The Kaduna State governor, Nasir el Rufai-led Committee on True Federalism penultimate Thursday, submitted its long-awaited report to the National Working Committee of the governing All Progressives Congress (APC), with those canvassing for local government autonomy, states’ creation suffering a setback.
Prominent in the recommendations are that 10 items should be moved from the Exclusive Legislative List to the Concurrent List, and for more devolution of powers to the states.
The items so recommended to be moved are foods, drugs, poison, narcotics and psychotropic substances; fingerprints and identification of persons with criminal records; registration of business names; labour; mines and minerals including oil fields, oil mining, geological surveys and natural gas; police; prisons; public holidays (to be classified as national public holidays and state public holidays); railways and stamp duties.
Governor el Rufai said: “We believe that if these amendments are passed by the National Assembly, they will significantly re-balance our federation, devolve more powers to the states, reduce the burden of the federal government and make our country work better.
“This is something that people have been agitating for a long time and we have taken the reports of all previous constitutional and national conferences and put these before the Nigerian public in 2017, and these are the feedback that we got: 10 recommendations to move from the exclusive legislative list to the concurrent legislative list and we have drafted the bill that will enable that to be passed by the National Assembly and the state houses of assembly.”
Specifically, the committee urged that the police and prisons be moved from the exclusive to the concurrent list.
By this, state governments would be allowed to establish state police to handle certain crimes as well as state prisons.
The committee kicked against the creation of more states, saying any action to the contrary would amount to “merely creating new sub-national bureaucracies and their attendant costs while reducing the share of federal statutory allocation accruing to existing and proposed new states”.
On merger, the report said; “There is no widespread support for merger of states. 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 maximise their potential and opportunities”.
Police And Prisons
The committee said the police and prisons should be moved from the exclusive to the concurrent list. State police would, however, handle certain categories of cases.
“Most of the prisons in Nigeria, historically, were owned by the local governments, native authorities and the state of Nigeria. They were taken over by the federal government after the coup of 1966. We are recommending a reversal to the state of things as at 1966, but an additional responsibility is that the federal government will continue to have federal prisons while we have state prisons. Again, this is a major recommendation because, right now, we do not have enough prisons; our prisons are congested because only the federal government can build prisons. We think that sharing this responsibility with the state will make prisons available and reduce the burden on the federal government”.
“Item 8 is Public Holidays. We want public holidays to be removed from the exclusive list to the concurrent list so that there will be federal public holidays for the entire country and then states can have their public holidays. This is already happening unconstitutional. This will just make the actions of the state governments lawful and legal and avoid confrontations with the federal government on this subject.”
“We are recommending that legislation on Stamp Duties should be moved to the concurrent list but the state will only legislate on stamp duties only for transactions involving individuals and businesses but not limited liability companies that were incorporated by the government of the federation.
The committee equally recommended independent candidacy but with a caveat that any individuals who intends to stand for election must not have been a member of a political party at least six months to the elections in which they intend to contest.
“On Independent Candidacy, the committee notes that majority of respondents were opposed, surprisingly, to independent candidacy. However, the committee still recommends that the party should support the demand for widening the political space by allowing for independent candidacy.
“We believe that having independent candidates with necessary safeguards will make the political parties to be more honest and more democratic. So, because majority of the respondents were against independent candidacy, we believe it was largely because most of those that took interest in our deliberations were party members. We believe widening the political space is consistent with APC’s and the president’s commitment and we have made recommendations but with very strict conditions.
“We have included in the bill to allow for independent candidacy; that noone that wants to run as an independent candidate should not be a member of a political party six months to the election. So, what it means is that you cannot be a member of a political party, lose primaries and then go ahead to run as an independent candidate. You have to make up your mind six months to the elections that none of the parties is good enough and you want to run as an independent candidate.
“We have put this safeguard to ensure that independent candidacy is not a platform for opportunism but a deliberate, passionate decision, not an emotional one.
The Kaduna governor listed the four conditions for independent candidacy: “One, any person who desires to stand as an independent candidate must not be a registered member of any political party at least six months before the election in which he intends to contest. Two, his nominators must also not be members of any registered political party. Three, the said candidate must pay a deposit to INEC in the same range as the non-refundable deposit payable by candidates sponsored by political parties through their parties. So, instead of paying to the parties, you now pay to INEC. Finally, the candidate must also meet all other qualification requirements provided for by the constitution and any other law.”
On local government autonomy, the committee said since “one size does not fit all”, the states should be allowed to legislate for local governments, including creating more councils.
“Local government autonomy is a very interesting subject in which we were surprised at the outcome. There were divergent opinions on this issue.
“We recommend that the current system of local government administration provided for by the constitution should be amended and that states should be allowed to develop and enact laws to have local government administration system that is peculiar to each of them.
