The restructuring debate

The need to restructure Nigeria has continued to dominate the political space of late. The calls, no doubt, are predicated on the dangers of ethnicity, religious bigotry and economic deprivation. Advocates of restructuring of Nigeria are of the view that the country is likely to disintegrate if urgent steps are not taken to address issues of autonomy for the states, fiscal federalism to pave the way for resource control by the state, as well as state police, among others. It is further argued that the present federal system in operation has only succeeded in creating a powerful Federal Government at the expense of the states.

Others have queried whether Nigeria should continue to operate the presidential system of government and a full-time legislature in the face dwindling resources. High cost of governance at the various levels – federal, states and local councils – it was noted, is partly responsible for the country’s stunted development despite abundant human and natural resources. The argument is that after deduction of running cost by the various levels of government, little or nothing is left for capital projects even as there are so many ministries and agencies of government with duplicating functions.

There is another political school that advocates a return to regionalism as the present 36-state structure is no longer sustainable. Advocates of regionalism are of the view that the proliferation of states had continued to impede the country’s progress. There are also calls for a re-tooling of the Nigerian federalism by tinkering with items on the Exclusive and Concurrent Legislative lists as contained in the 1999 Constitution (as amended). The argument over this issue is that the powers of the Federal Government should be whittled down as it seems that it is the only government in place with the 65 items it has powers on in the Exclusive Legislative List.

The argument of some stakeholders in this regard, is that the unitary constitution/system of government presently in place under the guise of a federal system has failed to solve the country’s numerous problems, and therefore, the need for restructuring cannot be more urgent than now that the country is faced with agitations for self-determination as well as security challenges that pose threats to its unity. While the consensus is that it is time the country is restructured, the Muhammadu Buhari-led All Progressives Congress (APC) administration believes that the call for is ill-motivated and predicated on the plot to disintegrate Nigeria. The fear, notwithstanding, advocates of restructuring appear to be having their way given the way the debate over it is resonating across the country. And like an idea, whose time has come, there seems no stopping to the restructuring debate.

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