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Misuse, abuse and derailment of Nigeria’s federalism

By Akpo Esajere
16 May 2016   |   1:30 am
Recent push by state governors for a new revenue allocation formula through a national fiscal restructuring Plan is nothing but a match of dwarfs against a behemoth.
President Muhammadu Buhari

President Muhammadu Buhari

Recent push by state governors for a new revenue allocation formula through a national fiscal restructuring plan is nothing but a match of dwarfs against a behemoth.

Not much can be expected to come to them. Although they have put forward proposals on the basis of the 36 states being federating units, they are constitutionally crippled.

The Nation’s Federal System is make-believe; states are appendages of the federal government saddled with foams of unitary events that make them subservient to the centre in Abuja.

The 2014 National Conference in deciding the way forward on the question of development of solid minerals, for example, provided setting up of a Solid Minerals Development Fund.

According to the 450-member body, states should draw from the fund to enable them participate actively and directly in investments, especially in the resources based in their domains.

Most of the states are richly endowed with various categories of solid minerals including gems with some of them ranked as world leader, example, bitumen in Ondo.

Chairman, 2014 National Conference, Juctice Idris Kutigi

Chairman, 2014 National Conference, Juctice Idris Kutigi

Zamfara has gold, a gem. Seven states – Cross River, Rivers, Adamawa, Taraba, Plateau, Bauchi and Kano have of late been discovered with valued quantities of uranium, a quality resource.

Investing in them, the confab felt, would help the states to grow their economies and encourage saving as well as enable the country move away from dependence on oil.

The confab report, now kept in abeyance, had over 400 key recommendations, most on making the states viable and enhanced federating units.
State governors are today going cap-in-hand to Abuja to hold meetings and beg Buhari to give them money apparently to settle backlog of owed salaries.

“These governors have themselves to blame,” said one source, a prominent participant at the confab, “during our sitting in the committee on devolution, one northern governor stood up and told us they are not interested in investing on solid minerals.

“His state has deposits of gold. So, you see, that’s the problem. We discovered that some northern states really don’t want their minerals to be exploited. We have no choice but to restructure. They have to implement that report else I don’t see this country coming out of the woods.”
Governors and political posturing

 Yari

Yari

Acting through their national forum – Nigeria Governors’ Forum, NGF, the governors drew a Plan, which they lodged with Buhari. The President, on his part, promised to study it and work out something – the best patriotic or patronizing thing to do in the circumstance.

They had no props. Their demand was based on worsening economic conditions in the states. The Federal government had in August last year advanced 27 distressed states bail-out funds to pay owed workers’ salaries, whereby 24 of them, according to the President Buhari, are still indebted to their workers, over which he said, “I am very concerned.”

The governors seem buoyed by the fact of the All Progressives Congress (APC), which governs at the Centre and controls 23 states leads the charge. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has 12 states and All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) one.

In lamenting the bad shapes of their states, there is no evidence of governors cutting down on their lifestyles or making other sacrifices on behalf of the states.Instead of saving, states owe, throwing them into an economic quagmire.

NGF Chairman and Zamfara State Governor, Abdulaziz Yari, on behalf of his colleagues, argues that it is impossible for states to save when the federal government pockets 52 percent of the Nation’s monies and allocates a paltry 26 percent to the 36 states.
He defends their proposed allocation formula by;
• Dwindling oil prices
• States’ inability to save under the sharing formula in which the federal government takes the lion share and states peanuts
• Yari claims Buhari promised states support with 15 percent from Excess Crude Account in the short term
• Says proposed fiscal plan is dear to them.
• Says FG is to refund part of monies owed states on infrastructure; it is the only way for them to tackle their fiscal challenges.
• Argues states are the economic base and source of survival and welfare of the people.
• States are the landlords; own the land and the people; the country’s economy lies with the states as everything comes from the states etc.
“The meeting is about the economy. We deliberated among our colleagues and we did say we would pass our demand to the federal government to look at the demands per state, says Yari.
“You will agree with me that states are the landlords. We own the land and the people therefore the economy of the country lie in the states.

The Minister of Solid Minerals Development, Kayode Fayemi

The Minister of Solid Minerals Development, Kayode Fayemi

“Everything comes from the states – oil, agricultural produce, mining and people are in the states while the federal government is in Abuja.” Buhari and “feeding bottle federal government”

Dr. John Kayode Fayemi, Minister of solid minerals, a former Ekiti State governor, is among persons who popularized the expression, “feeding bottle federal government,” incidentally at the time of the 2014 confab.

