Why I Support Restructuring – Dogara

Speaker Yakubu Dogara

Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Yakubu Dogara, has expressed support for auditing and restructuring the existing federal system to give a sense of belonging to all Nigerians.
         

He said that for true federalism to be achieved in Nigeria, a unique system of federalism that best suits Nigerian people and the local circumstances in the country must be created, in addition to having leaders who are visionary, selfless, prudent, intelligent and indefatigable and having integrity and honour.

He said these while speaking on the topic, “Reforming the Nigerian Federation: Which Way Forward”, at the 3rd annual Political Summit organised by the Save Democracy Africa in Abuja.
The Speaker noted that, “The talk of Nigeria’s success or genuine federalism can no longer hold waters giving the state of internal insurgencies, divisiveness, ethnic and religious schism witnessed in several parts of Nigeria. Efforts at wishing away the problem associated with Nigerian federation have only resulted into several tribal, ethnic and religious movements that have even metamorphosed into terrorist syndicates.

“One can, therefore, no longer fold his arms but engage some of the issues that have confronted us as a nation and threatened the Nigerian federation. This forum provides one of the opportunities for such interrogation. Accordingly, I commend the organisers for bringing this issue to the front burner once again.

“That Nigeria could survive despite predictions to the contrary by the World Powers not only portrays a ray of hope but also demonstrate that Nigerian Federation has come to stay.

“It is therefore incumbent on us to fashion out our own type of federalism that is best suited to our people and to local circumstances. There should be genuine efforts to build the nation. Therefore ethnic, religious and sectional agenda should take back place. The essence of federalism is to foster unity and development. This has however, not been achieved.

Consequently, the recruitment processes of our elective office holders are being re-visited in the Electoral Amendment Bill to ensure that the system is able to recruit the best at all strata of leadership. We need leaders who are visionary, selfless, prudent, intelligent and indefatigable and having integrity and honour.”
He added that the current National Assembly has shown enough determination to ensure that the federation of Nigeria is managed effectively for the good of every citizen in its several initiatives to address imbalances.

 He also added that to take Nigeria to its pride of place, a reorientation of Nigerians to address the political and economic malaise they face must be addressed, along with every other possible measure to take Nigeria to where it rightly belongs among the comity of Nations given her huge and rich minerals and agricultural resources, and population.

Hon Dogara stated, “There should be massive awareness to change the mindsets of the rulers and the ruled. This is where there is the need for proper education and awareness for both the rulers and the ruled. I challenge our tertiary institutions to break the disconnect between them and the political institutions and industries not only to fashion out the appropriate curriculum to drive this new orientation to confront our political and economic malaise but also to lead cutting edge research in providing correct local solutions to our diverse of problems.”

He also identified the pedestals upon which Nigerian Federation has thrived over the years as multi-party system that allows wider participation in the political process, equity distributive principles of revenue from the Federation Account, states creation, special intervention programme to address specific problems where there are genuine cases of imbalance, marginalisation and injustice such as NDDC and NEDC,  growing synergy and improved communication between the National Assembly and the Executive, the judiciary, practice of federal character in the composition and conduct of public institutions at state and federal levels.

The speaker also identified some emerging issues in Nigeria’s federation political gerrymandering, corruption and nepotism, state creation and boundary delimitation, electoral boundary manipulation that discriminates against voters on account of tribe, language, religion, or related status.

“The same is also true of boundary adjustments, state creation and Local Governments in Nigeria. The minority tribes have complained of being short-changed. The issue of fiscal federalism and resource control. The allocation of revenue in Nigeria is presently heated as there are always allegations and counter-allegations of manipulations against the federal government by states. There are also allegations of zero allocation to local governments by states despite very clear constitutional provisions. In addition, there has been complaint of total neglect of the states that generate the revenue as such the derivative formula has been very contentious. There is over concentration of powers and responsibilities on the federal government. There are several responsibilities that can better be handled by the states. The power sharing between the Federal Government and the states will have to be revisited and the issue of the autonomy of local governments in Nigeria which state Houses of Assembly keep voting against,” he further stated.
Hon Dogara, therefore, stressed the need to fashion out our own type of federalism that is best suited to our people and to local circumstances, with genuine efforts to build the nation, the need for proper education and awareness for both the rulers and the ruled, awareness and re-orientation on the issue of political gerrymandering, and vesting the responsibility of delaminating constituencies to the Boundary Commission as is the case in several countries like Britain.

