Federalism is the answer, after all – Part 54
Like the hyenas, Nigerian stakeholders are gathering in several conclaves across the country to bargain for a giant share of the wealth of the country, a by-product of the natural endowment of the peoples of the geo-political entity.
In the din of haggling the necessity for creating wealth and saving for the rainy days are the points at issue but the sharing of the already baked cake and getting the lion share without respectability and consideration of the sections of the geopolitical entity that are the source of the national cake.
This indication came from the North-west of the country as the Engr. Elias Mbam-led Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission make the round of the country to perform its constitutional obligation of reviewing the extent controversial revenue allocation formula in the country as engrossed in the 1999 Constitution as amended.
Besides, the other day, Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), the apex South-South socio-cultural group, gave notice to the country that it would resist moves by a section of the country to aggrandise the resources emanating from the Niger-Delta region to itself. While demanding an upward review of the derivation allocation from its present 13 per cent to 50 per cent, it noted that other regions in the past enjoyed the reward of resources from their lands to the tune of about 50 per cent. This was expressed in the communiqué that was signed by Senator Emmanuel Ibok Essien, national chairman, Akwa Ibom State; Chief Thompson Okorotie, deputy national chairman, Bayelsa State; and Senator Bassey Ewa- Henshaw, PANDEF chairman, Cross Rivers State; Prof. Godini Darah, PANDEF chairman, Delta State, Dame Betty Igbeyi, PANDEF National Woman Leader, Edo State and Prof. B. B. Fakae, member, PANDEF BoT, Rivers State. According to the communiqué, “when revenues from cocoa (in the West), groundnut (in the North), and Palm Produce and Coal (in the East) were the nation’s economic mainstay, derivation in the Revenue Allocation principle was not less than 50 per cent.” And now “derivation, as a revenue allocation principle, has been resolutely suppressed since crude oil became the country’s major revenue earner.” As it disagreed with the sinister move by some members of the House of Representatives to expurgate the section on derivation, it reminded the Nigerians that “the principle of derivation as encapsulated under the proviso to Section 162 (2) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), was aimed at providing recompense to the producers of any natural resources for the expropriation and sequestration of their rights to control and manage same, by the Nigerian State.”
It would be recalled that some 59 northern lawmakers of the House of Representatives are alleged to be making plans to expurgate from the grundnorm by means of a bill to amend Subsection 2, Section 2 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended). This and the demands of the North West of the country combined are enough to stoke the embers of controversy over the sharing of the “national cake.” Besides, seven states from the North West, namely, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Sokoto, Jigawa, Kebbi and Zamfara, had demanded that the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) give them the lion share of revenue to states and local governments. The rationale for their demand is the enormous responsibility of the states, which are now saddled with the responsibility of funding security apparatus, which is the sole responsibility of the Federal Government. In the words of the Governor of Kaduna State, Nasir el-Rufai, who played host to the states in the region, “The Federal Government retains the largest chunk of federation resources because it does too much but is too stretched and so does little well. Yet, the things that really matter to citizens are state and local government functions. For instance, basic and secondary education, primary healthcare and agriculture are sub-national responsibilities.”
It should be noted, however, that despite the constitutional provision that revenue allocation is reviewed every five years because of socio-economic and political changes in the country, the exercise was last conducted in 1992. The 1999 Constitution states in paragraph 32 (b), part 1 of the Third Schedule to the 1999 Constitution (as amended) that RMAFC shall “review from time to time the revenue allocation formula and principles in operation to ensure conformity with changing realities, provided that any revenue formula, which had been accepted by an Act of the National Assembly shall remain in force for a period of not less than five years from the date of commencement of the Act.”
Nevertheless, we need to foreground for the sake of reason and the ideals of a federal constitutional arrangement that it is the duty of state governments or units to the federal union to decide their local government structure in line with their objective realities. The Nigerian abnormality of a three-tier federation should be resisted by federalists. Retaining the arbitrarily created local governments in the country today is to legitimatise political fraud and to deepen the quicksand upon which the foundation of the country is erected. Mbam should mind the gap here even as it prepares to present a new revenue sharing formula to the President for onward transmission to the National Assembly by December. The President should be reminded that previous efforts to review the revenue allocation formula under the previous administration of Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan were stalled for sundry but illogical bureaucratic reasons.
There is therefore a sense in which we can stress our stand here once again that this revenue formula should be a veritable starting point for restructuring of the federation within the construct of federalism we lost since 1966 when the soldiers struck down democracy and imposed a retrogressive unitary system, which has since diminished the stature and majesty of democracy.