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Restructuring via 2014 national conference report

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The issue of the restructuring of Nigeria has generated both positive and negative reactions and comments as it continues to dominate public discourse. Therefore, I will try in this lecture to examine restructuring in relation to some of the critical aspects of the recommendations in the report of the 2014 National Conference. This is with a view to highlighting the relevance of the recommendations to the restructuring which Nigerians are clamouring for. Nigerians define the word “restructuring” in different ways for political, economic and ethnic reasons. I believe that recourse to a dictionary will throw light on the exact meaning of restructuring. According to the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, the word restructuring means “organizing something in a new way or giving a new or different structure to something”. This dictionary also defines the word “Federalism” as “a system of government in which several states unite but keep considerable control over their own internal affairs”.

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Nigeria secured its independence in 1960 on a federal constitutional arrangement accepted by the leaders of ethnic nationalities and political parties. This arrangement presupposes the admission and recognition of the fact that the geographical expression called Nigeria is made up of heterogeneous people with different cultures, traditions, religions, languages etc. At that time, Nigeria operated as a true federal state. The regions took full responsibilities for determining their destinies. Each region developed at its pace and each was responsible for generating its own resources, merely paying tax to the Federal Government. None of the regions waited on Lagos, then the Federal Capital, for monthly allocations. No region called on the Federal Government to fix any road, furnish any school or equip any hospital. Unfortunately, after the coup de’tat of January 15, 1966 when Major General Aguiyi- Ironsi became the Head of State, he came up, on May 24, with the unification Decree 34 of 1966. That Decree abolished the federal structure of Nigeria and concentrated powers at the centre. Since that time, the regions and subsequently the states, were deprived of right to minerals in their domain and the Federal Government became the custodian of the country’s resources and treasures.

When Nigeria returned to democratic governance In 1979, the unitary- like federal structure bequeathed to the country by the military was sustained by the political class up till the present time. It is disheartening to say that since the abrogation of Nigeria’s federal structure in 1966, development has been very slow, especially, at the state and local government levels because the Federal Government is involved in many state and local government affairs such as primary education, primary health care, maintaining roads in rural areas and provision of water. The Federal Government has also taken control over mineral resources. No state can tap any mineral deposit within its area without seeking approval from the Federal Government. This situation has two consequences. The first is that the Federal Government Is heavily overloaded with responsibilities that it has capacity to carry. Consequently many of its projects are either being executed shabbily or are not executed at all in spite of huge resources allocated to them. As a result, many federal roads are in a state of disrepair. Many federal water projects have been abandoned just as many primary health care facilities run by the Federal Government are in a state of dilapidation. The implication of this is that the current skewed structure in operation in Nigeria has contributed greatly to the backwardness we experience as a people.

The second consequence of our present situation is that the states and local governments have been denied the opportunity to develop their potentials and convert their natural resources to opportunities for their people. Hence, the people become impoverished. Advocates of the restructuring of Nigeria have used various platforms to explain and rationalize their advocacy with unassailable data. While the advocacy appears to gain momentum and capture the attention of most Nigerians, some other Nigerians claim that what restructuring means in contents remains vague In spite of this negative reaction, notable groups and personalities have lent their unwavering support for restructuring. The groups include the pan-Yoruba soclo-political organization, Afenifere, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the Yoruba Leadership and Peace initiative, the Yoruba Unity Forum (YUF) and the Association of Middle Belt Ethnic Nationalities (ASOBEN). Some of the prominent Nigerians who have supported the call for a restructured Nigeria are as follows: In his Sallah message to Nigerians in June, 2017, Former military President, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida said inter alia: “Restructuring has become a national appeal as we speak, whose time has come. I will strongly advocate devolution of powers to the tent that more responsibiLities be given to the states while the Federal Government is vested with the responsibility to oversee our foreign policy, defence, and economy.

Even the idea of having federal roads in towns and cities has become outdated and urgently needs revisiting. That means we need to tinker with our constitution to accommodate new thoughts that will strengthen our nationality.” (Sunday Tribune, 2 July, 2017). As the Guest speaker at the Annual Professor Ademola Popoola Public Lecture at the Facufty of Law, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife on the 6th of March, 2017 former Vice President, AIhaji Atiku Abubakar said: “While those calling for restructuring may be driven by different motives, there is certainly strong case for restructuring our federation. My reasons are simply that the current structure, which concentrates two much power and resources in the centre, makes us economically unproductive, uncompetitive, indolent and politically weak, disunited and unstable..”

