THE underdevelopment of Nigeria has been attributed to several factors: lack of transparent, accountable and responsible leadership; the imperial (neocolonial) policies of the West; low level manpower; incoherent and inconsistent constitution, the technical and ambiguous nature of the presidential system of government; lack of true and fiscal federalism; overdependence of the component units on the central administration in our federal system; the lack of control by the federating units of the security apparatus of government; corruption, bribery, and lack of vision by both our civilian and military leaders; illiteracy, poverty and lack of empowerment especially of the youths; general apathy of Nigerians to the development of this country, among others.
With these in view, analysts say the framers of the 1999 constitution refused to comprehend the dynamics of the society and the diverse socio-cultural, religious and ethnic nature of Nigeria in drafting the 1999 constitution. They contended that the constitution is not comprehensive and is enmeshed in ambiguity. That it does not guarantee fairness, justice and equity, and that it hinders development and promotes corruption and other social vices associated with management and administration which has made it difficult for the anti-graft commissions (ICPC, EFCC etc) to independently carry out the onerous task of sanitising the socio economic and political environment in Nigeria.
I shall critically consider the above while trying to justify that the near absolute concentration of powers at the centre in our federal structure, and the lack of devolution of powers consistent with the features of federalism is the reason for the near stagnation of Nigeria politically and economically. I shall prioritize my justification in broad analyses of Nigerian government and politics in respect to the on-going review of the 1999 constitution headed by Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu.
In doing this, I shall consider the contentious issues that have occupied the minds of Nigerians which resulted in several memoranda before both chambers of the National Assembly. Some will be passed over to be considered next time. Others will just go with some comments while some others will be critically discussed especially my contention that Nigeria should be divided into 60 States and 3000 Local Council areas for administrative convenience and for the spirit of true and fiscal federalism.
I am in agreement with those who advocate the continuity of the presidential system of government because of its near separation of powers and a high level of checks and balances especially when it is operated in its true form. The independence of the judiciary and the press will always guarantee the freedom and liberties of the citizens, thereby protecting their fundamental rights. The existing organs of government: legislature, executive and the judiciary should be independent and coordinates. Their excesses and power abuse should also be checked through the principle of checks and balances. The existing levels of federal, state and local governments should also be maintained. However, the constitution should be made in such away where most powers currently enjoyed by the Federal Government at the moment are given to the state and the local government for a balanced federal system.
The bicameral legislature at the federal level should also be maintained. However, the country should be restructured into 60 states and 3000 local governments. This will enable the National Assembly to be composed of 182 senators and 600 members of the House of Representatives. The 60 states should come from the existing 6six geo-political zones of the country.
For equity, justice and fairness, the 60 states should be carved out from the existing 36 states. The South-South with six states should be given four more states to make it 10 states. The South-East with five states should be given five more to make 10 states. The South-West with six states should have four additional states to make it 10 states. Same goes to the North- Central with seven states, three more states should be added to make 10 states. The North-East with six states should have four additional ones to be 10 states. This should also be applicable to the North-West with six states; four more states added will make it 10 states. All the geo-political zones should have equal states. I am advocating 10 states each for the six geopolitical zones of the Federation. Nigeria will therefore have 60 states.
Each of the 60 states will have equal number of local governments. Though, I am a staunch advocate of resource control, allowing states to grow at their own pace; I still feel that equity of local government areas in the comity of states in Nigeria is healthy and good for our nascent democracy and our wobbling federalism. This is precipitated on the fact that there is uniformity in the structure and system of our local government areas. The 60 states should have 50 local government areas. The area councils of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) should be under the direct administration of the Federal Government through the Ministry of Federal Capital Territory. The ministry should divide the FCT into 20 area councils under the FCT direct administration. With 50 LGAs for each of the state, Nigeria will have 3000 LGAs.
With 60 states and 3000 LGAs, the Senate would then be composed of 182 Senators as against the 109 Senators currently. The 60 states will have three Senators each, while the FCT will produce two to make it 182 Senators of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The House of Representatives should have 600 members as against the current 360 members. The 600 constituency should be based on population as it is currently. However, there should be equality of members based on geo-political zones. The population of the six geo-political zones should be divided in such a way that each zone would produce 100 federal assembly members. This means that while each state will have three senatorial districts, each zone should have 100 federal constituencies. Justice, equity and fairness would have been achieved in our federating state.
