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Analysing ceding of powers from exclusive to concurrent list



THE amended portion of the 1999 Constitution was signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari. The bills titled: ‘Constitutional Alteration Bills’can be described as a piecemeal ceding of some items in the exclusive legislative list to the concurrent.

For instance, in the energy sector, state governments can now embark on electricity generation and transmission in the areas covered by the national grid. Equally, they can be players in the railways transport sub sector to save the high ways from devastation by heavy trucks.

The former governor of Ekiti State, Dr Fayemi Kayode had once contended that restructuring of the country to reinvent true fiscal federalism will trigger substantial socioeconomic growth and development of the country. He said: “Our desire to build a more perfect union should be anchored on the principles of devolution of powers, that is, the re-allocation of powers and resources to the country’s federating units”.

The partial devolution of some items from the exclusive to concurrent list can be said to merely scratching the developmental challenges in the face. At best, it could have been from exclusive list to residual list without the federal government having anything to do with the items so transferred. What the country needs is a bold initiative to hearken to age-long clarion calls for the full scale devolution of powers otherwise known as “restructuring of the lopsided federation” to reinvent true fiscal federalism as was practiced in the First Republic backed with the 1960 Independence Constitution which was later amended to 1963 Republican Constitution.

A noted politician, Bisi Akend had criticised the present constitution amendment to the fundamentally flawed 1999 Constitution and called for the convocation of national conference of ethnic nationalities for the restructuring of the country into six geopolitical zones as federating units. This will enable the federating units have autonomy as was in the Republican Constitution to explore and exploit the vast natural and mineral resources to create wealth and massive employment.

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He said: “The 1999 Constitution is Nigeria’s greatest misadventure since the amalgamation of 1914…it can never be beneficially reviewed, and this ongoing, piecemeal adjustments or amendments can only completely blot out the essence of national values”.

Centralized security has enabled foreign herdsmen clutching AK 47 to have effortlessly infiltrated the country’s northern borders and serially embarked on ethnic cleansing escapade which has led food insecurity in addition to kidnapping for huge ransom.

A political scientist recalled that “The colonial masters never lived under the illusion that Nigeria, a country having such a vast land mass and consisting of ethnic nationalities with disparate background, language and cultures could live under a centralised government for long have the proclamation of the Richard’s Constitution of 1946. The constitution stated inter alia ‘to create a political system within which the diverse elements may progress at varying speeds, amicably and smoothly, towards a more closely integrated economic, social and political unity without sacrificing the principles and ideals in their divergent ways of life.

“It is pertinent to recall that the founding fathers of Nigeria settled for a full-fledged federation as the basis of our existence as a nation in 1954. It was an attempt to discard the legacy of federation by the then military government of General AguiyiIronsi via Decree 34 of 1966, otherwise known as ‘Unification Decree’ that led to the deadly riots in the north and a chain of events which culminated in a civil war.

“To worsen matters, successive military regimes destroyed the federal principles. The present unitary structure disguised as federalism, where all roads lead to Abuja, is not sustainable. Federalism is predicated on fiscal federalism which led to “competitive federalism” of the former regional governments”.

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A federalist, Eliot Uko contended that “the only route to progress and real development is through restructuring the polity. The unitary structure is responsible for over 80 percent of our miseries. Nigeria needs to devolve powers to the federating units and see the country explode economically. The unitary structure is retarding the growth of the country. We are only delaying the greatness of our country by delaying the restructuring of Nigeria; therein lies the roadmap to greater Nigeria”.    

 Principles of federal system of government in the Republican Constitution enabled the regional governments to control the natural and mineral resources and pay certain amount to the centre for the running of common services. This ideal federal arrangement gave rise to what was called “competitive federalism” going by the efforts of the respective regional governments to develop at its own pace factoring the socio-economic values of the respective regions.

The National Independent editorial of February 10, 2014 contended that “the clamour for a national conference was actually a desperate pitch to make a new beginning as a nation by birthing a new federal constitution. Origins of modern constitutions show that they were drawn up and adopted because people wished to make a fresh start as far as the statement of their systems of government were concerned”.

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