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What happened to APC report on federalism?


As politicians are jostling to secure their positions within #PROJECT2019, defecting to different parties in pursuit of relevance for only themselves, subordinating the sanctity of the rule of law to personal interests, perfecting how to truncate press freedom, we need to ask political leaders in the governing party what they want to do with the most important document they produced and made public in January this year: ‘Report of The APC Committee on True Federalism’.

I am fully persuaded that it is public interest to ask about this all-important document and failure to be genuine about how to implement the contents before next year’s election may undermine national security too. And here is the thing, those who always afraid of the hard questions in the governing APC, should not regard this question on what they want to do with their report as a political question: It is a question on nation building and the future of the world’s most populous black nation, Nigeria. No matter the insults from all social media platforms, political leaders generally – from the ruling to the opposition parties should note that they have a responsibility to listen to what the people they want to continue to govern are saying. They need to ask their creator for the spirit and power of tolerance at this time. Reason: hard questions based on raw data will come sooner than later on what they have been doing with us since 1999.

Unexpected questions will crop up on what the federal government, the 36 state governors and 774 local governments have been doing with what they have been collecting from the federation accounts from 1999 to date. We will ask questions on how their life styles have destroyed lives of hundreds of millions of Nigerians. At such a time of reckoning like this, they can’t prevent probing questions from the public through the press on perception of how they have been prosecuting war on corruption. There will be tough questions, on how public appointments have been distributed in recent years in public interest within the context of constitutional provisions on federal character.

We are bound to ask questions about how political leaders and public officers have improved critical infrastructure from 1999 to date. We will ask significant questions on why the NNPC they promised to overhaul is still powerful enough to manipulate the nation on revenue accounting and accountability. We will, as a corollary to that, probe why the Presidency and National Assembly have been playing dirty politics with the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) (now Petroleum Industry Governance Bill, PIGB) about 18 years after it was introduced to Nigeria’s wonderful National Assembly.

We will ask the South West political leaders, specifically why the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway through Shagamu Ore-Road have not been completed 19 years into this democracy. There will be questions on why the nation depends on only two Apapa Ports with the worst roads on earth for even conveyance of imported PMS and other imported petroleum products. There will be further questions on why the refineries have not be working and why the nation that can’t initiate a new refinery project is shamelessly waiting for Dangote’s private refinery to take off. We will be resourceful enough to ask relevant questions and they should be ready to answer all the questions – they are in public interest at this time.

But the most important question for this moment is what the ruling party and the presidency would like to do with their own “Report of the APC Committee on True Federalism” submitted to the president since Thursday January 25, 2018. This follow-up question has become germane now that politics of 2019 elections is beginning to overshadow governance and other weightier matters of the law about Nigeria. No one from the governing to even the main opposition parties has been referring to this covenant with the people again. We are not used to being document-minded here and state actors know this and take advantage of our amnesia.

Yet, I am fully persuaded that the most critical covenant the APC leaders and the president need to fulfil before the next election is implementation of the very well crafted blueprint on ‘true federalism’ that the president would like to confine to the archives too. This is not a time to blame anyone about executive procrastination. It is not a time for shifting the blame to the past administration that failed the nation on this too. It is a covenant well documented in the APC Manifesto – true federalism. So, they should know that it is a promise they can keep to make history.

Besides, the benefit of keeping this covenant will not evaporate as quickly as the one they did to June 12 monument recently when they honoured the iconic M.K.O Abiola and changed democracy day from May 29 to June 12. This is only prominent: it can’t be as significant as actionable plans on true federalism report, after all.

In other words, it a time to encourage the president and the APC leaders to freeze politics this week, renew their minds about that document they may have dumped. They need cognitive restructuring. That is what Paul of Tarsus recommended more that two thousand years ago when he counselled: ‘Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind’. Transformation or restructuring or reform begins from our minds. And it can only happen when we renew that mind and learn, unlearn and relearn as Alvin Toffler once noted.

