In August 2017, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), set up a 23 man committee on True Federalism; headed by the governor of Kaduna State, Malam Nasir El-Rufai.
The committee was to distill the actual intent and definition of true federalism as promised by the APC during their 2015 electioneering campaign and to study the reports of the various National Conferences, especially that of 2014 and thus come up with recommendations on restructuring the country if need be.
The committee has since January 2018 submitted its report with far reaching recommendations on how Nigeria can achieve true federalism. Among the recommendations are: Merger of states that so wish; the amendment of the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission Act to give the commission the power and responsibility to periodically review the derivation formula; the amendment of the Constitution to transfer some items that are now on the Exclusive List to the Concurrent List that will enable both states and the federal government to legislate on them; the amendment of the Federation Account Act to give more revenue to the states and reduce the federal government’s share of revenue; the creation of a state judicial council that will appoint and discipline judges in a state while the National Judicial Council will exercise control over the appointments and discipline of judges of the federal government only; amendment of the constitution to allow States to exercise control over natural resources within their respective regions and then, pay taxes and royalties to the Federal Government; among other recommendations.
For over two years after this report was submitted to the APC through the then national chairman of the party, Chief John Oyegun, nothing has happened to suggest that report was accepted or rejected.
Perhaps it is this silence over the report that is fueling the resurgence of agitations for restructuring, even from hitherto unlikely quarters.
Just recently, the northern elders forum joined in the call for restructuring.
The agitators insist that there is,indeed, too much concentration of power and resources at the centre. The further argue that the prevailing arrangement is stifling the nation’s march to true nationhood because of all the abuses, inefficiencies, corruption and reactive tensions attendant to it.
They also posit that the existing structure is proving not to suffice as the states are too weak materially and politically to provide what is needed for good governance.
We observe that presently the country is plagued with a lot of challenges which can form a basis for making the political and economic structures right.
It is the opinion of this newspaper then that the current circumstances present more opportunities to redress these issues of national concern once and for all than they had been in time past.
In the First Republic, it was the federating units exploiting their resources and paying royalty to the federal government. There was no federal allocation for the regions that would necessitate going to Lagos (the then federal capital) to collect money based on a specific percentage. At a stage, it was 50/50. In other words, the regions had 50 per cent and 50 per cent to be shared. The 50 per cent was divided into two — 20 per cent to the federal government and 30 per cent to be shared among the regions.”
These are some of the recommendations of the 2014 national conference which we believe that if implemented, the concerns of those agitating for independent states would have been addressed.
Nigerians, in our view, want a united country based on agreed terms and conditions that give everyone a sense of belonging. The APC committee report has sections that recommended the amendment of the constitution to allow for referendum on issues of national interest.
We know that there are unfounded fears by this government and those before it to the effect that it will not be under their regimes that Nigeria would break up. Far from it, what the people are simply asking for is to have more control of their destiny, more opportunities to pursue development unhindered by some laws that have become inconsistent with realities of true democracy.
The constituent units need to compete along the line of development rather than being forced to tag along with the rest.
President Muhammadu Buhari would be writing his name in gold if he would have the political will, the courage to dare to implement the El-Rufai committee report.
After 60 years of independence and practice of a system of government that has not allowed the nation to develop relative to the available human and material resources, it stands to reason that it is time to change the formula and the earlier that was done, the better for Nigeria as a polity.