“What we heard from Nigerians is that as far as local government is concerned, there is no one size that fits all. We all come from different histories, different cultures, different administrative systems and we believe that the constitution should ensure that there is a democratic local government system in every state but the details of, and the nature of that local government system, the number of local governments should be left to the states and state houses of assembly.”
He said the committee proposed that the list of local governments and their headquarters should be removed from the constitution, meaning that states can create and determine the structure of their local governments.
“We are by this recognising that in a federal system, you cannot have more than two tiers of government. Having three tiers of government is an aberration. There is nowhere in the world where our research has shown us that you have more than two federating units,” he said.
“We have proposed that mining, minerals, oil should go to the states. Then there will be certain constitutional amendments. The Petroleum Act will be amended to show that states can now issue oil mining licences; the Land Use Act, Nigeria Minerals and Mining Act, the Petroleum Profit Tax Act 2007 would all need to be amended. So, we have proposed amendment that will ensure that minerals, mining and oil are vested in the states, except offshore minerals.”
“On citizenship, the issue of local government or state of origin is discriminatory and should be replaced with state of residence. It is around this that we have proposed an amendment to the Federal Character Commission Act to allow people domiciled in a place to be considered as indigenes.”
“We have proposed an amendment to create the State Judicial Council that will appoint and discipline judges within a state while the National Judicial Council will exercise control over the appointment and discipline of judges of the federal government only. We have proposed the creation of the state court of appeal so that from the High Court, you can first appeal to the state court of appeal before it goes to the Supreme Court of the federation. Again, this is consistent with federal practice all over the world.”
“We also propose a constitutional amendment to allow for a referendum to be conducted on burning national or state issues before decisions are taken. Right now, the constitution has no room for referendum, but only in the creation of states.”
…APC to conclude report consideration mid-February
Receiving the report, APC national chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun said that by middle of February, all structures of the party would have met and considered the report.
Oyegun said: “Today is one of our proudest moments since we were entrusted with the task of running this party and we have succeeded in producing the government which we have sustained up until date, and today, we have a report by a team of the most intelligent, young Nigerians; young Nigerians dealing with the most fundamental issues and challenges that beset this nation.”
He expressed hope that the recommendations in the report would lay to rest, the agitations that have been rife in the country for a truly federal system of government.
“I am going to promise that before the middle of February, it would have been considered and decided upon by the major structures of this party, the NEC, the caucus of the party. And whatever is thereafter agreed will be presented to the authorities as the considered views and decisions of the APC for appropriate implementation,” Oyegun said.
Indices Of Your Achievements Are Cooked Up, PDP Tells APC
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) yesterday declared that the indices of achievements presented by the APC-led federal government to justify its almost three years of governance were misleading and will be unhelpful to President Muhammadu Buhari at the 2019 elections, saying they were cooked up.
The party further said the federal government arrogantly issued misleading indices at a time it ought to be very sober for its failures, thereby exposing the level of scorn and disdain it had for suffering Nigerians.
PDP national publicity secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, in the statement, said the federal government had refused to understand that the issues raised by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, for which he advised President Buhari not to seek re-election, were already etched in the minds of Nigerians and could not be dismissed with doctored reports and half truths.
The party also described the federal government’s resort to falsehood as highly unfortunate.
The opposition party berated the APC-led administration for glossing over very serious issues of deteriorating economy, incessant killings, fuel crisis, corruption in the corridors of power and absolute failure of governance as raised by Nigerians.
The PDP said it amounted to executive indiscretion for the federal government to use its minister of information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, to falsely claim that the economy, which it wrecked, had come out of recession when the glaring reality shows skyrocketing costs, soaring unemployment rate, unabating closure of businesses as well as accumulation of foreign and domestic debts.
Part of the PDP statement reads: “In its attempt to further hoodwink Nigerians, the federal government through the minister of Information cleverly stated that the nation’s Foreign Reserves had risen to $40bn, while covering the fact presented by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) that our foreign debt has also escalated to $15.2bn under APC’s misrule.
“This is also a government whose domestic debt profile has scared many contractors off their sites and forcing millions of Nigerians into the labour market while development projects initiated by the PDP across the nation remains stagnated.
“It is ridiculous for the APC-led federal government to rely on an NBS report in giving an impression that the nation’s inflation rate has fallen at 15.37% while hiding the fact that inflation rate as at May 2015, when it took over reins of governance from the PDP, was 13.7%.
“Furthermore, the federal government attempted to delude Nigerians by claiming that the naira has become stable while glossing over the fact that it fell from about N165/$1 in 2015 to the current appalling N360/$1.
“This is in addition to phony claims of increase in foreign capital inflow of $1.8bn, while refusing to address facts from NBS that under their misrule, 16 million Nigerians are unemployed, 18 million more are underemployed while another 27.44 million refused to work in 2016 for various reasons not unrelated to frustration in the polity,” it said.
The PDP spokesman added that the Buhari-led APC government only gave out such misleading claims of achievements because of its insensitivity to the suffering of Nigerians.