APC and True Federalism

0

Muyiwa Gbadegesin writes that the APC embraces restructuring and true federalism

The #NextLevel slogan for the reelection campaign of President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo means many things to many people. To some, it means continued success in securing the nation against terrorist groups like ISWAP and Boko Haram. To others, it means continuation of the unprecedented road, rail and power projects spread across the six geopolitical zones, and millions more beneficiaries of signature social investment programmes like N-Power, Homegrown School Feeding Programme, Conditional Cash Transfers and TraderMoni. To the 70% of the population engaged in agriculture, #NextLevel means expansion of the Anchor’s Borrowers Programme (ABP) and the President’s Fertilizer Initiative (PFI), a programme that has already reduced fertilizer price by 30%.

To advocates of restructuring and true federalism, however, #NextLevel brings hope that All Progressives Congress (APC) will complete the process of governance reform already started by the APC Committee on True Federalism inaugurated in August, 2017. This committee, headed by the Governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, submitted its report in January, 2018. The committee’s work was the first step in fulfilling the 2015 campaign pledge that the APC would work towards establishing true federalism in Nigeria. The El-Rufai Committee was charged with distilling the true intent and meaning of federalism through a nationwide consultative process. The committee also studied the reports of past efforts at restructuring in order to recommend a rational and practical process to finally achieve this long-standing, elusive goal.

It is important to bring these steps taken by APC to light because the Peoples Democratic Party presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, has opportunistically turned restructuring into a major campaign issue. Atiku and the rest of the PDP horde are opportunists because they opposed restructuring and expansion of states’ authority during the 16 years PDP misruled Nigeria. The only reason they now pretend to embrace it is because they lack a real issue to champion and they hope restructuring will be their electoral life raft. However, while they are merely going through the motions, APC has already developed a clear and actionable road map to achieve the goal of true federalism.

The El-Rufai committee came up with 24 items of interest to Nigerians according to numerous submissions from members of the public: creation of states, merger of states, derivation principle, fiscal federalism, devolution of power and resources between state, federal and local governments, federating units, form of government, independent candidacy, land tenure system, local government autonomy ,power sharing and rotation, resource control, types of legislature, demand for affirmation for vulnerable groups; people with disabilities, women and youth, ministerial appointment, citizenship, state constitution, community participation, minimum wage, governance, judiciary, state realignment and border adjustment, circular status of the federation; and referendum.

Not only did the committee make recommendations on these key items of interest, it also developed legislative, executive and other action plans. The action plans include draft bills for each recommendation and detailed step-by-step instructions on how the recommendation should be implemented.
Here are highlights of the recommendations:Derivation Principle, Fiscal Federalism and Revenue Allocation: The committee recommended that the federal government review current revenue derivation formula by considering three options: (1) adoption of total state control of resources with payment of tax by states to FGN; (2) upward review of the current formula so that it favours the states; (3) adoption of a similar derivation formula for solid minerals and power generation. The committee recommended the adoption of the second and third options, a step which would require amendment of Section 162 (2) of the Constitution. The committee further noted that the derivation formula has not been reviewed for 17 years, probably because of failure to assign responsibility for review to any particular organ of government. To correct this anomaly, the committee recommended that Revenue Mobilization and Fiscal Allocation Commission (RMFAC) should be given the power and responsibility to periodically review the derivation formula and make proposals to the president who shall then table same before the National Assembly for legislation.

Devolution of Powers: The committee recommended devolution of power to states from FGN. This step would require transfer of certain identified powers on theExclusive Legislative List, some to theConcurrent List and others residual to states. The committee provided detailed recommendations of which items should be transferred. For example, the concurrent list would come to include items like registration of business names, mines and minerals including oil fields, oil mining, natural gas, police, prisons, railways and stamp duties.
The committee recommended continuation of the presidential system at national and subnational levels. Besides, the committee recommended that affiliation to a political party should not be a prerequisite for holding public office while also supporting independent candidacy, but with strong eligibility criteria.

The committee recommended that the Land Use Act should be retained in the constitution in the greater interest of national security and protection of Nigeria’s arable land from international land grabbers.
The committee noted that local government areas (LGAs) cannot be federating units under the principle of federalism and thus should not be receiving direct allocation from federation account. The committee therefore recommended that LGAs should be removed from the federal constitution and states should be allowed to develop local administrative systems that are relevant and peculiar to each state.
The committee recommended that the complexity of power sharing and rotation be managed at party level rather than being provided for in constitution or laws.

On resource control, the committee said that control of resources should be ceded to the states. The following laws will have to be amended: Petroleum Act, LFN 2004 (to vest ownership and control in, under or upon land on the oil producing states, together with power to grant oil exploration license); Nigerian Minerals and Mining Act, 2007 (to remove restrictions on powers of governors over mining lands under the provisions of the Minerals Act, leaving those on continental shelf and territorial waters to FGN); Land Use Act, 1978 (to vest ownership and control of mineral resources upon land on the states);Petroleum Profit Tax Act, 2007

The committee recommended continuation of bicameral legislature with downward review of running costs.
The committee recommended that no more states should be created for now because state creation will result in new subnational bureaucracies with new costs. The committee also advised that state creation would reduce the share of federal statutory allocation accruing to existing and proposed new states and could thereby further weaken federating units, ultimately defeating the purpose of true federalism, which is to have stronger federating units. On merger of states, the committee recommended that the constitution should provide legal and administrative framework for states that may wish to consider merging in future.

The committee recommended that section 147(3) of the constitution be amended to remove the requirement on the president to appoint a minister from every state of the Federation who must be an indigene of the state.
The committee recommended that rather than constitutional amendment to factor traditional institutions into governance, each state of the Federation should explore ways and means of incorporating the traditional institutions into governance models at their local level.
The committee said that each state should be free to decide on its level of remuneration based on its resources and productivity. It was of the view that all labour relational issues should be federalized and each state should be free to determine its own labour laws.
On the judiciary, the committee recommended that the functions of theNational Judicial Council (NJC) in relation to state courts should be transferred to theState Judicial Councils in order to be consonant with a federal system. By so doing, each state would control its own judiciary including appointment, promotion, discipline, transfer and remuneration of judges.

Considering the far-reaching recommendations of the APC Committee on true federalism, it should be clear that APC intends to fulfil its campaign pledge to bring true federalism to Nigeria. As stated earlier, the El-Rufai committee even went as far as drafting the necessary constitutional amendments required to implement the restructuring programme. The question may be asked why these draft bills have not been passed to the National Assembly for action. The answer lies in the intractable and uncooperative National Assembly that has steadfastly refused to support programmes of the administration; even going as far as to delay passage of the budget for months each year. It is one of those ironies of Nigerian politics that many of the same people who refused to support the APC federalisation policy now advocate that the PDP will somehow magically restructure the country. Where were they during the sustained assault on Lagos by the Obasanjo-led PDP? Where was Obasanjo’s then Vice-President Atiku during those years? Why didn’t he support true federalism then? It is a matter of public record that the PDP-led FGN fought every federalist instinct of the progressive-led Lagos State Government all the way to the Supreme Court, where they usually lost. It is important to note that these legal battles of Lagos State against the Obasanjo-led FGN were led by the current Vice-President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, who was then the Attorney-General of Lagos State.

In conclusion, it should be clear that the only hope for true federalism and restructuring lies with the progressive APC government. Advocates of true federalism should support President Buhari, Vice-President Osinbajo and All Progressives Congress to conclude the work they have already started.