By Hameed M. Bello
A pro-democracy group of Northern elite, Friends of Democracy, has prescribed a model for the restructuring of Nigeria which it believed is best suited for the stability of the Nigerian federation.
A return to the 12-state structure is the most viable option for Nigeria’s restructuring, the group said in a position paper on the agitations for constitutional review and restructuring of the country.
The position paper was.signed by eleven of its members, including Alhaji Bashir Othman Tofa, Amb. Fatimah Balla, Alh Sule Yahaya Hamma, Dr Abubakar Saddique Mohammed and Bashir Yusuf Ibrahim.
Others were Mal Bilya Bala, Dr Usman Bugaje, Mr Hubert Shaiyen, Dr Kabir Az-Zubair, Mr Sam Nda-Isaiah and Prof. Jibrin Ibrahim.
According to the group, although states were increased from 12 to 19, 21, 30 and 36 to address minority concerns, but that the 36 state structure cannot be sustained due to overdependence on oil revenue which is continuously falling.
The group has accordingly proposed a nine-point recommendation that will solidify the 12-state structure with the states serving as the federating units.
It proposes that the states shall be redesigned as regions and shall have full control of their resources while paying appropriate taxes to the federal government.
The regions, it said, shall have powers to create local governments as they desire, and to overhaul the Legislative List and reassign agriculture, education and health to the Residual List in which states alone would have competence but the federal government would share a regulatory role with the states.
The group also recommends that mining should be reassigned to the concurrent list with in-land mining under the federating units and off-land mining under the control of the federal government.
It recommends that policing should be reassigned to the concurrent list, and only inter-state crime, cybercrime and international crime would be under the jurisdiction of the federal police.
It recommends that the power of taxation should remain concurrent, while the federal character principle should be retained and strictly observed.
The current Senate, the group recommends, should be merged with the House of Representatives under a unicameral Legislature arrangement.
The group also recommended key principles upon which the restructuring of the country must be based.
They include that states must be economically viable, and must rely on fiscal revenue which they generate, themselves instead of relying on handouts from the centre;
That states must operate in a democratic manner and be run by Chief Executives that are accountable to the people and legislators that are independent;
That states should have constitutional and legislative powers to determine their internal structure such as the number of local governments they desire;
That states must be allowed to determine their own framework and mechanism for the choice of leaders at all levels, which recognizes and combines both merit and the need for fair representation of the broad identities that make up the states – such as geography, ethnicity and religion.
It calls for balancing of the distribution of power and Fiscal resources between the states and the Federation to address the desire for local resource control and the viability of the country as a whole.