The Nigerian Press Organisation, NPO, has urged the Federal Government to devolve powers to states, stressing that an overbearing centre is counterproductive to the development of the centre itself and the component units.
The organisation, comprising the Newspaper Proprietors’ Association of Nigeria, the Nigerian Guild of Editors, and the Nigeria Union of Journalists made their position known in a statement jointly issued by the President of NPAN and NPO, Kabiru Yusuf; the President of NGE, Mustapha Isa and President of NUJ, Chris Isiguzo. They noted that Nigeria has been embroiled in profound socio-economic, political and security challenges that threaten its very existence as reflected in ethnic divisions and separatist agitations in the country, with growing fears that an implosion is imminent.
The body argued that to leave the Federal Government with 68 items under the Exclusive Legislative List, including policing, is a recipe for unending destructive tension in the struggle for advantage among the federating units.
“It explains why our country is seemingly overwhelmed by non-state actors engaged in criminality and separatist agitations.
“Today, criminality – kidnapping for ransom, banditry, arson, killings – defines the everyday reality for a good number of our citizens” the NPO said.
It called on the Federal Government to take steps at devolving powers to the component units by implementing the El Rufai Committee Report, which among others, recommends State Policing, in addition to other far-reaching adjustments to the structure of governance. The media stakeholders said that the continued delay to implement the report after its recommendations have been approved by all the organs of the ruling All Progressives Party, in line with the manifesto for which the party sold itself to win the 2015 election is self-defeating.
It said that the implementation of the report will curb the galloping rate of criminality, reduce tension across the country, and reset the botton of development.
The NPO lamented that one of the triggers for the current socio-political, economic, and security challenges in the country is high cost of governance, reflected in the outrageous allowances and flamboyant lifestyles of political leaders. It added that leaders, rather erroneously, misconstrue public service for primitive accumulation of wealth, instead of its being a platform for galvanising development and satisfying the collective aspiration of the people for quality life in a safe and secure environment.
The organisation urged the FG to Implement the Orosanye Report, which provides a veritable road map for arresting the unsustainable high cost of governance.
“A reduced cost of governance will free substantial funds to fight insecurity, provide social safety nets for the generality of the people, fund developmental projects, and stem the current penchant for external and local borrowing by government,” it said.
It also called on the FG to put pressure on the National Assembly to pass the Petroleum Industry Bill, noting that the petroleum industry has been long overdue for an overhaul and the passage of the bill will be a major boost. The organisation cautioned the FG on excessive borrowing.
“There is a need to avoid the debt overhang inherent in excessive borrowing. We are aware that borrowing is good so long as such loans are deployed to funding enduring development projects, within the GDP ratio. However, the current borrowing in the face of the slide in the value of the country’s number one revenue earner-oil remains worrisome,” the statement added.
While reiterating Its belief in the oneness of Nigeria, the organisation appealed to politicians and state actors to minimise their inflammatory rhetoric in order to reduce tension and ease the growing sense of fear among the people.