Rebuilding Nigeria (2), By Dele Agekameh
This is the time to make sacrifices for the future of this country and the well being of generations yet unborn. If things are allowed to go the right way, it is quite obvious that all these agitations mushrooming all over the place would be brought to an end.
Last week, this column dwelt on many issues begging for solution in Nigeria. One of them was the devolution of power. Another was the clamour for the creation of new states based on ethnicity, especially now that the country has moved away from regional or zonal arrangements to federal and state governments.
A case in point here is that of the Gwari people. Since most of the calls for the creation of new states are to give ethnic minorities a voice within the national space, what about the Gwari people who have been caught up in Abuja, Niger, Nassarawa, Kaduna and Kogi states? How do they get their own state? There are undoubtedly many more groups like this, and the creation of states for a number of minorities will lead to clamours from other groups who the government cannot create states for.
It is, therefore, proposed that the number of states presently existing cannot and should not be exceeded for this reason, and and also because with more autonomy going to states, many newly created states, if this happens, and a number of already existing ones, may not even be able to sustain themselves. Instead, there should only be the possibility for merger of states if the citizenry can agree through referenda, for the purposes of combining resources for sustenance.
This brings us to resource control and the derivation principle. This is closely connected to the devolution of powers. Also, this speaks directly to the Niger Delta people’s call and their view of restructuring. Without doubt, there needs to be some changes in this formula to reassure people from the region that any restructuring is inclusive of their interests. The proposal contemplates that states control their own resources. This can be implemented across board, but with a modification regarding oil and gas/petroleum resources. These resources can be granted a special status with varied rules regarding its control. This is already the case, but with 13 percent derivation, the Niger Delta region will continue to agitate, within the purview of the widespread decay of the environment in the region. While other states may enjoy a 60 percent share of profit from resources, if any, while 40 percent is remitted to the Federal Government, oil producing regions will retain 30 percent of profits from their resources and remit 70 percent to the Federal Government because of the importance and value of this product. As a consequence, however, the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs and all other quasi-federal agencies will be dissolved as part of plans to ease federal costs.
Also, no special agency of this kind may be formed in any part of Nigeria, including the newly passed North-East Development Commission, but special intervention funds can be availed to the state governments or administered directly by the Federal Government, through committees. The present clean-up of the Niger Delta, which has been given a timeline of 20 years will also be maintained in partnership with international organisations and the relevant state governments.
The issue of State Police is also a vital part of the devolution process. For any real restructuring to take place, this may have to be considered. The scourge of herdsmen in recent times has left state governments at the mercy of a federally controlled police force, having no real power to secure their territories against roving herdsmen who defile lands within states without regard to local ownership and authority. Also, community policing can be served through state control of police force. However, an association of inspectors-general/Police chiefs will sit at the federal level and advice the president on common issues. This body will be similar to the governors’ forum, but only for the purpose of cohesion and the sharing of information, while keeping the federal spirit alive.
…where herdsmen have to cross into other states, the owners or controllers of the herdsmen must notify local police of their route and activities within state boundaries. Any unreported movement should be considered as hostile and treated accordingly by state police.
At the federal level, there will be a National Guard who may be called into any state where there is widespread unrest or may be called in by the president, possibly with the military, where it is determined that a state government has lost control of the state or is working against the country as a whole. Also, where herdsmen have to cross into other states, the owners or controllers of the herdsmen must notify local police of their route and activities within state boundaries. Any unreported movement should be considered as hostile and treated accordingly by state police.
And to the argument for part-time legislators in line with the recommendations of the 2014 national conference, it is proposed that all elected legislators be appointed on a part-time basis to reduce the overhead cost of governance.
Based on these arguments, I believe that the following recommendations should be considered for any restructuring programme:
• The writing of a new constitution with a true federal and democratic character;
• Maintaining the current state structure or shrinking this, if states agree to merge, but not the creation of more states;
• Creation of state police;
• Devolution of power to state governments, and having a weaker centre;
• A part-time role for legislators to reduce governmental costs;
• No seccession
• A sustainability study and report to be submitted by all states to confirm availability of resources for fiscal independence;
• Where unsustainable, referendum for joining stronger states could be carried out;
• The guiding principle shall be the finality of any resolution made and this must be contained in any new constitution/amendment.
While the above points are not exhaustive, but represent the key points to be considered, the following are the recommended vehicles for carrying out any deliberations and arrangements that may be put in place in the event of any restructuring:
1. Creation of a committee: Much like the constituent assembly envisaged by President Nicholas Maduro in Venezuela now, but acting outside the government, to be made up of not more than 120 people. The large numbers of delegates at previous national conferences was a problem. The committee should be made up of:
a. All attorney generals of states and the attorney general of the federation or their representatives,
b. 20 distinguished members between 25 and 40 years of age with advanced education, as the effects of any results will be felt in the mid to long term and therefore directly affect this group,
c. All living past presidents and vice presidents,
d. 20 elder statesmen evenly represented from all regions,
e. Other vital stakeholders.
What Nigerians want is a country where everybody will have a sense of belonging, where there is a level-playing field so that everybody could realise his or her ambition without necessarily having to suffer discrimination of any kind.
2. This committee will be responsible for rewriting or amending the constitution, as considered appropriate.
3. Upon consideration by the committee, lasting not more than six months, there should be a referendum on the key outcomes, condensed into easy yes/no questions e.g new constitution or not, etc.
4. A four-year transitional period for the resolutions reached by the committee.
These suggestions are for the purpose of analysis and wide-spread deliberations in order to avoid the present near state of anomie now hovering over the country. It is true that many things are wrong in the country today due to insincerity and incompetence of some of our leaders. But like they say, the longest journey on earth starts with a step. We should critically look at the myriad of problems confronting the country and then take them one by one and proffer enduring solutions to them, if we are to continue to live as one indivisible country.
It appears that in our almost 57 years of independence, all we have succeeded in doing is to create ethnic bigots and tyrants who, rather than work assiduously for the growth and development of the nation, have allowed premodial interests to rule over them. This is the time to make sacrifices for the future of this country and the well being of generations yet unborn. If things are allowed to go the right way, it is quite obvious that all these agitations mushrooming all over the place would be brought to an end.
What Nigerians want is a country where everybody will have a sense of belonging, where there is a level-playing field so that everybody could realise his or her ambition without necessarily having to suffer discrimination of any kind. In other words, Nigerians want a country where people are equally treated without anybody or group of people being treated as second class citizens.
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