The All Progressives Congress (APC) panel on restructuring chaired by Kaduna Gov. Nasir El-rufai, has submitted its report to the national leadership of the party, and it made some very interesting recommendations.
According to El-rufai, the committee engaged about 8,040 persons during 14 sittings nationwide; held 12 public consultations in all the six geopolitical zones in the country, while 409 memoranda were received from respondents. He said the committee initially started with 10 members but was expanded to 23 members.
The committee found that Nigerians showed interest in 24 issues viz: the creation of states, merger of states, state police, the derivation principle, fiscal federalism, local government autonomy, devolution of powers, type of government, independent candidacy, public holidays, the land tenure system, power sharing and rotation, type of legislature, affirmation for vulnerable groups like the physically challenged, women and youths, the minimum wage, border adjustment, secular statutes of the country, and the conduct of referendums.
Of those issues, it made recommendations on 13.
1. Merger of states: The panel proposed a draft bill that will allow states to merge if they so desire. El-rufai disclosed that just 36 per cent of those polled by the committee wanted more states to be created, and since there is already a procedure for creation of states in the constitution it did not recommend any further action on that.
2. Derivation Principle: Panel recommended that the Revenue Mobilisation and Fiscal Commission Act be amended to vest it with the power to periodically review the derivation formula and make recommendations to the President who shall table the same before the National Assembly for necessary action.
3. Fiscal federalism and revenue allocation: Panel wants constitutional amendment to give more revenue to the states and reduce the Federal Government’s share.
4. Devolution of powers: The panel recommended based on popular demand for there to be devolution of powers to the states from the FG. “We have recommended that the first schedule, part one and two be amended to transfer some powers to the states,” said El-rufai.
5. State Police: The committee recommended that state police should be moved from the Exclusive list to the Concurrent list. “We are recommending that police should be both federal and state,” he said.
6. Resource control (exploitation and revenue sharing of resources from oil minerals): The committee proposed that mining, minerals, oil revenues should go to the states but that it should be limited to onshore areas, not offshore ones which would still be owned by the FG. “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 amendments that will ensure that minerals, mining and oil are vested in the states except offshore minerals,” he said.
7. Local government autonomy: The panel recommended the removal of names of local councils and their capitals from the constitution. Creation and funding of LGAs should be left to states. “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 for 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.
“States can create their local governments and determine the structure of their local governments. We are, by this, recognising that in a federal system, you cannot have more than two tiers of government. Having three tiers of government is an aberration. There is nowhere in the world where our research has shown us that you have more than two federating units.”
8. Referendum: Serious national issues or state issues should be decided by a referendum, the committee recommended. Currently there is no option of referendum in the constitution apart from for the creation of states.
9. Independent candidacy: Committee recommended that there should be the option of independent candidacy as long as anybody who wants to contest an election as an independent candidate has not been a member of any registered political party six months prior to the election the person wants to contest as a candidate. It made this recommendation even though most of those who it polled opposed it. “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 took note of the fact that most of those that took interest in our deliberations were party members.
We therefore believe that widening the political space is consistent with APC’s and the President’s commitment and we have made recommendations but with very strict conditions.
“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.”
10. Citizenship: The committee recommended that local government or state of origin should be replaced with state of residence as the current system is “discriminatory”. “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,” he said.
11. Public holidays: The committee proposed that public holidays be moved from the Exclusive List to the Concurrent List so that there will be federal public holidays and state public holidays. The Kaduna governor noted that “This is already happening unconstitutionally. This will just make the action of state governments lawful and legal and avoid confrontation with the federal government.”
12. Judiciary: The committee proposed an amendment to create the State Judicial Council (SJC) that will appoint and discipline judges within a state while the National Judicial Council (NJC) will exercise control over the appointment and 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,” said El-rufai.