How to restructure Nigeria
To restructure Nigeria is an idea whose time has come. It’s the path to end agitations. Let’s take our minds back to 1965. The revenue sharing formula was 50 per cent for the Federal Government and 50 per cent for the regions. There were three regions. The Northern Region, the Western Region and Eastern Region. Every region worked hard to care of itself and there was healthy competition among the regions which led to progress. This is not in any way advocating a return to the regions. According to Tam David-West, returning to the regions is saying hello to secession. I quite agree with him. The regions have a tendency of becoming too powerful.
The 36-state structure is ok. It’s erroneous to think that the states are not viable. In reality it’s the Nigerian Constitution that has taken away from the states what God has given them. Our constitution is holding us back. Every state in Nigeria has mineral deposits of different types. It’s the Nigerian Constitution that does not allow them to exploit them. In the 1999 constitution (as amended) mines and mineral appear in the Exclusive Legislative List. Mines and minerals include solid minerals, oil and natural gas. Solid minerals should be removed from the Exclusive Legislative List and placed under a new list to be named ‘State List’. The State List should contain what the states can do on their own. Each state will pay tax to the Federal Government for the mining of the solid mineral in their state. Every state has arable land for agriculture and can generate revenue from agriculture. Agriculture was the mainstay of the Nigerian economy before the discovery of oil. With revenue from solid minerals, agriculture and other sources, every state is viable.
In the 1999 constitution (as amended) Railways appear under the Exclusive Legislative List. This should not be so. Railways should be removed from the Exclusive Legislative List and placed in the Concurrent Legislative List. States should be allowed to build railway lines within the boundaries of their state. The Federal Government on their own can build railways lines across the country as they wish.
The present feeding bottle arrangement between the Federal Government and the states is retrogressive. It’s not helping matters. Instead of state governors going to Abuja every month to collect state allocations, the states can generate their own revenue from solid minerals and agriculture and become more productive.
By mid-2016 there were several protests in many states due to non-payment of salaries. 27 out of 36 states were unable to pay salaries. There were protests for the non-payment of salaries in Osun, Oyo, Nassarawa, Ekiti etc.
In Nassarawa State, for example, two workers were killed during the protest. Nassarawa State has solid minerals which the state can mine to generate revenue to pay salaries. Some of the solid minerals found in Nassarawa State are iron ore, cassiterite, tantalite, columbite, emerald, aquamarine, sapphire, garnet, tournaline, amethyst, zircon and topaz. The state government can set up industries using these solid minerals as raw materials and also generate employment.
South Africa has one of the highest per capita in Africa. The economy of South Africa is based on solid minerals such as Gold, Diamond, Lime and so on. The per capita of South Africa is 5, 695 dollars as against Nigeria’s 2,743 dollars. South Africa does not have oil and gas but has shown that solid minerals can be the mainstay of the economy of a country or a state.
Revenue belonging to a state in Nigeria should be shared between the state and the local government areas within the state. The sharing formula should be 60-40 i.e. 60 per cent for the state and 40 per cent for the local government.
In restructuring Nigeria, there is need to cut government spending. The membership of the National Assembly as presently constituted is rather bloated. There is need to cut down the number of members in order to cut costs. There should be two senators from each state (as against the present three). There should be three members of the House of Representatives from each state (as against the present 10). Over 60 per cent of Nigerians live below the poverty line while members of National Assembly receive bogus salaries and allowances.
The Revenue and salaries commission should cut the salaries and allowances of the members of the National assembly by 30 per cent.
The task of changing the constitution of Nigeria lies with the National Assembly. Abubakar Atiku, Yakubu Gowon and other supporters of the restructuring of Nigeria should go a step further by sending lobbyist to the National Assembly. This should be followed by sponsoring a bill to restructure Nigeria. If we are waiting for an Executive Bill to restructure Nigeria, we might have to wait for a long time.
Apart from restructuring the country, we have to also restructure our minds. If we do the right things, we will get the right results.
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