By Richard Mammah
While it is no longer news that a lot of scheming and jostling is going on in Nigeria now ahead of the 2023 General Elections, what has come out quite strongly in the mix is the effect of what is considered by many as the poor governance records and hardline posture of the Muhammadu Buhari presidency in the entire process.
This is the backdrop to the meeting of Governors from the Southern States of Nigeria in Lagos on Monday, where the chief executives rose with a clarion call for the very clear enthronement of the time-tested values of equity and justice as a basis for the continued unity and efficient administration of the country.
Wading into some of the hottest issues in the nation’s socio-political firmament, the governors insisted that the next president of Nigeria must come from the South, the regime of open grazing of cattle in the Southern states must come to an effective end and several other contentious legislative adjustments that tend to undermine the South and the interests of Southerners should be reviewed and corrected.
The text of the communique issued at the end of the parley underscored that the governors, among others, ‘reviewed the situation in the Country and focused on the current security situation, constitutional amendment and the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB).’
Specifically on the issue of power shift:
‘The Forum reiterates its commitment to the politics of equity, fairness and unanimously agrees that the presidency of Nigeria be rotated between Southern and Northern Nigeria and resolved that the next president of Nigeria should emerge from the Southern Region.’
The Governors also had other views on the unfolding political process:
‘In order to consolidate our democracy and strengthen the Electoral process, the Southern Governors’ Forum reject the removal of the Electronic transmission of the election result from the electoral act; and also rejects the confirmation of exclusive jurisdiction in pre-election matters on the Federal High Court.’
Delving into the thorny crisis of insecurity which continues to throw up a haul of displaced persons, victims and casualties on a daily basis, the Forum, while generally commending ‘security operatives for their relentless efforts in restoring security and safety,’ equally commiserated ‘with families and loved ones of those who have fallen in the line of duty.’
Underscoring their earlier stated position however that the challenge was far more than what the existing forces could fully address, the governors ‘re-emphasised the need for State Police; even as they went on to affirm ‘that if for any reason security institutions need to undertake an operation in any State, the Chief Security Officer of the State must be duly informed,’ a position that some commentators say is very likely to have been informed by the night raid on the home of the Yoruba Nation advocate, Sunday Igboho.
That position is also buttressed by the forum’s frowning at what it termed the ‘selective criminal administration of Justice’ and its advocacy ‘that arrests should be made within the ambit of the Law and fundamental human rights’
On the long-drawn issue of open grazing which had occupied a prime spot in its Asaba declaration of May 2021, the forum went on to:
‘Set a timeline of Wednesday, 1st September, 2021 for the promulgation of the anti open grazing law in all member States.’
It also ‘Resolved that Funds deducted from the Federation Account for the Nigeria Police Security Trust Fund should be distributed among the States and Federal Government to combat security challenges.’
On the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) Law, the Forum while commending the National Assembly for the progress made in the passage of the PIB, however moved to reject ‘the proposed 3% and support the 5% share of the oil revenue to the host community as recommended by the House of Representatives…the proposed 30% share of profit for the exploration of oil and gas in the basins…and the ownership structure of the proposed Nigeria National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC).’
‘The Forum disagrees that the company be vested in the Federal Ministry of Finance but should be held in trust by Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) since all tiers of Government have stakes in that vehicle,’ the communique underscored.
The meeting was chaired by Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Odunayo Akeredolu SAN
Governor, Ondo State and Chairman, Southern Governors’ Forum and hosted by Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu.
Indeed, with about half of the citizens of the country living below the extreme poverty mark, spiraling unemployment, low growth rate, massive insecurity and a ravaging spate of inflation countrywide, it is clear that there is indeed very little breathing room for the Buhari presidency at this time. But observers believe that a critical part of the challenge has to do with a certain tendency by the leading drivers of the administration to be manifestly inflexible.
Indeed, one of the issues from the Communique of the Southern Governors Forum, namely that of the recommendation to the federal government to first inform the governor of the state as chief executive officer before carrying out special law enforcement action in the states is one such area where the regime’s inflexibility has been quite manifest and it touches a chord for the analyst and commentator, Dr. Sam Amadi.
‘This is a practice that does not require any urging. It should be standard practice. Why would the federal government undertake special law enforcement operations without the approval or even mere knowledge and consent of the state government? This is frontally against the concept and practice of federalism, even minimal federalism.
I have argued that the meaning of the constitution making police and other established security agencies within exclusive legislative competence of the federal government is to say that state governments should not regulate the management of the police and such established security agencies. This does not strip the states of their legislative and executive competences to control security in their state. The state legislature and executive still have the legislative and executive competences to manage security in the state. There are some law enforcement activities that relate only to state laws and interests. In those circumstances, the police and such other established law enforcement agencies will enforce such state laws and manage such state law enforcement issues for the states. There are also law enforcement situations arising from federal law but impacting on state laws. For such situations, the law enforcement agencies, although controlled by the federal government will work with state authorities to manage such federal law enforcement situations that impact on state matters. This is actually how the constitutional provisions of both the federal competence of the police and other law enforcement agencies and the role of state governments as protectors of security in their states would be constitutional coherent and administratively effective.
The Southern Governors should insist on this minimum administrative protocol for effective and meaningful federalism,’ the don surmised.
But if history remains our guide, a terse rebuttal and tirade of denunciation could very well be all that the Southern Governors would get from the Presidency at the close of the day. And this evidently would not have addressed the issues.
Perhaps better sense would prevail this time around. Perhaps.