Sagay says Northerners are afraid restructuring will reduce their shares from oil






Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN), Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), in this interview with TEMIDAYO AKINSUYI, speaks on latest issues in the polity. Excerpts:





Given the kind of debate it generated before the just concluded elections, do you think President Muhammadu Buhari should pay attention to the issue of restructuring in his second term?





Yes, I think so. In his first term, restructuring was not something that was of priority to him. He was more focused on process, doing things in accordance to laid down procedures and doing it with honesty and integrity; in other words, to purge the country of corruption and establish a system of integrity and honesty. I think he has to move on to restructuring to a certain extent now because that is the wish of significant proportion of people in Nigeria. So, it cannot be ignored. The APC has a paper which strongly supports restructuring. I think this is the time for him to pay more attention to the issue and see what can be done to strengthen the federating units and make them less dependent on the centre; and also give them the capacity to be productive and self-sustaining. This will make us move closer to how we were in 1966 before the military came when the regions were the ones funding the federal government then. I don’t want us to go back to that but it will be enough if the states can be self-sustaining and be more productive so that this obsession of federal allocation should end. They should stop doing like babies who need federal feeding bottles in order to survive. It is humiliating for 36 state governments to send their commissioners of finance once a month to Abuja with what I will call ‘begging bowls’, looking for allocation. Civil servants collect salaries, states should not be collecting salaries every month. We need them to be self-sustaining and restructuring will greatly assist in making that possible.





There is this general belief that Northerners are opposed to restructuring. Why is that so?





Yes, it is true that Northerners are hostile to restructuring. The fact is that they are so dependent on oil revenues that they are afraid that if restructuring takes place, the proportion of oil proceeds they will get will be much smaller and therefore, their capacity to look after themselves will be much more reduced. That is a fallacy that they believe in because they are not looking inwards. Honestly, if I were from the Northern states; the states that produced cattle; that is a sustainable, renewable source which oil is not. Cattle should not be mainly for people to slaughter and take to the market to sell. No! I believe that we should have a system where cattle is used for milk, butter, cheese, milk and frozen beef that can be exported, because the world needs meat that can be exported in a clean environment. If they can do this and move away from the current way of rearing cattle for just slaughtering and eating, you will see that the North will have an advantage. My own calculation is that at least, $5b can come initially from the cattle industry by the time they maximise all the benefits from the cattle and export some. This is not like oil that can dry up or lose its value because the cattle will breed, new cattle will come and they can continue to expand. Oil right now is contracting, getting smaller and one day, it will go. I have pointed out all these in some papers I have written. If I were the Northerners, I will never be afraid of restructuring. I will rather concentrate on this natural resources that we have, which will be self-sustaining permanently and it is the Southern part of the country, particularly the South-South that should be worried about the future of oil. This is because once oil goes and there is no replacement economy, then there will be very dire consequences.





Were you surprised by the resignation of Justice Walter Onnoghen, the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria?





The resignation has come too late. It was a face-saving resignation because if he had not resigned, he would have been sacked. There is no question about that. At the very best, he would have been retired if not actually dismissed. There is no value in the resignation anymore. It lacks the honour and dignity that would have accompanied it if he had done it since January when the charges were made at the very beginning when he admitted in his writing that he forgot to declare his assets.





By that admission, he should have resigned on the spot. But instead, he went into a very dirty battle with the federal government and with the Tribunal, going to three different courts to get the same order which is a gross abuse of court process. He even went to Industrial Court which is a labour court and has nothing to do with the matter. It is when a worker is sacked without due procedure that is when you go there. So Onnoghen ridiculed the entire judicial system the way he went about it, whipping up sentiments in the South East and South South. Everybody was being threatened in spite of obvious guilt and then Senior Advocates capitalised on the issue to show how loyal and obedient they are to iniquity. So, to me, the resignation is too late and I am not impressed. He should have handled the matter with dignity and self-respect





As someone who lives in Lagos, there are fears that some projects which Akinwunmi Ambode, the outgoing governor of Lagos may not complete will suffer under the incoming government. What advice will you give to the governor-elect, Babajide Sanwo-Olu?





My advice is that he should complete all on-going projects in Lagos state, just like what the federal government is doing now by completing the projects that were not finished by the Goodluck Jonathan administration. You don’t leave uncompleted projects and go and start new ones. My advice to the governor-elect of Lagos, Babajide Sanwo-Olu is that he should complete any project that Ambode, the outgoing governor has started because at the end of the day, government is a continuum. What Ambode did about the Lagos Homs project that he abandoned will not speak well for him when the history of Lagos is written because a lot of Lagosians need accommodation in the state now and you can see the buildings wasting away without being completed. To resuscitate them in future will cost a lot of money. You can even see that the Lagos Metroline has slowed down. Nobody is working there. Since Babatunde Fashola left, there is hardly any construction going on and this is something that will have a fantastic and positive impact on Lagos because people can now drop their cars from Badagry areas right to the centre of Lagos. When they are done with their businesses, they can take a ride back; pick up their cars at the rail station and go. This is how it operates in civilised countries. They can drop their cars at any of the stations and take a ride to Lagos. So, what he did by not completing the Lagos Homs project is wrong but nevertheless, I will not want Sanwo-Olu to do the same thing on projects that Ambode is unable to complete. I don’t believe in that kind of politics because your achievements will be undermined if you abandoned projects which your predecessors couldn’t complete. I will advise Sanwo- Olu to complete the ones that Ambode couldn’t complete. In fact, he shouldn’t start new ones until he completes the existing ones. Today, the federal government is basking under the glory of the Abuja rail line. The same with the rail line in Itakpe- Warri. We have forgotten that it was Jonathan who started these projects but they didn’t do much and so, all the credits are going to the Buhari administration which is completing these projects.


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