Nigeria Opinion

How to restructure Nigeria through power devolution – Olisa Agbakoba

Former Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) president, Dr Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), on Wednesday stated restructuring can be done through power devolution.

According to him, because of Nigeria’s diverse nature and large size, the political system best suited for the country is federalism.

The challenge, he noted, is what type of federalism to adopt.

He wrote: “Many proposals, including restructuring, have been put forward without success. I believe there is a simple solution. This is devolution of powers.

“The Constitution has two legislative lists: exclusive and concurrent. These lists have 98 items of powers. The Federal Government exercises exclusive power over 68 items on the exclusive list.

“The states, in concurrence with the Federal Government, exercise power over 30 items on the concurrent list.

“But the states may only exercise power on the concurrent list, only if the Federal Government has not already ‘covered the field’ on any of the 30 items.

“In effect, state governments have no power. I suggest that to resolve this, a committee may review the 98 items of power and assign what is best to federal and what is best to the states, based on the principle of subsidiarity.

“I also suggest the exclusive list and concurrent list be renamed as the Federal Legislative List and State Legislative list.

“The Federal Government will exercise reserved powers. The states will exercise devolved power.”

Agbakoba recalled that as NBA president, he worked with the Forum of Federations, which reviewed diverse models of federalism.

“In their book: Federalism: An Introduction by George Anderson, the author points out that many federal models have strong central governments; yet other models have a weak central government.

“Some models have interlocking features where the principle of cooperative federalism enables the federal and state governments to jointly share heads of legislative powers.

“I enclose a copy of the book as I believe it will be of value to the National Assembly. In truth, the concept of true federalism is a myth and does not exist. Every nation chooses its form of federalism.

“I have enclosed a draft schedule of how powers can be devolved from the Federal Government to state governments.

“In my opinion, the simple process of devolved powers can be by an enactment styled, Constitution Alteration (Devolution of Powers) Bill. This will resolve the self-imposed complex issue of restructuring.”

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