He added, “The issue of resource control must be properly addressed. The communities where those resources are found should be adequately compensated. The Host Community Bill initiated by the House of Representatives on the Oil and Gas industry will be a test case. The call for resource control may by implication have a semblance of territorial devolution.”
The speaker noted that since assumption of the 8th House of Representatives, they have engaged the executive (mostly ministers and heads of parastatals) in several sectoral debates at plenary and have enacted cutting edge legislations in emerging, reviewed over 300 laws with the hope of bringing them in tune with modern realities and has been guided by the need to adjust our political, social and economic system to meet local circumstances and engraft the existing laws to conform.

 

 

SEE FULL SPEECH BELOW;

REMARKS BY THE SPEAKER, HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA, RT. HON. YAKUBU DOGARA AT THE OPENING CEREMONY OF THE 3RD ANNUAL NATIONAL POLITICAL SUMMIT ON MONDAY, 19TH MARCH, 2018,AT THE INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE CENTRE (ICC) ABUJA, NIGERIA
 
PROTOCOLS:

REFORMING THE NIGERIAN FEDERATION: WHICH WAY FOWARD
“I am pleased to see that we are now all agreed that the Federal system is, under present conditions, the only sure basis on which Nigeria will remain united. We must recognize our diversity and the peculiar conditions under which the different tribal communities live in this country.”
Sir Tafawa Balewa, 1957
 
I feel highly honoured to be saddled with the responsibility of being the Summit Chairman at this 3rd edition of the annual summit of leaders of thought, eminent politicians, social scientists and defenders of open society from across Nigeria and parts of Africa and the international community. This is even more so as the two previous Summits Chairmen before me were, our highly revered and respected elder statesman, late Alhaji Yusuf Maitama Sule  (Dan Masanin Kano) and former Chief Justice of Nigeria, His Lordship, Justice Salihu Modibbo Alfa Belgore, GCON.
 
2. It is therefore my honour and privilege to welcome all of you to this political Summit on behalf of Save Democracy Africa, its conveners. This organisation of eminent, resourceful and committed Africans, has indeed created a great and credible platform for free flow of relevant governance ideas and their continuous interrogation through dialogue. This political summit provides a platform for Nigerians and indeed Africans to make their views known on various aspects of governance. I was part of the maiden edition where I delivered the keynote address and I am therefore happy that this has been sustained over the years despite the many challenges associated with organising a large event like this. 
 
3. As seen from the famous quotes of Sir Tafawa Balewa above,  Federalism has been accepted by Nigeria even before independence in 1960. Nigeria is a Federation consisting of one central Government, thirty six State Governments and 774 Local Government Area Councils. The Nigerian Federation which is a colonial legacy of three regions- the Northern Region, the Western Region and the Eastern Region and later the Mid-Western Region continued even after independence in 1960. In fact several people considered Nigeria federation as a creation of European imperialism; the country deriving its name, in the first place, from a British journalist Flora Shaw who later became the wife of the first Governor-General Lord Fredrick Lugard. 

4. The Regions later transmuted into 12 States, then 19 States and the present 36 States under the Military regimes in Nigeria. This British legacy gained acceptability and the Federation was fully entrenched despite the various challenges that have bedevilled the Nation’s quest for a strong and stable federation. However, the battle of ‘reinforcing the unity, cohesion, stability, security, progress, development and performance of the Nigerian federation’ has become very strident lately. The talk of Nigeria’s success or genuine federalism can no longer hold waters giving the state of internal insurgencies, divisiveness, ethnic and religious schism witnessed in several parts of Nigeria. Efforts at wishing away the problem associated with Nigerian federation have only resulted into several tribal, ethnic and religious movements that have even metamorphosed into terrorist syndicates. 

