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•At NIM colloquium, experts disagree on restructuring
The National Population Commission (NPC) recently informed the world that Nigeria has a population of 198 million.
Now, if that figure is anything to go by, it means that 158.40 million Nigerians, about 80 per cent of this figure, are living below N720 or two United States dollars) per day.
The revelation came from a Professor of Public Administration, Ladipo Adamolekun, at a Colloquium on ‘Structure and Organisational Performance’ held in Lagos.
of the World Bank,.’
The event, which was organised by the Nigeria Institute of Management (NIM) Chartered, took place recently at Chris Abebe Auditorium, Management House, Idowu Tailor Street Victoria Island Lagos.
While speaking on the theme: ‘Nigeria’s Over-centralised Federal System and Poor
Development Performance,’ Adamolekun, who was formerly with the World Bank, noted that increasing poverty in the country was evidence of poor performance.
He cited African Development Bank estimate that 152 million Nigerians lived below two United States dollars a day. He attributed the pathetic situation to the mid-1960s and 2017 poverty level that increased exponentially in the country from a low 25 per cent estimate by the mid-1960s to about 65 per cent by 1998 and close to 80 per cent
He blamed it on Nigeria’s over-centralized federal system, which he said was a major
explanatory factor for its poor development performance.
He noted that development performance was a country’s progress in growing the economy, reducing poverty, assuring security, and moving towards prosperity for all its citizens.
He added that proof of over-centralised federation started with General Aguiyi Ironsi’s Unification Decree No 34 of 1966, which was a transparent change of Nigeria from a federation that had been agreed by the nation’s founding fathers through the 1954 Constitution.
He said: “Although the Unification Decree was subsequently abandoned, Ironsi’s
successors as military rulers between 1966 and 1999 maintained unitary features that were inspired by their unitary command structure in running the affairs of the country.
“Physically, there were no constraints on the exercise of powers. Though the concentration of powers was replicated at the sub national level, the state governors were the hierarchical subordinates of the supreme military ruler.
“The concentration of powers at the centre was transposed into the constitutions that civilians inherited from the military in 1979 and 1999,” he said.
He called for the modification of the existing percentages applied for sharing the federation account to reflect the proposed re-assignment of functions.
He proposed a 35:65 sharing ratio: 35% for the central government and 65% for the governments of the federating units. He also advocated the adoption of the six geo-political zones as the country’s federating units.
He noted that the equality of three zones in the south and three in the north would restore the sensible north/south balance of the 1967 12-state structure and put behind us the inequality introduced arbitrarily by military dictators that resulted in the current 19:17 north/south sharing of states.
Adamolekun stressed that only devolution could unleash the forces for consolidating democracy and achieving accelerated socioeconomic progress in Nigeria, He added that alternative to devolution would likely be the death of the federation.
A Professor of Economic Management, Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto, Nasiru Musa Yauri noted that restructuring was the most topical issue in Nigeria’s
contemporary political discourse.
He pointed out that the highly recognisable and not so recognisable groups, individuals, thugs and even the lunatics, who didn’t understand the subject, had something to say about the debate.
He noted that the debate was often propelled by vested interests of contesting elites. In his words, although it had spanned decades, the restructuring debate seemed to
have gained momentum under the Muhammadu Buhari government and the promise
of a general election in 2019.
The former Vice Chancellor, Kastina State University now Al-Qalam University wondered why the debate has been reinforced with renewed vigour after a heavy lull by different regions as if it was the only weapon for mounting political pressure to achieve some political objectives by conflicting groups.
He said that despite the intensity of the distractions caused by the prolonged debate, he expressed hope that there would be a resolution of the restructuring conundrum to the satisfaction of Nigerians. “The infraction has taken a toll on the Nigerian nation,” he said.
The don noted that for him, restructuring was for people to develop according to their own pace. “What Nigerians should aspire is for a transformational leader who would take all Nigerians as equal partners in progress, and do the needful to get the country moving on a progress front,” he added.
Earlier, President and Chairman of Council, Professor Olukunle Iyanda had said that the debate was the institute’s contribution to fostering participative democracy.
He said: “It is also to provide the government an opportunity to access the opinion of an informed segment of the citizenry which was usually silent when otherwise professional issues were politicised. It is also for management professionals to make their own contribution to the prevalent national debate on restructuring.
“There are strong advocates of restructuring who consider it as a sine qua non to the continued existence of the nation. On the other hand, there are also those who believe that there is no need for restructuring as the current structure, if properly operated, is quite adequate and appropriate for the country.”
He argued that the return to civil rule and the adoption of the presidential system only transformed the military centralized unitary system to its civilian version. He added that the large size of the country, the heterogeneity of its population and the consequent differences in culture and geography, had reopened the agitation for a
decentralised structure with local resource control vested in the federating units.
One of the participants, Adewale Jegede, called for a derivation system of 50-50 between the central and federating units. He also demanded that the federal character be scraped from the country’s institutions.
“It was not only unfashionable but also has been bastardized. The idea of over-centralisation has led to lack of accountability among the ruling elite who collect allocations from the centre in Abuja and never render accounts to their people,” he observed.