Restructuring Nigeria Through the Law

Some members of the House of Representatives are not resting on their oars in their bid to restructure the country and make it work for all. Adedayo Akinwale reports

For quite a while, there have been several clamours for restructuring of the country. The reasons are not far-fetched, many believe that the quasi-federalism that the country is currently operating is not working, especially considering the slow pace of development.

In a federal system of government, the federal, state and local governments are recognised in the constitution and their roles and powers clearly spelt out without contradiction. While the federal and states have been performing the roles according to the constitution, the state governments have practically squeezed and stifled the local government out of existence.

Some also believe that insecurity that has practically taken over the country is as a result of the local government administration that the state governors, who are emperors, have refused to allow them function.

This is one of the reasons why some Nigerians have consistently called for the restructuring of the country. While almost all Nigerians agreed that there is a need to restructure the country, the mode of restructuring and the definition of restructuring have been a bone of contention.

Incidentally, as good as the world restructuring sound, the inability of the proponents to offer an explicit explanation or give a succinct definition of what restructuring means has made it difficult to make a major change in the system of government in the country.

Often times, the definition of restructuring depends on the side of the divide that the person propagating the concept is speaking from.

Over the years, the proponents of restructuring are mainly from the southern part of Nigeria who hold firm belief that the arrangement of the country was skewed to favour the northern part of the country, hence their clamour for restructuring. 

On the other hand, at every point, political gladiators from the north have never been in support of restructuring the country. The reason for their position is simple, they believe that restructuring is targeted at the north and a ploy to outwit the north politically, hence, their stiff opposition to the idea.

After years of disagreement and with the incontrovertible evidence that Nigeria is not developing at a pace worthy of a country that prides itself as the giant of Africa, the House of Representatives appeared to be taking the bull by the horn through the instrumentality of laws by proposing some Bills that will have a far-reaching impact on governance and development of the country.

For instance, since March, 2024, some  members of the Green Chamber led by the Minority Leader, Hon. Kingsely Chinda have intensified the push for adoption of the parliamentary system of government.

Expectedly, the lawmakers have met with socio-political organisations from the regions including the leadership of Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Afenifere Renewal Group, among others, to get their buy-in in their effort to return the country to parliamentary system of government.

According to the proponents of parliamentary system of government, it was evident that the presidential system of government has failed the country. They added that the pace of development achieved during the First Republic when the country practiced parliamentary system was far better than now.

Chinda during the meeting with the leadership of ACF said there was a need for a paradigm shift from the current presidential system of government.

He said: “We are here in continuation of our attempt to get to Nigerians to explain further the bills that we have proposed on the floor of the House which we expect will take us out of the present very laborious United States type of presidential system.

“But, what we are looking at, yes, we have called it a presidential system but it’s just a constitution review, a change of style that will reduce the baggage of government, a change of style that will make office holders more accountable. A change of style that will make government decisions arrived at easier and the execution carried out easier. A change of style that will make everybody in public office not to be a passerby,  not to be sleeping but to be on his toes, and to be the best to our country Nigeria.  

“We came to meet the ACF, to talk to them about this and to get their buy-in, just like we are also moving round to meet persons. We are also drawing from their wealth of knowledge because a lot of questions are being asked, a lot of suggestions are being made and we are enriching our own knowledge which will help us in lawmaking on the floor of the parliament.”

Responding, Chairman, ACF Board of Trustees, Bashir Dalhatu expressed delight over the initiative, and also assured the delegation of the Forum’s readiness to provide necessary support.

According to him: “But we have agreed that at the end, we are going to constitute a Committee that will be working with these Honourable Members, to look at the draft bills they have prepared and to also make suggestions and inputs, that we hope that in the end will be for the best benefits to Nigeria and our people, and the whole country in general”.

Expressing divergent view, a former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi, kicked against the plan to return the country to a parliamentary system of government. 

He was of the opinion that the claims that Nigeria’s presidential system was prohibitively expensive were untrue, saying it was those voted into power that made the presidential system costly. 

Against this background, he said having Nigerian federalism is not something to be afraid of or apologetic about. He pointed out that it was sheer laziness for Nigeria to be talking about copying what is done in America when it might not suit the country.

According to him: “We also must not confuse structure with human personalities. We talk about the presidential system being so costly that we cannot afford it and therefore we must go back to parliamentary system. Seriously? Are we really serious about that?

