Rising from a meeting which lasted over six hours, leaders of the Middle Belt and other northern minorities added their voice to the call for the Federal Government to immediately commence implementation of the 2014 national conference report, as they agreed on how the much-canvassed restructuring of Nigeria could be achieved.
NEWISSUES recalls that the Senate had last week passed a resolution asking the presidency to submit the 2014 confab report to the National Assembly for appropriate legislative work to be done on it.
Thursday’s meeting, which was convened under the aegis of Middle Belt Leaders’ Forum in Abuja, was presided over by former Information minister, Prof. Jerry Gana from Niger State, and was attended by other leaders from Adamawa, Taraba, Southern Kaduna and the six North Central states.
Also in the meeting was a former Deputy Senate Leader, Jonathan Zwingina from Adamawa; Air Commodore Dan Suleiman (retd.) also from Adamawa; former Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, national chairman, Ahmadu Ali from Kogi State; and former Senate President, Iyiorchia Ayu, from Benue State.
While calling for the nation’s 36 states structure to be increased to 54, they specifically canvassed a middle belt region comprising the current six states in the North Central zone, as well as Southern Kebbi, Southern Kaduna, Southern Borno and parts of Adamawa, Taraba and Gombe states.The meeting resolved that in line with the recommendations of the 2014 confab, a structure of 12 regions as federating units with 54 states as basic centres of development would be better for the country.
They noted that the existing structure of the Nigerian federation has become a problem, and suggested that the country could best be more successful by introducing a regional government.
The meeting suggested a three-tier federating structure which would retain a president to preside over the affairs of the federation by heading the Federal Government, while each of the 12 regions should have a governor-general, and the states should continue to have elected governors.
“Local governments should be the responsibility of state governments to ensure effective grassroots development,” the leaders said. The Jerry Gana-led group condemned what it called the “murderous activities of Fulani herdsmen” and called on the presidency to quickly take serious measures to curb the menace.
A statement issued at the end of the meeting and signed by the Secretary of the Middle Belt Forum, John Dara, reads: “In a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-religious country like Nigeria, the federal system makes enormous sense, because it allows the federating units to fully look after their local affairs and to develop at their own pace. Therefore, we hereby renew our loyalty, love and strong support for a united Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“We appeal to all separatist agitators to allow the restructuring initiative to run its full course. We need to stay and work together to ensure that new leadership that can make Nigeria great emerges in the next elections.
“We condemn the murderous activities of Fulani herdsmen in the Middle Belt and other parts of Nigeria. We call on the Federal Government to step up security measures to curb this menace.
“Similarly, we call on the Federal Government and Borno State government to bring back our Chibok girls and resettle our people of Southern Borno and other internally displaced people in their ancestral lands and homes.
“However, we are resolutely of the view that the current federal structure is unbalanced, unfair, over-centralised and therefore unstable. Accordingly, we firmly support the demand to re-structure the federation, together with appropriate devolution of powers to the federating units, and a commensurate revenue allocation formula.
“Since these fundamental matters were considered and resolved at the 2014 National Conference, we urge the Federal Government to take appropriate and urgent steps to ensure the full implementation of the resolutions and recommendations contained in the confab report.
“We believe that a faithful and effective implementation of those recommendations will promote peace, harmony and greater security, thereby giving Nigeria a new lease of life.
“We denounce recent calls and threats to Nigerians from the South-East living in the northern states to move back to their areas of origin. Being free, equal and legitimate citizens of Nigeria, such calls are totally unconstitutional and unacceptable. We urge the federal and state governments to take effective steps to ensure the safety and security of all Nigerians, wherever they may choose to reside.”