Federalism, revenue allocation and restructuring in Nigeria – Part 2
The author specifically notes the impact of uniform tax decree that made it impossible for the states to vary taxes besides abolishing export duties and sales tax and imposing uniform fuel pricing system on revenue. It did result in loss of revenue and put the states in an “embarrassing position of participating in revenue sharing than in ‘revenue baking’” (p 91). It suffices to conclude on this subject with the words of the author to the extent that: “fiscal adjustments had been the transfer of revenues from the states to the centre and the continuous retention of an unjustifiably extra large chunk of the revenue by the federal government” (p. 85).
Chapter eight is the story of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC). The author captures the sleaze that is the story of the organisation. The unremitted billions to the federation account and failure to hold it accountable to the Nigerian people despite mindboggling revelations of the alleged stolen billions of naira are focused upon. Chapter nine is on revenue collection and remittance and the process watchdog. Despite regulatory agencies and their enabling laws, revenue collection and remittance is a Nigerian nightmare. The author sums up the argument by ascribing the provenance of poverty in Nigeria to the non-remittance and under-remittance of revenues to the federation account by federal revenue-generating agencies. The issue in chapter ten is what might be called the practical of restructuring. Against a history of tinkering with the Nigerian polity since independence, it harnesses the prescriptions on how to restructure the polity beyond the extant provisions of the prevailing 1999 Constitution to include the timeline prescribed by politicians and statesmen. But the obvious lacuna is the absence of a political will.
Chapter eleven concludes this book and makes recommendations. Some of the recommendation worthy of note is the affirmation of the call for restructuring to reduce the powers of a lumbering central government, financial autonomy to the state governments to be able to augment their Internally Generated Revenue (IGR), streamlining of the powers and functions of the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission and transfer of the power to appoint its members to the National Assembly, making agriculture the exclusive responsibility of states and local governments not federal, and the abolition of Decrees Nos. 6 and 7 of 1975, now laws of the federation which robbed the states of their sources of revenue.
It should be noted, however, that the book has some discontents. First, is the unqualified presentation of the federal theorists and the canonization of Kenneth Clinton Wheare as the originator of the modern theory of federalism. The Oxford-based Australian scholar was indeed active in the constitutional processes in the British Commonwealth but is no reason to miss out on the French theorist, Pierce-Joseph Proudhon (1809-1865), who authored The Principle of Federation. He is credited to be the first person to postulate the federal idea.
Indeed, he made the point that: “Before saying what is meant by federation, it is as well to devote a few pages to the origin and context of the idea. The theory of the federal system is quite new; I think I may even say that no one has ever presented it before. But it is intimately more precisely bound up with the theory of government in general—to speak more precisely, it is its necessary conclusion.” Perhaps, more detailed engagement with other western theorists of federalism such as William Riker, William Livingston, and Carl Friedrich, among others, would have been illuminating.
The full citation of the views of participants in the federalism conversation is monotonous. Paraphrasing and synthesizing the viewpoints based on thematic association would have been more intellectually rewarding. Secondly, in the massive deployment of data, the author loses positionality. The author may be asked: what is your stance on these issues that you have presented? Perhaps, he might be spared of the harsh judgment of critics by the recommendations made in chapter ten of this work.
However, this book is a noble effort at this critical juncture of our national history. It is a repertoire of information for those who wish to navigate the resource allocation waters. It will enlighten those at sea on the question of what is meant by restructuring and possibly drive home the urgency of the moment—the need to revamp a country sitting dangerously on the cliff.
• Akhaine is a Professor of Political Science and visiting member of The Guardian Editorial Board.