Restructuring Nigeria

 

by

 

Oba Oladele Olashore


culled from VANGUARD Friday, October 03, 2003

In his own contribution to the need to have a stable and prosperous polity, Oba Oladele Olashore, the Ajagbusi-Ekun, Iloko Ijesa insists that the present structure of 36 states and 774 local government council areas is not healthy for a nation like Nigeria. Instead, he says the 109 senatorial districts should form the basis for new states as a third tier of government while the six regions should serve the second tier of government to the federal.

INTRODUCTION

The history of instability that characterised our past political experiments are enough reasons for concerned citizens to continue to give thoughts on how to avoid the past experience in our future political dispensation. We have tried the parliamentary (British) system in the First Republic and failed. We embraced the Presidential (American) system in the Second Republic, which also ended up in failure. Of course, we blamed the failures not on the system but on the operators. While that may partly be true, I believe also that the political arrangements, being the imposition of foreign system without due regard to our peculiar cultural values and the level of political development of our people, in themselves induced the failure.

I have personally given thoughts to how we can achieve a stable political system without jeopardising the economic prosperity of our people. My thought on a new political arrangement therefore seeks to decentralise political power while ensuring equity, good governance and economic prosperity in our nation.

The need to release Nigeria�s limited resources for meaningful development has made it even more urgent to carry out a restructuring of the federation. In my opinion, the present 36 states and 774 local governments structure for Nigeria is faulty, considering the fact that most of the states or local governments are not viable

without federal government support. Even the federal support by way of revenue allocation is spent on staff emoluments and general overhead expenses with little or nothing left for the development of infrastructure and other programmes that are for the good of the generality of our people.

While it is to the credit of the military governments that several states and local governments have been created from the original three/four regional administrative structure, it should however be noted that the more states that are created, the stronger the central government becomes and the weaker the states become. Of course, it should be appreciated that the military has a unitary command structure which is not consistent with federalism that we opted for at independence to cater for our ethnic diversity.

The elimination of ethnic domination and the granting of the wish for self-determination, which gave rise to the creation of many states, and local governments should not inadvertently be neutralised through an over-powerful central government, towering like a giant over the impoverished weaker states.

While the proliferation of states and local governments ordinarily should have the desired effect of bringing development closer to the people, the present 36 states and 774 local governments structure are too weak to support our claim for federalism and financially

impoverished to undertake meaningful development. The federal government has consequently become dictatorial and therefore an attraction for power-seekers and political opportunists. This arrangement should be dismantled in favour of a new regional structure that will guarantee some autonomy for the different components that make up the Federation.

The focus should therefore be the shift of power from the centre to the regions and states. The existing local governments should be merged into new viable states based on the existing senatorial districts. This will ensure that the states have some semblance of viability and form the new centre of grass-root administration and power. It will also reduce the agitation for states creation.

B.TRADITIONAL RULERS ROLE

It is my considered view also that in a restructured federation, appropriate advisory roles should be reserved for traditional institutions because of the:

� A long closeness of traditional institutions to the grassroots and accepted relevance to the lives and well being of the people.

� Emergence of a crop of highly educated, well exposed and informed persons as traditional rulers, whose knowledge and experiences should be used for national development and cohesion.

However, to ensure that traditional rulers retain the dignity and respect of their positions as royal fathers, only advisory responsibilities should be assigned to them under the new arrangement to insulate and protect them from party politics.

C. THE PROPOSED STRUCTURE OF GOVERNMENT

I propose that apart from the Federal Government, the existing 36 states and 774 local governments should be dismantled and restructured into:

� Six Regional Governments

� 109 State Governments by merging the present Local Governments into new viable states on the basis of the existing senatorial districts.

The new structure for the Governance of Nigeria will therefore look like this:

Federal Government

6 Regional Governments

109 State Governments

(based on the current 109 Senatorial Districts)

It is not my intention to go into details on the powers, functions and the structure of the various tiers of government being proposed here. Suffice it to say that the acceptance in principle of this proposal will considerably reduce the agitation for restructuring the Nigerian nation while ensuring that equity, justice and good government is enthroned in our country.

(1) FEDERAL GOVERNMENT

The federal government may continue to operate with its existing structures but with shift of more powers and. responsibilities to the regions and state governments. The powers and functions of the federal government should be limited to Foreign Affairs, Internal Affairs, Defence and National Security, International Trade and Finance and other items contained in the exclusive and concurrent legislative lists.�National defence and security

�International relations and diplomacy

�Internal affairs i.e. immigration, customs, prison service etc

�International trade and finance etc.

�Co-ordination of monetary and fiscal policies etc.

Federal Council for Traditional Rulers should be established to provide the following advisory roles to the Federal Government:

�Giving general advice to the Federal Government

�Advising the Federal Government on proposed development plans for Nigeria, as they see them from grassroot perspectives.

