The Yoruba ethnic group, one of the major ethnic nationality in Nigeria has threatened to secede from Nigeria, unless the ongoing Constitutional Conference guarantees autonomy for the region, stressing that it remains the minimum condition to continue as one Nigeria.
The demands were made at a joint news conference by leadership of the Yoruba Assembly comprising Afenifere Renewal Group, O’dua Foundation, O’dua Nationalist Coalition, Afenifere Youth Forum, Atayese, Agbekoya Reformed Society and Coalition for O’dua Self-determination Group among others addressed at Gani Fawehinmi Park, Ojota, Lagos.
National Secretary, Chief Ayo Afolabi and Chairman of Atayese Yoruba Group, Chief Tokunbo Ajasin, read a joint statement titled, “Regional Autonomy… or Nothing” on behalf of the group, in which it stated in clear terms that it is inconceivable that northern leaders “are the ones leading the campaign against devolution of power and restructuring of government.”
The ethnic group said it was baffled at the take-it-or-leave-it attitude of delegates from other ethnic nationalities, particularly the Northern delegates who they said circulated a document full of fallacies few weeks ago that the North “has about 80 percent of Nigerian population and that its resources were used to develop oil sectors.”
The group explained that if any region in the federation “needs a stronger federating unit with greater capacity to provide education, health, security, wealth creation and other social amenities, it is the North where strong links exist between the level of poverty and conscription of innocent youths into extremist tendencies.”
The Yoruba group said it appears Northern leaders are not concerned, and indeed have no plan for the teeming youth from the region, as long as they are able to continue clinging to their hold on power, adding that regional autonomy remains the most viable instrument for a stronger and united Nigeria and that the Yoruba People of Nigeria would not accept anything less than what it called minimum demands.
The group is demanding a regional government with its own constitution and unfettered political and fiscal autonomy, except on issues it agrees to cede to the federal government.”
For the group, the South-west geopolitical region “must include all Yoruba people outside the imposed artificial boundaries in Edo, Delta, Kogi and Kwara States.”
Part of its demands includes a negotiated legislative exclusive, concurrent and residual list, unicameral legislature at the centre; details of the Regional legislature shall be clearly set out in the constitution; parliamentary form of government at the centre; and the right to self determination on and up to the right to secede.
Other demands include a just and equitable taxation system that “will treat the federating units with equality and better coordination at the federal level.
“A system whereby a substantial part of the proceeds accruable from every federating unit will be retained and an agreed percentage contributed to the centre by the federating units for the responsibility of the Federal government,” the group said.
The group demanded establishment of regional police and a new people‘s constitution, which the resolutions and conclusions of the 2014 National Conference shall lead “to an autonomous constitution, that is a home-grown and all inclusive draft that shall be submitted to the Nigerian electorate voting in a Referendum.
It, also, demanded special status of Lagos, which it said, would continue to be the economic nerve centre of Nigeria and the West Africa, hence, there shall be an appropriate budgetary provision that is part of the First Line Charge in the Federation Account.