Specifically, when the APC Committee on restructuring chaired by Kaduna State Govrnor, Nasir El-rufai, submitted its report to the national leadership of the party, reports indicated very interesting recommendations, which I have confirmed from certified true copies of the document.

According to document, the committee engaged about 8,040 persons during 14 sittings nationwide; held 12 public consultations in all the six geopolitical zones in the country, while 409 memoranda were received from respondents. The committee initially started with 10 members but was expanded to 23 members.The committee found that Nigerians showed interest in 24 issues including: the creation of states, merger of states, state police, the derivation principle, fiscal federalism, local government autonomy, devolution of powers, type of government, independent candidacy, public holidays, the land tenure system, power sharing and rotation, type of legislature, affirmation for vulnerable groups like the physically challenged, women and youths, the minimum wage, border adjustment, secular statutes of the country, and the conduct of referendums. Of those issues, the panel made recommendations on 13.

Merger of states:
The panel proposes a draft bill that will allow states to merge if they so desire. The report shows that just 36 per cent of those polled by the committee wanted more states to be created, and since there is already a procedure for creation of states in the constitution.

Derivation Principle:
Panel recommends that the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) Act be amended to vest it with the power to periodically review the derivation formula and make recommendations to the President who shall table the same before the National Assembly for necessary action.

Fiscal federalism and revenue allocation:
Panel wants constitutional amendment to give more revenue to the states and reduce the Federal Government’s share.

Devolution of powers:
The panel recommends this based on popular demand for there to be devolution of powers to the states from the FG. “We have recommended that the first schedule, part one and two be amended to transfer some powers to the states,” said el-Rufai on the day he submitted the document.

State Police:
The committee recommends that state police should be moved from the Exclusive list to the Concurrent list. “We are recommending that police should be both federal and state”, the committee chairman said.

Resource control (exploitation and revenue Sharing of resources from oil minerals):
The committee proposes that mining, minerals, oil revenues should go to the states but that it should be limited to onshore areas, not offshore ones which would still be owned by the FG. “There will be certain constitutional amendments. The Petroleum Act will be amended to show that states can now issue oil mining licences; the Land Use Act, Nigeria Minerals and Mining Act, the Petroleum Profit Tax Act, 2007, would all need to be amended. So, we have proposed amendments that will ensure that minerals, mining and oil are vested in the states except offshore minerals,” el-Rufai also noted.

There are other significant recommendations including ones on
Local Government Autonomy, Referendum, Independent candidacy: Citizenship: Public holidays and Judiciary.The report was widely hailed as a masterstroke that could align the governing party’s manifesto with wishes of most people in the country. This is the way the influential The Guardian (Nigeria) commented on the remarkable report in an editorial of February 14, 2018: ‘The report of a committee of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), which has recommended the devolution of powers, resource control, state police, amongst others, is likely to be one of the clearest demonstrations of political progress in this country, when implemented. For a country fixated on a dubious heritage of military-imposed unitarism and its attendant complications, the recommendations of the APC have rightfully called to question Nigeria’s long and treacherous practice of its own contrived form of federalism….’

Before we all doze off again, the president and the governing party, (APC) should dust up that document and submit ‘A Bill for an Act to Alter the Provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 to Provide for the Merger of States and Other Related Matters” as contained in ‘Vo.2: Legislative, Executive and Other Action Plans’ of the report.

Lest we forget, the ongoing constitution amendment at the National Assembly is too important to be left to the legislators alone. It should be seen as an opportunity instead of dismissing it as a threat. While the APC has earned the applause of Nigerians with the remarkable report, the president and his party should be told in clear terms that the time to freeze partisanship is now and machinery must be set in motion today to send the concomitant Bill to the Legislature. The future of Nigeria and safety of democracy depend on sincere commitment to that ‘APC Committee Report on True Federalism’. The nation should encourage the ruling class to honour their covenant with the people on federalism now or never!

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