STATE OF THE NATION ADDRESS (JULY 2017)

STATE OF THE NATION ADDRESS

8th April – 8th July, 2017

by TMC Committee on Social Mobility, the Economy & Politics

Presented by the Chair of the Committee, Dr. Luqman AbdurRaheem,

on Saturday, 8th July, 2017

THE RESTRUCTURING CONUNDRUM

It has become a sing-song that the only thing that can save Nigeria from break-up today is restructuring. Even though the country definitely needs to restructure, what exactly are we going to restructure and how do we go about the restructuring? These are the critical issues that need to be looked at so we do not initiate a process that would eventually engender an irreversible break-up of the country. It will certainly be difficult to go back to re-enact the regional system as it was in the 60’s because the states that have been created cannot be easily merged again and the political offices that have already been created and occupied by individuals cannot be easily done in. Regionalism is not desirable at this time and it could be a ploy by some agitators to first consolidate power before eventually seceding from the country once there is enough ethnic political cohesion and the control of their resources is firmly in their grip.

Since diversity has worked, and continues to work as a great source of strength, in many other countries like America, Britain, China and India, just to name a few, it can also work in Nigeria. What the government needs to do is to devolve more power to the states in three phases of four years each making a total of twelve years. This is the gradual long-term restructuring.

Restructuring would focus on the critical areas that would allow the states to improve on revenue generation, to improve on protection of lives and properties, and to improve on building critical infrastructure. In the first phase of four years, the Federal Government would need to allow state policing, greater control of the education, health and transportation systems, and the generation and distribution of power by the states. In the second phase, the Federal Government would need to free the local government from the apron-strings of the states by granting them autonomy. There would have to be an upward review of the revenue-sharing formula to 65 per cent in favour of the states. The exclusive list should be drastically reduced while increasing the concurrent list. The third phase should be the time to stop federal ownership of inter-state roads and the federal character principle. Full resource control should be the last item on the agenda when it is crystal clear that there is maturity and level-headedness on the part of the administrators of the states.

Nevertheless, we must realize that restructuring alone will not solve our problems. What we must take cognizance of is the fact that our mindset as a people remains our greatest resource because what we think and act upon eventually become our reality, our politics, our economy and our prosperity or poverty. We need to positively activate our mindset and move away from all negative actions and utterances that have held the nation down for so long. It is only then that the nation can have a new lease of life for the development, peace, prosperity and unity that we so much desire.

LET THE HATE SPEECHES STOP

The circulation of hate speeches by various ethnic groupings is something that does not benefit anyone but rather serves to create more enmity and further division which are not needed by the country at this time. Irrespective of our feelings of grievances, we must comport ourselves with proper decorum so that we do not engage in actions that will further jeopardize our collective integrity as a people. This is the only country we can call our own and we must therefore protect it from anarchy which is the only thing that hate speeches can bring.

The elders in each ethnic grouping must rise and condemn the ethnic speeches that are being circulated in their areas especially by the exuberant youths. The leaders should not allow the youths to hijack the reins of leadership especially when they have not learnt the art of wisdom, patience, endurance, insightful thoughts and political inclusiveness. Let the youths be properly guided so that they do not complicate an already bad situation. The elders should show leadership and moderation towards the critical issues in the nation because we would still have to sit down and dialogue at the end of the day irrespective of whatever extreme measures anybody might have taken. Let us allow wisdom, reason and the national interest to guide every one of our thoughts and actions. It is good that the Federal Government has not ordered the arrest of anyone at this time just so that the tension in the polity is not unnecessarily heightened. But lovers and promoters of hate speeches must know that they stand the risk of arrest and prosecution should they continue this negative action.

WHEN THE RECESSION IS AIDED BY BUDGET DELAY

When the 2016 Budget was delayed, we were optimistic that the next budget, the 2017 Budget, would be timely. But unfortunately, the 2017 Budget is even more delayed. It has taken almost six months for the 2017 budget to be passed by the National Assembly. The delay is due to the lack of synergy in working together by the executive and the legislature. However, the National Assembly should take a larger part of the blame even though it might have waited for some agencies of government and the inclusion of the second runway at the Nnamdi Azikwe Airport in Abuja which was not reflected in the budget initially.

Even though the president can spend from the previous year’s budget for a period of not more than six months, it is not advisable to continue with this trend because of the negative implications for the economy. A delayed budget affects our present economic growth by resulting in job losses, low aggregate income, poor execution percentage, inability to implement the zero budget, low foreign direct investment and a longer-lasting recession.

It is noteworthy that the fiscal year in Nigeria begins on January 1st and ends on December 31st. The executive and the National Assembly are supposed to work together to make this achievable even though the National Assembly has no time limit to pass the budget. But there is a time limit for the president who must start the compilation in June and submit the budget to the National Assembly by October. The budget ought to be passed before the recess of the legislature in December so that the president can sign it into law in January. But this is a far cry from what is happening today.

In order to stop this embarrassing late passage, the president would have to present the budget to the National Assembly in October and the legislature should be given a deadline of three months after which the budget automatically becomes law.

It is common knowledge that the president submitted a budget of N7.28 trillion but the National Assembly increased it by N143 billion to N7.44 trillion. This has led to a disagreement between the two arms of government especially owing from the fact that the National Assembly cut the expenditure for certain critical infrastructure and inserted new projects of its own. What we believe is that the National Assembly can reduce or increase expenditure but it has no right to create new projects of its own without passing through the executive. This is highhandedness on the part of the legislature.

THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY AND THE NATIONAL INTEREST

It is indeed certain that the executive, the judiciary and the legislature are responsible for the success or failure of any particular government. This is the reason people look up to the members of these three arms of government to lead the way in providing responsive and responsible leadership to move the nation forward. But what we are seeing today, especially with respect to the legislature, does not seem to be anywhere near what is expected. The National Assembly has been embroiled in one needless confrontation after another and the promulgation of some bills that are self-serving rather than benefiting the majority of the people they swore to serve.

We boldly condemn the bill that is at the House of Representatives. This bill, which is meant to grant amnesty to suspected public account looters in the country, was sponsored by Linus Okorie of the PDP representing Ebonyi State. The bill seeks to confer on suspected looters of public funds the benefit of enjoying full and complete amnesty in addition to not facing any probe, inquiry or prosecution. These looters would also not be compelled to disclose the source of their looted funds for as long as they invest it in Nigeria. The provisions of this bill run counter to common sense and all ethics of spiritual and moral decency. It is also in dissonance with Nigeria’s justice system and her commitment to international obligations relating to prosecuting and punishing corrupt people through just and fair trials in the court of law. We urge the Speaker of the House of Representatives to immediately discontinue with this anti-people bill that also negates the principles of justice and accountability. While the executive is trying to curtail corruption by going after corrupt people, the House of Representatives should also be seen to provide the legislative framework that will make it more and more difficult for anybody to steal public funds.

We also strongly condemn the demand by some senators for immunity and life pension for presiding officers of the National Assembly after their tenure in office. This definitely is a part of the proposals by the senators at a two-day retreat on Constitution Review organised by the Senate Ad-Hoc Committee on Constitution Review. Among others, the proposals want presiding officers, such as President of the Senate, Deputy President of Senate, Speaker of the House of Representatives and Deputy Speaker of House of Representatives to enjoy life pensions and immunity, since the executive and judiciary are enjoying same. It would however be noted that the members of the National Assembly already enjoy stupendous salaries and benefits, the type that other officers and civil servants can only dream of. This is coupled with the humongous severance packages that they pay themselves at the end of their tenure. What more are they asking for? They have forgotten that the ordinary people who voted them to power are still struggling with a minimum wage of N18,000 that can no longer cover their basic needs for the month. These legislators need to wake up to their responsibilities and realize that the reason they are there is for the welfare and protection of the ordinary Nigerian. They should put a stop to this impunity and self-serving attitude. The people would also need to rise from their slumber and be determined to take peaceful and positive actions that will prevent the mandates they have freely given from being misused.

TAMING THE UNRELENTING KIDNAP GANGS

The Nigeria Police needs to be commended for its efforts under the able Inspector-General, Ibrahim Idris, for busting a notable kidnapping gang led by the notorious Chukwudi Onwuamadike popularly known as Evans. This is one of the major kidnapping and armed robbery gang that has brought untold hardship and misery to many homes and families. But this particular crime busting has shown as well that some unscrupulous members of the Police and the army are supporters and accessories to crimes. This is one of the reasons that members of various notorious kidnapping and armed robbery gangs have escaped justice for so long while continuing to unleash mayhem on members of the society. There is no way that crime can be committed without leaving a trail. But when some of the people who are charged with stopping crimes are colluding with criminals, it can only lead to the perpetuation of crimes and criminality with the attendant loss of lives and properties.

The Inspector-General and his officers must ensure that all the bad eggs within its rank are flushed out of the system and that they are also made to face the full wrath of the law for the harm they have caused to the people that they are paid to protect. Before criminality halts our political and economic development, we must stop criminality. We are in an era where cities are run for twenty four hours of the day and there is no longer any distinction between night and day. Policing is one of the key factors that make this possible. Let the police begin to do more as we urge the Federal and State Governments to increase the capacity of the personnel and provide better equipment.

The kidnap of six pupils at the Model College in Igbonla is assuming a more worrying dimension as the kidnappers who were alleged to have received money from the parents of these children have not released them from captivity almost two months since their kidnap. We urge the police at the level of the Inspector-General to do more on this matter so that these innocent children are safely returned to the warm embrace of their loving families and so that they can continue their education. We thank the officers of the Nigeria Police and the Lagos State Government for their efforts so far but we believe that more still needs to be done in order to ensure that these children are released from captivity.

GOVERNMENT NEEDS TO CLAMPDOWN ON RITUALISTS

The on-going needless destruction of lives by the dreaded Badoo cult boys has once again highlighted the need for government at all levels to seriously clampdown on ritual killings. All people involved in ritual killings including their sponsors and the errand boys must be smoked out and made to face the full wrath of the law.

The case of the Badoo cult boys that have laid siege to Ikorodu town and its environs is indeed a worrisome development. These boys unleash orgies of killings, during which they use heavy stones to crush the skulls of their victims. They then use ritual handkerchiefs to clean victims’ blood after the operation. It was gathered that each handkerchief is then sold for N500,000 to herbalists and some prominent Nigerians for money rituals.

In order that these killings be put to an end, the security forces must go after the patrons who pay for this service just as well as they are raiding the criminal errand boys who are used for these operations. If there is no demand for human blood by the patrons, the errand boys will be out of business and the killings will be stopped.

We commend the efforts of the combined team of security forces, the Lagos State Government and other vigilance groups that are helping to round up these violent boys. The people in these areas should be vigilant and guard their communities night and day. They should be wary of suspicious movements and strange faces. Wherever strange people are sighted, they should be promptly arrested and handed over to the police. Every one person should endeavour to know his neighbour and be aware of  activities around him.

We, however, call on the people of the affected areas not to give in to jungle justice since this is likely to further increase the death toll. Most of those that will be killed in this kind of situation will be innocent people who are unlucky to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. People should not take the law into their hands but should rather hand over the suspects to the police. The police must also quickly swing into action in order to carry out thorough and exhaustive investigations to know whether or not the suspects are culpable.

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