By Senator Iroegbu in Abuja
The presidency has blamed the growing clamour for the restructuring of the Nigerian federation on those opposed to the Muhammadu Buhari administration, particularly the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), despite the fact that the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is not antagonistic to restructuring.
The Special Adviser to the President, Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina made this known at the weekend while speaking on the theme, “Disintegration or Restructuring,” at the 8th Annual Lecture series of a civil society group, The Change We Need Nigeria Initiative, held in Abuja.
But he was faulted by the Abia State governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, spokesman of the Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere, Yinka Odumakin and the lead discussant at the lecture series, Dr. Cosmas Ilechukwu who all protested the labeling of proponents of restructuring as opponents of the government.
Adesina, who said restructuring has always been part of Nigeria’s political and historical evolution, noted that the recent spate of agitations from various quarters were being instigated by the opposition.
In particular, he blamed the opposition PDP for prompting the calls for restructuring, saying: “I begin to be suspicious at times that this call for restructuring is another form of opposition politics.
“When you find people who had been in power for 16 years are now the champions of restructuring, so restructuring has become another form of opposition.”
The federal government, according to him, was not opposed to the restructuring of the country, but will not allow anything that will lead to its disintegration, as the Buhari administration will do everything possible to ensure that Nigeria remains one united people and nation.
“This government is not antagonistic towards restructuring but the government will not brook any form of restructuring that would destabilise the country,” he said, adding that the principle of power devolution contained in the APC manifesto was a form of restructuring.
He said: “Don’t forget that the All Progressives Congress government has set up a committee to aggregate views on what restructuring actually is and that committee is moving around the country. If it did not believe in restructuring, why waste time on it?
“And the president himself has said there are genuine grievances in different parts of the country, which can be discussed. But it does not mean that the country must disintegrate because of the genuine grievances that we have.”
Ikpeazu, however, countered Adesina’s position by saying that it was not true to say that restructuring was being promoted by the opposition.
Represented by Hon. Godwin Adindu, the governor said restructuring is pertinent to the future of the country, as there is no issue that deserves more mentioning now than the restructuring of Nigeria.
He said: “Uncertainty and hopelessness have pervaded Nigeria’s political landscape in recent times, making it necessary for all the ethnic nationalities to come together to renegotiate the future of the country,” adding that issues of power devolution to the states, fiscal federalism, state policing and regional economic diversification should be on the front burner.
He, however, condemned and denounced those calling for the disintegration of Nigeria through hate speeches, by bearing arms and ethnic strife.
He said all hands must be on deck to ensure an indivisible entity through self-sacrifice and patriotism.
Odumakin also disagreed with Adesina, arguing that there have always been calls for restructuring since the forceful amalgamation of the country in 1914, stressing that the unity of Nigeria has always being negotiated.
“So to say that the unity of Nigeria is not negotiable is a fallacy,” he said.
He accused the APC-led government of insincerity on the issue of restructuring, stressing that the party boycotted the 2014 National Conference contrary to the “misinformation” propagated by the president’s Senior Special Assistant, Media and Publicity Mallam Garba Shehu recently.
Odumakin advised that those who speak on behalf of government or the presidency to acquaint themselves with the facts before they speak.
“The rise of the nationalist movement that agitated for Nigeria’s independence and all the constitutional conferences that led to independence were nothing but negotiations. There were major milestones in these negotiations.
“It is therefore my consideration that the whole idea of non-negotiability of Nigeria’s unity only developed on the strength of keeping the rent from oil from the Niger Delta and proceeds from VAT generated by Lagos. It has nothing to do with the love of the union beyond reaping without sowing,” he said.
Odumakin added that the country has the option of restructuring or disintegrating, warning that if the country failed to restructure now, it may end up being defunct like the former Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia which refused to restructure and today are no more on the world map.
Dr. Ilechukwu, on his part, canvassed for the restructuring of the country along regional lines, saying: “The six regional structure that seemed to have gained reasonable mileage among a large segment of our population should be constitutionalised.”
He added: “I will support the call for a six regional arrangement with some minor readjustments. The goal of restructuring is political stability and economic development and it devolves certain responsibilities from the central government limiting its area of influence to such issues as fiscal policies, military/defence, foreign policy, immigration and national elections.
“This will make the federating units the main drivers of our economy and catalysts of national development and transformation. Nigerians are today crying and pointing to restructuring because in it lies their comfort and security.”
Other discussants were a former member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Nkoyo Toyo and the Director General, Institute for National Transformation, Prof. Vincent Anigbogu.
The presidency yesterday also denied reports that $25 billion in oil contracts were awarded by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
The statement by the presidency was yet another response to a memo by the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu to the president in which he accused the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) of awarding contracts valued at $25 billion without recourse to the corporation’s board.
Kachikwu has since denied alleging a contract scandal or corruption, maintaining that he only complained about the absence of governance in contract awards in NNPC.
Speaking on the issue yesterday, the vice-president’s spokesman, Laolu Akande said a closer look at each of the reported projects showed that none of them was a procurement contract.
“What is more important is that when you look diligently at the referenced projects/transactions one by one, you will see, as NNPC has shown, that none of them was actually a procurement contract,” Akande said while speaking to reporters in Abuja.
“When I tweeted on Thursday morning last week, I had indicated that the vice president, while acting as president approved the joint venture financing arrangements.
“But for some curious reasons, a few media reports used that tweet to report that I said the then acting president approved N640 billion worth of oil contracts. Such reporting is both false and misleading.
“Take both the crude term contract and the direct sale, direct purchase (DSDP) agreements for instance, these are not procurement contracts involving the expenditure of public funds.
“Both transactions are simply a shortlisting process, in which prospective off-takers of crude oil and suppliers of petroleum products are selected under agreed terms, and in accordance with due process,” he said.
Akande said attaching monetary values to the said transactions was arbitrary, adding that “whenever there is a monetary value on any consignment of crude oil lifted in this country by any firm, the proceeds go directly to the federation account and not to any company”.
“In fact, the Buhari administration in the implementation of the TSA has closed down multiple NNPC accounts in order to promote transparency and probity,” he added.
He further said there had been adverts seeking expressions of interest in compiling the shortlist for the prospective off-takers of crude oil and suppliers of petroleum products under agreed terms.
On the Ajaokuta-Kaduna-Kano (AKK) gas pipeline contract, Akande said it is a “contractor-financed contract which has not yet been finalised or awarded” and as such, “still making its way to the Federal Executive Council”.
He said: “There were also three presidential approvals given on joint venture financing arrangements, meaning loans to cater for cash call obligations. One of these was okayed by the president in 2015, and two by the then acting president in 2017.”