Fayemi Wants Rejiging of Nigeria to Guarantee Perfect Union

Fayemi Wants Rejiging of Nigeria to Guarantee Perfect Union

…Calls for Devolution of Power, Equitable Revenue Formula …APC Committee Produced Recommendations to Strengthen Federalism, National Cohesion…El-Rufai Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, has called for restructuring of Nigeria that will enthrone unity and engender a perfect union among its different peoples, irrespective of their ethnic, religious, cultural and linguistic differences. He also suggested an

…Calls for Devolution of Power, Equitable Revenue Formula

…APC Committee Produced Recommendations to Strengthen Federalism, National Cohesion…El-Rufai

Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, has called for restructuring of Nigeria that will enthrone unity and engender a perfect union among its different peoples, irrespective of their ethnic, religious, cultural and linguistic differences. He also suggested an equitable revenue allocation formula that will speak to the federalism Nigeria has adopted and give more resources to states and local governments which carry more responsibilities.

This is coming on the backdrop of revelation by his Kaduna State Counterpart, Mr Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai, that the All Progressive Congress (APC) Committee on True Federalism, which he chaired, produced clear recommendations to strengthen federalism and achieve national cohesion and healthy subnational competition.

Speaking at the weekend on the lecture titled, “Unfinished Greatness: Towards a More Perfect Union in Nigeria” to mark 50th Anniversary of Arewa House, a historical documentation and research centre in Kaduna, Fayemi canvasses power devolution and an equitable revenue allocation formula

According to him, a review of the sharing formulae to 43 per cent for states, 35 per cent to the federal and 23 per cent to the local governments will go a long way to devolve more responsibilities to constituent units and reduce the concentration of powers at the centre.

Dr. Fayemi, who’s also chairman, Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), said building Nigeria to the status of a country that commands global respect is a continuous work in progress and insisted that the 1914 amalgamation of the Northern and Southern Protectorates by the British was not a mistake as some have argued, adding that the country can use the diversity to achieve greatness if Nigerians would utilize the inherent opportunities.

He appealed to Nigerians to come together and urgently tackle issues that divide them if the dreams of the founding fathers including the late Premier of Northern Nigeria, Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto are to be realised by the present generation.

The Ekiti State Governor said all ethnic nationalities should be made to feel important in the Nigerian project hence preference should not be given to a particular ethnic group over others.

Dr. Fayemi explained that Nigeria, with over 250 ethnic nationalities has managed its diversity whereas some countries in Eastern Europe had balkanized into smaller nations while Britain is yet to find a definitive answer to the Irish, Welsh and Scottish question.

The Governor, however, identified sincerity in handling the issue of restructuring as a means of giving assurance to stakeholders of the Nigerian project that achieving greatness through unity in diversity was still possible.

He argued that issues of devolution of powers, decentralisation, restructuring and such other concepts should not be clothed in ethnic or regional toga but be used as an opportunity to re-imagine and reinvent our country to make it work well for everyone.

Fayemi said: “In essence, our desire to build a more perfect union should be anchored on the principle of devolution of powers – that is, re-allocation of powers and resources to the country’s federating units. The reasons for this are not far-fetched.

“First, long years of military rule has produced an over-concentration of powers and resources at the centre to the detriment of the states. Two, the 1999 constitution, as has been argued by several observers, was hurriedly put together by the departing military authority and was not a product of sufficient inclusiveness.

“Part of the focus of such an exercise should be: what items should remain on the exclusive legislative list and which ones should be transferred to the concurrent list? Other topical issues include derivation principle; fiscal federalism and revenue allocation; land tenure, local government creation and autonomy; etc.

“All points considered, the fiscal burden of maintaining a largely inefficient and over-bloated bureaucracy is a metaphor for shooting oneself on the foot.”

According to him, the evolution of Nigeria’s federalism has not served Nigeria’s best interests and it is not surprising that the polity has witnessed protests at every attempts at constitutional reengineering.

Two prominent examples, he noted, were the 2005 Constitutional Reform Conference convened by President Olusegun Obasanjo and the 2014 National Conference at the instance of ex- President Goodluck Jonathan.

He explained that in the two conferences, the delicate issue remains that of restructuring (often dubbed Devolution of Power, Decentralisation, True Federalism, etc.) asking “But for how long can we continue to run away from this issue and continue to pretend that somehow it would resolve itself someday?”

