Majority of the members of the Nasir El-Rufai-led All Progressives Congress Committee on true federalism have argued for the devolution of powers and control of resources by the state government.
Members of the 10-man committee also sought the redefinition of citizenship to afford every Nigerian equal opportunity to political and economic opportunities in any part of the country.
El-Rufai, who is the Kaduna State Governor, disclosed this on Thursday while delivering a lecture on restructuring at Chatham House, London.
He said the committee’s deliberations focused on four areas of devolution of powers, review of the revenue allocation formula, citizenship and a review of the recommendations of the 2005 and 2014 national conferences, adding that the report would be ready by the end of October.
El-Rufai said, “The APC set up a Committee on True Federalism to help give structure to the debate, remove the bile and bitterness colouring the matter and transform the discourse into a nation-building opportunity.
“The preponderance of opinion is that the Federal Government needs to shed weight and return powers and resources to the states where most government functions can be more efficiently undertaken. For the states to take on these powers, they need to access a greater share of the nation’s resources. And we need to sort out the notion of citizenship so that every Nigerian can enjoy the protection of the constitution wherever they choose to reside.
“In many communities, people still use the notion of ‘indigeneship’ to consign compatriots to a position of ‘settler’ and, by implication, perpetual exclusion from enjoying the full political, social and economic opportunities guaranteed by the constitution to every citizen.”
The chairman said the committee also identified 12 contentious issues, including the creation or merger of states, derivation, fiscal federalism, devolution and what should constitute the federating units.
El-Rufai said the committee would subject the issues to public hearing to ensure that it came up with a credible report.
“In this regard, we have put up an announcement calling on members of the public to submit memoranda and meet us at designated venues of the public hearings without any discrimination. So, it is an open invitation to all Nigerians to attend and make their views and voices to country.
“With this multi-pronged approach, we are confident we will feel the pulse of ordinary Nigerians and submit a credible report that will guide the leaders of our party, and the government. With this open-minded approach to the question of restructuring, I have no doubt that we will credibly fulfill our terms of reference,” he said.
He noted that the committee could encourage consensus on reducing the Exclusive List, introducing state constitutions, state police, state appeal and supreme courts, reviewed tax powers and transfer of control of mineral rights to the states.
El-Rufai also said during the pre-independence constitutional debates, western and northern leaders advocated a loose federation.
El-Rufai said on the other hand, the Zikist Movement led by the first Premier of the Eastern Region, the late Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe, demanded a unitary structure.
Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Sir Ahmadu Bello were the first premiers of the Western and Northern regions respectively.
El-Rufai said that ethnic minorities in the North, West, and East supported the federal system because they thought the arrangement would favour them.
The governor stated, “The 1950s saw the emergence of three regions, Northern, Eastern and Western, with elected Nigerian leaders with limited powers of self-rule. In the pre-independence debates, the leaders of the western and northern regions were especially insistent on a loose federation with strong regions.
“The firebrands of the Zikist Movement, for instance, believed that a unitary structure was best for uniting a diverse country like emergent Nigeria, and they regarded the federalists as seeking division.”
According to him, true federalism ultimately prevailed at independence in 1960 and was reaffirmed by the Republican Constitution of 1963.
He stated, “Historical records indicate that the peoples of the smaller ethnic groups in the North, West, and East, largely accepted and supported the federalist consensus, and they expected its logic to extend to the creation of new regions for them, or special arrangements to accommodate their interests.
He said an article he wrote in 2012 reflected the broad consensus amongst Nigerians, then and now.
Source: THE PUNCH