This refers to the unfair and unjust set-up, whereby states make monthly trips to Abuja to draw allocations from the centrally collected Federation Account – what Oral Literature Professor, Godini Gabriel (G.G.) Darah once graphically captured as: Kano State with 44 local governments arrives Abuja with 44 lorries; Bayelsa with eight LGs eight.

Of course, Buhari assured governors of quick action in refunding monies spent on federal infrastructure by the states and expressed concern that 24 states, out of 27, which collected bailout funds, still owe workers’ salaries.

Also, the Federal government will set up an inter-ministerial committee to review the governors’ proposed restructuring plan with a view to make recommendations on how the President could deal with them.

And notably, the recommendations would be processed through the Presidency, Federal Executive Council and legislation by the National Assembly – a laborious merry-go-round, the type that has over the years impoverished the states despite offers of bail-outs.
Behemoth federal government and Confab approach

With the wealth that resides in the federal government, corruption is inevitable in the Presidency. And this irrespective of Buhari’s acclaimed tough stance against corruption.

For example, there are 425 federal ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) under the Presidency. As one source remarked “how can the President appoint 425 angels in those places.”

The 2014 confab answers to some of these are worthy of note being more utilitarian and realistic than the good things the government is straining to make the people believe will be achieved over fighting corruption and working hard for good governance, much as the country also needs the corruption war and good governance to move forward.

In any case, there appears to be simply no way Buhari, in spite of the global and local plaudits accorded him over his anti-corruption campaign, will build lasting Presidential legacy, if he did not undertake any serious restructuring plan capable of transforming the country.

He has come across to many as a strict disciplinarian. He must do things besides his war on corruption and security so as not to end up only as a corruption and security fighter.

Nigeria is deeply divided along ethnic, religious social and political lines. He has the onerous historical role of transforming her politically, economically, socially and in security.

The President may have been struck that while making their case, state governors made no references to local governments. Like the people, LGs live in the states.

And under the subsisting statutory revenue allocation formula, LGs, the third-tier of government takes 20 percent from the Federation Account, placing them on the first-line-charge like the FG and states.

Unfortunately LG money gets to them through state governors. Governors routinely abuse this abnormal construct: they may remit, partially remit, or not remit at all to their LGs. The confab addressed it by recommending that states create and manage their LGs.

The inclusion of LGs as tier of government is one of the many crisis-prone creations of the 1999 Constitution. The delegates gave states the right to create any number they want and run as they see fit.

The confab also came up with the Federal Government 42 percent: states 68 percent revenue allocation formula to strengthen states in their roles as federating units.They abolished security votes, saying budgets should be drawn for security to avoid the money being turned into slush funds for governors.

Goodluck-JonathanIncreased derivation through devolution of powers between the FG and states was at the heart of the confab’s revenue 42:68 formula. They recommended states wishing to merge to do so under certain conditions. The 36-states structure, they noted, is too expensive.

“In Ethiopia, states pay taxes to Addis Ababa. If we did these 50 years ago why are we afraid? It is not working. States are helpless,” said a source.

The confab had adjusted the volume of functions and powers given the FG under the Exclusive Legislative List Second Schedule (Legislative Powers) of the 1999 Constitution.

It is a list of 68 items. The items listed under the section grants absolute economic rights to the FG as in mines and minerals, including oil fields, oil mining, geological surveys and natural gas (Item 39) – at the very root of most of the country’s political crisis.

Also, under the Schedule is Concurrent list of 30 items mostly ancillary to the FG’s and under FG’s supervision are set forth for the states – making states subservient to the federal government as it negates the very essence of Federalism: separate and coordinate functions between centre and federating units.

On the troublesome issue of policing the country, an exclusive federal right, confab recommended state police; in addition to states creating other policing units like city (metropolitan police) and others for towns and local communities.

The 2014 conference inaugurated by Buhari’s predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan held March to August. It did a worth job in addressing the Nation’s Federalism concerns.

A tension-soaked parley, the Northern and Southern blocs most times found themselves pitted against each other.Still, Southwest, Southeast, South-south and “progressive” North-central states’ delegates and sometimes a sprinkling far-North colleague were able to strike some compromises leading to their report.

The 1999 Constitution is criticized as a deliberate creation of Hausa/Fulani Military oligarchy to foist domination on the rest of the country.

Buhari has never spoken a word about the report despite Jonathan dutifully handing it over to him. His Northern Hausa/Fulani base had consistently rejected it. He may never want to look at the report. But then, the country may never get that kind of opportunity again.