5. One can therefore no longer fold his arms but engage some of the issues that have confronted us as a Nation and threatened the Nigerian Federation. This forum provides one of the opportunities for such interrogation. Accordingly, I commend the organisers for bringing this issue to the front burner once again. 

THE NIGERIAN FEDERATION
6. Before considering most of the issues on the Nigerian Federation, it may be necessary to explain the structure of Nigerian Federation itself and for that matter what a federation is.  A Federation is “a group of states with a central government but independent in internal affairs”. A Federation is a union of States under a central government. In considering this concept, one cannot but refer to the work of the eminent scholar and legal luminary Professor Ben Nwabueze, SAN who defines federalism thus: 
“Federalism is an arrangement whereby powers of Government within a country are shared between a national, country – wide Government and a number of regionalized (i.e. territorially localized) Governments in such a way that each exists as a Government separately and independently from others operating directly on persons and property within its territorial area, with a will of its own and its own apparatus for the conduct of its affairs. Federalism is thus essentially an arrangement between Governments, a constitutional device by which powers within a country are shared among two tiers of Government.”

7. The above provides an insight into the Nigerian Federation. In relation to Nigeria, Federation, according to section 318 of the Constitution means the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Thus under the Constitution, ‘Nigeria’, ‘Sovereign State’, ‘Federal Republic of Nigeria’ and ‘Federation’ are synonymous. Therefore, Federation of Nigeria is not the same with the Federal Government of Nigeria but much wider. Each Government is autonomous of one another. This point prompted former Chief Justice Aloma Mukhtar to observe in relation to a Federation that federalism:
“…clearly expresses the independence of Governments under a Federation, the powers of such Governments under a Federation, and the powers of such Governments to make laws that benefit their developments and wellbeing are unfettered, and these powers cannot be taken away from them, as long as they do not breach any Constitutional requirement.”

8. From the above, the underlying philosophy behind the Nigeria Federation is the Constitution of Nigeria, 1999 as amended (herein after referred to as the Constitution) which is thegrundnorm also known in the legal parlance as the “fons et origo of the lex corpus Nigeriana”.  The Constitution in section 2(1) describes Nigeria as “one indivisible and indissoluble sovereign state to be known by the name of the Federal Republic of Nigeria”. In addition, section 2(3) of the same Constitution also states that Nigeria shall be a Federation consisting of States and a Federal Capital Territory. Section 3(1) of the Constitution described and defined the States that made up the Federation by naming all the 36 states in alphabetical order. 

9. Section 3(6) of the Constitution further state that there shall be 768 Local Government Areas in Nigeria as shown in the second column of Part I of the First Schedule to the Constitution and six Area Councils as shown in Part II of that Schedule. 

10. The powers of the Federation are divided into three broad heads- Legislative, Executive and Judicial. The Legislative powers are vested on the National Assembly consisting of a Senate and a House of Representatives and the State Houses of Assembly. The Executive powers of the Federation are vested on the Presidents and Governors of States while the judicial powers are vested on the federal and State Courts created under the Constitution. The powers of Government are shared between the Federal Government and the States Government and the respective powers of each are demarcated in the Legislative Lists- Exclusive Legislative List and Concurrent Legislative list. 

11. From the above, the Nigerian Constitution is a Presidential Constitution and it is also a Federal Constitution. This is in order to accommodate the interest of over 250 ethnic groups that constitute the Federation of Nigeria. Reiterating the essence of  the Nigeria Federation which is National Unity, section 14(3) of the Constitution states:
“The composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few State or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that Government or in any of its agencies”.

12. However, the Nigeria Federation started with the amalgamation of the Protectorate of Northern Nigeria and the Protectorate of Southern Nigeria into the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria in 1914. In short Adekoya posits that federalism in Nigeria actually started in 1939 and that: 
“The history of federalism in Nigeria dates back to 1939, where the country was divided into three provinces (northern, western, and eastern province) by Governor Bernard Bourdillion. Governor Bourdillion suggested the replacement of the provinces by regions which Arthur Richard later introduced in 1946. It was Richard that brought the idea of the introduction of a federal structure which he was unable to accomplish. In 1951, Governor McPherson constitution improved on that of Richard’s by creating House of Representatives with power to make laws for the country, and he also created regional houses of assembly to make laws for the regions.
Later in 1954, the Lyttleton constitution came in with a federal system of government. This was however as a result of the constitutional conference that took place in London in 1953. That is where it was decided that Nigeria should become a federal state”. 

