Governor of Kaduna and Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Committee on True Federalism, Nasir El-Rufai, held an interactive session on Wednesday with a cross section of youths in Abuja.
Below are 6 takeaways from the event:
1. Finally, an admission on security votes: The governor queried those who believe security votes are used by state governors to enrich themselves. According to him, although it has been subject to abuse in recent times, security votes can be likened to funds for contingencies.
“The idea of security vote is for the governor to have discretionary funds to deal with emergency situations because you don’t know when you will have security challenges and you need money to be able to respond to these challenges. Sometimes, you need money to pay for information and sometimes, you can’t imagine the type of people you pay as informant because armed robbers patronize a lot of places and you need to know what they are planning next. Another use of security vote is to support security agents in the states,” he said.
His response is at odds with what he said in April 2017 during a public spat with the House of Representatives when he asked the National Assembly to publish its budget and they asked him to publish his security votes in return. The governor quickly published the state’s security budget. But the lawmakers pointed out that the security budget of the state is different from the governor’s security votes. In response, El-Rufai said: “This may be a shock to those used to the notion of security votes as barely disguised slush funds, but we do not operate such a system in Kaduna. Our budgets specify what is voted as assistance to security agencies, and its expenditure is properly recorded and accounted for. These are not monies given to or spent by the governor.”
His response to the question today is an admission that he indeed receives security votes.
2. 100 percent resource control by states impossible: According to El-Rufai, those advocating for 100 percent resource control for states are living in dreamland. This is because the National Assembly will have to sanction it but they would not because those whose states are without oil are in the majority there.
“There is absolutely no way in the Nigeria of today that a state that has oil will have 100 per cent of the revenue. That is not possible because to get that document through, you have to pass it through the National Assembly and in the National Assembly, there are more states that have no oil than those that have oil and so, they will vote it down.”
3. Equality of states is injustice: The governor said it will be injustice to demand equal states for the six geo-political zones in the country.
“You cannot come here and say we should create nine states in each zone. Nigeria is not equal in terms of land mass, population, resources etc. so, you can’t do that. It is injustice trying to make the unequal equal.”
4. Who wants to scrap the Senate?: El-Rufai also touched on the demands in some quarters that the senate should be scrapped and the National Assembly should have only one chamber in order to cut cost.
“When you make a recommendation that you want to abolish the senate, you should know that the senate cannot be abolished unless the senate votes to abolish the senate. Who is going to vote to make himself unemployed?”
5. Can’t have it both ways: The governor said it is illogical to demand for creation of more states and at the same time complain of the high cost of governance.
“When you say create states on the one hand and on the other hand you say cost of governance is too high, you are contradicting yourself. For every state you create, you are adding to the budget of the country. So, you cannot be saying that the cost of governance is too high and yet ask for more states.“
6. Pragmatic restructuring: For El-Rufai, it is not enough to demand for restructuring or change in the process of governance, it is more important that what is suggested is one that can work having regard to the peculiarities of the Nigerian state as well as taking into consideration the diverse interests in the country.
“We have to work with what we have in a sensible and pragmatic manner and reform what needs to be reformed. We must think for once what will be of interest to the country. We must think of what will be of interest to Nigeria because what will work in one part of the country may not work in another. If we don’t think first of what is of interest to all of us before the individuals, we will only have series of conflicting arguments without consensus.
“So, you better start proposing something that works for the entire country and not just you. Otherwise, it will not help. The greatest injustice you can do is to try to make the unequal equal or the equal unequal,” the governor said.