- Femi Falana said the issue of restructuring must not just favour the ruling class
- The rights lawyer noted that the fight against corruption must be collective
- He urged religious bodies to be more proactive in the fight against corruption
Human rights lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Femi Falana, has said that without equitable redistribution of the country’s wealth, Nigeria cannot be seriously restructured.
Vanguard reports that Falana gave this position in a paper delivered at the 19th Mike Okonkwo Annual Lecture at Muson Centre, Onikan on Lagos on Wednesday, September 5.
He noted that the ruling class has always stirred the country for their own benefit and insisted that it was high time this changed.
Falana took a swipe at Atiku Abubakar, a presidential aspirant on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, for championing restructuring when he failed to do so as vice president. He called on Nigerians to see the fight against corruption as a collective effort.
The statement read in part: “A leading PDP presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar has become one of the leading proponents of restructuring. But his support for restructuring has not addressed the crucial issue of the redistribution of the national wealth. After all, in his capacity as the nation’s Vice President and chairman of the National Council on Privatisation, Alhaji Abubakar presided over the restructuring of the nation’s economy through the liquidation of public assets and the privatization of the commanding height of the economy.
“The policy led to a situation whereby all major public enterprises and assets including oil blocks were sold to the so called 'core investors.' Such official transfer of the commonwealth to a few local and foreign corporate bodies will have to be reversed in the interests of the people.
“The nation cannot be seriously restructured without equitable redistribution of wealth. Therefore, those who have cornered our commonwealth should not be allowed to talk of restructuring in vacuo. In other words, the campaign for restructuring should encompass the decentralization and democratization of political and economic powers which have been privatised by all factions of the ruling class.
“Since the Constitution has clearly stated that the welfare and security of the people shall be the primary purpose of government, Nigerians must demand an end to a policy that allows political office holders and civil servants who constitute less than 1% of the population to continue to allocate 70% of the nation’s resources to themselves.”
According to him, if the federal government could withdraw US$12.4 billion from the foreign reserves to pay "questionable external debts", it cannot turn round to complain of lack of fund to fix collapsed social infrastructures, education, health transportation and agriculture and create jobs for our army of unemployed youths.
He suggested that funds recovered from corrupt public officers and their privies should be spent on job creation and fixing of hospitals and schools as well as the provision of other social services.
Falana said majority of members of the ruling class have insisted on restructuring, religious groups have recommended prayers as the panacea to Nigeria's problems, while the Buhari regime has identified corruption as the root cause of the nation’s underdevelopment. He said all these propositions are being canvassed to cover up the real cause of the underdevelopment of the country.
He stated: “The Minister of Information and the spokesperson for the Buhari administration, Alhaji Lai Mohammed has cautioned Nigerians not to make the mistake of returning to Egypt by voting for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Although the Minister did not say whether the All Progressive Congress (APC) is actually taking the Nigerian people to the Promised Land it is indisputable that we are currently stranded in the desert.
“Convinced that the programmes and manifestoes of the ruling party and the mainstream opposition political parties cannot take Nigeria to the Promised Land I challenge the Nigerian people to take their destiny in their own hands by organising themselves to demand for the actualisation of the fundamental objectives and directive principles set out in Chapter two of the Constitution."
He challenged religious leaders to team up with patriotic forces to organise, empower and mobilise the people to rebuild the country on the platform of social justice and equity or else, the unity of Nigeria will remain a mirage.
“We must reject the shameful categorisation of Nigeria as a rich country with the largest concentration of poor people in the world. It is high time that poverty was seriously attacked through the empowerment of the masses and job creation for young people. We must reject poverty alleviation or reduction and demand poverty eradication.
“Even though President Buhari has threatened to jail corrupt elements in the society he has no control over the criminal justice system that is largely controlled by the suspects and their lawyers. As no corrupt-free government can be established in a country where the majority of the citizens wallow in abject poverty, it is high time government reviewed its market-oriented economic programme inspired by imperialist forces.
“The political class which inherited the structures of colonisation has perfected the manipulation of ethnicity and religion to keep the oppressed people divided and disunited so that they will not challenge the basis of their poverty and ignorance. Since the ideas of the ruling class are the prevailing and dominant ideology many professional and religious groups have equally been divided along ethnic lines. In view of such manipulation the masses have been made to believe that Nigeria cannot be a united country.
“The PDP which never altered the status quo when it had the opportunity of ruling the country for 16 years is currently demanding restructuring as a basis of moving the nation forward. The leading sociocultural groups have also opted for restructuring to guarantee the development and corporate existence of the country. But the Buhari administration has kicked against restructuring so as to prevent the purported break-up of the country and has therefore insisted on the fight against corruption and judicious management of resources," he said.
Meanwhile, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has replied ex-vice president Atiku Abubakar after the latter stated that Osinbajo got it wrong on the issue of restructuring.
The vice president responded to Atiku's statement on Tuesday, September 4, saying that the ex-vice president's argument on restructuring was unclear and has mixed up with good governance and diversification of the economy, Vanguard reports.
NAIJ.com gathers that Atiku intended to score cheap political points by bringing up restructuring concept he was not conversant with.
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