Restructuring: Presidency tells Afenifere, Ohanaeze, others to approach National Assembly

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The presidency has called on restructuring advocates to approach the National Assembly as it is the only body empowered to restructure the country.

Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu made the call on Thursday.

He was reacting to renewed calls by immediate past President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief John Nwodo; a chieftain of Afenifere, Chief Ayo Adebanjo and the Chairman of the Arewa Consultative Forum, Chief Audu Ogbeh, for Nigeria to be restructured in order to accelerate its development.

They spoke at the 18th Daily Trust Dialogue themed: “Restructuring in Nigeria: Why? How? When?”

Nwodo said, “We must restructure to revamp our agriculture. When I speak of restructuring, some of my northern Nigerian friends have suggested to me that I do not want the North to partake in the oil revenue of Nigeria.

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“Well, I have just outlined the indisputable fact that oil is a fast-drying resource for earning foreign exchange. The truth is that the reliable source of revenue now is agriculture.

“The Netherlands is today the largest exporter of food in the world. Its cross-sectional area is about half the size of Niger State. It is the world’s largest exporter of potatoes. Its revenue from vegetables and dairy contributes more than $100bn annually to its economy. The secret is education, better mechanised farming, growth of green farm technology, drone monitoring systems and land reclamation by building of dams.

“Northern Nigeria is Nigeria’s greatest treasure in agriculture. Northern Nigeria is blessed with diverse livestock production with its capacity for dairy production. It has various tubers of potatoes, yam, cassava and cocoyam.

“Under a restructured Nigeria, Northern Nigeria will earn more from food production than the Netherlands. We must restructure because our current electoral system is dysfunctional and does not elicit confidence.”

Nwodo, who added that restructuring would also address the security challenges, however pointed out that it must be done before the 2023 general elections “because the level of dissatisfaction in the country as evidenced by the last #EndSARS protest gives one the impression that any delay may lead to a mass boycott or disruption of the next elections to the point that we may have a more serious constitutional crisis of a nation without a government”.

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Adebanjo, on his part, described the 1999 Constitution as fraudulent.

He noted that the document should be discarded and in its place a people generated constitution in the mould of the 1960 and 1963 constitutions should be revisited.

Ogbeh stated, “We are in a country where the only big business is the government. Nwodo made a very important point. The economy of this country is dying so fast. We say the 1960 constitution was very good. If it was so good, why was there a coup on January 15, 1966 with that bloody massacre of leaders both military and civilian and six months later there was a counter-coup and the civil war where two million people, mostly in the South-East, died. What was the cause if the constitution was perfect? The big issue is the economy. In dealing with the problems confronting us, restructuring is absolutely necessary.

“In what shape is the question. Will states surrender their autonomy, like Jega said, very unlikely. Are we returning to the regions of 1960? Very unlikely, that is where the problem lies.”

Reacting to the calls, Garba Shehu said, “Our position on the call for restructuring has not changed.

“People are calling it restructuring, the ruling party, APC, and the government call it devolution.

“Whichever name you call it, the government is not opposed to it. What we are saying is that the parliament is the body empowered by law to effect any change in the nation’s structure.

“The process of constitution review is ongoing in the National Assembly now. We advise proponents of restructuring to approach the parliament and take advantage of the opportunity that ongoing process offers.”

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