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Restructuring: Between Referendum and Constitution Review



Esteemed readers, a careful observation of the polity in the last one week suggests that there is a cross-regional consensus to restructure Nigeria’s federalism.
Although, many vocal voices have relentlessly canvassed for a smaller, leaner federal government with reduced responsibilities. Pronouncements by governors elected on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and their counterparts in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) increased tempo of the agitation.
Also, opinion leaders such as former military President, Ibrahim Babangida, former vice-President Atiku Abubakar, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, and the new coalition of prominent southern leaders including; renowned Economist, Professor Pat Utomi, former Vice President of the Nigerian Academy of Science, Prof. Anya O. Anya, former Nigeria’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Dr. Christopher Kolade, chieftains of pan-Yoruba social cultural group, Afenifere, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, Chief Amos Akingba, amongst others,  insisted that  restructuring is a solution to Nigeria’s political puzzle.
However, despite persistent strife for the political adjustment, the federal government, particularly the National Assembly ignored the clarion call. This situation prompted the demand for referendum by many socio-political groups.
But on a second thought, the ongoing constitution review process provides  an opportunity to adjust the structure of Nigeria’s existence, as canvassed by both the younger and older generation of Nigerians. This will safe the nation from the complexity of going into a referendum.
If the review process is concluded without addressing the salient issue of restructuring, the exercise will at best be remembered as another test of political procedure.
For instance, an overview of the 23 items recommendation of the House of Representatives’  ad-hoc committee on constitution review, which has been approved by a similar committee in the Senate,   infer that our federal lawmakers are more interested in wrestling political power with the executive arm of government  than proffering solutions to sensitive problems facing the existence of Nigeria as a nation.
Notwithstanding the fact that federal lawmakers  proposed  to transfer about 10 items from the Exclusive Legislative List to the Concurrent Legislative List. The units and substance of considered items are not sufficient enough to represent the political restructuring Nigerians yearn for.
While it is commendable that items such as management and regulation of lands for Agricultural purposes, generation and transmission of electricity, construction of intra-state railways and a few other issues are on the front burner, all the items captured in the single Bill seeking devolution of powers are unlikely to douse the age-long political tension across the federating units.
If the legislators are really committed to producing a generally acceptable amendment to the constitution,  contentious items such as Police and other government security services established by law, (which guarantees state policing), Labour and industrial related matters, Mines and minerals, including oil fields, oil mining, geological surveys and natural gas as well as international trade and commerce will be included among items considered for transfer to the Concurrent List.
The restructuring Nigerians demand is such that guarantees devolution of powers and resources to states and local governments and produce a lean, focused federal government.
As cumbersome as it appears, it is feasible and achievable through an amendment to the constitution.
If, indeed a Bill  is devoted to devolution of power from the Central government to the State government in the ongoing review, only 10 items out of 68 items on the Exclusive List will not achieve the purpose.
I sincerely believe that the 8th Assembly has the best opportunity to record a landmark achievement in this regard, as it’s constitution amendment exercise coincide with national consensus on restructuring.
Nevertheless, if our lawmakers, as representatives of the people fail to address the plight and concerns of their constituents in good time, the people will not relent in their agitation for a reformed partnership.
In a matter of time, a referendum will be inevitable and the will of the people shall prevail!

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