THE RESTRUCTURING QUESTION: A CASE FOR CONSTITUTIONAL DISRUPTIONS BY THE TINUBU ADMINISTRATION

The Nigerian state from its point of natality in 1960 till this moment, has continually evoked countless arguments and counter arguments as to its governmental structure and the propriety or otherwise of the same. A vast majority subscribe to the school of thought that the superstructure federalist system which the nation currently maintains and which features an usually over concentration of power at the centre, is manifestly wrong. A good number however also hold the view that the current structure of government in Nigeria today is the best it can get and requires no decentralisation whatsoever. To them, Nigeria must remain a pariah state and perhaps put more mildly, a fiefdom of whichever Fief assumes control of the Aso Rock at any point. To properly analyse this issue and consequently develop an unbiased yet healthy position, this article therefore seeks to unearth the governmental structure present and operative in Nigeria, analyse the issues concisely and mathematically proffer solutions where needed.

Nigeria practises a federalist system of government, or so it is said. However, not a few are of the opinion that such assertion is only fit for academic purposes. In actual practice, it seems Nigeria’s governmental structure is very far from having any semblance of federalism. Federalism, defined in the simplest terms, is a system of government where power flows from the central government to the component units, with each having its own independence and autonomy. An attempt to juxtapose this with the reality in Nigeria and her government structure would betray the intentions of the framers of the principle of federalism. Consequently, it may not be totally out of place to say, ‘in Nigeria, federalism met its untimely death’. Our system of government is replete with the most bizarre form of gerrymandering, over concentration of power on the central government precipitating quantum or near-quantum dictatorsip and inequality of the greatest magnitude.

The constitution of the Federal Republic  of Nigeria (1999 as amended) provides for the principle of federal character, a strong indication that the nation’s corpus juris recognizes the place of equality in governance. It also makes a provision for a presidential system of government for the country and with of course, very wonderful iterations as to how it is to operate. However, what is obtainable is a distant relative of what is prescribed. In Nigeria today, across virtually all sectors and stratas of government, there remains a sturdy concentration of power on a particular sect or bloc to the detriment of others. For instance, as presently constituted in Nigeria, the Federal Government through the President reserves full powers with respect to security, effectively turning Governors (who serve as Chief Security Officers of their various states) into mere lame ducks in the face of pressing security challenges. No Governor in Nigeria has powers over the police, civil defence, let alone any other military cum paramilitary outfit. They and their states live at the mercy of the whims and caprices of the President who at any point in time, unilaterally decides who heads the security architecture in each state. This perhaps has been a major contributor to the agitations for a constitutional amendment to make room for a decentralisation of the security system in Nigeria and further establish state policing for the federation in a bid to grant state Governors more control over the security affairs of their individual states. This however has not yielded any fruit whatsoever. Hence many Governors across the country have resorted to constituting mock security outfits for their various states to manage the security situation which the Police obviously lacks the capacity to contain. At a time when insecurity plagues the nation, with civil unrest in virtually all sections and an imminent danger of an even greater increase in security disturbances owing to worsening and pressing economic challenges, it is commonsensical to think outside the box, move away from the normal, rise from the ridiculous to the sublime and if in the process, creative constitutional disruptions become necessary, then by all means do so. A rejig of the security architecture of Nigeria is no longer the solution to the nation’s perennial security woes. Time and time again, we have seen Service Chiefs appointed and dismissed, yet the baby crying in the bush only managed to increase the intensity of his wailing. To nip the dangerous trend in the bud, there must now be a concerted effort towards restructuring the entire security framework of the country. The overwhelming powers concentrated on the Federal Government with respect to matters of security must be decentralised and further devolved to the component units. Even if the issue of state police is no longer the feasible solution, there must now also be a thinking towards the concept of community policing. This is important as security is local and every person knows who is who within his or her locality. The persons within a particular area are better positioned to assume responsibility for their own safety (supported by government), than some other person from another place, with no inkling whatsoever as to their common living and practices.

In addition to the issue of security, the oil and gas sector is another area in need of urgent restructuring if the nation must make any meaningful progress in the near future. As presently constituted, the federal government is in charge of the petroleum sector through its agency, the NNPC, leaving states (majority of whom serve as host states of the oil itself) with no input whatsoever as to how the oil (which remains Nigerians single largest economic contributor) is produced, managed and commercialised. With the recent abrogation of the fuel subsidy regime and its attendant pains on the citizenry, the need for local refineries became even more pronounced. Price of fuel took a more than three hundred percent increment, a situation economic experts like the celebrated political enigma, Mr. Peter Obi, argue would have been much more different if plans were adequately put in place to ensure sufficient supply of crude for local consumption. Nigeria as of today has no functional oil refinery and depends solely on importation of the product for its local usage despite its status as a major oil producer globally. However, there are in place in the nation, several illegal refineries who have perfected the art of refining as much as crude as they can loot and sell the same off. Also, there are in existence modular refineries which experts argue retain the capacity to offset the oil demands of Nigerians if adequately supported. The restructuring of the petroleum sector in Nigeria, would demand giving private establishments licences to refine crude oil for local consumption and usage. This way, the adverse effects of the fuel subsidy removal coupled with the crazy exchange rate debacle, would have minimal impact on the daily living of the common man. Again, as Mr. Peter Obi would say, “governance is no rocket science”. It requires just about the right amount and blend of intellect and sincerity of purpose as well as willpower.

Again, arguments may be made for greater resource control by the states as against the current situation where the federal government rakes in the whole and distributes whatever it wills to the various federating units. However, on subsequent analysis of this assertion, questions may be raised as to the extent of usage and the effectiveness of the same, the various Governors have dispensed with the resources distributed to them, talk more of considering extending even more to them. To this end, a restructuring of the constitution to require compulsory account of state expenditure by the state Governors becomes necessary.

Conclusively, I think restructuring will answer the national question. There is a national democratic & constitutional crisis in Nigeria. The only way to solve this crisis is to restructure the federation in a bid to isolate and expose corruption, drive good governance and democratic desires of all the elements that constitute the federation. If we don’t do that, we will never be able to succeed in the anti-corruption fight; we will never be able to succeed in our pursuit to have good governance; there will continue to be stealing and corruption. No matter what you do, you can’t stop these until we restructure the entity, Nigeria. This is so because the loophole in our nation is a direct consequence of a political structure foisted on us by the military when it left the scene in 1998. The 1999 Constitution as developed by the outgoing military government at the time is manifestly skewed and unreflective of the needs of a modern nation. Issues of parochialism, irredentism and bigotry must be cast very deep into the pits of historical forgetfulness, if the nation must make any meaningful progress. A continued tour on the path of the present system offers us no more than a precipice for anarchy, destruction and doom. Nigeria as a multi-ethnic, multi-faceted & multi-religious society requires the value of every element  constituting it in a bid to elicit an acceptable government. We must earnestly come to a point where we can beat our chests & say loudly “we the people have agreed to do this or that in furtherance of our nascent democracy. Until we do this, we would be merely chasing shadows.

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