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Parliamentary system should start from states

Recently, the National Assembly announced its intention to kick-start another round of constitutional amendments. Committees have been set up by the two chambers. As a…

Recently, the National Assembly announced its intention to kick-start another round of constitutional amendments. Committees have been set up by the two chambers. As a result, 60 members of the House of Representatives, cutting across party lines are promoting three bills that will scrap the Presidential system of government and revert the country to the Parliamentary system of government, which held sway in the First Republic by 2031.

Some of the reasons advanced by the members are that the Presidential system is too expensive and the executive, who is not directly accountable to the people, is vested with enormous powers. To show their seriousness they have embarked on advocacy visits, with the residence of an elder statesman and business mogul in Kano their first port of call.

While I support the move to replace the Presidential system of governance with Parliamentary, I believe the practice should commence from the states in 2031, as state governors have been vested with enormous powers under the Nigerian Constitution.

They exercise executive powers by implementing state laws, and making appointments into juicy ministries and parastatals. In addition, they control not only the purse of the states they govern, but that of local governments as well.

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They award contracts to whomever they wish as a form of patronage, especially since the revenue allocation formula is 52.68% for the federal government, 26.72 per cent for state government and local governments take 20.60%. Littoral states get another 13%.

The control that state governors have over state and local governments’ funds makes them powerful in the Nigerian political setting.

To effectively reduce the level of poverty in Nigeria, the role of states is vital, since a lot of funds come into the coffers of these states either in the form of federal allocation or grants for the welfare of citizens, and the governors control these funds as they wish.

Despite the powers given to governors to utilise the funds at their disposal for the welfare of their people, many of them misappropriate the funds, projects are initiated, funds allocated and the projects are abandoned or not completed.

Civil servants in some states (including those in local governments) are not paid their salaries for long periods of time. Also, state Houses of Assembly in most states not only dance to the tune of the governors, but the principal officers are hand-picked by them, which renders them ineffective in carrying out their functions.

Also, deputy governors are at the mercy of governors, with the feud currently between the Edo State governor and his deputy an instance of this.

Consequently, there is need to make states more effective, hence there is need to clip the wings of state governors by overhauling the system of governance at the state level. How can that be done?

A parliamentary system of governance should be adopted at the state level. The separate office of the governor with so much, enormous powers should be scrapped.

A provision should be made in the constitution that those elected as members of the Houses of Assembly, will select a premier from amongst them, whose decisions can easily be scrutinised by his colleagues. Where he exercises the powers of the premier arbitrarily, he can be called to order, or even replaced in contrast to the present arrangement, where the procedure for the removal of a state governor is virtually impossible.

Also, a number of commissioners will be appointed from within the members, who will supervise the operations of state ministries. This will ensure more capable persons will aspire to represent their local governments at the State Assembly, and it will increase the quality of representation and even that of governance and reduce the cost of contesting elections, thereby reducing the level of corruption.

It will also eliminate monopoly by a single political party, as each local government is at liberty to choose someone they believe is competent to represent them.

There is a need to, at the first instance, establish the Parliamentary system at the state level, and ensure it is working before the transition is done at the federal level at a later stage.

 

Aliyu Ibrahim, Ph.D. can be reached via [email protected]

 

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