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Biafra: How FG can end agitation – Ex-Perm Sec, Olaopa

Ex-Permanent Secretary at the Presidency, Tunji Olaopa, has canvassed ways call for Biafra can be ended without causing upheavals.

Olaopa listed them as devolution of more powers to states and local governments in the South East, introducing a regional government in the South East, reviewing the federal character principle and decentralizing anti-corruption strategy and policing.

He said this at a conference organized by the Nigerian Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies (NPISS), Kuru.

The retired Federal Permanent Secretary while speaking on the topic: “Re-federalising Nigeria and the Challenge of Innovative Governance,” argued that the federal character principle was beautiful for a plural society like Nigeria but submitted that its application had been abused with merit constantly sacrificed to the disadvantage of the country.

Olaopa noted that devolving more powers, particularly to indigenous governance structures and systems will enhance their ability to address peculiar governance needs.

He underscored the importance of regionalizing the South-East for economic prosperity; adding that this will also relieve the Federal Government of its heavy burden.

He said: “Regionalism devolves critical autonomies to the federating units in any federation. While the regional arrangement of the First Republic may have been long compromised,

“I am strongly convinced that the six pragmatically expedient geopolitical zones in Nigeria could serve as the launch-pad for instigating an economically vibrant development rivalry that constituted the core of the regionalism of the immediate post-independence period.

“Nigeria’s present structure of an overburdened centre struggling to carry 36 viable and unviable states does not have the capacity to maximise the significant gains of a genuine fiscal federalism.

“The re-federalising logic in this case is, therefore, founded on a simple principle: political restructuring as a precondition for economic prosperity.”

Olaopa, who also is the Executive Vice Chairman, Ibadan School of Government and Public Policy (ISGPP), further argued that Nigeria needs to leverage political and economic dimensions for making the regional idea work.

The political dimension, he said, requires transforming the six geopolitical zones into regions made up of states and local governments.

“The economic dimension requires leveraging the comparative advantages of each region as the source of development. While agriculture will definitely constitute a developmental common denominator across the region, as a counterpoint to the mono-economic domination of crude oil, each region can then be allowed to explore and exploit its peculiar economic advantage, especially in mineral resources.”

On the need to decentralise the anti-corruption strategy and policing, the public administrator said centralisation of anti-corruption fight “paradoxically makes the Federal Government both too powerful but then too weak to adequately fight corruption and unleash development energies.

“The Federal Government becomes powerful because the strategy for fighting corruption is centralised in the Federal Ministry of Justice and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). But this centralised strategy immediately reveals the weakest point of the anti-corruption campaign: the multitude of cases concentrated at one point ensures that the campaign will never move forward.

“We are, therefore, confronted with the imperative of decentralising the anti-corruption laws, regulations and policies in a manner that reposes legal capabilities in states and local government as junctures of justiciable actions.”

Emphasising the need for multi-level policing, Olaopa said: “One growing sign of Nigeria’s underdevelopment is its multiple security challenge demonstrated by kidnapping, terrorism and insurgency, armed robbery, and sundry criminal activities, which a central policing strategy has no hope of ever arresting.

 “This is all the more so because some of these security challenges have regional locus, like that of the Boko Haram insurgency in the North-Eastern part of Nigeria, and kidnapping in the South-Eastern part, with criminal militancy manifesting in the South-South. Thus, while we have debated the bad points of multilevel policing, I suspect it is high time we began critical interrogating its many crucial advantages.”

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