Calls For Restructuring, Resource Control Took Ibori To Jail —Macualay

As calls for restructuring and re¬source control gradually garner momentum, stakeholders across the country have differed in their view of the true essence of the subject mat¬ter. Erstwhile Secretary to the Delta State Government (SSG), COMRADE OVOUZOU¬RIE MACUALAY, in this interview with Iteveh Ekpokpobe took a stand on the re¬structure brouhaha, state police and the Herdsmen imbroglio. Read on…
What is your take on the clamour for restructuring?
Restructuring is defined from the per¬spective of different persons. For me, restructuring of Nigeria does not mean balkanising Nigeria, which is the focus of so many people. My own understanding of restructuring is especially as it affects the issues at stake. Nigeria was brought together by Britain in 1914 for adminis¬trative convenience. They amalgamated a people with different socio-political back¬ground, made a constitution and gave to them and thereafter, gave them indepen¬dence.
After a while, we saw the need to fash¬ion out our own system of governance. We went to America and borrowed a con-stitution and adopted the presidential system of governance, but in implement¬ing it, we added unitary system. So, it’s a mixture of two different constitutions and that is where we have our problem.
First, the constitution we practice in Nigeria is too expensive. The number of people involved in governance is just too much. Secondly, unlike the America system of government which we tend to have borrowed, the central is too powerful. The American President may rule and never visit some of the states in America throughout his two tenures. A governor in America may never visit Washington throughout his term of office, simply because their roles and limitations are clearly defined in their constitution.
So, when you talk of restructuring, the question we should nurse in our mind is: Why should Delta State make so much money and yet be so poor? What is the business of the President of the Federal Republic and a hospital being constructed in Owhe-Ologbo, my vil¬lage, or any part of the country? In my perception, restructuring must be hinged on devolving power from the central. The Federal Government should be made less attractive. Let me state that, if not for the manner the military left government disgracefully to say, by now we would have heard another martial song. So we must remove that attraction.
We must practice true fiscal federalism. We have been saying it for so long yet nobody seems to listen, but that is the way to go. Let States control what they produce. I said it when I was even in the labour that any man who wants to become governor today does not have to put on any thinking cap because the thought, is once I am elected, in every 30 days, my commissioner for finance, will go to Abuja to bring money. They are not thinking of, what can be done to make money for the state, to pay workers’ salaries on time, among others. There are no longer joint ventures. How did joint ventures in those days happen? It was because there was no ‘30 days Abuja ideology’. And when the money comes from Abuja, there is no thought to invest part of it for the future until this reces¬sion came in.
Why am I saying this? I am not saying governors have fared so badly; because that is what they met on ground. Lagos State makes so much money on value added tax and the money is supposed to go to the central purse? You who said you don’t consume alcohol why should you share from the money which comes from alcohol? Akwa- Ibom, Bayelsa or even Rivers produce so much oil and all of that money go to the central. When we were fighting for resourc¬es control, we were tagged saboteurs. Today, I laugh because the problem the federal government is having with the NNPC wouldn’t have been there if they had adopted the principles of resource con¬trol. Well, that is part of what took Chief James Onanefe Ibori to jail. Let me not go into it anyway, but not that I am afraid to talk about it.
The issue is, if they had listened, we wouldn’t be here at this time. They had a myopic understanding of what resource control was about. Their understanding of resource control was that ev¬erything produced in a state, particularly the oil producing states, would be taken by the state. No, what we clamoured was for states to have a hold on what they produce. For instance, if Chevron is exploring in Delta State, Chevron should be accountable to the Delta State government. Supervision is easier if it is done within the territory. The governor should know the quantum of oil being explored in Delta State and the export chart. It is not the minister sitting in Abuja with his directors that should know what is hap¬pening in Delta, Rivers, Bayelsa or Akwa- Ibom.
That is why you hear stories of money meant for the federal government being diverted by the NNPC or that NNPC did not re¬mit so and so funds to the federal government. Why should they when they are not supervised appropriately? I keep saying that the quantum of oil that is being diverted to illegal sales in this country is more than what is being delivered officially. What they do is to collaborate because there is no serious supervision; hence you see so many illegal vessels on the high sea. I have being to the high sea; I use to do some consultation for Shell BP in those days so I know what happens there. If you go into the sea you will see ves¬sels floating. These vessels are for bunkering. Some term it illegal bunkering; so is there any bunkering that is not illegal? The quan¬tum of oil the government takes away is nothing compared to the quantum our boys are refining which the government is destroy¬ing on daily basis.
When you say restructuring, it is not as narrow as people look at it. It is not about tearing the country to pieces. It is all about doing something that will make everybody have a sense of belong¬ing. The reactions round the country today are because people feel they are not being fairly treated and which to some extent you can¬not deny them. All the oil block in the south, how many of us know where they are or let alone benefit from them? Who are the people controlling them? What criteria were met by the people control¬ling the oil blocks?
It was published some time ago. Let’s bring it to the table and explain why people from Niger Delta cannot own 60 per cent of oil blocks and the other 40 per cent go to the generality of Nigerians; because we are all Nigerians. But today you deny them. Today, if anybody from the Niger Delta owns an oil block, he is a joint part¬ner with somebody from another region that does not produce the oil. These are the unfair treatment meted on the people and you see some reacting because everybody cannot be docile.
