On Restructuring And 2014 Confab

The Restructionists are making a strong case for the implementation of President Goodluck Jonathan ’ s 2014 National Conference Report . Some say it is the cure – all document. There are two major groups of people promoting the conference report . One is the participants . Their position which is colored by group loyalty is understandable as they have a psychology of allegiance to the document they produced . The second group is made up of persons who used the conference report as the oppositional plank against the current government . They used it during the campaign and have stuck to it as a demand the government must meet. It is not certain that members of this group have even read the report . It is not uncommon in public debates that people support or oppose documents that they have not even sighted . A recent glaring example was the permanent USA Republican Party nay – Sayers to Obama opposing the nuclear deal with Iran even before they had seen the document. Sufficient numbers of them had a rethink after they read the document.
The stake has now been raised by the National Assembly tending towards a consideration of the 2014 confab report . It is thus apposite to assess the report . The confab report has not been published officially . This has created another problem that is unique to Nigeria. By the time it would be debated officially , many versions will emerge . This appreciation of the document is based on a version published by The Premium Times , an online medium , which appears authentic .
The conference examined and resolved on everything that it considered relevant to the nation . It apparently took the admonition that nothing was off the table to mean examine everything on the table . Indeed , the report of the conference amounts to writing a General Order and it can be better titled , “ ABC of Policies for Governance at All Levels in Nigeria ”. It was unable or unwilling to isolate the main contentious issues which confronted the nation for debate and resolution . Items resolved on included provision of toilet facilities at the markets , promotion of the use of low energy light bulbs , promotion of planting of Jatropha plants as a source of renewable energy , management of wastes from the leather industry , establishment of conservation clubs in Nigerian schools etc. Or it may just have been an escapist strategy that turned out a large volume of work with the thinking that volume replaces quality or relevance . Quite a number of the resolutions of the conference ( a lot of them quite good ) could be obtained from a workaday workshop at the ministerial or local government level at a minute fraction of the cost used to obtain them through the conference .
The 2014 NCR contained a lot of platitudes which it expected will find their way into the constitution . For example , the conference recommends that “ we should reorient Nigerian society along the path of honesty , probity, and service to evolve into a nation with common destiny , fear of God , respect , trust, tolerance , gender sensitivity and cooperation to ensure honest, sincere , committed leadership with an enlightened and empowered followership ”. It also crafted the statement : “Every Nigerian citizen shall adhere to the ideology of national patriotism above sectional or ethnic interest ”. The question is now that these lofty aspirations , that cannot be easily quantified and measured , have been put down in black and white, what next? A lot of policy documents in Nigeria ( e. g . National Policy on Education ) contain beautiful platitudes such as these but the policies they preface are abandoned . While guiding and motivating epithets have a place in the constitution , constitutional admonition does not compel patriotism nor assure good governance; and too much preachment in it may be counterproductive .
The conference demonstrated a lack of faith in budget implementation process . Thus, it recommended moving a large number of institutions to first line charges . These include the judiciary , the DSS , armed forces, INEC , RMAFC, and the old pension scheme . The report intends to load the constitution with a lot details that could otherwise be handled as pieces of legislation of the National Assembly. The conference seems to believe that it is only when a law is in the constitution that it will work . Examples of such matters recommended for inclusion in the constitution are the Fiscal Responsibility Act, the Sovereign Wealth Fund , provision for the Chief Justice of Nigeria to set up a National Council on Civil and Criminal Procedures which will function to update and unify rules of court . Matters that may require frequent amendments are better made as Acts of the National Assembly as the process of amending the constitution is labourious .
On the issue of political restructuring and forms of government , if the proponents of restructuring had read the report , they would not be pushing for its implementation. The only element of the gamut of demands of the Restructionists accommodated by the conference is the creation of state police . The 2014 NCR sustained federalism as the mode of relationship; it rejected the creation of regions and zones as formal structure of government . It specifically said that the geopolitical zones shall not be the federating units of the Nigerian Federation. It agreed to create 18 more states . It resolved that states shall be the federating units and shall have their respective constitutions , right to self-determination while simultaneously each ethnic group within a state shall also have a right to self – determination. Each state shall have a revenue sharing formula (apparently with its local government ). It sustained the existence of the Federal Capital Territory. The recommendations of the confab will significantly increase the cost of governance. States will increase from 36 to 54. This means that we will have 54 governors , their deputies , state legislatures . Other structures of government at the state level like the judiciary , bureaucracy etc. will also increase by 50 per cent . The FCT shall have a minister and a Mayor ; and the Area Council is increased from six to eight , its Federal Constituency from two to four . The recommendation also has implications for some of the federal structures : e. g. the Senate membership shall increase from 109 to 163 . If these recommendations on additional state creation are adopted , the nation shall run bankrupt fast and development will certainly be precluded . We should note very clearly here that in the creation of additional governing units provided for through the creation of additional states is the motivating factor of the support of the ruling class for restructuring . Before the masses line up blindly behind the rulers , they should ask what is in it for them.
Thereafter , the report is confusion galore . It agreed that states may merge and demerge under very stringent conditions (not specified). It recommends that states may create a self – funding zonal commission for economic development and governance subject to the national constitution (it made no such constitutional stipulations; and nothing in the present constitution forbids that. Indeed , we have many examples such as the Odua corporation, the Northern Nigeria Economic Cooperation, the Lagos – Kebbi rice programme ).
Without making the zones a constitutional creation or giving it a definition , it used it in a number of its resolutions e. g. in the selection of ministers (three per zone ), balancing between zones as major consideration for state creation . It made the number, creation , removal , control and supervision of local governments the responsibility of each state . It, however, recommends that where LG officers are not elected , no revenue will be allocated to the local government . The question is, will this be done by the state controlling the LG that did not conduct the election or by the Federal Government that is no longer involved in matters of local governments?
Its recommendation on the presidential ticket also created confusion . On the one hand , it prescribed that the President shall run with a Vice President on the same ticket and on the other , that the President- elect shall select a vice president from the legislature . It recommended a structure of government that it says is a mixture of presidential and parliamentary systems . Apart from the novelty of the labelling, it is not clear how that is different from what we are running except that the ministers ( but not the President ) will be members of parliament . It is not clear how this will improve governance , remove ethnic and religious manipulation and corruption.
*To be concluded
Professor Akinyanju wrote in from Department of Biological Sciences, Ajayi Crowther University , Oyo



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