The Oasis Reporters
Saturday, October 28, 2017
Post Colonial Restructuring:
The Nigerian military subsequently succeeded in completely restructuring the Nigerian State. They dismantled the tripartite structure, which had become quadripartite with the creation of the Mid West in 1963.
In 1967, just before the advent of the civil war, the Gowon Military Administration created 12 states from the four existing regions. The move appeared to have been a political advance because it was addressing the correction of the structural imbalances and ethno-regional inequities of the inherited federal structure.
In 1976, the Mohammed-Obasanjo Administration increased the number of states from 12 to 19; General Babangida raised the number of states to 21 in 1987 and to 30 in 1991 while the regime of General Abacha increased the number of states in the country to 36.
This restructuring through the multiplication of States has produced a Jacobin effect that strengthened Federal power relative to the powers of the federating States.
We should not forget that there was elite consensus that the First Republic collapsed because the regions were too strong. Weakening their power base was therefore the logical objective of restructuring. The real issue however was not weakening of the States per se, but the erosion of a counter weight to what became known as the “Federal Might”.
‘Emergence of a quasi-unitary State’
Rather than correct the ethno-regional balance in the country, the fissiparous state creation tendency by concentrating enormous powers at the centre weakened all political groups that are not in control of the centre.
Increasingly, restructuring led to the emergence of a quasi-unitary State. This tendency was reinforced with further restructuring through the decentralisation policy of the Babangida regime carried out between 1987 and 1991 with the declared aim of increasing the autonomy, democratising, improving the finance and strengthening the political and administrative capacities of local governments. The number of local governments was increased from 301 to 449 in 1989 and to 589 in 1991 and again to 776 in 1996.
Virtually all Nigerians are dissatisfied with the present condition of weak federating units and an excessively strong centre.
Options for Restructuring:
Return to the tripartite regionalism of the First Republic. This is a non-starter as the regions were too large and above all, too uneven. The North alone was much larger than the combined regions in the South.
‘Six Zonal Structure’
Dismantle the State structure and reconstitute Nigeria’s political structure along the six zonal structure.
Nigeria is a very large country and the six federating units might be too large to create for citizens a sense of local identity. Some of the zones might also lack internal cohesion.Maintain the current 36-State structure but take some power and resources from the Federal level and transfer it to the State level. The problem with this option is that the cost of governance has risen excessively under the 36-State structure and the result has been the lack of resources for development. It is this excessive allocation of available resources to maintain the bureaucracy rather than promote development that is largely responsible for the current crisis in the country.
Return to the 1967 12-State Structure is the best option open to Nigeria at this time.
‘Return to the 12-State Structure’
The distortion of the 12-State structure by multiplying the number of States was done to appease new minority groups that emerged after state creation, to spread federal largesse more evenly and sometimes for selfish reasons.
‘Key Principles For Restructuring’
Today, Nigeria cannot sustain the 36-State structure due to their over-dependence on oil revenues that would continue to dwindle in the coming years. The key principle for restructuring are as follows:
Have States that are economically viable and can rely on fiscal resources they generate themselves;
Ensure that States operate in a democratic manner and are run by governors that are accountable to the people and legislators that are not subservient to tin gods;
Give States the constitutional and legislative powers to determine their internal structures such as the number of local governments.
Address the fear of domination by a combined implementation of the power rotation and federal character principles at all levels, which recognizes and combines both merit and the need for fair representation of the broad identities that make up the federation and states – specifically, geography, ethnicity and religion;
Balance the desire for local resource control and the viability of the federation as a whole.
A return to the 12-State federal structure of 1967.
The 12-States would be the federating units of the country;
States shall have full control of their resources and pay appropriate taxes to the Federal Government;
States shall have the powers to create and maintain local governments as they desire;
Overhaul the Legislative Lists and reassign agriculture, education and health to the Residual List in which States alone would have competence but the Federal Government would share a regulatory role with the States;
Mining should be reassigned to the concurrent list with on-land mining under the federating units and off-land mining under the control of the government of the federation.
The power of taxation should remain concurrent.
The Federal Character principle should be retained and strictly and universally observed.
Senate should be abolished and we should have a unicameral legislature
‘Friends of Democracy’:
Bashir Othman Tofa
Sule Yahaya Hamma
Abubakar Siddique Mohammed
Bashir Yusuf Ibrahim