13. Has Nigerian Federation been able to stand the test of time? It was thought that the civil war that took place in Nigeria between 1967 to 1970 will mark the end of the Nigeria Federation. Before the civil war, there had been some centrifugal tendencies that almost ended the Federation. The Western Region crises, the celebrated treasonable trial of the opposition in the first Republic, the Population Census crisis of the First Republic, the Military Coup de tat. In addition, the annulment of June 12 1993 election which was widely believed to have been won by Late Chief M.K.O Abiola, the American prediction that Nigeria will cease to exist by 2015, the Boko Haram Insurgency and various ethnic and religious crises in Nigeria are some of those lethal weapons that would have blown off the Nigerian Federation. 

14. That Nigeria could survive despite predictions to the contrary by the World Powers not only portrays a ray of hope but also demonstrate that Nigerian Federation has come to stay. As pointed out by a political scientist:
“For all its tribulations and failures, Nigeria must be acknowledged as a relative political success in avoiding the tragedy of state collapse or large-scale internal insurgency that has recently convulsed other African states like the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, Sudan, Burundi, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Cote d’Ivoire. This outcome is largely reflective of the genius of Nigerian federalism in curbing ethnic domination, dispersing or decentralizing sectional conflicts, promoting inter-regional revenue redistribution, fostering inter-ethnic integration, and generally defusing and subduing the combustible pressures inherent in the country’s ethno linguistic, regional and religious fragmentation. Indeed, the Nigerian federation has significantly attained most of the ends and mechanisms that students of institutional design in divided societies associate with the effective federalist management of ethnic conflict”.

15. It may be necessary to bring out some of the pedestals upon which Nigerian Federation has thrived over the years. They include:
The Presidential Constitution that allows multi-party system allowing wider participation in the political process. This has provided very vibrant opposition that is constantly putting the ruling party on its toe. A case in point was the last 2015 election where the opposition party; the All Progressives Congress (APC) defeated the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP). Most countries with one party system have been entangled in protracted crisis and in some cases resulting to civil war.
The arrangement for power rotation amongst the political powers have really doused the tension associated with the allegation of the over concentration of power in a particular region. This has allowed the formation of alliances that cuts across the various States and Geo-political zones.
The equity distributive principles of revenue from the Federation Account. Although the formula employed and the method of distribution has heated lately, however, the monthly financial allocation to States has been one of the stabilising factors of the Nigeria Federation. States without resources are greatly supported by the partnership/federation. The 13% derivation formula has also been useful in accommodating the needs of the oil producing states.
The creation of additional States in 1967, 1976, 1991 and 1996 substantially removed the fears of the minorities. This was also one of the strategies that were used to end the civil war. State creation was used to break the dominance of certain major ethnic groups. 
The involvement of the Armed Forces in curbing ethnic and religious crisis. The Nigerian Armed Forces have come in aid of the police and other civil authorities in maintain law and order in Nigeria. Without the military, the war against Boko Haram would have been a mirage.
The establishment of some intervention programme to address specific problems where there are genuine cases of imbalance, marginalisation and injustice. The amnesty programme introduced by the Late President Musa Yar’Adua in the Niger Delta greatly assisted in reducing the tension and violence in the Region. The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) was also established for the Region. There is also the North East Development Commission (NEDC) spearheaded by my good self to cater for the devastating effect of the pogrom in the North East.
The growing synergy and improved communication between the National Assembly and the Executive. This has been one of the important Legislative Agenda before this 8th House of Representatives.
The robust and pragmatic manner the judiciary has handled some sensitive cases has further enriched the Nigerian Federation. This has stabilized the polity with the courts proving to be the hope of the common man. 
The practice of federal character in the composition and conduct of public institutions at State and Federal levels. This has allowed all the various ethnic groups to be represented in various appointment and/or employment.

