By Ikechukwu Okaforadi
The Director General of Progressives Governors Forum (PGF), Salihu Lukman, has said the All Progressives Congress (APC) report on true federalism, presents a big window of opportunity through which Nigeria can escape from her recurrent ethnic and religious tensions.
In an advocacy he issued to the Media at the weekend, titled ‘Nigeria’s volatile politics and the APC report on true federalism’, PGF DG said implementing the recommendations in the document offers opportunity for the nation and APC leaders in particular to develop the capacity to manage national volatile politics, which he said is laden with ethnic and religious influences.
According to him, to be able to manage the nation’s volatile politics, the government needs to strengthen the governance institutions as stipulated in the Committee’s recommendation, failure of which he said the leaders will continue to face unfair accusations of ethnic bigotry based on wrong perceptions, despite whatever achievements.
To this end, Lukman said “…, all APC leaders have a responsibility now to protect the achievements of APC leaders and governments, especially the Federal Government and President Buhari. APC leaders need to overcome the current lethargic attitude against initiatives for true federalism or restructuring.
“Although, no matter what any political leader is able to concede, there will always be the strong presence of political demands by ethnic groups, it is important to appeal to our leaders to consider the bigger picture, which is about responding to national challenges and strengthening the capacity of governance institutions in the country to serve Nigerians.”
Explaining further, he said the recommendations contained in the report of the APC True Federalism Committee have potentials to strengthen the capacity of government institutions at all levels to respond to most of the security challenges.
The APC stalwart emphasized that most of the recommendations will elicit wide range of disagreements from many groups and interests across the country, but pointed out that a debate to consider them will raise hopes and almost everyone will most likely find something appealing as much as there will be cases of strong objections to some of the recommendations.
He therefore observed that it is important to understand that debating the issues doesn’t mean it is a decision for implementation, adding that debating these issues through traditional processes of law making as enshrined in the Constitution is a fundamental requirement.
“With a tripartite consultative committee, chaired by the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, with both the party Chairman, HE Mai Mala Buni, Senate President, HE Ahmed Lawan, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiala, PGF Chairman, HE Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, Secretary to Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Gida Mustapha and Chief of Staff to President, Prof. Ibrahim Agboola Gambari serving as members, the initiative to activate consideration of provisions of the APC Committee on True Federalism can be initiated even if it means identifying the less contentious recommendations and commence processes of implementation.
“As a party committed to change, the best way to demonstrate that should be to move the country to the level of active engagement to consider recommended initiatives. Ensure that we operate a truly federalist system of government and our democracy is both representative and responsive should be a shared objective of every political leader in the country.
“This is not a task for only President Buhari. As much as being the leader of the party and President of the Federal Republic, he has a crucial role, every leader of the party is also responsible. The advantages of considering the recommendations contained in the report far outweigh all the fears that have held the nation tied to the current volatile politics of ethnic tension”, he said.
Meanwhile, part of the APC True Federalism Committee recommendations are as follows:
1. Creation of state – creation of state is not expedient given the bureaucracy and attendant cost but recommended the need to attend to the isolated case of South East zone where there is the demand to balance states to be equal to other zones.
2. Merger of states – recommended constitutional provision for legal and administrative frameworks for states that may consider merger provided it does not threaten the authority or existence of the federation.
3. Derivation principle – recommended amendment to section 162 (2) of the constitution to allow for upward review of the current derivation formula and its adoption in respect of solid minerals and hydro power.
4. Fiscal federalism and revenue allocation – recommended amendment of Allocation of revenue Act 2002 to ensure upward review of current revenue sharing formula to states.
5. Devolution of powers – recommended the transfer of some items on the exclusive legislative lists to concurrent and residual, which include foods, drugs, poison, narcotics and psychotropic substances, fingerprints and identification of criminal records, registration of business names, labour, mines and minerals including oil field, oil mining, geological surveys and natural gas, police, prisons, public holidays, railways and stamp duties be transferred to concurrent list.
6. Federating units – recommended retention of current political arrangements with states as federating units. In order to continue to manage constant agitation to make geo-political zones federating units, recommended that group of states can cooperate on regional basis in line with section 5 (3) of the constitution.
7. Form of government – recommended continuation of the presidential system but concerns about corruption and high cost of governance should be addressed with all seriousness.
8. Independent candidates – recommended that anybody who wishes to contest as independent candidate can do so provided that such a person shall not be a registered member of a political party at least six (6) months before the date set for the elections, his/her nominators must not be members of registered political party, he/she pays a deposit to INEC in the same range as the non-refundable deposit fee payable to candidates sponsored by political parties to their parties, which should be determined by Act of the National Assembly and the candidate must meet other qualification requirements provided by the constitution.
9. Land tenure system – recommended that the land use act be retained in the constitution in the greater interest of national security and the protection of Nigeria’s arable land from international land grabbers.
10. Local government autonomy – recommended that LGA should be removed from the constitution and states be allowed to develop local administrative system that is relevant and peculiar to respective states.
11. Power sharing and rotation – recommended that the complexity of power sharing and rotation be managed at party level rather than in the constitution.
12. Resource control – recommended amendment of Petroleum Act, LFN 2004, Nigerian Minerals and Mining Act, 2007, Land Use Act, 1978 and Petroleum Profit Tax Act, 2007 so that states can exercise control over natural resources within their respective territories and pay taxes or royalties therefrom to federal government.
13. Type of legislature – recommended retention of current system but with downward review of running cost.