By Bolaji Ogundele, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday passed the buck of the demands for restructuring to the National Assembly, saying that true federalism and devolution of powers were issues requiring constitutional amendment.
The President spoke while hosting members of the Nigerian Inter-Religious Council (NIREC), led by the Co-Chairmen, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar and the President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Rev. Dr. Samson Supo Ayokunle, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
He said the National Assembly had already gone far with the required amendments to sections of the Constitution, adding that his position on devolving more power to the people had not changed.
According to a statement issued by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, President Buhari said: “On the contentious issue of restructuring or true federalism or devolution of powers, like you all know, this is a constitutional matter with which only the National Assembly can deal.
“I remain an unapologetic believer in devolving power to the people, and that is why I signed the Executive Order granting autonomy to state legislature and the judiciary.
“Unfortunately, this was met with some resistance at the state level and led to a more than two months strike action that has cost the country a lot of pain.
“Luckily, the National Assembly has nearly completed the constitution review process, which I hope would address some of the burning issues agitating the minds of our people.”
Buhari assured that efforts were already on to create a more conducive environment to address both direct and indirect causes of challenges, including areas of job creation and employment generation, while appreciating religious leaders for their significant roles in national development, particularly in shaping perspectives.
“Your role is critical in putting the correct perspective out to Nigerians,” he said.
On security, the President told the religious leaders that the government was already going after financiers of criminal elements, who also supply them with arms, but were constrained by the strike by Judiciary workers.
“Fortunately, this strike has been called off and prosecution of some of these people would soon commence, while our security agencies expand their network in closing in on the others,” he added.
The President assured that his administration remains committed to “quickly pushing this dark side of our history behind us, and we are currently making sure that funding would not hamper our efforts.”
According to the President, the last Federal Executive Council meeting approved some funds for the security agencies, which he said would be put to judicious use.
“As I mentioned yesterday in Lagos, we will not relent in our efforts at clearing these criminals from all parts of our land, including the forests,” he said.
Buhari said the government had the major part to play in providing security, adding: “But besides the imperative to abide by democratic processes is the important aspect of support of the citizenry to the security agencies by providing relevant and timely information.
“I must confess that I am more pained than anyone can imagine with the ongoing security challenges, because, like you noted during your meeting, they have increased the hunger, pain and anger in the land.”
The President thanked the religious leaders for their patriotism and commitment to ensuring peace and understanding.
“I have listened to you and I am particularly happy that your meeting clearly identified specific and major roles for both the government and the people of Nigeria.
“This is what has been lacking for some time in the national discourse on addressing our current security challenges,” he said.
In their comments, NIREC, led by the Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar, and the President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Rev Dr. Samson Ayokunle, thanked the President for the onerous assignment of leading the country, advising government to fund the armed forces better to confront the myriad of security challenges facing the country, block sources of illegal arms, publish names of those funding terrorism and try them.
They also canvassed the recruitment of more policemen, strengthening of the judiciary, tackling unemployment by creating jobs for youths particularly, and on separatist agitations in the country.
“It is in our togetherness that we are stronger,” NIREC said.