The Governor Nasir El Rufai Committee on True Federalism has submitted its report to the National Working Committee of the ruling All Progressives Congress APC, calling for more devolution of powers to states.
The committee recommended that 10 items be moved from the Exclusive Legislative List to the Concurrent List.
The items so recommended to be moved are Foods, Drugs, Poison, Narcotics and Psychotropic Substances; Fingerprints and Identification of Criminal Records; Registration of Business names; Labour; Mines and Minerals, including oil fields, oil mining, geological surveys and natural gas; Police; Prisons; Public Holidays (to be classified as National Public Holidays and State Public Holidays); Railways and; Stamp Duties.
“We have proposed that mining, minerals, oil should go to the states. Then there will be certain constitutional amendments. The Petroleum Act will be amended to show that states can now issue oil mining licences; the Land Use Act, Nigeria Minerals and Mining Act, the Petroleum Profit Tax Act 2007 would all need to be amended. So, we have proposed amendment that will ensure that minerals, mining and oil are vested in the states except offshore minerals.
”The committee equally recommended independent candidacy but with a caveat that individuals who intend to stand for elections must not have been a member of any political party at least six months to the elections in which they intend to contest.
“We believe that if these amendments are passed by the National Assembly, they will significantly re-balance our federation, devolve more powers to the states, reduce the burden of the Federal Government and make our country work better. This is something that people have been agitating for a long time and we have taken the reports of all previous constitutional and national conferences and put these before the Nigerian public in 2017 and these are the feedback that we got -10 recommendations – to move from the exclusive legislative list to the concurrent legislative list and we have drafted the bill that will enable that to be passed by the National Assembly and the state houses of assembly,” said el-Rufai.
In the 56-page report, the committee also recommended that the current Presidential System of Government with all its limitations be upheld but said the associated twin issues of corruption and high cost of governance be urgently addressed.
The committee kicked against the creation of more states, saying any action to the contrary would amount to “merely creating new sub-national bureaucracies and their attendant costs, while reducing the share of federal statutory allocation accruing to existing and proposed new states.”
The report said: “There is no widespread support for merger of states…Nonetheless, the committee strongly recommends that the Constitution should provide for legal and administrative frameworks for states that might in future wish to consider this option provided this does not threaten the authority or existence of the federation. This recommendation is based on the growing regional economic cooperation that is being witnessed among states in various geopolitical zones of the country in order to maximise their potentials and opportunities.”
No LG autonomy
On local government autonomy, the committee said since “one size does not fit all,” the states should be allowed to legislate for local governments, including creating more councils.
“Local government autonomy is a very interesting subject in which we were surprised at the outcome. There were divergent opinions on this issue. “We recommend that the current system of local government administration provided for by the constitution should be amended and that states should be allowed to develop and enact laws to have local government administration system that is peculiar to each of them,” the committee stated.
Police and Prisons
The committee said the police and prisons should be moved from the exclusive to the concurrent list. State police would however handle certain categories of cases. “Most of the prisons in Nigeria, historically, were owned by the local governments, native authorities and the state of Nigeria. They were taken over by the federal government after the coup of 1966. We are recommending a reversal to the state of things as at 1966 but an additional responsibility is that the federal government will continue to have federal prisons while states will have state prisons.
Again, this is a major recommendation because right now we do not have enough prisons; our prisons are congested because only the federal government can build prisons. We think that sharing this responsibility with the state will make prisons available and reduce the burden on the federal government”.
“Item 8 is Public Holidays. We want public holidays to be removed from the exclusive list to the concurrent list so that there will be federal public holidays for the entire country and then states can have their public holidays. This is already happening unconstitutionally.
This will just make the actions of the state governments lawful and legal and avoid confrontations with the federal government on this subject.”
“We are recommending that legislation on Stamp Duties should be moved to the concurrent list but the state will only legislate on stamp duties only for transactions involving individuals and businesses but not limited liability companies that were incorporated by the government of the federation.
“On Independent Candidacy,
The committee notes that majority of respondents were opposed, surprisingly, to independent candidacy. However, the committee still recommends that the party should support the demand for widening the political space by allowing for independent candidacy. We believe that having independent candidates with necessary safeguards will make the political parties to be more honest and more democratic.
So, because majority of the respondents were against independent candidacy, we believe largely because most of those that took interest in our deliberations were party members. We believe widening the political space is consistent with APC’s and the President’s commitment and we have made recommendations but with very strict conditions.
We have included in the bill to allow for independent candidacy that no one that wants to run as an independent candidate should not be a member of a political party six months to the election. So, by that, what it means is that you cannot be a member of a political party, lose primaries and then go ahead to run as an independent candidate. You have to make up your mind six months to the elections that none of the parties is good enough and you want to run as an independent candidate.
