THE APC Committee on True Federalism submitted its report on the 25th of January 2018 to the National Working Committee of the party. Surprisingly over the past two years, members of the ruling APC, despite the inclusion of true federalism in the party’s manifesto for the 2015 elections, have denied the restructuring of Nigeria. Some of the APC notables confessed publicly that they needed to be educated on the true meaning of restructuring. There has been a nationwide debate on the lateness of the admission by the APC that Nigeria’s system of governance and constitution needs to be rejigged and modernized structurally in order to purposefully meet the obligations of good governance.
The APC manifesto for the 2015 elections had pledged to “devolve more revenue and powers to the states and local governments so that decision making is closer to the people” and emphasized the need for political decentralization including local policing. Against this background, one is amazed at the furore and the lethargy of the party leadership and especially President Muhamadu Buhari who promised to “change the Nigerian infrastructure”.
It was even more amazing that Buhari himself had consigned the 2014 confab report which was handed over to him to the archives!
However, this report by the APC committee indicated that it was necessary for the party “to listen”,and “to deliver” what it owes as a duty to the people of Nigeria.
There were about nine key issues and matters which the committee in its public outreach looked into.
It also looked at various reports including the 1994/1995 Obasanjo constitutional conference; the 2005 Abacha national political reform conference and the 2014 Jonathan Abuja national conference in order to see how they compare and what ingredients in the reports might materially benefit an urgently reformed polity of Nigeria.
The APC committee made several recommendations on germane issues in the polity.
- Creations of State: The committee noted in its recommendation that the creation of new states would weaken rather than strengthen true federalism by denying the federating unit enough resources to discharge additional responsibilities that may be thrust on them. But that in the case of the South East Zone which requires a new state in equity with other geopolitical zones may be attended to through existing constitutional avenues if found necessary.
- Merger of States: The committee found that the opposition to the merger of states is very strong in the 3 northern zones and it viewed the growing regional economic cooperation amongst states as a way of merging their economic potentials.
- Derivation Principles: The committee feels that the federal government should expeditiously review the current derivation formula upwardly in favour of solid minerals and hydro-power. That the REVENUE MOBILIZATION and Fiscal Allocation Commission Act 2004 should be amended to vest the commission with the power and responsibility to periodically review the derivation formulas and make proposals to the President who shall then table same to the National Assembly for necessary legislation.
- Fiscal Federalism and Revenue Allocation: Some of the zones preferred maintenance of the status quo, while others preferred an upward review as a better developmental option. The committee observed that the constitution presently provides for the principle of derivation of not less than 13% in Section 162(2) of the Constitution but there is clearly room for its upward review but did not state the extent. Some of the proponents of upward review have in the last years proposed a return to our 1960 independence position of 60% derivation of resource control to the resource owners while the rest is shared among the federal government and the other states. It should be noted that the current formula for sharing revenue is 56% to the Federal Government, 24% to the State Governments, and 20% to the Local Governments. Many contributors nationally have felt that with the devolution of a lot of the present powers of the Federal Government, its share should be greatly reduced in line with its exclusive responsibilities reduction.
- Devolution of Powers: The committee felt that more than 30 items had been variously identified across the 6 zones for devolution from the Federal Government to the State Governments. The items variously mentioned for devolution include the Police and Community Policing, Education, Prisons, Health, Roads, Security, Agriculture, Railway, Mineral Resources, Trades and Commerce and Housing. On an issue like Roads, which should be ceded to the State, it was generally agreed that the Federal Government should on this subject be limited to only a few cross country interstate roads.
This issue of devolution of powers has been the most contentious among the various proponents and opponents. The committee quite rightly observed that the “major issue with the Nigerian Federation is the enormous exclusive legislative powers of the Federal Government with resultant over – centralization of power and authority”.
It is generally believed that a “further decentralization of some of these powers by devolving more powers, autonomy, and resources to the federating units will foster efficiency and sub-national responsiveness and local accountability”.
The committee, therefore, recommended that this would entail the transfer of various items on the exclusive legislative list, some to the concurrent list and others to the residual list of the States.
The major problem which the APC committee then had as shown in the report was the non-itemization sufficiently of the items to be transferred from the exclusive list to the other lists. Indeed it only mentioned 2 items for the exclusive list which are the narcotics and psychotropic substances on the one hand and the registration of businesses operating beyond the state.
Other few items listed as food, fingerprints, labour and industrial relations, police, prisons, public holidays, railways were placed on the concurrent list. It should be noted that in the 1999 Constitution, the exclusive list was composed of about 68 items and one of the national pressure groups the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum in its own contribution to the national debate listed about 11 items only which should be reserved in the exclusive list of the Federal Government and other items to the residual list so as to increase the capacity of the states or coordinating regions/zones to carry out the fundamental developmental programs with adequate financial resources in order to make Nigeria TRULY FEDERAL. It has been observed that in the last 50 years the military had bastardized the Nigerian constitutional requirements into an over centralized “command and control” militaristic system of governance.
It has continuously told a lie to the world that the Nigerian constitution is federal whereas it is truly unitary. This is the reason why Nigeria’s governance system has been dysfunctional, unproductive, and economically comatose.
In the present constitutional set up where the federal and state tiers have joint responsibilities in the concurrent list, the present constitution affirms the superiority of the central government where it attempts to assume any of the responsibilities, in the concurrent list to the disadvantage of the states or regional tiers of government.
The Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum feels that apart from the exclusive legislative list of the central government the other items should be in the residual list under the control of the states/regional or zonal tiers with the primary responsibilities which they can at their own discretion cede to the federal government to be coordinated in the general interest of the Nigerian nation.
To this end, the above leaders affirm their “stand on the point that since Federalism is a system of government founded on democratic principles and institutions in which the power to govern is shared between the national and federating units, such federating units should have control over their own affairs and be treated as equals in status with their own constitutions which should be consistent with federal constitution”.