From Juliana Taiwo Obalonye, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday declared that the contentious issues of restructuring, true federalism or devolution of powers are constitutional matters, which only the National Assembly can deal with
He said he is unapologetic in devolving power to the people, hence the reason he signed the Executive Order granting autonomy to state legislature and judiciary.
Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, said Buhari stated this when he received members of the Nigerian Inter-Religious Council (NIREC) led by Co-Chairmen, Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar and President of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Rev. Dr. Samson Supo Ayokunle, at the State House.
According to Buhari: “On the contentious issue of restructuring or true federalism or devolution of powers, like you all know, this is a constitutional matter which only the National Assembly can deal with.
“I remain an unapologetic believer in devolving power to the people and that is why I signed the Executive Order granting autonomy to State Legislature and Judiciary. Unfortunately, this was met with some resistance at the state level and led to a more than two-month strike action that has cost the country a lot of pain.
“Luckily the National Assembly has nearly completed the constitutional review process, which I hope would address some of the burning issues agitating the minds of our people.”
President Buhari assured that efforts were already on to create a more conducive environment to address both direct and indirect causes of challenges, including areas of job creation and employment generation, while appreciating religious leaders for their significant roles in national development, particularly in shaping perspectives.
“Your role is critical in putting the correct perspective out to Nigerians,’’ he said.
On security, the President told the religious leaders that the government was already going after financiers of criminal elements, who also supply them with arms, but were constrained by the strike by judiciary workers.
“Fortunately, this strike has been called off and prosecution of some of these people would soon commence, while our security agencies expand their network in closing in on the others,” he added.
The President assured that the administration remains committed to “quickly pushing this dark side of our history behind us and we are currently making sure that funding would not hamper our efforts.”
According to the President, the last Federal Executive Council meeting approved some funds for the security agencies, which would be put to judicious use.
“As I mentioned yesterday, in Lagos, we would not relent in our efforts at clearing these criminals from all parts of our land, including the forests,” he said.
President Buhari said the government had the major part to play in providing security, adding: “but besides the imperative to abide by democratic processes is the important aspect of support of the citizenry to the security agencies by providing relevant and timely information.”
“I must confess that I am more pained than anyone can imagine with the on-going security challenges because, like you noted during your meeting, they have increased the hunger, pain and anger in the land,’’ he noted.
The President thanked the religious leaders for their patriotism and commitment to ensuring peace and understanding.
“I have listened to you and I am particularly happy that your meeting clearly identified specific and major roles for both the government and the people of Nigeria. This is what has been lacking for some time in the national discourse on addressing our current security challenges.’’
In their comments, NIREC, led by Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar, and President of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Rev Ayokunle, advised the government to fund the armed forces better to confront myriad of security challenges facing the country, block sources of illegal arms, publish names of those funding terrorism and try them.
They also urged the government to recruit more policemen, strengthen the judiciary, tackle unemployment by creating jobs for youths.