You know nothing about restructuring -- Osinbajo replies Atiku - Breaking News in Nigeria today 247 | TheWatchNGR

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Tuesday, September 4, 2018

You know nothing about restructuring -- Osinbajo replies Atiku


You know nothing about restructuring -- Osinbajo replies Atiku



Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo has lambasted former Vice-President Atiku
Abubakar, saying he does not have a clear understanding of the concept of
restructuring.




The call for the restructuring has been on
the front burner under this administration, with political bigwigs
disagreeing on whether the country should be restructured or not.



While the debate had dwindled, Osinbajo raised the dust in a statement on Monday. He had said the problem with Nigeria is not a matter of simple geographical restructuring but “about managing resources properly and providing for the people properly, that is what it is all about”.



Commenting
on Osinbanjo’s stance, Abubakar said the vice-president demonstrated “a
lack of appreciation of the core tenets of the concept”.



He argued that the clamour for restructuring is beyond geographical reshuffling.

“It
is a surprise that the vice-president would take such a position and,
in particular, fail to appreciate the connection between Nigeria’s
defective structure and its underperformance,” Abubakar had said.



“It
is unhelpful to reduce the construct of ‘Restructuring’ to a
geographical concept as VP Osinbajo does, which in itself demonstrates a
lack of appreciation of the core tenets of the concept.”



Responding
to Abubakar’s comment on his stance, the vice-president said the former
VP mixed up the concept of restructuring with “issues of good
governance and diversification of the economy”.



“Alhaji Atiku’s
concept of restructuring is understandably vague, because he seeks to
cover every aspect of human existence in that definition. He says it
means a “cultural revolution”,” Osinbajo said.

“Of course, he does
not bother to unravel this concept. He says we need a structure that
gives everyone an opportunity to work, a private sector driven economy,”
Osinbajo said.



“Yes, I agree.  These are critical pillars of our
Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP), including our Ease of Doing
Business Programme.



“If, however, this is what he describes as
restructuring, then it is clear that he has mixed up all the issues of
good governance and diversification of the economy with the argument on
restructuring.



“Surprisingly, Alhaji Atiku leaves out the elephant
in the room – corruption. And how grand corruption, fueled by a rentier
economic structure that benefits those who can use political positions
or access to either loot the treasury or get favorable concessions to
enrich themselves.



“In the final analysis, restructuring in
whatever shape or form, will not mean much if our political leaders see
public resources as an extension of their bank accounts. This, I
believe, is the real issue.”





Read the full statement below:





Kindly
permit me a response to a piece in your publication, titled “Osinbajo
got it wrong on Restructuring,” written, we are told, by my illustrious
predecessor in office, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.




First, let
me say that I really would have expected Alhaji Abubakar to at least get
the full text of my comments before his public refutal of my views. But
I understand; we are in that season where everything is seen as fair
game! He quoted me as saying that “the problem with our country is not a
matter of restructuring… and we must not allow ourselves to be drawn
into the argument that our problems stem from some geographic
re-structuring”.




Yes, I said so.



As the
quote shows, I rejected the notion that geographical restructuring was a
solution to our national problems. Geographical restructuring is either
taking us back to regional governments or increasing the number of
States that make up the Nigerian federation.




As we all
may recall, the 2014 National Conference actually recommended the
creation of 18 more States. And I argued that, with several States
struggling or unable to pay salaries, any further tinkering with our
geographical structure would not benefit us.




We should
rather ask ourselves why the States are underperforming, revenue and
development wise. I gave the example of the Western Region (comprising
even more than what is now known as the South West Zone), where, without
oil money, and using capitation tax and revenues from agriculture and
mining, the government funded free education for over 800,000 pupils in
1955, built several roads, farm settlements, industrial estates, the
first TV station in Africa, and the tallest building in Nigeria, while
still giving up fifty percent of its earnings from mining and minerals
for allocation to the Federal Government and other regions.




I
then argued that what we required now was not geographical
restructuring but good governance, honest management of public
resources, deeper fiscal Federalism, and a clear vision for development.




On
the issue of deeper fiscal Federalism or restructuring, I explained how
the then Lagos State Government, led by Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu,
decided to fight for greater autonomy of States.




As
Attorney-General at the time, it was my duty and privilege to lead the
legal team against the then Federal government, in our arguments at the
Supreme Court. I am sure that Alhaji Atiku Abubakar would remember these
cases on greater autonomy for States that I cite below, as he was Vice
President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria at the time.




At
the Supreme Court, we won several landmark decisions on restructuring
Nigeria through deeper fiscal federalism, some of which our late
converts to the concept, now wish to score political points on It
was our counter-claims alongside those of other littoral States, that
first addressed so comprehensively the issue of resource control. We
agreed with the oil producing States that they had a right to control
their resources. We argued, though unsuccessfully, that the Ports of
Lagos were also a resource, which should enable Lagos State, in the
worst case, to be paid the derivation percentage for proceeds of its
natural resources. Years later, we also filed an action at the Supreme
Court arguing that the Value Added Tax, being a consumption tax, should
exclusively belong to the States.




