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Restructuring the Nigerian federation

By Eugene Uwalaka
04 August 2017   |   4:03 am
Restructuring can mean a whole gamut of concepts depending on the perspective from which one looks at the word. In Nigeria, the whole system has gone out of control.

Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN)

The Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami told a bewildered nation on democracy day that restructuring won’t work. He advanced three reasons why he thinks a simple exercise like restructuring won’t work. He told those clamouring for restructuring that it cannot be effected in one fell swoop. Secondly only democratic means should be used to effect the recommended social economic and political reforms. Thirdly, the minister warned that the abolition of states will have (negative) multiplier effect on the nation. He also pointed out the consequential effects of downsizing the Senate, the House of Representatives and the State Houses of Assembly. (Read the Nation pages 1 and 3 dated 31/05/17).

In spite of this claustrophobia, the Minister clearly exuded overt understanding of what restructuring entails. However, the restructuring envisaged by the 2014 Confab Agreement goes beyond two to three levels of government. A transition programme should be expeditiously drawn to walk the talk. The transition programme should be based on legislative timelines to avoid clogs in our exist strategies from dual federalism to cooperative federalism. In due course we can expand from cooperative federalism to the creative federalism envisaged in the 2014 Confab Agreement.

The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999 CFRN) is the engine that moves the nation. The 2014 Confab brought down this engine that drives the nation, overhauled it to identify the squeaky and frictional joints that hindered growth and development in the last 57 years. To restructure the Federal Republic of Nigeria in the context of the 2014 Confab agreements, those resolutions of the National Conference should be used by the National Assembly to debug the constitution of distortions, aberrations, conflicting provisions and lopsidedness to make the constitution grassroots, growth and development oriented.

To use the phraseology of Malcolm X, it is the joint that squeaks that needs the grease. The Speaker of the House of Representative, Yakubu Dogara, are you listening? We don’t need a new constitution. What is needed is an update of the 1999CFRN using the 2014 Confab Agreement as input data.

Some people are irked by this padded discussion on restructuring. Some have mischievously asked; what is the meaning of the word restructuring? Some ask, what are we restructuring? The answer is, we are restructuring the 1999CFRN. This is to enable us to reorganise the political economic, social, technological, ecological, educational and legal subsystems. The 1999CFRN is largely a system documentation. When a system is not achieving the goals and objectives it is supposed to achieve, the system is overhauled, examined and analyzed to identify the dysfunctional elements. This enables alternative system to be designed and implemented.

The 1999CFRN is not achieving the goals and objectives marshaled out in chapter two, sections 13, 14, 15 to 24. For instance, the government recorded dismal performance over the last 50 years in its attempt to achieve fundamental obligations in section 13, 1999CFRN. The overt failure of government under Section 14(b) 1999CFRN is responsible for the catastrophic restructuring or quit order given to Ndigbo by the “16-Northern-Youth-Groups.” Their threat has not been rescinded. If it is implemented, come 1st October, there will either be a coup or the IPOB will achieve Biafra without going to war. The issue of a coup arises when the system is not peacefully restructured before it goes out-of-control.

I promised earlier to define restructuring. Restructuring can mean a whole gamut of concepts depending on the perspective from which one looks at the word. In Nigeria, the whole system has gone out of control. So the restructuring here is generic in that all the basic system elements will be affected. Reforms, reviews and reorganization will be undertaken in the diverse framework of political economic, social, technological, ecological and legal subsystems comprising the system. Restructuring in political hermeneutics is a growth and development strategy used to reframe the power perspectives of the institutions and levels of government (federal, state and local).

Institutional reforms are long overdue. Default and delay in restructuring the Legislature, the Judiciary and Executive realms of government are factors responsible for the squabbles and frosty relationship among the three realms of government. Through a scheme of restructuring overlapping functions and abdication of institutional functions and responsibilities will be laid bare and rectified. In the last 17 years, there have been persistent budget wars between the legislature and the executive. This time around, Prof. Muhammad Mainoma was asked whether the legislature can alter the provision of the budget as presented by the executive. He blandly said the legislature cannot alter the national budget by increasing it but the legislature can decrease it. The professor was merely being conservative but forgot perhaps that the legislature can adjust a flexible budget either upwards or downwards when the need arises. Mainoma failed to discover the cause of this binary conflict when there should be inter-branch cooperation.

Mainoma’s response was based on parliamentary system which is markedly different from the presidential system that ought to be in place. He forgot that you cannot mix night and day and expect a sunrise as Jawaharlal Nehru once said. The executive arm of government got fixated to economy planning, budget compilation, tracking and control, coming from the parliamentary system. The original jurisdiction for planning, budget compilation, tracking and control under presidential system of government belongs to the legislature and not the executive. Financial legislation, regulation and control vest in the legislature but because the presidential system of government, budgeting and accounting was not known to the legislature and the executive the legislature abdicated this basic function of the legislature to the executive.

The legislature is by 1999CFRN supposed to plan and control the national economy. I have written time and again on this matter counseling gratuitously that the National Assembly should have its own budget office. This will enable it take back the job of planning, budgeting and control of the national economy from the executive. The lopsided development constituencies and states suffer is the outcome of this inverted system of planning, budgeting and controls.

The parliamentary system is warped and skewed to favour constituencies that voted for the government in power. It is based on the spoils system. Under presidential system of government, every constituency is favoured unless the assembly men and women representing it don’t have projects to tender when the call is made through the budget circular by the National Assembly budget office. These are some of the squabbles and hiccups restructuring is supposed to address.

Every constituency of members of the green and red chambers will collate figures and compile returns of constituency projects to get aggregate figures of the national budget. Having concluded this process of budgeting, reconciliation is done between the green and red chambers. When finalised and passed, the budget is presented to the executive for execution or implementation. It is in this context that legislative oversight functions make sense. The legislature compares actual with budgeted figures in the course of its oversight or investigative functions.

Uwalaka, a former special assistant and political systems analyst wrote from Lagos.