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‘How to restructure Nigeria through power devolution’

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Former president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Dr. Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), has proposed how to restructure the country by devolving powers.

Agbakoba’s position is contained in a letter he addressed to the president of the Senate, Ahmed Lawan, yesterday, titled, “A simple way to restructure Nigeria by devolving powers.”

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His words: “It is my honour and pleasure to present to you, for consideration at the National Assembly, a simple proposal in what is considered a complex issue.

“Nigeria has been long engaged in the federalism question. It is clear that because of our diverse nature and large size, the political system best suited for Nigeria is a federal system. But the challenge has been what type of federalism. Many proposals, including restructuring, have been put forward without success.

“I believe there is a simple solution. This is the devolution of powers. The constitution has two legislative lists namely, exclusive and concurrent. These lists have 98 items of power. The Federal Government exercises exclusive power over 68 items on the exclusive list.”

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The states, in concurrence with the Federal Government, he noted, exercise power over 30 items on the concurrent list, while the states exercise power on the concurrent list, only if the Federal Government has not already “covered the field” on any of the 30 items.

“In effect, state governments really have no power. I suggest that to resolve this, a committee may review the 98 items of power and assign what is best to the federal and what is best to the states, based on the principle of subsidiarity. I also suggest the exclusive list and concurrent list be renamed as the federal legislative list and state legislative list,” he suggested.

The eminent lawyer added that the Federal Government should exercise reserved powers, while the states exercise devolved power.

Agbakoba recalled that as president of the NBA, he worked with the Forum of Federations that reviewed diverse models of federalism, which can be of assistance to the National Assembly.

He expressed willingness to meet with the Senate if needed for more clarifications.

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