On the issue of who,
between the Federal and State governments, should have authority to
grant building permits and other development control permits, the
Supreme Court, by a slim majority, ruled in our favour. It held that,
even with respect to federal land, States had exclusive authority to
grant building or other developments control permits.




In
2004, we created 37 new local governments in Lagos State. We believed
that we had a Constitutional right to do so and that in any event, a
State should have a right to create its own administrative units.
Several other States joined us and created theirs.




The
Federal government’s response was to seize the funds meant for our local
governments, thus strangulating States like Lagos, which had created
new local governments. We challenged this at the Supreme Court. The
court held that the President had no right under the Constitution to
withhold or seize funds meant for the States. The allocations were not a
gift of the Federal Government to the States. They were the
Constitutional right of the States and local governments.




The
court also agreed that States had a Constitutional right to create
local governments, pursuant to section 8 of the Constitution, but that
the creation remained inchoate until the National Assembly, by
resolution, amended the existing list of local governments to capture
the newly created LGs.




In response, we created by State
Law, Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs), to accommodate the newly
created Local Government Councils until such a time as the National
Assembly would complete the process. But the Lagos State Government took
up the challenge to re-engineer its revenue service, making it
autonomous. With innovative management, tax collection in Lagos became
more efficient, and tax revenues continued to grow geometrically. Today,
the State earns more IGR than 30 States of Nigeria put together!




Further,
we contested the attempts of the then Federal Government to create
supervisory authority over the Finances of Local Governments by the
signing into law of the Monitoring of Revenue Allocation to Local
Governments Act, 2005. The Supreme Court also ruled in our favour,
striking down many provisions of the law that sought to give the Federal
government control over local government funding.




I have
been an advocate, both in court and outside, of fiscal Federalism and
stronger State Governments. I have argued in favour of State Police, for
the simple reason that policing is a local function. You simply cannot
effectively police Nigeria from Abuja. Only recently, in my speech at
the Anniversary of the Lagos State House of Assembly, I made the point
that stronger, more autonomous States would more efficiently eradicate
poverty. So I do not believe that geographical restructuring is an
answer to Nigeria’s socio economic circumstances. That would only result
in greater administrative costs. But there can be no doubt that we need
deeper fiscal Federalism and good governance.




Alhaji
Atiku’s concept of restructuring is understandably vague, because he
seeks to cover every aspect of human existence in that definition. He
says it means a “cultural revolution”. Of course, he does not bother to
unravel this concept. He says we need a structure that gives everyone an
opportunity to work, a private sector driven economy. Yes, I agree.
These are critical pillars of our Economic Recovery and Growth Plan
(ERGP), including our Ease of Doing Business Programme.


If,
however, this is what he describes as restructuring, then it is clear
that he has mixed up all the issues of good governance and
diversification of the economy with the argument on restructuring.




Good
governance involves, inter alia, transparency and prudence in public
finance. It involves social justice, investing in the poor, and jobs for
young people; which explains our School Feeding Programme, providing a
meal a day to over 9 million public school children in 25 States as of
today.




 Our NPower is now employing 500,000 graduates; our TraderMoni
that will be giving microcredit to 2 million petty traders; our
Conditional Cash Transfers giving monthly grants to over 400,000 of the
poorest in Nigeria. The plan is to cover a million households.




Surprisingly,
Alhaji Atiku leaves out the elephant in the room – corruption. And how
grand corruption, fueled by a rentier economic structure that benefits
those who can use political positions or access to either loot the
treasury or get favorable concessions to enrich themselves. This was a
main part of my presentations the Minnesota Town Hall meeting.




In
arguing for good governance, I made the point that our greatest problem
was corruption. I pointed out that grand corruption, namely the
unbelievable looting of the treasury by simply making huge cash
withdrawals in local and foreign currency, was the first travesty that
President Buhari stopped.




I showed the OPEC figures from
oil revenues since 1990. In four years from 2010 to 2014 the PDP
government earned the highest oil revenues in Nigeria’s history,
USD381.9billion. By contrast the Buhari Administration has earned USD121
billion from May 2015 to June 2018, less than 1/3 of what Jonathan
Administration earned at the same period in that administration’s life.
Despite earning so much less, we are still able to invest more in
infrastructure than any government in Nigeria’s history. The difference
is good governance, and fiscal prudence.




In the final
analysis, restructuring in whatever shape or form, will not mean much if
our political leaders see public resources as an extension of their
bank accounts. This, I believe, is the real issue.
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