The Chairman of the All Progressive Congress Committee on restructuring, Governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir el Rufa’i, disclosed that the APC Committee on True Federalism will submit its report in October. He made the disclosure in London where he delivered a lecture on restructuring at Chatham House.
Mr. el-Rufa’i said that the party is trying to provide leadership on the issue. He explained that the “APC set up a Committee on True Federalism to help give structure to the debate, remove the bile and bitterness colouring the matter and transform the discourse into a nation-building opportunity.”
Giving an insight into the committee’s work, el-Rufa’i said that it has focused its research and preparatory work on four broad areas, including devolution of power, review of the revenue allocation formula, citizenship and a review of the recommendations of the 2005 and 2014 national conferences. He admitted that although the Nigerian federation as it presently is is ‘unbalanced’, majority of Nigerians believe that we are better off as a united country.
“As I have argued since 2012, there is no doubt that the Nigerian federation is unbalanced and in dire need of structural re-balancing. This I think we all agree as Nigerians, but the devil is in the details. While some advocates of wholesale abandonment of the existing political structure are probably unrealistic in their expectations, I believe most Nigerians appreciate and cherish our unity in diversity but seek the enthronement of a fairer, meritocratic system that puts social justice above everything else. It is not very hard to achieve this,” he noted.
According to the Kaduna state governor, “the preponderance of opinion is that the Federal Government needs to shed weight, and return powers and resources to the states where most government functions can be more efficiently undertaken. For the states to take on these powers, they need to access a greater share of the nation’s resources. And we need to sort out the notion of citizenship so that every Nigerian can enjoy the protection of the Constitution wherever they choose to reside. In many communities, people still use the notion of ‘indigene-ship’ to consign compatriots to a position of ‘settler’ and, by implication, perpetual exclusion from enjoying the full political, social and economic opportunities guaranteed by the Constitution to every citizen.”
He said after preliminary research and a careful review of history, literature and reports, the committee has reduced the debate on restructuring into twelve ‘contentious issues’.
These are Creation or merger of states and the framework and guidelines for achieving that; Derivation principle; Devolution of powers; Federating Units: Should Nigeria be based on regions or zones or retain the 36-state structure? And Fiscal federalism and revenue allocation.
Others are Form of government – (parliamentary or presidential?); Independent candidacy; Land tenure system; Local government autonomy; Power sharing and rotation of political offices; Resource control; and Type of legislature – part-time or full-time, unicameral or bicameral?
Governor el Rufa’i noted that even “without any legislation, national conference or constitutional amendment” the APC government is already restructuring the country through “convention and pragmatic devolution.”
“For instance, my colleagues and I in the Kaduna State Executive Council requested that the Federal Government should re-designate two major roads in Kaduna, our state capital, as state roads. The Federal Executive Council granted our wishes, restoring the two roads to our control and saving us the inconvenience of seeking permission from a federal bureaucrat before we can install street lights on a major road in our state capital.
“I also cited the fact that the Federal Government no longer just issues mining titles in Abuja; rather it now works with state governments that control the titles to land, unlike in our recent non-collaborative past. In Kaduna State, we are trying to devolve control of forests, management of fire services and other ‘state-level’ functions to our 23 local governments, in addition to many others,” he said.
Adding his opinion to the debate on restructuring, el Rufa’i noted that “I do not believe that a single, centralised police force can deliver on the necessity to visibly project state power and enforce the law in this vast country of ours with nearly 200 million people. Neither is the exclusive control of over-crowded prisons and an unmanageable number of federal trunk roads and railways.”