…Majority of Nigerians want devolution of powers
…oppose merger of states
…S/East strong on demand for additional state
…Weak demand for regionalism across country
In the second part of our serialization of the report of the panel raised by the All Progressives Congress (APC) on restructuring, the committee found that, although there are divergent views on devolution of powers, majority of Nigerians favour it.
The panel was headed by Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State but since the report was submitted in 2018, it has been in the cooler.
SUMMARY OF FINDINGS:Creation of states
Opposition to creation of new states is strongest among respondents from the northern states and online. North-West in particular is very strong in this regard.
On the other hand, North-East, North-West, South-East and online respondents are fairly strong in their advocacy fo r the creation of more states. South-East in particular is seeking the creation of an additional state to achieve parity with other geo-political zones.
The demand for regionalism exists but in a low key. The demand came up in the FCT, North-West, South-West and among electronic respondents. The low intensity of the demand does not warrant a major consideration at this time. It would seem that the preference in general is for retaining what we have.
Overall across the country, 48% of respondents are opposed to creation of new states while 36% are in support. The demand for return to regions enjoys support from 7% respondents while only 9% are actually in favour of maintaining the status quo.
It is the considered opinion of the committee that creation of more states is not expedient because to do so will merely create new sub-national bureaucracies and their attendant costs while reducing the share of federal statutory allocation accruing to existing and proposed new states that are already grappling with the high cost of governance, payment of salaries of workers and bringing development to their people.
The creation of states could further weaken the federating units and thus run contrary to popular demands for “true federalism” which the APC stands for.
The creation of new states would weaken rather than strengthen true federalism in the sense of denying federating units enough resources and ability to discharge additional responsibilities that would be thrust on them.
However, there may be a need to attend to the isolated case of South-East zone where there is a demand to balance states to be equal to other geo-political zones. Since there are clear procedures already spelt out in the constitution should the need arise in future, and such demand enjoys widespread support, deserving cases cannot be ruled out. Indeed, the Nigeria constitution should and does leave room for creation of states in future provided the laid down requirements are met.
Merger of states
Three views were variously expressed here namely opposition, support and status quo. Opposition to merger of states is clearly very strong in North-East, North-West and North-Central while the support was low key in FCT, South-West and South-South. There is some support for the idea in the North-Central, North-West and South-West although at low key. Some others in the North-Central and South-West simply prefer the status quo. In general, the consensus is clearly in opposition to merger of states.
Overall, 78% of respondents are opposed to merger of states while only 16% are in support. 8% are in support of maintaining the status quo.
There is no widespread support for merger of states. Merger would entail the fusion of two or more states into one state while the previous entity or entities would cease to exist as states.
This does not enjoy wide support as hardly anyone would want their state abolished or be replaced with a higher or different political leadership and authority.
Nonetheless the committee strongly recommends that the Constitution should provide for legal and administrative frameworks for states that might in future wish to consider this option provided this does not threaten the authority or existence of the federation. This recommendation is based on the growing regional economic cooperation that is being witnessed among states in various geopolitical zones of the country in order to maximize their potentials and opportunities.
Devolution of powers
Nationwide and based on weighted data, 74% of respondents are in favour of devolution of powers while only 7% are explicitly opposed to it. Of all stakeholders who submitted memoranda, 19% did not offer any opinion about devolution.
Responses on devolution of powers are overwhelmingly in favour of devolution of powers across all geographical zones and online respondents. There is some notable opposition among stakeholders from the North-East, North-West and South-West even though more are still in support than those opposed to the idea of devolution of powers in those zones.
Items to devolve
The 74% that support devolution is further analyzed to see the specific items that stakeholders are advocating for devolution.
More than 30 items were identified by stakeholders for devolution from federal to state governments across the six zones and online submissions. Among these items, police and community policing topped the list. Other items that were identified by a significant number of stakeholders include education, prisons, health, road, security, agriculture, railway, mineral resources, trade and commerce and housing.
Most stakeholders are demanding devolution of security (state/community Police, 19%), social services (education, health and housing, 11%), commerce (9%), natural resources (land, water, fish and fisheries, 8%), transportation (roads, railways and maritime, 8°/0).
Those asking for devolution of powers in respect of roads are actually of the opinion that management of most roads should be ceded to state governments while the federal government be limited to only a few cross country inter-state roads.
It is important to note that stakeholders in Sokoto and Uyo locations did not identify specific items which they wanted to be part of devolution of powers to other stakeholders.
In line with the national viewpoint, Police/Community Policing was most widely mentioned in FCT as an item for devolution. Other items that enjoyed most of the stakeholders’ support for devolution are railways, airport, defense, prisons and price control.
Police/Community Policing is the number one item the stakeholders in Ilorin wanted to be transferred to other tiers of government. In addition, education, health, agriculture, mineral resources, fire service and market are other preferred items.
With Police/Community Policing topping their demand, stakeholders in Jos location identified twelve items among which are education, prisons, health, security, agriculture, railway, mineral resources, customs & excise, labour, airport, maritime, License and mining
Police/Community Policing, mineral resources, trade and commerce are the three most important items the stakeholders from Bauchi wanted for devolution to the states, followed by railway, prisons and taxation.
Police/Community Policing tops other preferred items such as education, prisons, health, road, security, agriculture, railway, mineral resources, trade and commerce, water, military/intelligence and judiciary for devolution.
Just like most of the locations, Kano stakeholders agreed that Police/Community Policing should be number one on the list of various items identified for devolution of powers. Also, demanded are prisons, health, road, security, agriculture, railway, custom & excise, labour and military/intelligence.
For stakeholders in Edo, only three items were specifically mentioned for devolution of powers namely, security, customs & excise and citizenship.
Among the nine items proposed for devolution of powers in Akure location, Police/Community Policing emerged top on the list. Other items identified include education, prisons, road, agriculture, railway, mineral resources, maritime and transportation.
The position of Ibadan stakeholders is in favour of seven items with Police/Community Policing top of the list. Other items include education, prisons, road, water, labour and military/intelligence.
Devolution of powers items
The number of items identified by online respondents for devolution of powers is more than any of the locations. Also, online respondents reaffirmed the general position by identifying Police/Community Policing as number one. Others are education, prisons, health, road, security, agriculture, railway, mineral resources, trade and commerce, customs & excise, external affairs, housing, water, military/intelligence, airport, defense, immigration, fire service and rural electrification.
The Committee recommends that the party put its political weight behind the overwhelming popular demand for devolution to states by the federal government. This would entail the transfer of items on the Exclusive Legislative List, some to Concurrent List and others residual to the states to enhance and localize the demand side of governance and make states more accountable to the electorate thereby freeing the federal government to concentrate on regulatory functions and as a basis for incorporating diverse local political interests into the national policy priorities.
A 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.
Based on the views expressed by stakeholders consulted and view point from the consultation centers, the committee hereby recommends the following schedule of distribution of roles or powers between the federal, state and local government for consideration for constitutional amendment.