By NPAN, NGE and NUJ
The Nigerian Press Organisation, comprising the Newspaper Proprietors’ Association of Nigeria (NPAN), the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE), and the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), after their meeting on Friday, May 21, 2021, on the state of the nation makes the following deposition:
Nigeria has been embroiled lately in profound socio-economic, political and security challenges that threaten its very existence as reflected in ethnic divisions and separatist agitations in the country, with growing fears that an implosion is imminent.
Today, criminality — kidnapping for ransom, banditry, arson, killings — defines the everyday reality for a good number of our citizens.
At the centre of all these are:
*High cost of governance
*Devolution of powers/restructuring
* Petroleum subsidy removal, and
* Accumulation of foreign debt, among others.
We, leaders of the media and major stakeholders in the Nigeria Project, given the responsibility imposed on us by Section 22 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, state as follows:
* That we believe in the oneness of Nigeria and that its population of about 200 million people, if resources are well managed, have innumerable advantages, both in economic and soft power, and that this should not be sacrificed on the altar of ethnic or tribal chauvinism.
* That one of the triggers for the current socio-political, economic, and security challenges in the country is high cost of governance, reflected in the outrageous allowances and flamboyant lifestyles of our political leaders. These leaders, rather erroneously, misconstrue public service for primitive accumulation of wealth, instead of its being a platform for galvanising development and satisfying the collective aspiration of our people for quality life in a safe and secure environment. One of the consequences of this ostentatious lifestyle is the new craze among a growing number of youths that the end justifies the means in their quest for easy wealth.
*That in a federal system of government, particularly in a country like Nigeria which is diverse in ethnicity, culture, and religion, an overbearing centre is counter-productive to the development of the centre itself and the component units. To leave the federal government with 68 items under the Exclusive Legislative List, including policing, is a recipe for unending destructive tension in the struggle for advantage among the federating units. It explains why our country is seemingly overwhelmed by non-state actors engaged in criminality and separatist agitations.
Given the above, we call on the federal government to:
1. Immediately take steps at devolving powers to the component units by implementing the El-Rufai Committee Report, which, among others, recommends state policing in addition to other far-reaching adjustments to the structure of governance. The continued delay to implement the report after its recommendations have been approved by all the organs of the ruling All Progressives Party, in line with the manifesto for which the party sold itself to win the 2015 election, is self-defeating. We hold that its implementation will curb the galloping rate of criminality, reduce tension across the country, and reset the button of development.
2. Implement the Oronsaye Report, which provides a veritable road map for arresting the unsustainable high cost of governance. A reduced cost of governance will free substantial funds to fight insecurity, provide social safety nets for the generality of the people, fund developmental projects, and stem the current penchant for external and local borrowing by government.
3. Put pressure on the National Assembly to pass the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), which has gone into our history as the longest bill to ever go through legislative processes. It is of common knowledge that the petroleum industry has been long overdue for an overhaul and the passage of the bill will be a major boost. That the bill has stayed this long in the National Assembly militates against improved corporate governance in the oil sector.
4. There is a need to avoid the debt overhang inherent in excessive borrowing. We are aware that borrowing is good so long as such loans are deployed to funding enduring development projects, within the GDP ratio. However, the current borrowing in the face of the slide in the value of the country’s number-one revenue earner (oil) remains worrisome.
5. We appeal to politicians and state actors to minimise their inflammatory rhetoric in order to reduce tension and ease the growing sense of fear among the people.
Kabiru A. Yusuf
President, Newspaper Proprietors’ Association of Nigeria (NPAN), & president, Nigerian Press Organisation (NPO)
President, Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE)
President, Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ)
May 25, 2021