The earlier postponed meeting between Leaders of the South-South geopolitical zone and the Nigerian Government delegation, on Tuesday eventually happened, with the zone calling for restructuring, true federalism and devolution of powers to the federating zones in Nigeria.
The consultative meeting involved a Federal Government delegation led by the Chief of Staff to the President, Professor Ibrahim Gambari and governors, ministers and other stakeholders from the South-South region and took place at Government House, Port Harcourt.
Presenting the region’s demands, the Chairman of the South-South Governors’ Forum and Governor of Delta, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, maintained that the nation was not at peace because the country had failed to practice true federalism.
According to him, the region views the #ENDSARS protest as a reflection of almost all that is wrong with Nigeria, especially its refusal to properly understand issues, and imbibe and entrench the virtues of justice, fairness and equity.
“The previous system of true federalism was jettisoned and it created a powerful center controlling and distributing all the resources unevenly. There is now a strong need to restructure the country in order to guarantee peace, security, stability and progress of the nation.
“The region demands true federalism and devolution of powers to the states, including creating and managing their own police and security architecture, true fiscal federalism guided by the principle of derivation, revenue sharing and control of resources by each state,” he said.
He decried the deliberate lack of understanding, empathy and uncompromising attitudes of some Nigerians, who refused to understand the peculiar challenges of the South-South region, especially the degradation of the environment and the pollution of our waters.
“All we demand and ask for is fairness and equity and as we await actions to restructure the country, we hereby renew our demands for: ‘The relocation of the headquarters of major oil companies in Nigeria to the region; relocation of several NNPC subsidiaries from Lagos and Abuja to the region.
“The region further requests the completion without delay of the East-West Road and all federal roads in the region; Construction of the Lagos-Calabar railway, reconstruction and rehabilitation of the region’s major seaports notably the Port Harcourt, Calabar and Warri”.
In his response, the Leader of the Presidential delegation, Professor Gambari, thanked the people of the South-South for their co-operation, and assured that all issues raised at the meeting would be communicated to the President.
Gambari apologised for the failure of the meeting to hold on Nov. 17 earlier slated, and said the meeting is part of the ongoing conversation on how to make Nigeria better.
“Our youths took to the streets to express their bitterness on ill-treatment meted out to them by the police and the President, recognizing the importance of the demands made by the protesters agreed to implement the five demands.
“All over the world, people have right to protest but in doing so, the respect for law and order must be adhered to and they must also respect the rights of others.
“The President commends governors, traditional rulers and other stakeholders for their role in handling the protesters,” he said
On his part, Director-General, Department of State Services (DSS), Mr Yusuf Magaji-Bichi, said the unity of the country, in spite of the diversity, remained the strength of the nation, adding that all hands must be on deck to ensure that peace returned to the country.
Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, in a vote of thanks, commended the Federal Government delegation and stakeholders of the region for attending the meeting and urged the federal authorities to ensure implementation of the region’s demands.