Lamentation, anomie and the imperatives of federalism
Prior to the 2015 presidential election there were despondency, acute poverty, pervasive corruption, unemployment and youth restiveness, Boko Haram insurgency, kidnapping, myriads of other criminal activities and a palpable failure of governance at all levels. Against this background, many a Nigerian desired a change of the prevailing conditions. The All Progressives Congress (APC) seized on the mood of the people and offered change. The change mantra of the APC appealed to the people but there was no interrogation of its content. The opportunity for such interrogation, in a debate, was tactfully avoided by the APC, riding on the crest of its popularity as a party on a rescue mission at the time. In any case, for the people, the credentials of the Party’s flag bearer, a man modest with zero tolerance for corruption was adequate; more so, against the perception that the country’s continued existence resides in decimation of corruption. But how wrong! And the question – is there any country in the world that is corruption-free? Certainly none – not with its ramifications, some of which, more invidious than sheer stealing. Nevertheless, there must be an institutional structure within the frame work of the rule of law for dealing with the muster on a sustainable basis, not as end in itself.
Now, in 2018, less than a year to election, it is deja vu in the replay of the hallmarks of the pre-2015 election – general disenchantment, unabating corruption, rising unemployment, episodic attacks by Boko Haram, killings and maiming of hapless citizens by herdsmen, impunity in governance and a general state of anomie. The killings by herdsmen and their motives sadly proclaim a pre-eminence of the cow over human beings. The Federal Government’s response in this regard is feeble, ineffectual and unsatisfactory prompting an uncanny feeling of complicity in the minds of citizens. Faced with security challenges, governors of the affected states lament in a pathetic show of helplessness. The lamentation by governors is regrettable albeit excusable on grounds of the provisions of section 215(4) of the 1999 constitution which states, inter alia: “Subject to the provisions of this section, the Governor of a State or such Commissioner of the Government of the State as he may authorize in that behalf, may give to the Commissioner of Police of that State such lawful directions with respect to the maintenance and securing of public safety and public order within the state as he may consider necessary, and the Commissioner of Police shall comply with those directions or cause them to be complied with Provided that before carrying out any such directions under the foregoing provisions of this section, the Commissioner of Police may request that the matter be referred to the President or such Minister of the Government of the Federation as may be authorized in that behalf by the President for his directions.”
By this provision, it is delusion to regard governors as Chief Security Officers in their states when they cannot exercise power authoritatively and with finality on matters of security. The limitation of centralised policing is now glaring in the recourse of governors to the Federal Government when faced with security challenges. Where there is no rapprochement between the governors and the Federal authorities in this regard, the security of lives and property of persons in the state is needlessly compromised. This is unacceptable and policing in this country must be decentralised to involve state, local governments and communities.
Fundamentally, the failures of leadership and of governance at all levels are system-induced impelled by the Constitutions, 1979-1999. For example, the federalist governance template of the 1960/63 Constitutions was functional, pragmatic and enabling of the creative ideas for development in all the regions before it was truncated in 1966. The post 1966 unitary governance template caricatured in the 1979 – 1999 Constitutions has never worked resulting in systemic failures over the years. The consequence has been the near total dependence by states on Federation Account Allocations for their overheads in contradistinction to the pre – 1966 model by which the Federal Government leveraged on the financial supports of the regions. The need to return to the pre-1966 governance model underscores the agitation for restructuring of the extant system to allow states greater autonomy, in control and exploitation, of material resources with which they are endowed.
Section 44(3) of the 1999 Constitution vests in the Government of the Federation these resources which have remained unexploited over the years, particularly solid minerals. On record, there are at least 44 varieties of solid minerals spread across the states including bitumen, a semi-solid form of petroleum found in locations spanning Edo, Ondo, Ogun and Lagos. Bitumen, a hydrocarbon, is a high revenue-yielding resource and supports industrialisations in many countries, notably, Canada. But for Nigeria, bitumen is imported in spite of large proven reserve of the material. It is a sad comment that even petroleum , the bedrock of Nigeria’s foreign exchange earnings, has not been developed, as evident in the imports of the most basic products – petrol, kerosene and diesel – derivable from crude oil. Yet, many countries not endowed with petroleum resources have achieved broad development of the petroleum industry through value-addition industrialisation. The exclusion of states from control, and exploitation of endowed material resources is largely at the heart of the perception that they are not viable. The strident call for restructuring of the extent governance system seeks to remove this encumbrance on states and to expand the space for their development.
Electric power is a key element for development – domestic commercial and industrial. The aggregate power generation in Nigeria of less than 5000 MW is far too low to support development across the board for a population estimated at more than 150 million. By the rule of the thump, electricity need for this population is not less than 150,000 MW. How and when is the country going to achieve this level of power output? Privatization of the power sector, in generation and distribution, even though welcome, is unsatisfactory and supplies, epileptic. In the absence of meters, the frustration of consumers is exacerbated by estimated billing system of the distribution companies.
Overall, the verdict is that we are in this quagmire because over the years the authority over electric power was centered on federal government as captured in item 13(f) of the Concurrent Legislative list of the 1999 Constitution.
Therefore, sustainable development of this sector resides in decentralisation of power generation, transmission and distribution through a multi – grid system in line with global best practices.
The National Assembly, a body constituted to make laws for the good governance of the country has failed in this regard. It may be conceded, aposteriori, that faced with constitutional crisis of a lacuna in the latter days of the late President Musa Yar’Adua’s administration, the National Assembly rose to salvage the situation by invocation of the ‘doctrine of necessity.’ Beyond this, the National Assembly is self-serving with endless and sterile engagement in constitution-amendment exercises. In addition there is no transparency particularly as regards emoluments approved for themselves outside of the ones approved by the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission constitutionally authorised to do so. The monthly take per senator of 14.3 million Naira as revealed by senator Shehu Sani smacks of insensitivity to the plight of ordinary citizens many of who earn less than the minimum wage of N18,000 which state governments often do not pay as and when due. Steeped in the labyrinth of conflicts and the lack of rapprochement, budget consideration by the National Assembly every year has become an exercise in futility with negative consequences for the economy. The question as to the constitutional role of the National Assembly in budgetary matters remains to be answered. All these lend credence to the need to restructure the governance system. It calls for a review of the structure of representation at the National Assembly and the minimum qualification for eligibility.
To be continued on Sunday.
Prof. Eromosele is a former deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academics), Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta.
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