Restructuring: We want 12-state structure – Northern leaders

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Some Northern elders under the aegis of “Friends of Democracy” have backed restructuring, saying the nation should revert to the 12-state structure that came into existence in 1967.

According to the group, the 12-state structure is the most viable option for Nigeria at present and in the foreseeable future.

The group said this in its memorandum to the National Assembly Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution headed by Deputy Senate President Ovie Omo-Agege.

Leaders of the group that signed the memorandum were Alhaji Othman Tofa, Ambassador Fatimah Balla, Alhaji Sule Yahaya Hamma, Dr Abubakar Siddique Mohammed; Mr. Sam Nda-Isaiah, and Bashir Yusuf Ibrahim.

Others were Mai Bilya Bala, Mr. Hubert Shaiyen, Dr Kabir Az-Zubair, Professor Jibrin Ibrahim and Dr Usman Bugaje.

The Northern leaders proposed that the states would be known as regions and would have full devolution of powers and 100 percent resource control.

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The group noted that the north was not averse to restructuring as claimed in some quarters.

It said that since 2001, “a new crop of Northern intellectuals, technocrats and politicians, have continued to search for a common ground with the rest of Nigeria on restructuring in different ways but the Northern effort has been under-reported in the mainstream media, for understandable reasons.”

The group added that Nigeria has been restructured at different times in the past starting from three regions at independence to four regions in 1963, 12 states in 1967, 19 states in 1976, 21 states in 1987, 30 states in 1991 and 36 states in 1996.

According to the group, the restructuring should have stopped at the 12-state structure.

“The distortion of the 12-state structure by multiplying the states to 19, 21, 30 and 36 was done to appease new minority groups that emerged after state creation, to spread federal largesse more evenly and sometimes for selfish reasons.

“Today, Nigeria cannot sustain the 36-state structure due to its over-dependence on oil revenues that would continue to dwindle in the coming years,” the Northern elders noted.

The group said that instead of bringing government closer to the people, the multiplicity of states “produced a Jacobin effect that strengthened Federal power relative to the powers of the federating units, and weakened all political groups that are not in control of the centre”.

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In the memorandum, the group identified five key principles of restructuring and nine constitutional proposals to help stabilise the nation’s wobbly federation, combat poverty and ensure more equitable distribution of resources.

The key principles identified by the group were: “States must be economically viable and must rely on fiscal resources they generate themselves instead of handouts from the Centre.

“States must operate in a democratic manner and be run by Chief Executives that are accountable to the people and legislators that are independent.

“States should have the constitutional and legislative powers to determine their internal structures such as the number of local governments they desire.

“States must be allowed to determine their own framework and mechanism for the choice of leaders at all levels, which recognises and combines both merit and the need for fair representation of the broad identities that make up the states such as geography, ethnicity, religion, etc.

“Balance the distribution of power and fiscal resources between the states and the federation to address the desire for local resource control and the viability of the federation as a whole.”

For constitutional amendments, the Northern leaders proposed: (1) A return to the 12-state federal structure of 1967. (2) The 12 states would be the federating units; The 12 states shall be re-designated as regions and shall have full control of their resources while paying appropriate taxes to the Federal Government; (3) The regions shall have the powers to create and maintain local governments as they desire; (4) Overhaul the Legislative Lists and reassign agriculture, education and health to the Residual List in which states alone would have competence but the Federal Government would share a regulatory role with the states; (5) Mining should be reassigned to the concurrent list with on-land mining under the federating units and off-land mining under the control of the government of the federation.

Other proposed constitutional amendments were: (6) Policing should also be reassigned to the concurrent list with only inter-state crime, cyber-crime and international crime under the jurisdiction of the federal police; (7) The power of taxation should remain concurrent; (8) The Federal Character Principle should be retained and strictly and universally observed; and (9) The current Senate should be merged with the House of Representatives under a unicameral legislature.

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