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Restructuring can’t guarantee unity, stability – Falana

Restructuring can’t guarantee unity, stability – Falana

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Oladimeji Ramon

A human rights lawyer, Mr Femi Falana (SAN), has said Nigeria’s quest for unity and political stability will remain elusive until the resources of the country are equitably redistributed among the regions.

He added that though Nigeria was ripe for restructuring, the people would remain polarised if the restructuring was not matched with the democratisation of powers.

The lawyer traced the disunity in the country to the manipulation by the colonialists, which he said the current political elite had continued to perpetrate.

Falana spoke on Wednesday at the 19th Mike Okonkwo Annual Lecture, which held at Muson Centre, Onikan, Lagos.

The lecture, which was part of the events marking the 73rd birthday of the Presiding Bishop of The Redeemed Evangelical Mission, Dr Mike Okonkwo, was chaired by the President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief John Nwodo, while Lagos State Governor, Mr Akinwunmi Ambode, who was represented by his deputy, Dr Idiat Adebule, was the Special Guest of Honour.

Falana delivered the lecture with the theme, “Nigeria’s unity: Matters arising.”

He argued that the relationship among the regions was that of the oppressor and the oppressed, stressing that there could not be unity in such an arrangement, “unless we visit the distribution of the wealth of Nigeria.”

He said, “Nigeria is not a united country. You know why? You can’t have unity of oppressors and the oppressed. If I enjoy oppressing you, you can’t talk about unity and they want to retain the status quo.

“Lagos in 1992 had 20 local governments; Kano, as a state, had 24, at least by 1996 when I was going to detention. Abacha detained me for eight months, and by the time I came out, Jigawa had been created out of Kano with 27 local governments; Lagos retained its 20. So, the whole of Kano has 71 local governments; Lagos has 20 local governments and all of you will take money from the Federation Account. And that was why the Bola Tinubu administration created local governments in Lagos.”

Falana recalled that the Federal Government under President Olusegun Obasanjo was displeased with Tinubu’s decision to create more local governments and as such withheld the allocation to Lagos State.

He said those accusing President Muhammadu Buhari of disobeying court orders must remember that Obasanjo laid the foundation for the disobedience of court orders when he refused to release the allocation of Lagos State despite an order of the Supreme Court.

He said, “The Supreme Court said you have no right to withhold the funds of Lagos. Of course, disobedience of court orders has not just started. For the first time in the history of our country, the judgment of the Supreme Court was disobeyed by President Obasanjo. It was the Yar’Adua’s regime that ordered that the money should  be released to Lagos State. So, please, let us know where we are coming from.”

Falana said the Federal Government would not achieve much in its anti-corruption fight except it addressed the poor standard of living of the people.

“If the government genuinely want to fight corruption, it has to review the wages of workers, ensure prompt payment of salaries and pensions, revitalise the federal mortgage bank to provide soft loans for citizens for building houses, re-organise and expand the national health insurance scheme to cover all citizens.

“Furthermore, the government should implement other welfare laws, enforce anti-graft laws, institutionalise the rule of law and respect for human rights of citizens. In particular, the Federal Government should comply with the court orders for the establishment of education bank, revival of the Peoples Bank and the provision of basic education for every Nigerian child,” Falana said.

The chairman on the occasion, Nwodo, said there was no alternative to restructuring, arguing that Nigeria might not survive for much longer if it was not restructured.

Nwodo, who recalled that he became a special assistant to the President at the age of 29 and a minister at the age of 31, lamented the absence of youths in leadership positions.

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