Magazine article New African

Nigeria: The Debate Is Far from over; the National Political Reforms Conference Convened by President Obasanjo Five Months Ago to Discuss the Future of the Country Ended Acrimoniously in July after Several Walkouts and Boycotts. Pini Jason Reports from Lagos

Magazine article New African

Nigeria: The Debate Is Far from over; the National Political Reforms Conference Convened by President Obasanjo Five Months Ago to Discuss the Future of the Country Ended Acrimoniously in July after Several Walkouts and Boycotts. Pini Jason Reports from Lagos

Article excerpt

A little over two hours into the main plenary session, which had been resumed after a 15 June walkout of delegates from the South-South, the National Political Reforms Conference (NPRC) was adjourned indefinitely. The unceremonious end did not surprise many observers, particularly the rival Pro-National Conference (PRONACO) organisers, led by the veteran politician, Chief Anthony Enahoro and the Nobel Laureate Professor Wole Soyinka.

The last straw was the emotive issue of revenue allocation by the "derivation principle", otherwise known as resource control. The oil-rich people of the Niger Delta, known as the South-South zone, demanded that 50% of revenue from all resources be allocated to the community in which it is found. While the argument raged, the South-South eventually came down to 25% minimum.

As the South-South insisted on resource control, the Igbos of the South-East called for a return to the former regional structure based on the six geo-political zones, and the rotation of the presidency among them. In addition, the Igbos insisted it was their turn at the presidency in 2007. Obasanjo's men worked tirelessly to force through six-year single term tenures for the president and a five-year single term for governors. This proposal was followed by a campaign by Obasanjo's foot soldiers that he should get a two-year extension to his second term to kickstart the new six-year single term, causing uproar among Nigerians.

But the death-knell for the conference was the issue of resource control. The South-South based its argument on the 1960 and 1963 constitutions that allowed the former regions to keep 50% of revenue from their regions and contribute a further 30% to the common distributable account from which the regions shared. The remaining 20% was surrendered to the federal government.

This old arrangement, it was argued, was not only the essence of true federalism and cultural diversity, but allowed each region to develop at its own pace.

During military rule, though, the percentages given to the federating units were whittled down to zero. However, previous agitations led by civil society groups restored it to three per cent under General Ibrahim Babangida's military government while General Sani Abacha who overthrew Babangida increased it to 13%. …

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