EMERGING ISSUES ON NIGERIAN FEDERATION
16. There have been several issues associated with the Nigerian Federation over the years. For want of time and space, I enumerate some of the issues or challenges of  the Nigerian Federation thus:
Ethnicity and loyalty to tribe and religion. There are over 250 tribes in Nigeria and only a few believe in the Nigerian Federation. There are various ethnic and religious agenda which are regarded as more important than the Federation. To several people, there is not yet a Nation; thus there is unalloyed commitment to tribal, ethnic, sectional and religious interest.
Concomitant with the above is the issue of power sharing. As a result of appeals to ethnic and religious sentiments, the rotation of elective offices- the contest for the offices of the President, Governors and Local Government Chairman has been very obstreperous and unruly. Even electing Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives can be vociferous owing to tribal, ethnic and religious sentiments.
There is also the issue of whether the parliamentary system of government is not more suited for Nigeria in view of the experimentation in the First Republic. It is argued that the presidential system is rather too expensive. However, democratic governance is not cheap anywhere in the World whatever form it is. Nations reform their system to take care of identifiable problem(s) in the course of operation.
Issue of political gerrymandering, State creation and boundary delimitation.  Constituency delimitation is one of the attributes of true federalism. It is all about setting electoral boundaries for the electorates and it is the basis for the determination of equitable representation. It has implication not just for representation but also appropriation. Consequently, there have been complaints of electoral boundary manipulation that discriminates against voters on account of tribe, language, religion, or related status. The same is also true of boundary adjustments, state creation and Local Governments in Nigeria. The minority tribes have complained of being short-changed.
The issue of fiscal federalism and resource control. The allocation of revenue in Nigeria is presently heated as there are always allegations and counter-allegations of manipulations against the Federal Government by States. There are also allegations of zero allocation to Local Governments by States despite very clear constitutional provisions. In addition, there has been complaint of total neglect of the States that generate the revenue as such the derivative formula has been very contentious. 
There is over concentration of powers and responsibilities on the Federal Government. There are several responsibilities that can better be handled by the States. The power sharing between the Federal Government and the States will have to be revisited.  
The issue of the autonomy of Local Governments in Nigeria. As much as we have tried to make the Local Government autonomous and deal with the controversial issue of Joint State and Local Government Account, the States Houses of Assembly keep voting against autonomy for the Local Governments which are supposed to bring the government closer to the people. 
The issue of corruption and nepotism. They are cankerworms that have eaten deep into the very fabric of the Nigerian Federation. Corruption has threatened the political and economic wellbeing of this Nation. 
The emergent case of several ethnic movements that have become so militant and violent and even calling for secession from Nigeria. We have the Boko Haram, Niger Delta Avengers, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Movement for Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP) etc.
The current violent conflicts between the farmers and herdsmen’s resulting into gruesome murder of innocent citizens and the distrust it has created.

THE WAY FOWARD
17. I have heard it severally that democracy is too expensive and especially the federal system. I have researched over the years to find an alternative to democracy and found none. I task our universities to take up the issues with our federalism as a challenge and proffer durable solutions. One thing is clear despite the issues identified with our Federation, the Presidential system still remains best suited for Nigeria. This ensures stability, unlike the Parliamentary system where elected governments can be removed by vote of no confidence. However, in order to further strengthen the system, there is the need to address some pertinent issues identified above.

18. It is to be noted that there is no utopian federation or federalism anywhere. This point prompted Honourable Justice Niki Tobi, J.S.C (as he then was), of the blessed memory to remark:
”Ideal federalism or true federalism is different from specific or individual federal constitutions of nations, which may not be able to achieve the utopia of that ideal federalism or true federalism but which in their own sphere are called federal constitutions. I think Nigeria falls into the latter category or group. It will therefore, be wrong to propagate theories based on ideal or true federalism in a nation’s Constitution which does not admit such utopia.” 

