Like the previous legislative houses before it, the 9th National Assembly is embarking on possible alterations of some provisions of the 1999 Constitution towards correcting some perceived defects inherent in the federation. TAIYE ODEWALE examines some of the issues at stake .
Since the advent of the current fourth republic operated with the 1999 Constitution, there have been clamour for restructuring of the country in terms of power devolutions from the federal to the state governments through constitution amendments .
The agitators like the Afenifere Socio- cultural group, Ohaneze Ndigbo, Middle Belt Congress , Southern Leaders Forum and even the All Progressives Congress ( APC) before winning the 2015 general elections, have always argued that the Nigerian federation anchored on provisions of the 1999 Constitution, is over centralized, making it to be unitary in nature .
They argued that Nigeria being a diversified entity , should run a decentralized federation like the 24 other countries in the world and not an over centralized one bequeated to it by the military in May 1999.
Specifically , it is their belief that the drafters of the Constitution putting 68 items on the exclusive list and only 30 on the concurrent list , make the federation to be unitary in nature .
Items on the exclusive list which can only be legislated or acted upon by the federal government are: 1. Accounts of the Government of the Federation, and of offices, courts, and authorities thereof, including audit of those accounts. 2. Arms, ammunition and explosives. 3. Aviation, including airports, safety of aircraft and carriage of passengers and goods by air. 4. Awards of national titles of honour, decorations and other dignities, 5. Bankruptcy and insolvency, 6. Banks, banking, bills of exchange and promissory notes. 7. Borrowing of moneys within or outside Nigeria for the purposes of the Federation or of any State. 8. Census, including the establishment and maintenance of machinery for continuous and universal registration of births and deaths throughout Nigeria. 9. Citizenship, naturalisation and aliens and (10)
Commercial and industrial monopolies, combines and trusts.
Others are , 11. Construction, alteration and maintenance of such roads as may be declared by the National Assembly to be Federal trunk roads, 12. Control of capital issues, 13. Copyright, 14. Creation of States, 15. Currency, coinage and legal tender, 16. Customs and excise duties, 17. Defence, 18. Deportation of persons who are not citizens of Nigeria, 19. Designation of securities in which trust funds may be invested, 20. Diplomatic, consular and trade representation and 21. Drugs and poisons.
Also on the exclusive list are items like (22.) Election to the offices of President and Vice-President or Governor and Deputy Governor and any other office to which a person may be elected under this Constitution, excluding election to a local government council or any office in such council, 23. Evidence, 24. Exchange control, 25. Export duties, 26. External affairs, 27. Extradition, 28. Fingerprints identification and criminal records. 29. Fishing and fisheries other than fishing and fisheries in rivers, lakes, waterways, ponds and other inland waters within Nigeria, 30. Immigration into and emigration from Nigeria, 31. Implementation of treaties relating to matters on this list and (32) Incorporation, regulation and winding up of bodies corporate, other than co-operative societies, local government councils and bodies corporate established directly by any Law enacted by a House of Assembly of a state.
Others are: 33. Insurance, 34. Labour, including trade unions, industrial relations; conditions, safety and welfare of labour; industrial disputes; prescribing a national minimum wage for the Federation or any part thereof; and industrial arbitration, 35. Legal proceedings between Governments of States or between the Government of the Federation and Government of any State or any other authority or person.
36. Maritime shipping and navigation,37. Meteorology, 38. Military (Army, Navy and Air Force) including any other branch of the armed forces of the Federation. 39. Mines and minerals, including oil fields, oil mining, geological surveys and natural gas. 40. National parks being such areas in a State as may, with the consent of the Government of that State, be designated by the National Assembly as national parks.41. Nuclear energy, 42. Passports and visas, 43. Patents, trade marks, trade or business names, industrial designs and merchandise marks.44. Pensions, gratuities and other-like benefit payable out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund. 45. Police and other government security services established by law. 46. Posts, telegraphs and telephones
47. Powers of the National Assembly, and the privileges and immunities of its members, 48. Prisons, 49. Professional occupations as may be designated by the National Assembly.
50. Public debt of the Federation, 51. Public holidays.52. Public relations of the Federation, 53. Public service of the Federation including the settlement of disputes between the Federation and officers of such service, 54. Quarantine and (55), Railways.
Other items on the list are, 56. Regulations of political parties, 57. Service and execution in a State of the civil and criminal processes, judgements, decrees, orders and other decisions of any court of law outside Nigeria or any court of law in Nigeria other than a court of law established by the House of Assembly of that State, 58. Stamp duties, 59. Taxation of incomes, profits and capital gains, except as otherwise prescribed by this Constitution, 60. The establishment and regulation of authorities for the Federation or any part thereof , 61. The formation, annulment and dissolution of marriages other than marriages under Islamic law and Customary law including matrimonial causes relating thereto, 62. Trade and commerce and registration of Business names , 63. Traffic on Federal trunk roads. 64. Water from such sources as may be declared by the National Assembly to be sources affecting more than one state, 65. Weights and measures.