Speaking during a symposium organized in memory of the late chairman of the National Democratic coalition (NADECO), Senator Abraham Adesanya, in Lagos in May 2018, former Secretary General of the Commonwealth, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, said: “Nigeria will not achieve enduring political stability or realize its deserved development potential with its present non-conducive “Federal” constitution. I believe that restructuring Nigeria’s present governance architecture by returning to the provisions of its 1960 and 1963 constitutional arrangements will not only help the emergence of a leadership that will pave the way for a national rebirth, but will also put the country on a more assured path to political stability and faster socio-economic development”. (Nigerian Tribune, 9 May, 2018).The leader of the Ijaw ethnic nationality, Chief Edwin Clark, a strong advocate of restructuring said: “The reason Nigeria is not progressing the way it should is because of the unitary form of government we operate in the name of federalism. I think that is the problem. We need to restructure the country in line with the 2014 National Conference recommendations.

I strongly believe that a return to a federal system of government like we had it under the 1960 and 1963 constitutions will make Nigeria progress.” (Sunday Tribune, 16 December, 2018). While receiving the leadership of a pan-Yoruba sociocultural organization, Yoruba Koya lovement in Lagos in December, 2018, the Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Honourable j4usdashiru Obasa, said: “Contrary to the perception of people, I am a pro-restructuring comrade. I am 100 per cent in support of restructuring of Nigeria. I stand for a new people’s constitution drafted and written by the people. I have been supporting this struggle since I emerged as speaker and I will continue to do so.

Lagos State House of Assembly, under my leadership, has passed resolutions times without number, calling for the restructui-ing of Nigeria.

We at the state House of Assembly cannot initiate it but there is no way the process can be completed without our input.” (Nigerian Tribune, 20 December, 2018).

 

The protracted grievances of the various ethnic nationalities that make up Nigeria include political hegemony of a section of the country, marginalization, unjust revenue sharing formular, precarious national security, lack of good governance and distorted federal appointments.

Another worrisome issue is the lopsided political structure that favours the North against the Southern divide. This constitutes a major source of friction among the ethnic nationalities that make up the Federal Republic of Nigeria because the inequitable distribution of states, federal and state constitutencies confers an advantage on the Northern part of the country. Constituting another major source of crisis is the controversial revenue sharing formular, which enables the Federal Government get the lion share. Consequently, there is the clamour for resource control by states based on the principles of federalism. It is against this backdrop that many leaders from the three geo-political zones in the South and the North- Central zone have forged a coalition towards effecting a balanced and workable governance structure for Nigeria.,

 

  1. The Restructuring that Nigeria Needs

Speaking as a guest lecturer at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, on the occasion of the Senior Staff Club Lecture Series, on Wednesday, the l9’ of July, 2017, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar’s speech clearly explains the contents of the restructuring that Nigeria needs. He said inter alla: “To me, restructuring means making changes to our current federal structure so that it comes closer to what our founding leaders established, in response to the very issues and challenges that led them to opt for a less centralized system. It mens devolving more powers to the federating units with the accompanying resources. It means greater control by the federating units of the resources in their areas. It would men, by implication, the reduction of the powers and roles of the Federal Government so that it would concentrate only on those matters best handled by the centre, such as defence, foreign policy, monetary and fiscal policies, immigration, customs and excise, aviation as wcll as setting and enforcing national standards on such matters as education,: health and safety.” (Nigerian Tribune, 20 July, 2017).

Expressing his views on the restructuring that Nigeria needs, Chief Ayo Adebanjo said: “The restructuring we are asking for it not new; it is the independence constitution given to us by our founding fathers. It is the constitution given to us by Sardauna, Awolowo, Azikiwe, and others.” (Nigerian Tribune, 9 May, 2018).

To put it in a nutshell, the contents of the restructuring agenda that Nigeria needs involve the restoration of the powers, responsibilities and resources of the federating units i.e. the states as contained in the 1960 and 1963 constitutions.

 

  1. Critical Aspects of Restructuring Tackled in the Recommendations of the 201.4 National Conference

In an attempt to solve the perennial problems in the Nigerian polity, the 2014 National Conference based its report and recommendations on the outcome of the critical examination of the 1999 constitution. It is pertinent to state that the recommendations in the report of the conference were arrived at by consensus among the delegates drawn from all the six geopolitical zones of Nigeria under the Chairmanship of the late Justice Idris Legbo Kutigi.

Some of the key issues in the final report arid recommendations of the Conference which deal directly with restructuring include the following:

 

(I) Devolution of Powers

The lopsided structural composition of Nigeria’s federal system has led to agitations for a review of the legislative lists allotted to the three tiers of government. As stated above, there is an over-concentration of power at the centre to the detriment of the federating units of the country. This distorted pqwer arrangement in favour of the federal government has resulted in bloated administrative machinery at the centre. Section 7 of the 1999 constitution has 83 items in the Federal Exclusive Legislative list as against 15 items for the states (which the Federal Government can also override)..

The 2014 National. Conference therefore recommends that there is need to reduce the legislative powers at the federal level and devolve same to the federating units.

 

(ii) Resource Control

In the First Republic when Nigeria was operating a true federal system of government, the constituent regions controlled and retained the bulk of their revenues, mostly from agriculture and paid tax to the Federal Government. The regions met their obligations with those revenues. They built roads, bridges, hospitals, schools, paid their employees, including civil servants, teachers and provided security with their police forces.

