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Monday, 22 May 2017

Nigeria not working well in all aspects, says Atiku

Nigeria not working well in all aspects, says Atiku

Atiku Abubakar, former vice president, says Nigeria is not working well in all aspects.

He said Nigeria’s problem began during the military era when the country was fragmented into states and power concentrated at the centre.

The former vice-president said this while speaking at an event held by the Hall of Grace magazine, which conferred on him the honour of ‘Hero of Democracy’, in Lagos at the weekend.

He emphasised that the country was not working well in all aspects owing to its faulty structure.

“The reality is that our nation does not work well whether we focus on security, education, economic production, employment generation and people’s welfare or we focus on governance and politics or the relationships among our diverse ethnic, regional, and religious groupings,” he said.

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“Our government relies excessively on rent derived from a single export product, crude oil, for revenues.  The consequences of that have included over-exposure to the vagaries of the world oil market over which we have little control.

“It has also led us to over-centralise power and concentrate economic resources at the federal level at the expense of the federating states. We have poor infrastructure and low investment, high unemployment and high level of poverty, as well as the highest level of out-of-school children in the world.

We also have poor governance, lack of due process, lack of proper coordination of government processes, a high level of corruption, and a high level of insecurity characterised by armed robbery, kidnapping, militancy and terrorism.”

Abubakar said while progress had been made in recent times in the fight against terrorism, the rate of other violent crimes remained “unacceptably high”.

“Then there are persistent cries of marginalisation and unfair treatment by various ethnoreligious and regional groups in terms of resource and power-sharing, investment and other government services,” he said.

To solve the country’s teething problems, Abubakar suggested that the current system be restructured to give more power to states.

“We need to restructure our federal system to devolve more powers and resources to the federating units. It will encourage states to compete to attract investment and skilled workers rather than merely waiting for monthly revenue allocations from Abuja.

This will also include the establishment of state police for the states that so desire so as to improve security,” he said.

“We must be open to changing the nature of the federating units such as using the existing geo-political zones as federating units rather than the current 36, of which only a few are financially viable.”

Besides political decentralisation, he suggested that economy be weaned off oil.

“Political decentralisation must be accompanied by economic diversification.  We need to diversify our economy away from the dependence on oil.

We need to create opportunities for our people to engage in diverse economic activities which governments will then tax for revenues. But we can’t do that efficiently and effectively without accurate data,” he said.

“I have in the past called for an end to the self-defeating politics we play with census in the country. With all the data gathering and analytic tools in existence in the 21st century we have no good reason not to have accurate data on our people, down to the smallest unit, the individual.

Without data we cannot plan properly and all of us will lose, including those who try to inflate their population figures and those who want to suppress those of others.”

“Political decentralisation will also help to deepen and strengthen our democracy as it will encourage more accountability. Citizens are more likely to demand accountability when governments spend their tax money rather than rent collected from an impersonal source.”

The former vice president also called for the de-politicisation of anti-corruption agencies to make them really independent.

“This will help to strengthen the fight against corruption, which is critical in renewing our people’s belief in the integrity of public institutions and public officials. Such a reform will require changes to how the agencies are funded, how their heads are appointed and who they report to,” he added

“While not exhaustive, these steps, if taken, will help us to produce effective and public-spirited leadership and certainly help us to live up to our economic potentials and evolve into a nation where citizens and every segment of the population feel proud, welcome and committed to its long-term health and survival.”

Abubakar, who lost to President Muhammadu Buhari in the presidential primary election of the All Progressives Congress (APC), has been on the vanguard for the restructuring of the country.

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