FOR the first time since the agitation for restructuring started, some northern leaders have a made move that is bound to cause cheers among resource control activists in the oil-rich Niger-Delta region.
To make Nigeria viable, the leaders are seeking a return to the 1967 12-state structure to be known as regions with full devolution of powers and 100 per cent resource control.
In a memorandum to the National Assembly Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution, the Northern leaders, who described themselves as Friends of Democracy, said the 12 -state structure ‘’is the most viable option for Nigeria at the moment and in the foreseeable future.’’
The memorandum was signed by Alhaji Othman Tofa, Ambassador Fatimah Balla; Alhaji Sule Yahaya Hamma; Dr Abubakar Siddique Mohammed; Mr. Sam Nda-Isaiah; Bashir Yusuf Ibrahim; Mai Bilya Bala; Mr. Hubert Shaiyen; Dr Kabir Az-Zubair; Professor Jibrin Ibrahim; and Dr Usman Bugaje.
Going down memory lane, the leaders, who argued the North has not been aloof on restructuring as being painted, said that since 2001 ‘’a new crop of Northern intellectuals, technocrats and politicians, have continued to search for a common ground with the rest of Nigeria on restructuring in different ways but the Northern effort has been under-reported in the mainstream media, for understandable reasons.’’
Noting that Nigeria, over years, has gone through various forms of restructuring – three regions at independence, four regions in 1963, 12 states in 1967, 19 states in 1976, 21 states in 1987, 30 states in 1991 and 36 states in 1996, they blamed the dismantling of the 12-state structure for the country’s nagging socio-economic challenges.
’The distortion of the 12-state structure by multiplying the states to 19, 21, 30 and 36 was done to appease new minority groups that emerged after state creation, to spread federal largesse more evenly and sometimes for selfish reasons. Today, Nigeria cannot sustain the 36-state structure due to its over-dependence on oil revenues that would continue to dwindle in the coming years,’’ they said.
Arguing that restructuring through multiplication of states produced a Jacobin effect that strengthened Federal power relative to the powers of the federating units, and weakened all political groups that are not in control of the centre, the leaders outlined five key principles of restructuring and nine constitutional proposals ‘’to substantially improve and stabilise Nigeria’s federation, cater for the welfare of a large majority of Nigerians and allocate the nation’s resources in an efficient and cost-effective manner.’’
Their key principles for restructuring Nigeria
‘’States must be economically viable and must rely on fiscal resources they generate themselves instead of handouts from the Centre.
‘’States must operate in a democratic manner and be run by Chief Executives that are accountable to the people and legislators that are independent.
“States should have the constitutional and legislative powers to determine their internal structures such as the number of local governments they desire.
‘’States must be allowed to determine their own framework and mechanism for the choice of leaders at all levels, which recognises and combines both merit and the need for fair representation of the broad identities that make up the states such as geography, ethnicity, religion, etc.
‘’Balance the distribution of power and fiscal resources between the states and the federation to address the desire for local resource control and the viability of the federation as a whole.’’
Given these principles, the northern leaders proposed the following constitutional amendments:
- A return to the 12-state federal structure of 1967. The 12 states would be the federating units;
- The 12 states shall be re-designated as regions and shall have full control of their resources while paying appropriate taxes to the Federal Government;
- The regions shall have the powers to create and maintain local governments as they desire;
- Overhaul the Legislative Lists and reassign agriculture, education and health to the Residual List in which states alone would have competence but the Federal Government would share a regulatory role with the states;
- Mining should be reassigned to the concurrent list with on-land mining under the federating units and off-land mining under the control of the government of the federation;
- Policing should also be reassigned to the concurrent list with only inter-state crime, cyber-crime and international crime under the jurisdiction of the federal police;
- The power of taxation should remain concurrent;
- The Federal Character Principle should be retained and strictly and universally observed; and
- The current Senate should be merged with the House of Representatives under a unicameral legislature.