Leaders of the South and Middle Belt parts of the country, on Saturday, reaffirmed their faith in the continued existence of Nigeria as a single entity. The leaders, however, maintained that the current structure of the country is unbalanced, unjust and over-centralized, therefore requiring it to be restructured in line with the recommendations of the 2014 National Conference.
Their position was made known in a communique issued after the South-Middle Belt Leaders Consultative Summit, which held at Sheraton Hotels, Abuja, on Saturday.
Among those in attendance were Mr. EK Clark, an Ijaw leader; Mr. Olu Falae, a former presidential candidate; Messrs. Ayo Adebanjo and Yinka Odumakin of the Afenifere, Mr. Jerry Gana, a former Information Minister; General Ike Nwachukwu, a former presidential aspirant; and Mr. Labaran Maku,a former Information Minister. Also in attendance were Senator Stella Onu, Dr. Bala Takaya, Chief CO Adebayo, General David Jemibewon, General Ishaya Bamaiyi, Mr. Obong Victor Attach and retired Air Commodore Indogesit Nkanga.
The leaders maintained that for the Nigerian federation to function in the interest of the constituent parts, there should be devolution of powers and functions to the federating units. This, they said, will make each federating unit effectively serve the development interests of its people.
"This is the central essence of a good federation, not the current over-centralization of powers and functions in the central government. As a logical derivative, we must work out a new fiscal formula that will move Nigeria away from the current over-dependence on oil and gas revenue to a diversified economy where all federating units are encouraged to develop their abundant natural human resources for regional and national development," the leaders said at the summit.
The federating units, they explained, shall remit agreed percentage of their revenue to the federation account. The summit then urged the Federal Government to address the issues by fully implementing the report of the 2014 National Conference, which considered and resolved the vexatious matters. "Accordingly, we support the recent resolution of the National Assembly that the Report of the 2014 National Conference be placed before it," the leaders stated.
They also called for the reversal of discriminatory appointments into key Federal Government offices, stating that the country is a secular state, in which the governments cannot adopt any religion
In addition, the leaders slated the recent plans to adopt a combined syllabus of religious and moral education. They called for a halt to the plans and demanded a return to status quo of teaching Christian Religious Knowledge and Islamic Religious Knowledge separately.
Equally, the summit condemned the activities of herdsmen in the Middle Belt and Southern States. It suggested that there may be an organic link between the operations of the herdsmen and Boko Haram group. The summit criticised the nonchalance of the Federal Government to the dangers posed by herdsmen and demanded they be immediately disarmed. The summit also condemned the quit notice issued to Igbo people resident in the North by some Northern youths and stated that Nigerians will resist any attempt to take over power through military coup by any group.
It called on the Federal government to look into 16-point agenda submitted to the President Muhammadu Buhari by the South-South Leaders to sustain the current peace in the Niger Delta.