By Yinka Odumakin
Constitution: A CRITICAL look at the political structures in Nigeria today shows a lot of anomalies and the 2014 National Conference did a lot to bring some sanity. The recommendations are quite far-reaching to change the abnormal that has become our new normal:
5.12 Political Restructuring And Forms of Government
- FEDERALISM: Conference agreed that Federalism denotes a political arrangement in which a country is made up of component parts otherwise called Federating Units. Thus, in a Federation, political powers are constitutionally shared between the central government and the federating units. These powers basically represent the functions of each tier of the federation.
Conference also noted the inherent advantages of a federal system of government in a heterogenous society such as ours. These include:
- the sustenance of unity in diversity;
- expanded opportunities for the various peoples, including minority groups, to participate in the governance of the country; thus minimising the fears of domination and/or marginalisation among minority groups.
It also promotes broad-based development. Consequently, Conference unanimously resolved as follows:
1.Nigeria shall retain a Federal system of government;
- The core elements of the Federation shall be as follows:
- A Federal (Central) Government with States as the federating units; and
- ii. Without prejudice to States constituting the federating units, States that wish to merge may do so in accordance with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).
(a) A two-thirds majority of all members in each of the Houses of Assembly of each of the States in which such merger is proposed, support by resolution, the merger;
(b) a Referendum is conducted in each of the States proposing to merge with 75% of the eligible voters in each of those States approving the merger;
READ ALSO: Memo to Senate Committee on Constitution (1)
(c) the National Assembly, by resolution passed by a simple majority of membership, approves of the merger; and
(d) States that decide to merge shall also reserve the right to demerge following the same procedure and processes for merger.
- REGIONALISM: At independence in 1960, Nigeria had three regions and by 1964 had added a fourth region. All four were autonomous but subordinated only to the Federal Constitution. Then came the military in 1966 when aspects of the Federal Constitution were suspended leading to the creation of 12 states(six in the North and six in the South) in answer to political exigencies, including the protection of minority rights;
(1) Any new state sought to be created must be viable. In considering viability, the following should be taken into consideration:
(a) Any new state should be economically viable;
(b) It should have human, natural and material resources;
(c) It should have a minimum land mass/water mass; and
(d) The viability of the existing state(s) should be taken into consideration as well so as not to create a situation where new State(s) would leave the existing State(s) unviable.
- (2) That State creation should be on the basis of parity between the geo-political zones to ensure equality of zones;
- (3) Additional States should be created in each of the six geo- political zones to bring the number of States in each zone to nine;
4.(4) That 18 more States be created as follows:
- Apa State from the present Benue State; Edu State from Niger State; Kainji State from the present Kebbi State; Katagun State from the present Bauchi State; Savannah State from the present Borno State; Amana State from the present Adamawa State; Gurara State from the present Kaduna State; Ghari State from the present Kano State; Etiti State from the present South East Zone; Aba State from the present Abia State; Adada State from the present Enugu State; Njaba-Anim State from the present Anambra and Imo states; Anioma State from the present Delta State; Ogoja State from the present Cross River State; Ijebu State from the present Ogun State; New Oyo State from the present Oyo State;
- That the third State to be created in the South-South Zone will be named later, along with its state capital;
- That the third State to be created in the South-West Zone will be named later, along with its State Capital; and
The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be amended to allow for less onerous process for creation of States.
- LOCAL GOVERNMENT ADMINISTRATION
Conference recognised local governments as a layer of governance closest to the people and, in effect, a platform for sustainable socio-economic development and popular participation in governance at the grass-root. It, however, noted the alleged abuse of the local government system by state administrations. In tandem with its recommendation under Federalism, Conference introduced some necessary safeguards to guarantee the independence of local government councils.
Conference therefore decided that:
(a) Section 7 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), that a system of local governments by democratically elected Local Government Council be guaranteed;
(b) States wishing to create Local Governments, may create them under the jurisdiction of the States;
(c) The number, structure, form and administration of local governments shall be determined by the States;
(d) Without prejudice to the existing local governments, states that wish to, may create or reduce the number of existing local governments areas, which shall be under the jurisdiction of the State;
(e) The list of the local governments areas contained in the First Schedule of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) be removed, and transferred to the States to be covered by a law of the State Houses of Assembly;
(f) The functions of the local governments as contained in Schedule 4 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) shall be transferred to the States subject to the power of the State Houses of Assembly to add or reduce the said functions of the Local Government;
(g) Chairmen and Councillors of Local Governments, not democratically elected, shall not be recognized by all authorities and persons and shall not be entitled to any revenue allocation;
READ ALSO: Memo to Senate Committee on Constitution (2)
(h) In addition to the functions conferred upon Local Government Councils as specified in the Fourth Schedule of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), a House of Assembly of a State may by law confer other functions on the Local Government; and
(i) The Constitution should fix the tenure for Local Government Councils at three years.
In addition, Conference noted the representations of National Union of Local Government Employees, NULGE, on the need to protect the local government administrations. Conference unanimously adopted Para 33 A (i)- (v) of the Report of the Presidential Committee On Review of Outstanding Issues from Recent Constitutional Conferences 2012 (the Belgore Report) .
FORMS AND CONTENT OF GOVERNMENT
Conference considered the Presidential and Parliamentary systems of government. It identified and examined their attributes, principal among which are:
- The entrenchment of the principle of Separation of Powers for the Presidential System; and
- The promotion of co-operation and harmony between the executive and legislature, for the parliamentary system of government.
Conference reasoned that the combined effect of the aforementioned attributes would ensure transparency and accountability in government business and at once promote peace and good governance.
Peace and good governance
For instance, the vice-president and a majority of cabinet ministers being selected from the Legislature will bring harmony. Conference, therefore, settled for a home-made model of government that effectively combines the above attributes of the parliamentary and presidential systems of government. It code-named it: The Modified Presidential System.
Conference unanimously decided that a modified presidential system of government be adopted for the Federation, and that the core elements of the modified presidential system of government shall be as follows: The most criticised decision of the conference is the recommendation on states creation as the current states are not viable. But the truth is that the current states are not only unviable but are inequitable as they are mostly products of military fiats.
The recommended states are based on requests by indigenous peoples and would be viable if we become a productive state that removes mineral resources from the exclusive list as recommended. The conference also recommended the processes of states merging based on affinity and states forming themselves into regions to pursue economic development and security among others.