VICE president Professor Yemi Osinbajo has thrown his weight behind plans to make Nigeria’s 36 states more independent pointing out that the country will be a lot more prosperous if the federating units had more powers.
In the run-up to independence in 1960, Nigeria’s leaders agreed to a formula under which the federating units would control economic matters and remit taxes to the centre. However, in the run-up to the Nigerian civil war in 1967, this formula was jettisoned in favour of central control and since then, the nation has not reverted back to its original agreement.
There have been consistent for Nigeria to return to the 1958 Lancaster House Agreement under which the federating units keep 50% of all revenues derived from within their domains, pay 20% into the federation account and pay 30% into a common sovereign wealth fund. This move has been resisted by the elites of the northwest and northeast geo-political zones, however, who believe it will leave them short-changed.
Over the weekend, Professor Osinbajo said it is the only way to go, however, pointing out that Nigeria can become a stronger and more prosperous nation if states have more powers. Speaking at the 59th Independence Anniversary Lecture at the Island Club, Lagos, in a lecture titled The Whole is Only as Great as the Sum of its Parts, Professor Osinbajo said Nigeria’s population and diverse ethnic groups has necessitated that states be strengthened to enable them contribute more to national productivity and development.
According to Professor Osinbajo, this can be achieved with stronger, more autonomous states that are able to generate and control more of their resources. He added that the current administration of President Muhammadu Buhari is ensuring that states collaborate more with the federal government on different initiatives to improve visionary governance in the country.
Professor Osinbajo said:“The most important transformative change we can make in Nigeria is to lift the majority of our people out of deprivation by speedily creating wealth and opportunity leading to the eradication of poverty. The nation cannot be wealthy when its component parts, the states, are poor as the standard of living of the federation depends on the standard of living of people who live in the states.
“In other words, the federation can only be as rich as its richest state and as strong as its strongest state. Our national indices merely aggregate the realities of our weaknesses and strengths as present in all our constituent units, consequently, we can only build a stronger and more prosperous nation by building stronger and more prosperous states.
“Building stronger states means ensuring the devolution of more power to the states, enabling them to control more of their resources and make more of their own administrative decisions such as the creation of local governments, the establishment of state and community police forces as well as state correctional facilities, the creation of special courts and tribunals of equivalent jurisdiction to high courts. The point I am making is that states must have more powers and more rights.”
He also stated that Nigerians, despite differences, must draw inspiration from its history of a common shared belief, in order to attain the quest for collective progress and continued unity. Professor Osinbajo stated that he will continue to give his best in service to the country under the Buhari administration.