We have put this safeguard to ensure that independent candidacy is not a platform for opportunism but a deliberate, passionate decision, not an emotional one. We have put four safeguards.
One, any person who desires to stand as an independent candidate must not be a registered member of any political party at least six months before the election in which he intends to contest.
Two, his nominators must also not be members of any registered political party.
Three, the said candidate must pay a deposit to INEC in the same range as the non-refundable deposit payable by candidates sponsored by political parties through their parties. So instead of paying to the parties, you now pay to INEC. If a governorship candidate pays one million to his party, you must pay one million to INEC to stand as an independent candidate.
Finally, the candidate must also meet all other qualification requirements provided for by the constitution and any other law.”
On local government autonomy,
The committee said since “one size does not fit all”, the states should be allowed to legislate for local governments, including creating more councils. “Local government autonomy is a very interesting subject in which we were surprised at the outcome. There were divergent opinions on this issue.
“We recommend that the current system of local government administration provided for by the constitution should be amended and that states should be allowed to develop and enact laws to have local government administration system that is peculiar to each of them. What we heard from Nigerians is that as far as local government is concerned, there is no one size fits all. We all come from different histories, different cultures, different administrative systems and we believe that the constitution should ensure that there is a democratic local government system in every state but the details of, and the nature of that local government system, the number of local governments should be left to the states and states houses of assembly.
“We proposed amendments to Sections 7, 8, 162, the first schedule, part one and the first schedule of the constitution to give effect to our recommendations. The section that list the local governments and their Headquarters should be removed, so local governments are no longer named in the constitution. States can create their local governments and determine the structure of their local governments. We are by this, recognizing that in a federal system, you cannot have more than two tiers of government. Having three tiers of government is an aberration. There is no where in the world where our research has shown us that you have more than two federating units.”
“On citizenship, the issue of local government or state of origin is discriminatory and should be replaced with state of residence. It is around this that we have proposed an amendment to the Federal Character Commission Act to allow people domiciled in a place to be considered as indigenes.”
“We have proposed an amendment to create the State Judicial Council that will appoint and discipline judges within a state while the National Judicial Council will exercise control over the appointment, discipline of judges of the federal government only.
We have proposed the creation of the state court of appeal so that from the High Court, you can first appeal to the state court of appeal before it goes to the Supreme Court of the federation. Again, this is consistent with federal practice all over the world.”
“We also propose a constitutional amendment to allow for a referendum to be conducted on burning national or state issues before decisions are taken. Right now, the constitution has no room for referendum, but only in the creation of states.”
APC to Conclude Report Consideration mid-February
Receiving the report, National Chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun said by middle of February, all structures of the party would have met and considered the report.
“Today is one of our proudest moments since we were entrusted with the task of running this party and we have succeeded in producing the government which we have sustained up till date and today, we have a report by a team of the most intelligent, young Nigerians; young Nigerians dealing with the most fundamental issues and challenges that beset this nation.
Yes, a few months back, before August 2017, we had all sorts of experts pontificating or grandstanding on the issue of true federalism, on the issue of restructuring, resource control forgetting that even though the APC and all the parties that constituted the APC had committed themselves to true federalism or restructuring or whatever they decide to call it. Even then, the details still needed to be filled in. The concept had been accepted. The need for it was accepted but what did they mean?
All those grandstanding on restructuring, what exactly did they mean? Did they mean a federation based on six or eight zones? Everyone that was pontificating had his own views but when you challenge them on what is restructuring or what is true federalism, they get aggressive, calling you names that you don’t believe in the country.
When people run out of subjects to talk about, they remember restructuring. I hope this report will finally lay to rest such tendencies.
“But from the presentation of the chairman of this committee, everybody now has an idea of what the APC stands for with regards to true federalism and restructuring. This is the totality of our views, but it is still going to go through the mill. What I will promise you, Mr Chairman and members of the committee who have put in so much hard work -you have not only provided the details, but you have gone ahead to provide the mechanism for implementation both in terms of law and necessary presidential action, is that this report is going to get the expeditious consideration of this party, the APC.
Am going to promise that before the middle of February, it would have been considered and decided upon by the major structures of this party, the NEC, the Caucus of the party. And whatever is thereafter agreed, will be presented to the authorities as the considered views and decisions of the APC for appropriate implementation.
“What you have done is very challenging. What you have done will be controversial but what you have done still has given the basic foundation for the building of a new nation and a new way of doing business in this country; that we will not only devolve power and spread the wings of development nationwide but that will enable the people of this country to not only hold the president accountable but to also hold the states accountable because once this report is approved and implemented, states will become important routes of economic activities and development nationwide.”