66. Wireless, broadcasting and television other than broadcasting and television provided by the Government of a state; allocation of wave-lengths for wireless, broadcasting and television transmission. 67. Any other matter with respect to which the National Assembly has power to make laws in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution and (68). Any matter incidental or supplementary to any matter mentioned elsewhere in this list.
While some items on the list like Defence , External Affairs , Census , Registration of Birth , Immigration and Emigration etc, are considered by the agitators to be perfectly right in putting them under the exclusive control of the federal government , others like items 11 which dwells on construction and maintenance of Roads categorised as Trunk A, 39 which dwells on Mines and Minerals , 45 which dwells on Policing and 61 which deals with formation and dissolution of marriages etc, should be added to the 30 items on the concurrent list where both the federal and State governments have constitutional powers over .
Infact as sighted by the Blueprint reporter in the Senate last week , interests groups such as Middle Belt Congress ( MBC), Coalition of Federalists for Good Governance in Nigeria ( CFGG), YIAGA Africa etc , in their Memoranda , seek for constitution amendments along that direction.
Specifically, the CFGG in its memorandum jointly signed by its National Coordinator , Taiye Odewale and Secretary, Aisha Jibrin, submitted thus on its four items of requests .
“In specific terms, we humbly propose to this committee, alteration of relevant provisions of the 1999 Constitution ( as amended) in addressing items 2 and 5 of your areas of operations .
On item 2 which dwells on the federal structure and Power Devolution, we want mining to be moved from the exclusive list to concurrent list , in paving way for each of the 36 states of the federation , to have the constitutional rights of exploring and mining the mineral resources within their domains .
“This to us , will have multiple multiplier effects of stopping illegal Mining across the country , enhance the economic fortunes of each of the states and provide the needed jobs for Nigerians at State level .
“Also , Federal Trunk Roads otherwise known as Trunk A roads except the ones linking Nigeria to another country , should be handed over to affected states territorial wise, as largely obtainable during the first republic when engineering designs cum master plans for construction of such roads , were handled by the federal highways unit of the Federal Ministry of Works .
“This to us, will rescue the federal government from the current self – inflicted suffocation is facing as regards fixing of the 35,000 kilometres Trunk A roads across the country.
On item 45 of the exclusive list which dwells on Policing. We strongly advocate for removal of Policing from the exclusive list to the concurrent list , in paving way for States that have the financial muscle to establish their own Police Commands .
“Crime largely is local, requiring local solution . Besides , of all federations in the world, it is only Nigeria running a centralized Police structure with attendant inefficiency and increasing waves of Crimes and criminality across the country .
“The fear of such idea being abused by state governors is a clearly misplaced one because federal Police cum DSS operatives will still be on ground across the country to checkmate that .
“Establishment of State Police as obtainable in other federations of the world , would not only help in proactively fighting crime and criminality at the grassroots but also water down the so called ‘federal might ‘ unconstitutionally and undemocratically exhibited by government in power at the centre during general elections and invariably , enhance the credibility of the electoral process.
“Finally, in empowering the states for efficient performance of the afore stated responsibilities if the proposed constitution alteration is effected; we strongly advocate for review of the revenue sharing formula from the lopsided nature it is , presently to 40% for the federal government, 36% for the 36 States and 24 % for the 774 local government councils as against the 52.68%, 26.72% and 20.60% in operation respectively with attendant avoidable wastages at the centre .
“Infact, in ideal federations and as obtainable in Nigeria between 1954 and 1966, it should be the federating units ( States) contributing certain percentages of proceeds made from exploration and exploitation of resources in their domains to the centre and not the national cake sharing formula being practiced now .
“But as a gradual approach towards restoration of functional and productive federal system in the country, we are limiting our requests to the four highlighted areas for now”.
Confirming the enormity of requests for power Devolutions in most of the Memoranda already received , the Chairman of the Senate’s Ad- hoc committee on Constitution Review , Senator Ovie Omo-Agege declared at the weekend that most of the requests are along that direction .
The Deputy President of the Senate who made the declaration while featuring in a current affairs programme on TVC ( the Platform ), anchored by Sam Omatseye, noted that all the 36 governors are unanimous that more powers be moved from the Exclusive to Concurrent legislative list.
“I don’t know of any governor in this country today who doesn’t subscribe to the idea that the content of the Exclusive legislative list is too cumbersome and needs some shedding of weight. I am sure practically all governors will subscribe to that so we can have some of these powers devolve to the states,” he said .