Let me say that soon there will be no road from Benin to Asaba; it’s broken into two and nobody is talking about it. But if the pow¬ers were with the state government they will be appropriately repaired. Under Uduaghan’s administration, we took over the du¬alisation of Asaba/ Ughelli road. Till today, has the money been refunded? If not for that dualisation, after the flood, there would have been no road linking Ughelli and you know what economic hold this road is to the country not even to Delta state; people leav¬ing Warri to Onitsha on daily basis. Instead of concentrating atten¬tion on how oil money comes, how roads are built and maintained in the state which is a major reason behind the lack of roads, the federal government should face foreign policies, face currencies, face security, face immigration and they will make more impact in the African sub-region and in the world
So for me, restructuring is not about breaking Nigeria into piec¬es. There is strength in our diversity and population. But then, let us define how we live. One, we must devolve power from the cen¬tral, two, there must be fiscal federalism. Federal government must remove their hands from some things. If you check, it is one of the reasons why the FG is not productive.
What is your take on the calls for state police?
Again, I say the federal government is not doing enough. I am not exonerating the states, but if things are properly defined, security is supposed to be a natural thing as it is today, but we are not con¬centrating on it. For me again, we should look at the future of this country. Give the state some powers. You cannot give me a Com¬missioner of Police or Director of State Security Service who will not take directives from me. You hold meetings with them, they go back and call Abuja for final order; hence as a governor, you don’t have a hold on these people. It is a misnomer to refer to the gover¬nor as chief security officer of the state, because, if they are your appointees, they should be able to listen to you.
As it stands, a governor of a state does not command a troop. Thus, it makes a mess of his position as the governor or as the chief security officer of the state. Instead the chief security officer it is the army commander, the police commis-sioner, and the director of SSS because they are obvi¬ously the ones with the troops. You can’t say I am a commander when I don’t have a troop. I remember as an SSG so many times we wanted the army to mount road blocks at the point where the state was really boiling, we had to write to the chief of army staff who had to give approval to the brigade commander in Be¬nin, who also had to give approval to the man in Warri and the different units in the state; and the state had to provide the logistics. What makes the governor the chief security officer of the state?
You need an Armoured Personnel Carrier for the government house gate or to move around town, you have to write, the Inspector General of Police to ap¬prove, the commissioner has to approve for you to provide it. It doesn’t make sense. Where is the national security vote going that you cannot buy vehicles for all police formations and army units? Why should it be the responsibility of the state to provide and they are not given the authority to command? If I am going to give you a hundred million to do a job, I should be able to check, inspect and audit you. But today, if you give it to them, you cannot go back and ask them how it was spent; it is termed a free give. So all of these issues again, fall back to restructuring of this country.
The general insecurity today is as a result of how this country is structured. If the governor calls the army or the Police for an intervention, they will need permis¬sion. They immediately call Abuja, because if they loss one man, they will account for that soul. So, we need to restructure our security system. It is not right, the way it’s structured. It does not guarantee the security of life and property. Again, devolve some powers to the state. Hold less at the National so that you can do it well. There is nothing wrong with a state police, but you must define it well.
In the civilised country, you have the national secu¬rity which is their police, the state and even the county. So when they encounter situations, you see ambu¬lances coming from different directions to attack the development. They are working together, but they are independent. So when you have a situation, I can call the state, you call the federal and they all come togeth¬er to solve the problem. I must say establish the state police.
I am not saying establish a state police for the gov¬ernor to use them for elections. In short, anything that has to do with security in this country, should be funded from the consolidated funds. An appointment should not be in the hands of the governor alone but in the hands of the whole system. The governor may nominate, the House of Assembly must scrutinise and when they don’t agree with the nominee’s character, he or she should be dropped. If the person is appoint¬ed, he should be independent. He does not need to beg the governor or the House of Assembly to be included in the budget. It should be defined so that the man can look at the governor eyeball to eyeball and say his Ex¬cellency, with all humility, this is the way I feel it should be done and this is the way it has to be done.
If the House of Assembly summons him, he will say yes, Mr. Speaker, this is the way it should be done and this is the way it will be done without exercising fear that if I don’t do it their way the governor or the house will sack me. There must be professionalism and inde¬pendence of these bodies. If an I.G knows that a presi¬dent can fire him tomorrow, why won’t he kneel down to beg him.
Herdsmen insurgencies have assumed an alarm¬ing dimension in recent times. What do you think could be a viable solution to it?
The herdsmen thing, we pray and pray seriously that it should not turn to another Boko-Haram because it is not an attack against the south. They are everywhere in the north. Benue state has suffered more. Taraba has suffered immensely too. So, it’s not about the south. I don’t want to also think it’s a Christian or Muslim affair. Because in this country, it is very easy for us to hide under the cloak of religion and ethnicity. In doing this we are hiding the weakness of our system. And people who want to be mischievous take advantage of these facts that once they canvass on the basis of ethnicity r religion, people will follow them.
We must devolve this from serious issues. The fed¬eral government has to sit up. We must call a spade a spade. If a man commits murder, he should be tried for murder. That you are grazing animals does not give you the audacity to carry guns and not just small guns but AK47 assault rifles. When we were growing up in those days, the herdsmen were known for carrying bow and arrows, but it degenerated to a level where they started moving about with double barrels. Today, they are moving about with Ak47 assault rifles. Now they are not just fighting people on whose land they graze, they are involved in robbery and kidnap. They are building camps all over the place.
If you go into our bushes you will see their camps. To rob on the high ways and retire to their camps and you dare not go near them. I think we must do something about it.