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Revisiting El-Rufai’s Report on Restructuring

For many citizens, the current structure of Nigeria does not reflect a system that is capable of bringing genuine development to the Nigerian people. This has led to persistent calls for restructuring from various interest groups in the country. In the last year of his tenure, former President Goodluck Jonathan was pressured into setting up a constitutional conference to look extensively at ways Nigeria’s polity can be structured. 

Jonathan later claimed that his government could not implement the over 600 recommendations of the Confab due to time constraints as the 2015 electioneering programme was by the corner. He eventually lost his re-election bid, ending the possibility of implementing what he engineered.  

In that election, Mohammadu Buhari also presented the restructuring of Nigeria as a priority issue on his campaign agenda.  Buhari was even projected as the pioneer of the party’s restructuring ideas that were enshrined in the first part of its manifesto.

Since his assumption of office as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, many observers feel Muhammadu Buhari has developed cold feet towards entrenching the restructuring agenda his party projected in that election.

In the build-up to the last general election in 2019, restructuring was on the front burners again. That was when a committee headed by Governor Nasir El-Rufai was set up to synchronize the party’s position on the recurring issue of restructuring.

Contrary to opinions that he is unwilling to acknowledge the final reports of El-Rufai led the committee on Restructuring, the President had in 2019 endorsed it. Former Governor of Ogun State, Aremo Olusegun Osoba, disclosed this to State House correspondents that after a closed-door meeting with the President:

‘I am part of the Presidency because the President is our President. I can tell you. All this noise about restructuring, we in APC put devolution of power, true federalism in our manifesto, and we have moved far from there to where a committee was set up, headed by the governor of Kaduna State, Nasir El-Rufai. That committee has submitted its reports. That report has been presented to us in the caucus and the president was there. The president endorsed the outcome.’

It seems the restructuring issue was moving towards another dead end under the current administration. Especially, when the President himself declared that pressing issues, such as corruption, should be a top priority as failure to completely extract it from the fabrics of the Nigerian system will defeat the purpose of any exhorted restructuring.

It could be recalled that the President, in his New Year Address on the matter, said, ‘There is a strong case for a closer look at the cost of government and for the public services long used to extravagance, waste, and corruption to change for the better. I assure you that the government is ever receptive to ideas which will improve governance and contribute to the country’s peace and stability.’ Focusing on restructuring at these crucial times will therefore be a case of tending to the roof, while the foundation is nothing to write home about. The bulk of raving issues, especially with the current economic crises and insecurity, is enough to deter the FG from following up on a course it had long charted’.

However, in the last few weeks, there have been pressures from various quarters, especially the South West, on the ruling party to follow up on the recommendations of el-Rufai’s reports.

Recently, some South West Leaders of the APC made some moves to push for the implementation of the party’s official paper on restructuring. The APC chieftains,  including Bisi Akande, Aremo Olusegun, Prince Tajudeen Olusi, and Dr. Yomi Finnih, visited the president at the State House in Abuja to discuss the report of the panel. The chieftains reminded the president that the reports had been endorsed by the APC and NEC. They tried to prevail on him to forward the report to the National Assembly given that federal legislators are set for another constitutional amendment. They stated that if some of the recommendations can form part of the constitutional review, it will help douse ethnic tensions that are rising astronomically across the polity.

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Embarrassingly, the issue of restructuring has remained a bone of contention for many years. The 12 key recommendations of the APC panel report have revved up topical issues in various national discourses across the country.

As part of its recommendations, the panel requested the review of the derivation principle which prioritizes areas producing the resources by giving them the benefit of more resources for development. The recommendation on citizenship will allow Nigerians who have resided in any parts of the country for a specific period of time become automatic indigenes, as the panel tagged the phrase, state of origin, as discriminatory. El Rufai’s reports also recommended the devolution of power, which will allow the transfer of some items like foods and drugs regulation, fingerprint identification of criminals, labour matters, police, public holidays, amongst others, from the Exclusive List to the Concurrent List.

The big question now is – will restructuring see the light of day in this administration? A Lagos based APC lawmaker begging to remain anonymous since he was not mandated by the party to speak advices that those who are calling vociferously for restructuring at these crucial times should please be patient. His words: “now is not the time to overweigh the government that is constantly doing all it can, while sourcing for options to get her nation out of the economic crises caused by the global pandemic, which has further affected funding of major government agencies.

‘We are all aware that the APC report on restructuring has to do with the future survival of the country and represents the clamour for the redress of the defective federal principle and it would be handled at the most appropriate time’

Nelson Okoh

Photo Credit: Vanguard

Categories: Features, Local, Politics

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