Members of Nigerian civil society under the aegis of ‘OneVOICE’ have condemned the recent rejection of a proposal to amend the Nigerian 1999 constitution.
The proposal which had favoured a devolution of more powers to the federating states within the federal republic was opposed by the Nigerian Senate recently.
At a media round table held at the Centre for Constitutional Governance (CCG), Ilupeju, Lagos themed: ‘The renewed Clamour for Restructuring in Nigeria,’ representatives of various civil society organisations expressed grievances as the Senate failed to see reasons and do the wish of the majority of Nigerians who want more powers for the federating states.
The event, organized by HURILAWS in collaboration with OneVOICE as part of Strengthening Election Petition Process, with support from NED provided robust education on the popular agitation for restructuring for which many Nigerians have been agitating.
The event was also a platform to register displeasure on the state of the nation especially with the daily running of the country and long absence of President Muhammadu Buhari without adequate explanation to Nigerians.
Chief speaker at the event, Pastor Adedeji Adeleye described the rejection of the proposal for more power devolution to the states as grossly unfortunate, as its acceptance would have reworked the country for greater efficiency and ultimately lead to economic development.
Reading his extensive pages, Adeleye presumed that rejection of the proposal by the Senate may have been made possible by the majority northern Senators whose region had benefited immensely from the lopsided nature of Nigerian governance.
In two major areas, as claimed by Adeleye, the northern senators displayed their towing influence to throw out the agitation. According to him, “Senator Adamu Aliero in his delivery had said that it was not conclusive to consider the issue of power devolution without considering first, the issue of revenue allocation formula, which was not part of the 34 items listed for amendment.”
He read further that, “In observers’ views, Aliero simply used the absence of the revenue allocation formula issue in the items to actually nail the power devolution proposal. The other was the opposition of the removal of the Land Use Act from the 1999 Constitution by the northern Senators which observers also claimed the senators ensured for fear of the consequences of endorsement of resource control through the back door.”
“Another proposal that was generally opposed was on Indigenship to allow married women choose either their state of origin or state of marriage for the purpose of appointments or elections and the 35% Affirmative Action for women aimed at creating more opportunities for women in appointments and elective positions at federal and state levels.
“Any attempt at restructuring in Nigeria should fairly consider and deal with: overcentralisation of power; revenue allocation and resource control; regionalism or state-ism or power devolution; secession; citizenship or indigenship versus residency/state of marriage; federal character versus meritocracy for lopsidedness in federal appointments; and control of security apparatus between federal and state governments,” Adeleye read.
Also at the event, the group recommended the following which it said could help Nigeria out of the woods she has found herself.
- Despite the rejection of devolution of powers to the National Assembly, the campaign for step by step restructuring must continue. Certain items on Exclusive Legislative Act of the Federal Government guaranteed by the 1999 constitution must be transferred to the states. These include prisons, police, railways, fingerprints, identifications and criminal records, road safety corps, drivers licence, taxes on lotteries, sales(Vat), toll collections and others.
- In other areas including agriculture and fisheries, education, health, labour, housing, local government, forestry, town and country planning, lands, state judiciary and veterinary services, the states must have exclusive authority except that the federal government could lay down standards and guidelines and perhaps make grants.
- The Nigerian elite and the civil society have failed the nation. Politicians being who they are cannot be trusted to amend the constitution in the line of thoughts of the Nigerian masses or reflect it in the national interest. Rather, they always have their own interest mand agenda which often must oppose the national interest and the masses. Therefore the political elite and civil society must mount a serious campaign to achieve a desirable constitutional amendment for the country.
- The high rate of criminality in the country has not only made it mandatory but compulsory to have state police to complement the federal police, with rules of engagement worked out so as not to rock the boat.
- National security information has revealed that politicians are behind the various agitations, killings, arson, insurgency and general unrest in the country. Many of them are being probed or prosecuted by EFCC for corruption while an oil baron is asked to refund what he took under the fuel subsidy scam of former President Jonathan’s era. The overriding interest and peace of Nigeria ought to be paramount and the security agencies must beef up their radar watch to nip all nefarious activities in the bud.
- The major issue in Nigeria is bad leadership and not our structure nor laws and until people with different orientation on governance emerge in positions of leadership, our development would be more or less stagnant.
- Government should address the concerns of ethnic groups making legitimate political demands but should not succumb to threats and blackmail by criminal elements masquerading as militants and sabotaging the economy.
- The President should concede the right to explore mineral deposits to the states and create tripartite joint ventures with them. Should this be extended to oil, states should be limited to exploring the onshore oil while offshore exploration should be left for the federal government.
- Restructuring of Nigeria should not be misconstrued for dismemberment or absolute autonomy for independent regions or absolute control over their resources but must be properly negotiated.
- The contentious issue of revenue allocation would be better resolved if the states are given the economic power to embark on improved political, social and economic responsibilities.
- Civil Society and associated bodies must continue to campaign for restructuring even in the face of its rejection by the National Assembly.
Participants took turns to add their voices to discussion with aims of proffering solutions to the various problems Nigeria is currently facing.