Renowned constitutional lawyer and human rights activist, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), has said the Federal Government “cannot avoid true fiscal federalism” if it must put to rest the various agitations for resource control by ethnic groups in the country.
Speaking on the theme: “True Federalism” at The AUTHORITY Newspapers Awards on Thursday in Abuja, Ozekhome hinted that the current derivation formula being practiced in the country would not guarantee cohesion.
He disclosed that the trouble with the nation could be traced to Nigeria’s “forced” amalgamation in 1914 by the British colonial masters, saying that the nation is often equated to the faulty tripod of the three major ethnic groups of the Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa.
The vocal lawyer noted that the Federal Government could not continue to ignore the minority ethnic nationalities in the scheme of things and expect peaceful co-existence.
“If you ignore the other ethnic group, there will continue to be self-assertion, there will be the clamour for self-determination and you will continue to experience IPOB, MASSOB, Niger Delta militancy, Shiite movement, etc. The reason is that there is great injustice in the system; the country has operated more as a unitary system of government rather than as a federal system of government.
“Federalism is simply a system of government that allows disparate group of people to live within their comfortable zones, respected by others and they themselves respecting others.
“It was 50 percent of the region that produced that mineral resource. Then 25 percent was paid to the federal government at the centre as tax, then the remaining 25 percent was shared by all the four regions with the producing region that had already taken 50 percent, again sharing from that 25 percent.
“How come that suddenly, we are now talking about 15 percent derivation, and even suggesting that those people who are having this 13 percent derivation should show gratitude? Ozekhome queried.
He declared, “under such an unjust system, you will continue to have turbulence because a lot of people will believe that they are being marginalised.
“We need to give voice to the voiceless, we need to allow people to express themselves; self-determination is recognised by the United Nations instrument. To stop it is not by force; it is through dialogue.
“Whilst not advocating any breakup because Nigeria is a beautiful country with our humongous population of up to 180 million people, uncountable natural resources, we must know that in practicing our democracy and federalism, we must allow the minority to have their say even if the majority will have their way.”
“For as long as we continue to operate an unjust and inequitable system, for so long will we continue to have the ‘peace of the graveyard.”