Southern govs unite on
true federalism, devolution of powers
Collaborate on Security, Infrastructure, Economy
Ambode Chairman, Dickson, Umahi as Co-Chairmen
For the first time in
12 years, Governors of the southern states of Nigeria, on Monday, met in Lagos,
where they unanimously reiterated the call for true federalism and devolution
of powers to states.
The governors, in a
communique at the end of the meeting, read by the host Governor Akinwunmi
Ambode of Lagos State, also resolved to collaborate with one another for the
growth and development of their economies.
Aside Governor Ambode,
the meeting was attended by Governors of Ogun, Senator Ibikunle Amosun; Oyo,
Seantor Abiola Ajimobi; Osun, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, Ebonyi, David Umahi; Edo,
Mr. Godwin Obaseki; Ondo, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu; Abia, Mr. Okezie
Ikpeazu; Enugu, Mr. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi; Bayelsa, Mr. Seriake Dickson and Ekiti
State, Mr. Ayodele Fayose.
Governors of Cross
River, Anambra and Delta states were represented by their deputies – Mr. Evara
Esu; Dr. Ikem Okeke and Mr. Kingsley Otuaru, respectively.
Continuing with the
communique, Governor Ambode said the governors after extensive deliberations,
also emphasized priority on security and lives and property of citizens of the
regions, while also resolving to work on effective linkage on good
infrastructure across the 17 States in the region.
At the meeting,
Governor Ambode was unanimously appointed as the Chairman of the Southern
Governors Forum (SGF) while Governors Seriaki Dickson of Bayelsa and David
Umahi of Ebonyi States were appointed as Co- Chairmen of the Forum.
The Forum also
scheduled the next meeting for Port Harcourt in a yet to be announced date.
Ambode, while welcoming his colleagues to the meeting, reflected on the clamour
for true federalism and devolution of powers, saying that states will benefit
from the envisaged restructuring.
He said the goals of
true federalism, which included the strengthening of autonomy and the
enhancement of fiscal viability will enable the states to develop at their own
pace and based on their peculiarities.
He said the forum had
achieved an increased awareness on the sustenance of the national question
germane to peaceful co-existence in the country.
However, he said there
is a lot to be done and achieved, stressing that true federalism required
urgent, meticulous and proactive attention by the forum.
Ambode frowned at what
he described as the non-periodic review of the revenue formula as provided by
the constitution to reflect evolving realities.
He said the review is
crucial to enhance the viability of states and local government and their
capacity to fulfil their developmental roles in the polity.
The governor added:
“States are disparaged for always carrying begging bowls to Abuja in quest of
hand-outs from the Federal Government. This is a function of our present
national constitution that burdens the Federal Government with activities and
responsibilities that rightly fall within the province of states.
“The productivity and
revenue-generating capacities of most states are thus stifled, thus turning
them into no better than street beggar states incapable of even meeting routine
obligations of paying workers’ salaries and pensions without federal support.”
Ambode recalled that
Lagos State had fought and won several legal battles since 1999 that have
systematically strengthened her autonomy and enhanced her fiscal viability.
He noted that the
state had won the legal control over the management of its environment, the
control of urban and physical planning, the regulation of overhead masts, the
registration and regulation of hotels and restaurants, and the control of
Ambode said these
victories belonged, not only to Lagos, but also to other states, adding that,
if Lagos could achieve so much by fighting alone, the Southern Governors’ Forum
will accomplish more through collective planning and strategy.
The governor said the
forum has been reactivated at the time the National Assembly is harmonising its
differences over the 1999 Constitution amendment, which will soon be
transmitted to the Houses of Assembly for approval
He said: “It is
important for this forum to comprehensively look at the proposed amendments
with a view to working with our respective Houses of Assembly to ensure a
coordinated response on our part that will strengthen the practice of
democracy, federalism, constitutionalism and the rule of law.
Ambode clarified that,
while pushing for greater devolution of powers, responsibilities and resources
from the centre to the states, the goal of the forum is neither to a weak
centre and strong states and vice versa.
The governor paid
tribute to former Lagos State Governor Bola Tinubu for his initiave, recalling
that he hosted the first meeting of the forum in Akodo Beach Resort,
Ibeju-Lekki, whe he was at the helm of affairs.
He said while the
initiative was received with mixed feelings at the time, Tinubu was vindicated
later because of its achievements as the forum became a vocal voice on maters
of critical importance, not only to the Southern Nigeria, but to the country as
Ambode hailed the
forum for advocating for a special allocation to oil-producing states in the
Federation Account, adding that its agitation led to the current 13 per cent
revenue derivation and allocation from the Federation Account.
He said: “Another
major victory won towards strengthening the country’s practice of true
federalism was the declaration bybthe Supreme Court in 2002 that the then
prevalent practice of the Federal Government deducting monies from the
Federation Account as a first charge for the funding of Joint Venture
Contracts, the NNPC priority projects, servicing of Federal Government’s
external debt, the judiciary and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and other
federal obligations were illegal and unconstitutional.
“The Supreme Court in
that case abolished the special funds created by the Federal Government to
enable it draw funds from the Federation Account to pay for matters that fell
within its exclusive responsibility before sharing whatever was left with
states and local governments.”