A former governor of Akwa Ibom State, Victor Attah, on Wednesday restated his opposition to the continued use of population as one of the criteria for allocating revenue to states.
Mr. Attah, a delegate from Akwa Ibom to the National Conference convened by former President Goodluck Jonathan in 2014, said the government should move to jettison that and allow the practice of true federalism.
The former governor was speaking in Abuja at a reception organised in honour of Ben Ukpong, one of the five appointees sworn in as members of the board of the National Population Commission, NPC, by the acting President, Yemi Osinbajo.
“You have a serious assignment,” Mr. Attah told the new federal commissioner. “In today’s Nigeria, and sadly, as one who believes in true federalism and resource control, population should not be one of the criteria for allocation of revenue to states by the federal government.
“But, I charge you to go there and get the indices that would help the state to get money from the federal government in the meantime. We are looking forward to that day when the country will have true federalism and the states will be able to use what they have to develop their areas.
“At that point, the critical thing will be to make sure the states know their true population to enable them plan for their development, in terms of education, employment and perhaps tailor university programmes to suit the needs of the states in the country.”
He frowned at the absence of a representative of either Akwa Ibom governor, Udom Emmanuel, or the government, at the reception.
He said citizens should always see issues affecting the interest of the state beyond political lines.
“This is the message I want to send to the state governor, Udom Emmanuel: If you do not recognize your own people and promote them, nobody else will recognize and promote them.
“It is critically important therefore that I urge our government to call together all the people who have found favour with the government of the federation through their appointments into the federal cabinet and give them a big reception, and say a big thank you to the government of Nigeria for recognising them,” the former governor said.
He urged Mr. Ukpong to meet with the state governor to get a brief from him on what Akwa Ibom expects from the Commission, to ensure the state was seen as working in harmony with the federal government.
Also speaking, Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Ita Enang, underlined the need for Akwa Ibom to work closely with the NPC to ensure the population of the state was properly recorded to improve its revenue profile.
Considering that population remained one of the indices for revenue allocation in the country, Mr. Enang said there was need for the state government to liaise effectively with its representative in the commission to ensure its interest was adequately protected.
“In the 2017 budget presented to the State Assembly, the governor said of the N104 billion revenue realized in the first nine months, only N11 billion was internally generated, with N93 billion coming from the federal government.
“This means, the state has a lot to gain by relating well with the federal government through the state representatives,” he said.
Citing Cross River state example, the presidential aide urged federal appointees from Akwa Ibom to establish and maintain good relationships with the state government for the benefit of the people.
“In Cross River, this is where everything seems right in having good political relationship among the people. As a result of this, they have the Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Chief of Naval Staff, the Chairman, Niger Delta Development Commission and Minister of Niger Delta from the state.
While commending President Muhammadu Buhari for the appointment of indigenes of the states at the federal level so far, Mr. Enang urged the people to bury their political differences and cooperate to promote the interest of Akwa Ibom at all times.
Managing Director, Oil and Gas Free Zones Authority, Okon Umanah, thanked President Muhammadu Buhari for the confidence reposed in Mr. Ukpong, who was his running mate during his gubernatorial elections in 2015.
Mr. Umanah described Mr. Ukpong as “competent, experienced and trustworthy,” saying his appointment was well deserved, particularly as it went beyond ethnic, tribal or political boundaries.
In his response, Mr. Ukpong thanked the people of state for recommending him to the President, promising to do his best in discharging his responsibilities, to justify the confidence and trust.