�Advising on religious matters where appropriate

�Promoting and advising on arts and culture

�Deliberating and expressing opinions to any Federal Government organisation on any matter which it deems to be of importance to the whole country or which may be referred to it by the Federal Government or other Federal organisation

Assist in resolving boundary disputes. Handle such other matters as the Federal Government may from time to time refer to the Council, that could assist in the promotion of peace and understanding in the country The Council should also be represented on the Council States. The proposed six regional governments could be structured as

follows:

i) Each region will act as a pivot of development over contiguous groups of state governments.

ii) Each region should be headed by a Premier who will be assisted by Commissioners who will be in charge of various ministries.

iii) The Regional Governments should also undertake direct supervision of the State governments by appointing Prefects, supported by Inspectors e.g. Inspector for schools or for roads or for hospitals, etc

to monitor and ensure the maintenance of standards in the states.

Iv) The �prefects� will have no executive power but will function in supervisory capacity over the new states and be responsible to the Regional Governments.

v) The regions should be limited to specific intra-state development oriented duties like University Education, intra-state roads, Regional Police and other matters contained in the concurrent legislative lists etc.

vi) The emphasis should be on well funded ministries with lean staffing to keep overhead expenditures low and to free resources for pure development projects and services.

vii) Minimum of 35% of federation account should go to the regions.

viii) Not less than 80% of such collectible Federal funds should be channeled to purely infrastructural development or regenerative investment projects.

ix) Employment opportunities to the rural populace and improvement of standard of living of citizens should be the focus of the new regions.

x) Personal emoluments and other over-head expenditure should be met from internally generated revenue by the regions.

All regions should be empowered to retain 75% of the VAT emanating from it to enhance its revenue base.

Provision of social �infrastructure (road, electricity distribution, water etc).

Universities.

Act as a liaison agency between the Federal Government and State governments.

Supervise all federal government projects in the regions. Co-ordinate and harmonise the efforts and initiatives of the State governments to enhance optimum utilisation of all resources.

Agriculture; including the revival of settlement farm management, rural extension services, propagating new improved farming methods to rural farmers.

(2b) A Regional Council for Traditional Rulers should be

established to function in advisory capacity to the Regional

Governments. The proposed Regional Council for Traditional

Rulers shall comprise of a Chairman/President and such other

members as may be prescribed by law with the following

advisory functions/responsibilities:

(2b)

� Advise the Regional Governments on any matter relating to customary law or cultural affairs, inter-communal relations and chieftaincy matters.

� Advise the Regional Governments on maintenance of peace and public order, and the Chairman/President shall be a member of the Regional security council

� Advise the Regional Governments on matters relating to and their consent obtained in the creation of new chieftaincy, and the making of any law which may affect the security of tenure and the dignity of traditional institutions.

Regional Government here refers to the Legislative and Executive of the Regional Government.

The existing local governments should be merged into �new states� based on the existing senatorial districts. Thus about 109 States should be created. The State should operate a parliamentary form of Government and the executive should be appointed from the members of the legislative chamber. The State should be headed by a Governor who shall be appointed from among elected members of the legislative chamber.

(3a)

The Governor shall be assisted by Advisers who are themselves members of the legislature to co-ordinate the various activities of the State.

The State Governments shall focus essentially on grassroot development and concentrate on education, health, road construction and maintenance etc., States shall be free to create and delegate any of its functions to local government within its jurisdiction, but the powers of the Local Government shall not be legislative but limited to executing functions delegated to them by the State Government.

The State Governments should be funded largely from federal revenue allocation and internal generated revenue.

The State Government should be allocated about 25% of the federal purse as the nearest administration responsible for grass-root development.Education:Supervision of secondary, primary and vocational schools.

Health:(overlap with the regions in the provision of rural health) and be more active especially in the monitoring of local hygiene and sanitation.

(c) Manage markets, sporting and recreational facilities. (d) Opening-up rural areas by constructing, feeder roads. (e) Registration of births, deaths, etc.

(3b) State Traditional Council shall be established with purely advisory role, as follows:

- Giving general advice to the State Government. Advising the State Governments on proposed development plans.

Assisting the States in the collection of taxes as may be required.

Advising on religious matters where appropriate.

� Promoting and advising on arts and culture.

� Advising on Chieftaincy matters and traditional titles and offices, but its consent should be obtained by Government on the creation of new chieftaincy or upgrading of any chief or making laws for the security and dignity of traditional rulers.

� Deliberating and expressing opinions to any organisations on any matter which it deems to be of importance to the state as a whole or which may be referred to it by the government or other organisations.

� Assisting in the mobilisatlon of human and material resources towards self-reliance, community development and welfare within the state.

The President/Chairman shall be a member of the State Security Council.The proposed arrangement is certainly within the framework of a federal system. I have recommended the shift of powers from federal to the regional and State governments to bring real development to the grass-root, and promote unity and good governance.

The greatest guarantee for the smooth operation of the system is that the various governments would recognise and stick to the limit of their powers and responsibilities as may be prescribed and contained in this memorandum.