From: TONY JOHN, Port Harcourt Hundreds of youths in Rivers State yesterday, staged a peaceful protest in Port Harcourt, condemning the activities of some operatives of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the state police command. Protesting on the platform of Niger Delta Non-Violence Youth Leaders Assembly (NDNYLA), they marched through some major streets in…
By Orunbon Ibrahim Ademola
THE powers of the centre should be reduced and only those powers that would mould the federating units should be retained exclusively by the centre, like defence, external affairs, citizenship and currency. Let us be advised by the experience of the United States of America over the years.
There should be six regional governments on the lines that have emerged as zones- North-West, North-East, North-Central, South-West, South-East and South-South. These, and not the 36 States, should be the federating units.
The law-making bodies in the regions should be those elected from the present House of Representatives’ constituencies. Each regional government should be headed by a governor. He may be elected by the region or appointed by the party that forms the majority in the Regional House. Many of the powers moved from the centre will anchor in the regional and state governments.
There will be 36 State House of Assembly as at present. The reason they will be retained is that no state would like to lose its autonomy. The position of executive governor is unnecessary and untenable, and should restore the parliamentary system at the state level. The present office of governor should be re-designated premier as we had in the First Republic. He will contest elections to the House like any other member of the House, and can be appointed by his party if it wins the majority of seats in the House.
All members of the state executive council would come from the House of Assembly. If what the governor does now can be better done in the House, the expense of electing him to straddle in the state treasury and do what he likes with it, as has happened to many state governments since May 29, 1999, can be saved and channeled to the development of the State.
There are at present 774 local government councils with elected council Chairmen and Councilors who are “working” full time. This level of government is the greatest fraud that has been visited on our democratic outing since May 1999, and has been responsible for the lack of growth in the local government areas.
We should have elected councilors who will elect one of themselves as Chairman. Each councilor should earn a sitting allowance, with such sitting not being more than seven times in a quarter. It means that no councilor would be taking home more than N52, 000 per annum. The Chairman should earn N3, 000 per sitting.
The day-to-day running of the council should be the responsibility of the secretary who would be appointed by the Local Government Service Commission, and would have the status of a permanent secretary in the public service. The local level of government should be the affair of the regional government. It means that all the 774 local government councils would be inherited by the region into which they fall. The region can increase the number or reduce it as it deems fit.
The changes can be effected constitutionally if we have the political will to do so. The most credible forum for this task is the Council of State provided for under Section 153 (1) (b) of the Constitution. It’s composition and powers can be found in part 1 to the Third schedule of the constitution. It is constituted by the following persons:
The President, Vice President; Chairman, Deputy Chairman; All former Presidents of the Federation and all former heads of the government of the federation; All former Chief Justices of Nigeria; The President of the Senate; The Speaker of the House of Representatives; All the governors of the states of the federation; and the Attorney-General of the Federation. The council has power to discuss any matter referred to it by the President.
The President should table before the council of state the problem of sustaining the present structure which the military imposed. A restructuring that would slim down the system of government and lead to more accountability should be presented for discussion. If the council agrees that we should make sacrifices for growth, the proposals would be worked on by the Attorney-General and his colleagues in the federation, and a draft bill prepared for the National Assembly to pass into law. It would then be sent to the state assemblies for endorsement through a resolution of the Houses there. Section 9 of the constitution settles the procedure for doing this.
If the political arm of government is restructured, we would have: a federal government with more time to plan for a powerful country, a central government that would be more efficient and less corrupt, a regional government that would be a buffer between the state and the centre, and that would be more handy to settle problems of the region and plan the development and growth of the region.
Another benefit is that there will be a state government that would be more efficient in the management of resources, and more accountable and less corrupt. Also, a local government arrangement that would be more efficient because experienced people who have retired from service can be called upon to help out with local policy-making to be executed by civil servants.
Furthermore, there will be policy that will see professionalism emerge without the distraction of politics which has become a lucrative business and more than half of the money spent on sustaining the present arrangement would be available for development.
This submission is for discussion. Someone has to start the talking because the real issues are being evaded or avoided. What America is today is the result of profound socio-political engineering that took blood, tears and sacrifices.
Kindly take this submission seriously and let’s start the discussion so that these knotty issues can be resolved. Their resolution is more important to Nigerians than the elections of 2019, on the current expensive contraption.
Ademola writes from Oke-Posun, Epe, Lagos State, via [email protected]