The unicameral legislature in the states should be maintained. However, the constitution should recognize the composition of the States’ House of Chiefs with advisory roles. Our traditional institutions should be given some constitutional roles even in advisory capacity. The States’ Council of Traditional Rulers should be called the State’s House of Chiefs. The 60 states of the federation with 50 local government areas each should have equal representation in the Houses of Assembly. Each local government should have two representatives in the State’s House of Assembly. Each state of the federation would then have 100 members in its House of Assembly. The total number of ‘Honourable Members’ of our various States’ Houses of Assembly added together, would then be 6000. This will not only provide broader participation of the people in the affairs of government and governance, it will also create more jobs and help in strengthening the democratic process in Nigeria. Debates will be more robust, with greater quality and the outcome will be generally acceptable.
The third tier of government should be left to the State’s House of Assembly to legislate on the number of wards to make up each LGA. However, based on population, wards in an LGA should not be more than 50. We shall be having not more than 2500 wards in a state and not more than 150,000 wards in the Federation. With a population above 150 million; 150,000 wards in Nigeria will be about 1000 people per ward. This means every 1000 citizens of Nigeria will be represented by a ward councilor. This will not only bring government nearer to the people, it will also create employment, enhance and promote development and sense of belonging among people of diverse culture, religion, language, custom, tradition and ethnic groups of Nigeria.
Remuneration of elective and appointive political office holders should be in concert with that of career civil servants. There should be no difference whatsoever. The Revenue Mobilisation and Fiscal Allocation Commission (RMFAC) should ensure that the remuneration of politically elected and appointed office holders in all the tiers of government in Nigeria is not bigger than that of career civil servants at the highest echelons of management and administration in Nigeria public service. This will make elective and appointive positions less attractive and discourage business tycoons and their agents from hijacking the ship of government and governance to the detriment of the masses. Corruption, looting and embezzlement of public funds will also reduce since election will be free, fair and credible and people with the interest of the people at heart, will only present themselves for elections.
If these suggestions are religiously adhered to in the on-going review of the 1999 constitution, we would have one President, one Vice President, 60 Governors, 60 Deputy Governors, 182 Senators, 600 distinguished members of the House of Representatives, 6000 members of the states’ Houses of Assembly, 3000 Chairmen of LGAs, 3000 Deputy Chairmen and 150,000 Councillors, in the country. This will give us a total of 162,904 elective political positions in Nigeria. These elective positions with their appointive political positions of Ministers, Ambassadors, Board Members of Public Corporations, Institutions and Extra Ministerial positions, Commissioners, Special Advisers, Personal Assistants, Media consultants, Aides etc, will provide us with more than 200,000 appointive positions in Nigeria. We may also trim these appointive positions to less than 50,000.
In this present arrangement without the desire of our political elite to trim down their aides, we can still make do with this array of staff provided they are paid as civil servants based on experience and qualification and graded as such. With a population estimated to be over 165 million, these political appointments wouldn’t be much of a duplication of offices since we have the resources to take care of them. If we also look at the fact that few individuals have milked us dry over the years, allowing for broader participation of the people will be healthy for our democracy. What we need to fight against is corruption and the resources of government and governance will be there for us.
On the issue of states’ viability, if you look at the amount of money stolen by our elite over the years, you will agree with me that it is not an issue. The World Bank estimated about $40 billion stolen in Nigerian and other developing countries annually. In 2000, over $1 billion stolen money by the Abacha administration was found in several Swiss accounts. In 2005, Former Inspector General of Police, Tafa Balogun was convicted and sentenced to six month imprisonment for stealing an estimated N20 billion.
Late last year, the senate said corruption in Nigeria’s civil service accounts for over N3 trillion losses annually. Late last year too, the former Governors of Gombe, Ogun, Oyo and Nasarawa States were charged to court accused of misappropriating, all put together, N153 billion. Not quite long, over N32.8 billion was alleged to have been stolen from the Police Pension Fund by few Nigerians. Former Governor of Delta State James Ibori was on April 17, 2012 sentenced to 13 years imprisonment by Judge Anthony Pitts in a Southwark Crown Court 9 in London. And over a trillion naira identified by the House of Representatives committee on fuel subsidy as fraudulent. Corruption is therefore the problem and not viability.
For our democracy to truly be of the people, for the people and by the people, the constitutional review should incorporate the creation of a Community Representative Committee created as a Ministry of Community Development with one representative each from all the communities/villages in Nigeria for the federal government and two representatives for the states’ governments. This will promote community development since a level of governments will carry out at least one project in each community/village every year. It will also improve the living standard of the over 110 million Nigerians said to be living below the poverty level of $1 (N160) per day. 110 million is 70per cent of 160 million Nigerian populations.
To achieve peace and unity of the country now that every thing seem to be falling apart, the review committee should consider some or most of these recommendation for wider representation, for the good of both the minority and the majority ethnic groups and for justice, equity, fairness and the protection of the peoples’ fundamental rights.
•Ebenezer Leo the Great wrote from the School of Graduate Studies, University of Port-Harcourt
|< Prev||Next >|