Anti-corruption and imperatives of federalism – Part 2

corruptionContinued from yesterday

Ensconced in this vicious state of corruption and impunity, a concerted effort at all levels of governance in a truly federal system is a sine qua non for effective curtailment of the monster in Nigeria.

Francis Fukuyama, x-raying the Nigerian state, identified two deficits: “lack of strong modern and capable state and absence of therule of law that provides property rights, citizens security, and transparency in transactions…the Nigerian government’s main activities is predatory or … prebendal; it is engaged in extraction of rent and their distribution to other members of the political elite. This leads to routine violation of the rule of law.”

And yet another remark: “Nigeria tends to be living a lie. It wants to be a prosperous and politically stable country, yet it is holding down this potential for prosperity and stability by maintaining a supercilious unitary government, whilst paying lip service to federalism”. (The Guardian Editorial, Nov. 24, 2015). The Nigerian Constitution by its provisions on structure of governance cannot promote national integration, nation building and nationalism in citizens. Arguably, there is a nexus between the encumbering provisions of the Constitution, systemic corruption and the inability of the country to fully express her potentials amid vast resources- human and material.

The widely held view that many states in Nigeria are unviable may be correct but only to the extent that, as presently constituted, they are appendages of a central government to which they go monthly for stipends. But granted access to resources in their domain, minerals inclusive, and practice of fiscal federalism, the states in Nigeria are viable. Our pseudo-federalism, in the centralization of power with its centripetal tendencies, can only keep the country in a permanent state of anomie, despondency and frustration. Any redemptive measure in this regard must, of necessity, begin with re-examination of the imposing instrument- the Nigerian Constitution.

A cursory examination of the 2014 National Conference 898-page report shows very practical recommendations that, if implemented could leverage the country on the part of socio-economic recovery and development. Specifically, the recommendations on relocating Census (s. 6.4.1.1(ii), Police (s. 6.4.1.1(xii) to the Concurrent Legislative List and the one that says ‘that the number, structure, form and administration of local governments should be determined by states’ (s. 6.12.1. (4c) are commendable in ceding powers, in this regard, to states.

The same can be said on recommendations pertaining to judicial system (s. 6.9.1) aimed at facilitating quick dispensation of justice at various levels of governance. But the conference was short on devolution of power as it relates to mines and minerals recommending inter alia: “mines and all minerals including oil fields, oil mining, geological surveys, and natural gas should be retained in the exclusive legislative list provided, the governments of states where the mining activities take place shall be involved in matters relating thereto” (Section 6.4.1.1(xi)). What exactly is intended by this recommendation, when for all intents and purposes, the item in question, is under the exclusive jurisdiction of the central government the caveat to it notwithstanding.

One recalls, however, that political restructuring and fiscal federalism were contentious matters around which there was no consensus. In the final analysis, the recommendation on mines and minerals is a compromise position that serves no national interest but ties the states to the whims of the central government as to when and how to exploit resources in their domain. This raises a pertinent question; who is benefiting from centralized control of resources? The answer – a coterie of Nigerians to the detriment of the vast majority – a vexatious issue in the national question.

Anchored tenuously on a mono product – crude oil, a primal foreign exchange earner – the Nigerian economy is now in a state of flux, an aftermath of the falling price of the commodity. Instructively, the overall assessment of petroleum industry in Nigeria is that it is rudimentary, undeveloped in the absence of a virile petrochemicals sector that should impact positively on the economy and for lack of the capacity for local refining of basic products – petrol, diesel and kerosene. The same is true for solid minerals which contribute nominally – less than 1% – to the national GDP despite the number and quantities of such materials spread all over the country. The need to diversify the economy is urgent and calls for access, by states, to resources domiciled in their domain.

The federal government reportedly endorsed a proposal for economic conference. But without prejudice to a possible positive outcome of such a conference, it is my humble view that a critical imperative now is a new paradigm in governance architecture through political restructuring and devolution of power to states in matters with which they can deal more effectively. This should include access to their resources – all minerals – in a truly federal system of governance to unlock the latent energies and creative capacities of our diverse peoples for development.

It bears re-stating that the fight against corruption – nay systemic corruption – in Nigeria must ipso facto begin with changing the system which promotes it. The 2014 National Conference made some practical recommendations for improved governance in Nigeria that should be adopted including provision for referendum by the people in matters affecting them. In the final analysis, there is the need for a new Constitution that is autochthonous and that has the imprimatur of the people for the peace, progress and sustainable development of the Nigerian state.

Concluded

• Professor Eromosele is former deputy vice-chancellor (Academic), Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Ogun State.



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