Alluding to recent nationwide protests by youths, Governor Fayemi said it was high time the nation’s leaders looked into ways to solve problems which turned an innocuous online protests over Police brutality into an avenue to challenge perceived failures to meet demands for good governance.

He said: “This is why anyone who holds a semblance of power or authority in this country should be deeply worried by the events of the past few weeks. What started as an innocuous online protest over Police brutality snowballed before our very eyes into a mass movement that assumed more frightening dimensions.

“From the demand to #EndSARS, we have seen vigorous demands for greater accountability, and greater efficiency in government. What I understand the youths to be saying is that we the older generation have failed them by our inability to create a system that supports their dreams and accommodate their aspirations.

“From the language of their protests, we can see clearly that our youths feel pushed to the margin of our nation’s socio-political and economic structures. It is incumbent on us to listen to what they are saying and a lot more to what they are probably not saying yet.

“For over a decade, several analysts have noted that our massive youth population could be a major demographic advantage to our country if it is properly harnessed. Years of neglect and failure to make the right investments to support this population is now, quite predictably, turning it to a major disruptive force and a time bomb.

“I am afraid that the bomb has started to tick, we must therefore act fast and start now to create systems that provides opportunities for our young people and make it possible for them to attain their God-given potentials.

“In responding to the challenges that this moment imposes on us, we must recognise that a business-as-usual approach will no longer be sufficient. What we need is a fundamental re-engineering of our governance system in a way that will make our country work better for everyone.

“I understand the recent protest as a discursive signal that encapsulates the frustration of our young people at multiple levels. We must therefore engage it as such and try to focus on the opportunities that the situation presents.” He added.

Fayemi, who cited the works of Ben Okri and Uthman Dan Fodio, in the lecture concluded that there was urgent need to address injustice if Nigerians truly want the system to work.

“A kingdom can endure with unbelief, but cannot endure with injustice”. May we have the courage and the conviction to confront injustice in our country and make Nigeria work for all of us” he added.

Also echoing similar thoughts, the host Governor, Mr E-Rufai, said, “I will not hesitate to admit that I am passionate about what constitutional framework will best enable the promise of this country to manifest.

“I had the privilege of chairing the APC Committee on True Federalism with membership across the political and demographic spectrum to lay out our party’s roadmap for our nation’s greatness. In its report, that committee defined the values that, in its opinion, promote and connote True Federalism and proposed a clear roadmap for implementing the recommendations.

“As its report show, the APC Committee on True Federalism produced clear recommendations to strengthen federalism and achieve national cohesion and healthy subnational competition. The committee also made efforts to accelerate the implementation of its recommendations by producing draft bills that incorporate the recommendations either as proposed amendments to our Constitution or our national laws,” he said..

Explaining further, El-Rufai said, “It is a matter for regret that for some reasons, the consequential action by the APC leadership to adopt and implement the report has not happened since it was submitted in January 2018. The urgency of our challenges dictates that we should move fast with a sense of purpose to remove the structural bottlenecks that hobble our country.

“There is very little time left to secure and begin to implement the necessary constitutional amendments. While the report of our committee was well-received, some people complained that it was coming too close to the 2019 elections, that for a report submitted in January 2018. The point here is that our electioneering calendar presents only a narrow window for significant and consequential action to reform the political and structural framework to enable the rapid, peaceful and inclusive development of our country,” the Kaduna state Governor said.

He disclosed that, “The APC Committee on Federalism recommended that the federation be rebalanced, with more powers and responsibilities devolved to the states. The committee also clarified that the federation is a relationship solely between the states and the Federal Government, and that each state should be allowed to operate the system of local government that best suits its circumstances, culture and diversity. It was the committee’s considered opinion that in a country as diverse as ours, one size or structure of local governance does not fit all.

“The Committee’s recommendations also cover how the states can generate the resources that will fund their envisaged expanded burdens, responsibilities and authority. This includes a holistic review of the share of federation revenues accruing to the states and federal government.

“Our report also upheld the derivation principle as a primary component of fiscal federalism and recommended that control of mineral resources be vested in the states who will then pay applicable royalties and taxes to the Federation Account for distribution between all tiers of government.

“To make this work, we proposed and drafted the amendments of extant laws such as the Petroleum Act, the Nigerian Mining and Minerals Act, the Land Use Act and the Petroleum Profits Tax Act.  Our report regarded derivation as being applicable as well to hydro-power, solar, wind and other forms of renewable power generation.”

