There is no better time to restructure the country than now, Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike said on Thursday.
He urged President Muhammadu Buhari to heed the call for fiscal federalism and power devolution.
He said the President must act now to douse brewing tension in the country.
The governor reiterated the demands by Southsouth leaders when they met with a presidential delegation led by Chief of Staff to the President, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari on Tuesday.
Chairman of the Southsouth Governors’ Forum and Governor of Delta, Ifeanyi Okowa, who presented the region’s demand, had said: “The previous system of true federalism was jettisoned and it created a powerful centre controlling and distributing all the resources unevenly.
“There was now a strong desire to restructure the country to guarantee peace, security, stability and progress of the nation.
“The region demands true federalism and devolution of powers to the states, including creating and managing their police and security architecture, true fiscal federalism guided by the principle of derivation, revenue sharing and control of resources by each state”.
Wike, speaking when he appeared on a television programme, according to a statement by his media aide, Kelvin Ebiri, urged the President to meet the demands.
He said: “You have to show leadership by saying, ‘I have listened to you and these are things we can implement’.
“You may not necessarily implement everything the people are talking about or may want. But let people say that under President Buhari, he has been able to implement one, two, three and four demands by the people.
“If he does not take this opportunity, and does not implement some of these requests, I don’t think it will be very good for Nigeria and his legacy.
“If the President does not do so, given the opportunity he has now, then, he will put Nigeria on fire.”
Wike acknowledged that some of the salient demands of the Southsouth zone require constitutional amendments.
He said: “If a constitutional amendment is made and the President vetoes it and not sign it as it has happened with the Electoral Act, then it will become a problem for Nigerians.”
The governor described as regrettable the absence of the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, at the stakeholders’ meeting.
He said the former governor arrived the Government House, Port Harcourt, with Prof Gambari but failed to participate in the meeting.
“When I asked the Chief of Staff: ‘where is my minister?’ He was also shocked because he knew that the minister was at the airport with them,” Wike said.
He dismissed insinuation by the Deputy Senate President, Obarisi Ovie Omo-Agege, that National Assembly members and ministers from the zone were not consulted before the meeting.
“We are playing politics with issues that concern Nigerians; issues that concern the region. I don’t need to be told.
“Assuming I am a legislator, and something like this happens, I will rush back to the state to meet the governor; to meet the stakeholders and say ‘what do we do?’.
“You don’t need to wait for the governor to call you. It is your responsibility as a representative of the people.
“You heard that your state has been burnt down, for example. You don’t expect somebody who is bereaved to begin to call, to say ‘I am bereaved’,” WIke said.
The accused the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) leadership of non-cooperation and corruption.
“Regrettably, those appointed are politicians who have refused to work with PDP governors in the region.
“Rivers State Government went to court and challenged NDDC that you cannot do what you are doing without consultation, without the approval of the state government.
“The court agreed with the Rivers State government. ‘NDDC you cannot do what you are doing; you are distorting the physical development of the state’.”
The governor lamented the continuous politicisation of security in the country saying it had prevented the take-off of the State Neighbourhood Safety Corps.
He accused the Army of preventing the Corps from operating, despite legislative backing.
“You are talking about community policing and the state government is not involved. Who pays these officers or the men who are involved in community policing?
“You decide Abuja. You recruit, then you tell the state government to pay. It does not work that way.
“What do you mean by community policing? You are talking about how to provide security in various communities. Who is in charge of these communities?
“That is the problem we have in our federal structure. You cannot say you operate a true federal system when you have only one Police command,” the governor said.
Wike dismissed claims that he owed personnel of the State Transport Company, explaining that Rivers did not have such employees on its database.
According to him, before he assumed office, the state transport company operated as a franchise and did not remit proceeds to the government.