“Is it the presidential system that determines the salaries of our national assembly members? No! It is the human beings who are operating the system and who decide to make the presidential system costly. It is the people who we voted into power who decide exactly how much they are paid, who decide how much their allowances are. If we decide to cut the salaries and allowances of the executive and National Assembly by one third, we will find out that the presidential system is not as expensive as we have made it. 

“It is just sheer laziness. We run away from the problem and then with an attempt to decide for the people, we come up with solutions and that solution is going to be put together by human beings who will decide what the salaries of the prime minister and parliamentarians will be,” Akinyemi noted.

Flowing from this, last Monday, a group of over 30 federal lawmakers the under the aegis of Reform Minded Legislators are seeking constitutional alterations to provide for the rotation of executive powers among the six geopolitical zones. 

The lawmakers are also seeking to amend the constitution to provide for a single tenure of six years for the President and Governors of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. 

This, the lawmakers said, would lead to reduction in government spending and wastage, efficiency in governance, and national stability by providing a single term of six years for the President and Governors.

Addressing journalists in Abuja, Co-sponsor of the reformers bills and member representing  Ideato North/South Federal Constituency, Hon. Ikenga Ugochinyere, said the electoral reform bills have gone through first reading, adding that they would be going for a second reading on the floor of the House.

He said the Bills, if passed into law, would help reduce the cost of governance and campaigns, unite the country,  ensure a seamless transition, continuity, uninterrupted development, justice, equity, independence of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and efficient use of state resources, among others.

Ugochinyere stated: “We are a group of Reform minded Lawmakers committed towards using the instrument of lawmaking to reform Nigeria and our political process, constitutional and electoral reform has been a burning topic in Nigeria since independence from Britain in 1960.”

He added that this was in line with the realisation that the current political arrangement has some identified distortions, defects, and limitations that call for urgent, focused, and realistic attention, hence this initiative on political and electoral reform.

Ugochinyere noted: “These bills which are 50 in numbers have gone through first reading but today we are starting with public unveiling of about six of them while the remaining will come in the weeks ahead. It ranges from governance, economic, security, and justice sector reforms to social bills that will target unifying our nation and ensuring long-lasting peace and national cohesion.” 

The lawmakers stressed they were cognizant of the fact that Nigeria in times past has deliberated on and accepted some of the proposals in the Bills, including the Justice Uwais electoral reforms, the Senator Ken Nnamani electoral reform committee, the Udoji civil service reform reports, the Confab reports, among others.

They said they are proposing: “Constitutional Alteration to provide for the rotation of executive powers among the six geopolitical zones to ensure equal representation and reduce the desperation and tempo of agitation for the creation of states.

To amend section three of the Constitution to provide for the recognition of the division of Nigeria into six geopolitical zones.

“To amend the Constitution to provide for a single tenure of six years for the President and Governors of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The reduction in government spending and wastage, efficiency in governance, and national stability by providing a single term of six years for the President and Governors.”

The legislators are also proposing a constitutional amendment to create the office of two vice presidents from the southern and northern parts of Nigeria. They explained that the first vice president shall be a succession Vice president, while the second Vice president shall be a Minister in charge of the Economy, and both shall be Ministers.

“Constitutional Amendment to provide that the President and the First Vice President shall come from the same part of the country (north or south) and the First Vice President shall become President whenever the President becomes incapacitated, i.e., V.P. (Succession), V.P. (Administration and Economy).

“The financial autonomy and accountability of Local Government Councils by prescribing an independent Consolidated Local Government Council Account solely superintendent by Local Councils and prescribing long-term imprisonment for any misuse of Local Government funds.

“To amend section 162(5) of the 1999 Constitution to provide that where a State Government fails to remit to the Local Government Councils within its jurisdiction (or within the State), the amounts standing to the credit of that Local Government in the allocation from the Federation account, such State Government shall not be entitled to receive a future allocation from the federal government”, the lawmakers added.

On electoral reforms, the legislators are proposing Bills to amend the relevant sections of the Electoral Act to ensure that all elections — presidential, governorship, National Assembly, state houses of Assembly, and local governments are held on the same day.

The lawmakers are also proposing amendment to relevant sections of the Electoral Act to provide that no declaration of a winner of an election shall be done by the relevant INEC Officials until such officer has compared the results with the list of accredited voters and ensured that the results to be declared are in tandem with the list of accredited voters and the B-VAS machine or any other electronic device. 

No doubt, all the constitutional alterations bills the lawmakers are proposing are laudable. However, how far they would go in achieving this laudable initiative remains to be seen.

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