19. It is therefore incumbent on us to fashion out our own type of federalism that is best suited to our people and to local circumstances. There should be genuine efforts to build the Nation. Therefore ethnic, religious and sectional agenda should take back place. The essence of federalism is to foster unity and development. This has however, not been achieved. Consequently, the recruitment processes of our elective office holders are being re-visited in the Electoral Amendment Bill to ensure that the system is able to recruit the best at all strata of leadership. We need leaders who are visionary, selfless, prudent, intelligent and indefatigable and having integrity and honour. As late Chief Obafemi Awolowo rightly observed in his letter to General Thomas Aguiyi Ironsi on 28th March 1966:
“One of the monsters which menaced the public life of this country up to 14th January, this year (1966) is OPPORTUNISM with its attendant evils of jobbery, venality, corruption, and unabashed self-interest. .. a truly public-spirited person should accept public office not for what he can get for himself — such as the profit and glamour of office — but for the opportunity which it offers him of serving his people to the best of his ability, by promoting their welfare and happiness”.

20. Nigeria is far behind many Nations and everything possible should be done to take Nigeria to where it rightly belongs among the comity of Nations given her huge and rich minerals and agricultural resources, and population. 

21. There should be massive awareness to change the mindsets of the rulers and the ruled. This is where there is the need for proper education and awareness for both the rulers and the ruled. I challenge our tertiary institutions to break the disconnect between them and the political institutions and industries not only to fashion out the appropriate curriculum to drive this new orientation to confront our political and economic malaise but also to lead cutting edge research in providing correct local solutions to our diverse of problems. 

22. While the awareness and re-orientation could address the issue of political gerrymandering, however, the Independent National Electoral Commission is rather too busy to be saddled with the responsibility of delaminating constituencies. The responsibility of delaminating constituencies can be ceded to the Boundary Commission as is the case in several countries like Britain.

23. The issue of resource control must be properly addressed. The communities where those resources are found should be adequately compensated. The Host Community Bill initiated by the House of Representatives on the Oil and Gas industry will be a test case. Moreover, communities and states should be made to own their own resources under an arrangement where sufficient royalties are paid to the Federal government. This is the fiscal federalism being agitated for in Nigeria by several minority groups.

24. As indicated above, the power sharing between the Federal Government and the States will have to be revisited. States should take more responsibilities and ensure they become viable and self reliant. Each state should have the capacity to develop the minerals and agricultural resources within its territory. This will give room for diversification and the idea of dependence of monthly allocation will be a thing of the past. As it is now, ownership of mineral resources belongs to the Federal government; therefore, the territories where those natural and mineral resources are located may be regarded as Federal Territories. The call for resource control may by implication have a semblance of territorial devolution.

25. The idea of auditing and restructuring the existing Federal system is also supported. Restructuring should not be seen as an opposition to the Government of the day. It should be an opportunity for the people of Nigeria to sit together and audit the present structure and agree on a blueprint for the way forward.

26. The present manner in which the federal character principle is being practised  needs to be fine tuned to strengthen the Nigerian Federation. All qualified persons from all parts of the country need to be employed or recruited to give a sense of belonging to all Nigerians. 

CONCLUDING REMARK
27. The current National Assembly has shown enough determination to ensure that the Federation of Nigeria is managed effectively for the good of every citizen. Several efforts have been made by the National Assembly to correct several of the imbalances we have identified. On assumption of office, the 8th House of Representatives set out a Legislative Agenda to guide its operation during its four year tenure. The House has engaged the Executive (mostly Ministers and Heads of Parastatals) in several sectoral debates at plenary and have enacted cutting edge legislations in emerging areas. In addition, the House has reviewed over 300 laws with the hope of bringing them in tune with modern realities. In all this, the House is guided by the need to adjust our political, social and economic system to meet local circumstances and engraft the existing laws to conform.

28. In reforming our federalism along the lines suggested above, care must be taken to ensure that our local circumstances are factored in.

29. On behalf of the Save Democracy Africa, convenersof this Summit, I once again welcome you to this 3rd Annual National Political Summit as I wish us all very successful deliberations.
 
30. May God bless you all and bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Thank you.

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