He further revealed that the APC Committee on True Federalism proposed significant devolution of powers between the national government and the 36 States, and recommended further devolution of responsibilities between the States and Local Governments depending on local circumstances, culture, capacity and capability.

“We therefore recommended that the following items be transferred from the Exclusive, to the Concurrent List and therefore fall under the policy oversight and legislative control of both the states and federal government:

  1. Police – thereby enabling the establishment of State police, and clear demarcation of their responsibilities vis-à-vis the Federal (Nigerian) Police;
  2. Oil and Gas (other than offshore resources in the Continental Shelf and Extended Economic Zone) protected by our Nigerian Navy;
  3. Mines and Minerals (other than offshore minerals in the Continental Shelf and Extended Economic Zone) as above;
  4. Railways;
  5. Prisons and Correctional Facilities;
  6. Fingerprint and criminal identification records with statewide and federal linkages to share data;
  7. Stamp Duties;
  8. Registration of Business Names;
  9. Food, Drugs and Poisons (other than Narcotics);
  10. Minimum wage to enable governments set what is affordable as a living wage in their respective jurisdictions;

“Our Committee also suggested a remedy for the anomaly of a federation that has a more or less unitary judiciary. Our recommendation is that State Judicial Councils should be established, while the National Judicial Council’s remit should be limited to the federal and appellate courts. And should majority opinions in certain states decide that a voluntary merger of likeminded states would enhance their development prospects, we propose a mechanism for achieving such mergers.

“I am firmly convinced that restructuring our current constitutional and statutory framework on the lines proposed by our committee is a unique nation-building opportunity. I am not aware of any significant constituency that is against the idea that states should exercise consequential powers, assume more responsibilities and control resources to enable them deliver better outcomes for those they govern.

“This will empower State Governments to cease passing the buck to the President and the federal government when most of the problems our citizens face daily as a nation are, and can be solved by improved and focused governance at the states’ levels! It is time to make this sort of well-defined restructuring work, for the benefit of the peoples of this country.

“In the last 20-25 years, Nigerian citizens and political groupings have used different registers to convey their demands for a loosening of the centralised arrangements that have increasingly prevailed since the military disrupted our parliamentary democratic order in 1966. They have consistently asked for devolution of powers to the states, and see subnational competition as the path to rapid progress. We are all witnesses to the regional competition in the 1950s and 1960s that gave us universities like ABU, Radio and TV stations, stadiums, generous scholarships and affordable yet quality public education.

“The report of our APC True Federalism Committee puts in one place the recommendations, and the legislative amendments to give life to a restructured polity. I therefore call on our federal legislators and the National Assembly Ad-Hoc Committee on Constitutional Review to take advantage of our report and initiate the constitutional and legislative amendments in either a piece-meal or comprehensive manner without further delay. Our report and draft bills are all available online. Just google APC True Federalism Report and download it today.

“We therefore have no excuse not to seize this moment and do the heavy lifting for our country and our people. It is in our hands to make the structures, laws and constitutional arrangements in our country conducive to modern governance that will ensure our nation thrives in the 21st century. We must move from a century of being ‘a nation of great potentials’ to summoning a determined national effort to achieving near-developed country status. Singapore, South Korea and China did it in a generation. Rwanda, Botswana and Ethiopia in Africa are well on the way. Why can’t we do the same? Our progress is in our hands,” El-Rufai argued..

Earlier, while welcoming guests to the event that marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of Arewa House, he paid tribute to the vision of the six governors of the northern states who decided in 1970 to establish this centre that has gone on to become a research centre of international repute.

“They chose to honour the memory and service of the only Premier of the Northern Region, Sir Ahmadu Bello, Sardauna of Sokoto, by locating this centre on the grounds of his official residence. Out of the ashes of the tragic events of 1966, our illustrious predecessors have built a centre that continues to make significant contributions to nation-building and peaceful coexistence.

“The astuteness of Arewa House is demonstrated again in its choice of commemorative events for its 50th Anniversary. The theme of today’s lecture Unfinished Greatness: Towards a More Perfect Union in Nigeria speaks to an urgent national issue. I have no doubt that the guest lecturer, my brother, His Excellency, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, the Governor of Ekiti State, will do great justice to this important topic. It is a matter that is surely on the mind of every patriot, more so in these challenging times,” the Governor said.


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