Southern Governors insist on true federalism, devolution of powers

The Governors of the Southern States of Nigeria have unanimously reiterated the call for true federalism and devolution of powers to States.

The resolution was reached after their meeting in Lagos on Monday.

Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State, who was appointed Chairman of the forum, read out the communique at the end of the meeting.

They also resolved to collaborate with one another for the growth and development of their economies.

Continuing with the communique, Governor Ambode, who will be assisted by Seriake Dickson (Bayelsa) and David Umahi (Ebonyi), said the Governors after extensive deliberations, also emphasized priority on security of 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.

The Forum also scheduled the next meeting for Port Harcourt in a yet to be announced date.

The host Governor Ambode, while welcoming others 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, “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 inland waterways.

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.

Ambode 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.

“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 explained further 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 hailed the forum for calling for a special allocation to oil-producing states in the Federation Account, insisting 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.”

Source: Daily Post

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