The most important question before us is envisaging what a restructured Nigeria would look like. We have agreed that Nigeria needs restructuring based on the principles of federalism. The next big question should be; what should a restructured Nigeria look like? This is what we have set out now to answer in this article.
How should responsibilities be shared between the federal and state governments? To answer these questions, we have drawn up twenty rules that should guide us in our debate. Find below the twenty rules that we consider as fundamental to a two-tier system of federal structure and which we think is best suitable for a country like Nigeria.
The first rule towards restructuring Nigeria is to allow the peoples, ethnic nationalities and communities come together and create their own autonomous state governments as they please. It is only after the various ethnic nationalities have created their own autonomous state government that they can they then come together to create the federal government. There is nowhere in the world where the federal government creates the state governments, rather it is the autonomous state governments that come together to create the federal government and decide what and what political and economic powers should be given to the federal government. This is the first principle of federalism.
These twenty rules highlight the basic principles of true federalism.
There should be two tiers of government recognized by the federal constitution; a federal and state government. Each of them should have a separate constitution. The state government should have the exclusive right to create another tier of government as it wishes. We suggest that a community/city based government be recognized and established by the state as the last tier of government. Community/City based government should therefore replace the existing local government style tier of government. The constitutions must guarantee the autonomy of each tier of government. The community based government should have full control over the most basic things that affect the community. Issues like basic education (management and funding of basic schools), security, water, maintenance, health care, etc should be done by the community based governments. It should also have the right to raise its own taxes to fund its needs. The community based government should be the most empowered tier of government.
The federal constitution should limit the federal government responsibilities to only defense, monetary policy, foreign policy, immigration and customs. All duties not given to the federal government should become the duties of the state governments.
The federal constitution should be written by the representatives of the already existing autonomous states that now wish to create a federal government. In the same manner, the state constitution should be written by the representatives of the the people, tribes and communities that would make up the state.
Ownership of all federal owned assets and institutions that are no longer under federal jurisdiction should be transferred to the states where they are located. Arrangement should be made to ensure that the there is a fair balance of payment for the transferred assets. Where the states fail to offer a fair bargain for the new assets, the general public should be invited to take ownership of the assets. Federal institutions (i.e federal universities) capable of being autonomous should be declared as autonomous institutions and free from federal interference.
The federal government will no longer build hospitals, universities, rail lines, refineries, power stations, etc. These shall become exclusive duties of the state governments. The federal government duty shall be limited to the items listed in number 2.
The federal constitution shall forbid both the federal and state governments from embarking on business ventures and shall limit their sources of revenue to only taxation and royalties.
The federal constitution should recognize the right of ownership of land and natural resources as belonging to communities and individuals and should therefore forbid both the state and federal governments from upturning this inalienable right. The implication of this rule is that resource control will now be in the hands of the individuals and communities and not the state or federal government as it currently is.
The state and federal governments should have two independent judiciary with each having its own Supreme court.
Right to secession should be enshrined in the federal constitution. Communities/towns should have the right to secede from a state and seek membership of another state within Nigeria while states should have the right to secede from Nigeria and seek membership of another country or form an independent country of their choice. The process of doing this must be by referendum.
States should be entitled to receive irregular annual grants from the federal government in the same way communities/towns should be entitled to receive irregular grants from their state governments upon meeting certain conditions. There shall be no more monthly allocations.
Parliamentary democracy could be adopted to replace the present presidential executive system. The House of tribes (House of Reps) should be abolished and a single parliament retained comprising of tribesmen, professionals, and town/city/state representatives.
The federal constitution shall guarantee the decentralization of the civil service.
The federal constitution shall recognize indigeneship and residency as qualification for occupying public offices in both state and federal offices.
Taxation shall be the major source of revenue for both the federal and state governments. Federal taxes shall be limited and deducted from the state governments while state taxes shall be unlimited and deducted at source
Both basic and tertiary education shall be the exclusive rights of the state and community based governments. The federal government shall have no business with building and managing basic or tertiary institutions. Power generation and distribution shall also be the exclusive rights of the state and city governments. The federal constitution shall guarantee the autonomy and need for federal, state, community and institutional police system.
Federal regulations should be unlimited on matters of security, environment, economy, etc.,.
Issuance of licenses (whatever kind be it exploration or social license) should be the exclusive right of the state governments while regulations of such licenses should be jointly done by both the state and federal governments.
The federal and state constitution shall guarantee the autonomy of every tier of government in conducting their own elections. Each tier of government shall be solely responsible for the conduct of its own elections without interference. The people of the communities, towns and cities that make up a state shall be solely responsible for electing the state government officials in the same way the people of the state government shall be solely responsible for electing the officials of the federal government.
The federal constitution shall separate religion from the state and state from religion.
The federal parliament shall be structured in such a manner that a bill can only become law if and only if it receives support from a minimum of 2/3 representatives from each state and not a 2/3 of the general House.
The above twenty rules are what we consider as fundamental principles of true federalism as may be applicable to the Nigerian society. Once we are able to establish these rules in Nigeria, Nigeria has become a true federal state! The rules will expand as time goes.