In the Exclusive legislative list tucked in the second schedule of the 1999 constitution, all items of economic value in Nigeria, such oil and gas, electricity, aviation, mines and minerals, customs and excise, taxation, railway, admission into universities, etc, are all under the control of the Federal Government, thus crippling the states and local governments, which truly own these resources.

The 2014 conference recommends local control of resources and the review of the percentage of revenue allocation of states producing oil and other resources. This will encourage the federating units to look at untapped resources in their respective domains and promote healthy rivalry among them.

 

(iii) Fiscal Federalism: Revenue Sharing and Sharing Formula

In the present situation in Nigeria, the 1999 constitution empowers the federal Government to determine the terms and manner of revenue allocation. This is regarded as a negation of the principles of fiscal federalism. The existing sharing formula of the funds accruing to the Federation A€count among the three tiers of government stands at:

(i) Federal Government — 52.68%

(ii) State Governments — 26.72%

(iii) Local Governments — 20.60%

 

The new sharing formular recommended by the 2014 conference is as follows:

(i) Federal Government — 42.5%

(ii) State Governments — 35%

(iii) Local Governments – 22.5%

(iv) Power Sharing/Rotation

With regard to power sharing/rotation the conference recommends that presidential power shoUld rotate between the North and the South and among the six geopolitical zones while the governorship of the state should rotate among the three senatorial districts of a state.

 

(v) State Police

At present the law-enforcement agencies in Nigeria are few, ill- equipped and they are not adequately motivated. A state governor, who is the chief security officer of his state, does not have any control over the commissioner of police in his own state. It is pertinent to note that the American system that we copied in Nigeria makes provision for three tiers of police to cater for its security.

The 2014 conference therefore, recommends the establishment of state police at the state level to be funded and controlled by the state to ensure effective policing at state levels. It also recommends that a state law may provide for community policing to ensure effective policing at community levels.

 

(vi) Immunity Clause

The conference recommends the removal of immunity clause for executive office holders.

 

(vii) Agricultural Restructuring

The 2014 National Conference recommends that cattle routes and grazing resenies be phase out to lay emphasis on ranching. This is in order to tackle the perennial conflict between herdsmen and farmers, leading to widespread attacks by herdsmen.

 

(viii) Creation of Eighteen(18) New States

In the present governance structure, the North has more states and local government areas which give it greater strength and representation in the National Assembly and federal appointments.

Considering state creation as part of restructuring, the 2014 conference recommends the creation of new eighteen (18) states on the basis of parity between the geopolitical zones so that each zone will have nine (9) states to ensure equality of zones. The objective is to foster the spirit of equity, fair play and justice.

It is extremely gratifying to say that our proposed New Oyo State is among the 18 new states recommended by theconference.

People who argue against creation of new states say that the states as they are presently are not viable. They cannot beviable because the Federal Government takes huge amount of money by collecting over 50 percent of national revenue. In addition to many ministers, there is a large number of presidential advisers and assistants who themselves have personal assistants. There are also hundreds of federal parastatals which have hundreds of party men and women who are board members and constitute a huge drain on the resources of the country. At the state level, most governors appointed many political office holders with jumbo pay that does not justify their functions, at the expense of the core civil servants. Most of the appointed special assistants or advisers are not relevant to governance. Governors need to cut down their expenses on political appointees in order to make the states viable.

 

  1. Conclusion

It is clear from the foregoing analysis that the present structure of the Nigerian Federal system has subordinated the states, which ought to exist in a coordinate arrangement with the central government. Powers of the states have been eroded over matters that fell within their jurisdiction in the pre and post-independence constitutions of Nigeria.

It should be noted that the accomplishments of the old Western Region, the old Northern4.egion and theold Eastern Region under the leadership of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Sir Ahmadu Bello nd Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe respectively, were substantially consequent upon the high level of autonomy the Regions had under the 1960/1963 constitutions. One reason the above mentioned leaders were that successful is attributable to the conducive environment provided by the governance structure of that era.

At this stage we should not pretend that all is well with Nigeria. We must agree that there is a need to carry out a holistic restructuring of Nigeria in order to actualize devolution of powers, fiscal federalism, resource control and the review of the unjust laws that hold the country from attaining its maximum potentials economically, politically and socially. In other words, our new constitution must embrace the principles enshrined in the 1960 and 1963 constitutions which should be modified in the light of the recommendations in the report of the 2014 National Conference. This will promote peaceful coexistence, harmony and greater security among the country’s various ethnic nationalities, thereby giving Nigeria a new lease of life.

Your Royal Highness, respectable members of the Oyo Pinnacle Club, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, I thank you all for listening.

(Being a lecture delivered by Professor Malik at the Annual Luncheon of the Oyo Pinnacle Club on Saturday, 12 January 2019 at the Pinnacle House, GRA, Oyo)

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