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Of constitution review and restructuring

Social and mainstream media are now trending with a breaking news on the state of the nation titled: “Nigeria Restructuring Bill concluded for Ratification”. The…

Social and mainstream media are now trending with a breaking news on the state of the nation titled: “Nigeria Restructuring Bill concluded for Ratification”.

The reported news item is traced to a Bill crafted by the National Assembly since 2021 and deliberated upon, with far-reaching resolutions taken, in their wisdom, to kick-start the ear-aching clamour for shelves of the National Assembly library at a time like this. Perhaps, it is to douse the palpable heat of the state of the Nation and to prevent looming crisis and possible breakdown of law and order.

The bill has as its thrusts, the following: That Nigeria will be made up of 42 states, with seven per each of her constituent geo-political zones. That done, the Bill went on to remind the existing and would be new states of their responsibility for creating and funding their local governments. And that these local governments “will be funded internally by the charging of a local tax, which will be augmented by a state grant representing no more than 10 per cent of Terminal Value (TV). One wonders where the internally generated funds would come from when states and local governments can barely fund their financial, economic, social and infrastructural obligations.

The Bill further states that, over a 35-year period, Nigeria shall gradually migrate back to the 1957/58 revenue-sharing formula agreed upon by our founding fathers at the Lancaster House Conferences in London which the federating units will control all the resources within their domain and remit a “whopping” 50 per cent to the central government for doing no job!

The federating units, the Bill went on to categorically state, will keep 50 per cent of all the revenue that they generate, put a further 20 per cent into a Central Pot called the Excess Federation Account to which “everyone” can have access as the “need” arises. That done, 10 per cent is expected to go into a geo-political zone account while the remaining 20 per cent goes into the Federation Account used to run the federal government.

Now, the big one; the manipulation of resources management and distribution by the oligarchy. The Bill states thus: “With regards to all other resources, we (Nigeria) shall move towards this immediately but in the case of oil and gas, the move will have to be gradual due to how dependent we have become on these two resources”. A gradual migration shall take place over the next 35 years in this manner: 2000 – 13%, 2021 – 18%, 2023 – 20%, 2025 – 25%, 2030 – 30%, 2035 – 35%, 2040 – 40%, 2045 – 45%, 2050 – 50%. Yet, from 2021 up till date, the Nigerian State and their collaborators in the National Assembly and the manipulative Oligarchy have not kept faith with their promises of this gradual migration of the derivation principle in revenue allocation to oil and gas producing areas.

The bill further states that every one of the 42 states will be set a target of generating at least $2 billion in export revenue. Any state that attracts inward investment to the tune of $ 1 billion shall be rewarded with a corresponding grant from a parasitic federal government. If only wishes were horses! Is this the best way for the Nigerian political power block to deceive Nigerians and hold on to power manipulatively to continue to perpetuate startling injustices against states that are unarguably the financial muscle of the Nigerian State? Is this the way the National Assembly can best assuage the hue and cry for justice by greatly disadvantaged ethnic nationalities for self-determination and resources control within a True Fiscal Federal system of government?

Other items on the Bill earlier stated, have been overtaken by events since 2021 when the Bill was actively debated on and lately dusted and brought to the front burner to test the temperature of Nigerians with regards to the increasing clamour for restructuring to enthrone peace, security, unity and prosperity of the country.

So, my take on the current rumoured restructuring bill by the National Assembly whose reading has reportedly been concluded for ratification is that it is a pre-emptive move by the political class to divert attention, diffuse tension and move on with political business as usual and to safeguard their juicy perquisites of office.

Their unimpressive, unimaginative and self-serving piece-meal surface level review of the Nigerian Constitution will only push the country into a blind alley, thus further strengthening bad governance and endemic corruption in government and leaving Nigeria in the throes of separatist agitations and other anti-social vices which are already threatening the peace and security of the Nigerian State.

This rumoured Bill if passed and signed into law by Mr. President would create more problems for this country. A new Nigeria is not possible with the new Bill on Restructuring as being advanced by the National Assembly. Clearly, the Oligarchy and critical power blocks in the Nigerian political space is at work again. The Bill as currently presented is a confused document which seeks to perpetuate injustice and hold the so-called minorities, especially those of the oil and gas-producing region, the Niger Delta, hostage. Total and unequivocal resources control to federating units and applicable taxes to be remitted to the Central Government is the way to go.

What is this talk of a revisit of 1950s London Lancaster House Constitutional Conferences revenue allocation formula? Is this not an afterthought? What reasons have the central Nigerian government to give for the abandonment of the Derivation formula for revenue allocation from 1966 till date? Sixty-eight years after, and still in counting, the oil-producing areas are still contented with the paltry 13% Derivation reluctantly dispensed to their governments. No wonder, Charlie Boy’s admonition of “our mumu don do”. That the Niger Delta region and her people still have to wait for yet another 35 years as stated in the rumoured Bill, to be allocated 50 per cent derivation from these resources is a grave injustice, an effrontery, to say the least.

Other itemised areas for the projection of recreating a workable Nigeria as embodied in the Bill is laughable. Can these kites being flown by the National Assembly pass the acid test for the recreation of the new Nigeria we yearn for? It is time we stop burying our heads in the sand like the Ostrich while the country is fiddling with the lesser than the greater issues of nation-building. True Fiscal Federalism with non-negotiable resources control by federating units and well-spelt-out devolution of powers between the Federal and state governments is the way to go.

Central to these feeble and futile piece-meal efforts at Constitution review by the National Assembly is the unbundling and subsequent recrafting of the Nigerian Constitution dubbed as fraudulent by legal luminaries, frontline ethnic nationality unions and organisations, and critical stakeholders. The National Assembly and its leadership should be advised to stop toying or fiddling with the Nigerian project if this august body with its distinguished members has no solution to offer as it has evidently proved since 1999.

 

Braeyi Ekiye, publisher of EnvironmentWatch, lives in Yenagoa

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