose land they graze, they are involved in robbery and kidnap. They are building camps all over the place. If you go into our bushes you will see their camps. To rob on the high ways and retire to their camps and you dare not go near them. I think we must do something about it.
All rights reserved. Permission to use this publication is granted subject to appropriate credit given to Author – Iteveh Ekpokpobe.