By EMEKA EJERE |
Despite the rejection of devolution of power to the federating states by the National Assembly, members of Nigerian civil society under the aegis of ‘OneVOICE’ have insisted that the campaign for step by step restructuring of Nigeria must continue.
It believes that certain items on Exclusive Legislative List of the federal government guaranteed by the 1999 Constitution must be transferred to the States.
These include: prisons, police, railways, fingerprints, identification, and criminal records, Road Safety Corps, Driver’s License, Taxes on Lotteries, sales (VAT), toll collections and so on.
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 room for robust enlightenment on the popular agitation for restructuring which has dominated national discourse in recent times.
The group is also of the view that in the other areas too, the states must have exclusive authority except that the Federal Government could lay down standards and guidelines and perhaps make grants towards some of these subject matters.
Areas like Agriculture & Fisheries, Education, Health, Labour, Housing, Local Government, Forestry, Town and Country Planning, Lands, State Judiciary and Vetinary Services fall into this category.
Chief speaker at the event and chairman of OneVOICE Media Committee 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.
Adeleye in his long speech 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.
He claimed that in two major areas 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.”
His speech further read:
“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 Indigeneship 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.”
In his contribution, one of the members of discussant panel, Barr. Collins Okeke, expressed shock at the level of rejection the issue of restructuring suffered at the National Assembly.
“We expressed shock at the level of rejection the issue of rejection suffered at the National Assembly,” he noted.
He described restructuring as allowing various states to take control of their God-given resources and donate an agreed amount to the Federal Government.
Other participants, including members of press took turns to ask their questions and made contributions where necessary, with everybody uniting with the fact that Nigeria cannot make any serious headway without a proper fiscal restructuring.