..Apppoints Ambode chairman, Umahi, Dickson co-chairmen
By Chinelo Obogo
The Southern Governors Forum (SGF), has given a definite support in unison to the calls for deovultion of powers and true federalism.
This was part of the resolution it adopted Monday at the end of its summit which held at the State House, Lagos.
At the end of the meeting, Governor Akinwumi Ambode of Lagos announced that the forum has resolved to push for devolution of powers and collaborate with each other to push for the development of the Southern part of Nigeria.
The communique issued at the end of the meeting hinted that: “We reiterate our belief in true federalism and devolution of powers. We are committed to collaborating with one another for the growth and development of our economies.
“We also emphasize the need for effective linkage on good infrastructure within Southern Nigeria and we are also committed to a united and indivisible nation.”
Earlier on in his speech, Ambode urged the governors from the 17 Southern States, to urgently demand and push for devolution of powers in the ongoing 1999 Constitution amendment.
He pleaded with those present to collaborate with their State Houses of Assembly and ensure that the devolution of powers is achieved and passed into law in the ongoing constitution amendment.
“There is a lot to be done about true federalism, an issue that requires urgent, meticulous and proactive attention by this forum. No less disturbing is the failure to undertake the periodic review of the revenue allocation formula as provided for by the Constitution to reflect evolving realities.
“All too often, states are disparaged for always carrying begging bowls to Abuja in quest of handouts from the federal government. This is a function of our present Constitution that burdens the federal government with responsibilities that falls within the province of the states.
“The productivity and revenue generating capacities of most states are thus stifled, turning them into no better than street beggar states incapable of meeting routine obligations of paying workers’ salaries and pensions without federal support.
The resolution of the SGF comes at the most appropriate time as the Senate and House of Representatives are harmonising the provisions in the proposed amendment of the 1999 constitution.
“It is important for this forum to compreshensively look at the proposed amendments with a view to working with our respective Houses of Assembly to ensure a coordinated response on our part that will strengthen the practice of democracy, federalism and institutionalisation of the rule of law.
“In our deliberation, particularly on the pressing need for devolution of powers, our preoccupation must not be with having a weak center and strong states or vice versa, rather, we want a center which will function on the basis of democratic principles and safeguard the unity and integrity of the nation,” Ambode said.
The forum subsequently appointed Ambode as its chairman, while Governors Dave Umahi of Ebonyi and Seriake Dickson will serve as co-chairmen.
The SGF was formed by former governor of Lagos State, Bola Tinubu and had its first meeting in Lagos in 2001 and the last meeting in 2005.
Besides Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo state who was absent and didn’t send a representative, 13 Southern governors were physically present, while Governors Willie Obiano of Anambra, Ben Ayade of Cross River and Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta sent representatives.
Those present were Governors Ayo Fayose, Ekiti, Abiola Ajimobi,Oyo, Ibikunle Amosun, Ogun, Godwin Obaseki, Edo, Okezie Ikpeazu,Abia, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, Enugu, Rauf Aregbesola, Osun, Nyesom Wike, Rivers,Seriake Dickson, Bayelsa, Dave Umahi,Ebonyi, Emmanuel Udom, Akwa Ibom and Rotimi Akeredolu, Ondo.
No reason was given for Okorocha’s absence.
The forum subsequently announced that it’s next meeting will take place in Rivers State.