Conference agreed that Federalism denotes a political arrangement in which a country is made up of component parts otherwise called Federating Units. Thus in a Federation, political powers are constitutionally shared between the central government and the federating units. These powers basically, represent the functions of each tier of the federation.
Conference also noted the inherent advantages of a federal system of government in a heterogeneous society such as ours. These include:
– The sustenance of unity in diversity; – expanded opportunities for the various peoples, including minority groups, to participate in the governance of the country; thus minimizing the fears of domination and/or marginalization among minority groups. It also and promotes broad-based development.
Consequently, Conference unanimously resolved as follows:
1. Nigeria shall retain a Federal system of Government;
2. The core elements of the Federation shall be as follows:
i. A Federal (Central) Government with States as the federating Units; and
ii. Without prejudice to States constituting the federating units, States that wish to merge may do so in accordance with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).
(a) A two-thirds majority of all members in each of the Houses of Assembly of each of the States, in which such merger is proposed, support by resolution, the merger;
(b) a Referendum is conducted in each of the States proposing to merge with 75% of the eligible voters in each of those States approving the merger;
(c) the National Assembly, by resolution passed by a simple majority of membership, approves of the merger; and
(d) States that decide to merge shall also reserve the right to demerge following the same procedure and processes for merger.
Creation of Zonal Commission for Administrative Convenience
At independence in 1960, Nigeria had three regions and by 1964 had added a fourth region. All four were autonomous but subordinated only to the Federal Constitution. Then came the military in 1966 when aspects of the Federal Constitution were suspended leading to the creation of 12 states, (six in the north and six in the south) in answer to political exigencies including the protection of minority rights;
More states were created to satisfy the yearnings of various ethnic nationalities which fear domination by some others. Nigeria now has 36 States plus the Federal Capital Territory. In spite of this subsisting arrangement, there continues to be demands for the creation of more States.
After extensive consideration of Regionalism/Zones, Conference decided as follows:
(i) The States shall be the federating units; and
(ii) Any group of States may create a self-funding Zonal Commission to promote economic development, good governance, equity, peace and security in accordance with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).
The subject of State creation has remained a huge political issue in Nigeria. Conference examined the Reports of the 2005 National Political Reform Conference and the Report of the Presidential Committee On Review of Outstanding Issues from Recent Constitutional Conferences 2012 (the Belgore Report) and after wide consultations and extensive deliberations and in the interest of equity, justice and fairness.
In addition, Conference therefore resolved as follows:
(i) In the spirit of reconciliation, equity, fair play and justice, there shall be created an additional State for the South East Zone; and
(ii) That all other requests for State creation should be considered on merit.
Conference approved the criteria for the creation of new States as follows:
(1) Any new State sought to be created must be viable. In considering viability, the following should be taken into consideration:
(a) Any new State should be economically viable;
(b) It should have human, natural and material resources;
(c) It should have a minimum land mass/water mass; and
(d) The viability of the existing State(s) should be taken into consideration as well, so as not to create a situation where new State(s) would leave the existing State(s) unviable.
(2) That State creation should be on the basis of parity between the geo-political zones to ensure equality of Zones;
(3) Additional States should be created in each of the six (6) geopolitical zones to bring the number of States in each zone to nine (9);
(4) That eighteen (18) more States be created as follows:
a. Apa State from the present Benue State; Edu State from Niger State; Kainji State from the present Kebbi State; Katagun State from the present Bauchi State; Savannah State from the present Borno State; Amana State from the present Adamawa State; Gurara State from the present Kaduna State; Ghari State from the present Kano State; Etiti State from the present South East Zone; Aba State from the present Abia State; Adada State from the present Enugu State; Njaba-Anim State from the present Anambra and Imo States; Anioma State from the present Delta State; Ogoja State from the present Cross River State; Ijebu State from the present Ogun State; New Oyo State from the present Oyo State;
b. That the third State to be created in the South –South Zone will be named later, along with its State Capital;
c. That the third State to be created in the South-West Zone will be named later, along with its State Capital; and
The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be amended to allow for less onerous process for creation of States.
States to create and reduce Local Governments
Conference recognized Local Governments as a layer of governance closest to the people and, in effect, a platform for sustainable socio-economic development and popular participation in governance at the grass-root.
It however noted the alleged abuse of the Local Government system by State administrations.
In tandem with its recommendation under Federalism, Conference introduced some necessary safeguards to guarantee the independence of local government councils.
Conference therefore decided that:
(a) Section 7 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), that a system of Local Governments by democratically elected Local Government Council be guaranteed;
(b) States wishing to create Local Governments may create them under the jurisdiction of the States;
(c) The number, structure, form and administration of Local Governments shall be determined by the States;
(d) Without prejudice to the existing Local Governments, States that wish to, may create or reduce the number of existing Local Governments Areas, which shall be under the jurisdiction of the State;
(e) The List of the Local Governments Areas contained in the First Schedule of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) be removed, and transferred to the States to be covered by a law of the State Houses of Assembly;
(f) The functions of the Local Governments as contained in Schedule 4 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) shall be transferred to the States subject to the power of the State Houses of Assembly to add or reduce the said functions of the Local Government;
(g) Chairmen and Councillors of Local Governments, not democratically elected, shall not be recognized by all authorities and persons and shall not be entitled to any revenue allocation;
(h) In addition to the functions conferred upon Local Government Councils as specified in the Fourth Schedule of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), a House of Assembly of a State may by law confer other functions on the Local Government; and
(i) The Constitution should fix the tenure for Local Government Councils at three (3) years.
In addition, Conference noted the representations of National Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE) on the need to protect the Local Government Administrations. Conference unanimously adopted Paragraph 33 A (i)-(v) of the Report of the Presidential Committee On Review of Outstanding Issues from Recent Constitutional Conferences 2012 (the Belgore Report) as follows:
Local Government Funding
Conference decided that:
(i) The Joint State/Local Government Account be scrapped and in its place the establishment of a State Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (SRMAFC) with representatives of Local Governments and a Chairman nominated by the Governor;
(ii) All nominees of SRMAFC be screened by State House of Assembly;
(iii) Members be appointed to a fixed tenure with possibility of renewal for another term;
(iv) Members cannot be removed until expiration of their terms unless for special circumstances; and
(v) Allocation of funds to the State Government, Local Government Councils and between Local Councils of a State, each SRMAFC shall apply the same distribution principles for Revenue Allocation Formula adopted by RMAFC to allocate fund from the Federation Account.
Local Government Elections
Conference accepted the Belgore Report position that:
(i) the practice of unelected officials or Sole Administrators administering Local Governments at any period violates the spirit of representative governance and should not be allowed. Local Councils must have clearly defined tenure; and
(ii) Elections shall be held not earlier than 90 days or not later than 30 days to the expiration of the clearly defined tenure of the Local Government Councils. Section 197(1) (b) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and the relevant provisions in the Third Schedule should therefore be expunged.