57th Independence Special: Nigeria, the pains, the gains, the prospects

Posted by News Express | 1 October 2017 | 3,562 times

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Today marks the 57th independence anniversary of Nigeria as a nation. The country has seen it all as many would say. A country of multifaceted potential at birth, it still remains a toddler, while those beneath its developmental strides in the 1960s have since overtaken the acclaimed giant of Africa. In this piece, culled from Sunday Tribune, the paper’s Group Politics Editor, TAIWO ADISA and Associate Editor, KUNLE ODEREMI examine the questions on why the Nigerian State has failed to click and the challenges of governance.

Years have gone by but the nation has failed to translate the dreams of its founding fathers to reality. It is right now reeling in huge foreign and domestic debts. Some say the debt to GDP ratio is low but some experts are already talking about the huge funds being committed to debt servicing. In 2016, Nigeria committed 35 percent of her total earnings to debt servicing and in the first half of 2017, it has committed N57.4 billion to the same purpose.  With increasing number of bonds being floated, you can only expect the debt profile to go higher.T 57, Nigeria presents a sorry picture especially in the sights of those who have followed her trajectory all these years. At the inception of nationhood in 1960, the leaders saw potentials and great hope. They saw a Nation that could hold its own in the comity of fast growing nation. They saw a young and vibrant nation waiting to be nurtured to a forward looking adult.

The states of the Federation are also worse off as none of them is excused from the debt burden.

Former governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi, painted the picture succinctly in an interview. His submissions led to the conclusion that in 57 years, Nigeria has been retrogressing rather than progressing.

He said: “If this country had followed the MDGs guidelines, we won’t be where we are today. In the year the MDGs started, China’s GDP was $1 trillion. By the time MDGs was completed after 15 years, China’s GDP had gone to about $12 trillion because China mainstreamed all the MDGs goals into their agenda and followed them strictly, and was able to pull 439 million people out of poverty.

“Our country is among the countries where the opposite happened. Rather than more people going out of poverty, more people became impoverished, because they didn’t follow it strictly.”

He continued: “I gave you an instance of China. In 1980, the GDP of China was $341billion. The GDP of Nigeria your country was $143 billion. So, you can say that China was twice bigger than Nigeria. In terms of savings, Nigeria had in 1980 $10.5 billion and China had $10 billion. In terms of per capita, Nigeria was $870; China was $193. Today, China’s GDP is 12 trillion; thirty times bigger than ours. China’s savings that was $10 billion is now $3 trillion. Somebody you were four times before has moved miles ahead of you that is our crisis today. That is why the agitation is on-going. It’s a simple thing. It’s the economy.

“I can go on and on and show you. South Korea just in savings alone had $3 billion when we had $10.5 billion. Today, they have $365 billion and we have $30 billion. I can go on and show you Indonesia, Thailand. Thailand was $5 billion when we had $10 billion. So, why don’t we take the right steps and do the right things?”

That is really the question. And Obi is not alone in dissecting the crisis of leadership. Second Republic Governor of Kaduna State, Alhaji Babarabe Musa in dissecting the crisis of leadership in Nigeria said he could only single out three leaders of all the heads of government we have had. He talked of the First Republic Prime Minister, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, former Head of State Yakubu Gowon and the late Head of state, General Murtala Mohammed. He could not reckon with the contributions of the others.

Chairman, Senate Committee on Power, Metallurgy and Steel Development, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, who also spoke in an interview said that the crisis of underdevelopment squarely rests on the question of leadership.

He gave two clear scenarios to illustrate the leadership crisis:  “I think we missed it at the level of leadership and let me explain what I mean; at the level of both leadership recruitment and leadership application to duty.

“Our leadership recruitment mechanism has been faulty. It throws up people who do not put Nigeria first. It tends to throw up people who use Nigeria as their own personal fiefdom and when it throws them up that way, what we now see is a Nigeria that is serially abused by those put in charge and in trust for Nigeria.”

One of the two examples of bad leadership he said is the troubles that befell the Nigerian Airways, which is now defunct. At a point, he said Ethiopian Airlines had three aircraft while Nigeria had 28. Today Nigerian Airways is defunct while Ethiopian Airlines is blossoming. The same also happened to the Nigerian Shipping Line which at a point had 26 ships. Today it is no more.

Abaribe further submitted: “So, we can go and on. There are just too many examples to show and it is purely and squarely what Chinua Achebe has said a failure of leadership.”

The above scenarios point to the fact that the union called Nigeria is not working.  We call it the Federal Republic of Nigeria but in practice it is more of a unitary setting, with salaries and as many as 68 items on the Exclusive legislative list.

Is National Assembly to blame?

Many commentators have tended to lay the blame of Abuja’s inefficiency on the doorsteps of the National Assembly. They claim that the lawmakers collect “jumbo pay” and subject the polity to haemorrhage.

But the lawmakers have defended the institution by saying that the entire budget of the Legislature amounts to two percent of the National Budget, leaving the executive and the Judiciary to deal with 98 percent of the federal budget. They insisted that the executive often expose them to ridicule each time they attempt to expose corruption and oversight the polity.

Three-time Senator and Chairman of South East Caucus in the National Assembly, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe told part of the story of the lawmakers thus: “So, what is happening today is that when there is effort by us as legislators to make things right, the executive turns around and tries to portray us as fighting against the interest of the country. It is done deliberately by the executive, demonising us to make sure that we don’t curb their excesses.”

While defending allegations of jumbo pay he said: “We do not see how two percent or so will constitute a drain. Assuming that you remove two percent, you still have 98 per cent.

“The problems of this country are not caused by whatever is going on in the National Assembly and I’ve told you where we are going to locate these problems. We are going to locate it precisely at the failure of leadership. It is this failure that now leads people to start looking for excuses, especially Federal Government officials. When they run out of excuses, they want to say oh these people, that person or whatever.”

Presidency: The behemoth?

Details contained in the 2017 budget indicated that 17 budget subheads are directly linked to the Presidency. The subheads and their allocations in the budget include the State House (Headquarters, N11bn); State House(President’s Office, N1.3bn); State House Operations(Vice President, N448 m);Office of the Chief of Staff(N28.5 million); Office of the Chief Security Officer to the President (N123.m); State House Medical Centre(N331m); State House Lagos Liaison Office (N279 m); Office of the Special Adviser on SDGs(111.7m); NIPSS, Kuru (1.6bn); Bureau of Public Enterprises(N1.154bn); National Emergency Management Agency(N1.386bn); Economic and Financial Crimes Commission(N17.2bn); Bureau of Public Procurement(N1.494bn); Nigeria Extractive Industries  Transparency Initiative (N1.2bn); National Atomic Agency Commission (N5bn); Office of the Chief Economic Adviser to the President(N106 million).

Besides having the above mentioned agencies directly under its budget purview, the Federal Executive Council gives approval to all substantial contract awards at the federal level.

Maybe it has its hands full, maybe not but the centralisation of the polity which was kick-started by the military on its incursion to the polity in 1966 has increased overtime. While in 1963 the Exclusive Legislative list had 45 items with 29 on Concurrent list, the list grew with the 1979 Constitution. In that defunct Constitution, the Exclusive list grew to 67 with 30 items on the concurrent list and by 1999, the Constitution had gone one better with 68 items on the Exclusive list and 30 on concurrent.

Rather than bring growth and development, centralisation of issues only brought retrogression.

In recent years, the revulsion about the state of development had given rise to calls for a review of the national question, convocation of a Sovereign National Conference (SNC), a National Conference and lately restructuring of the polity.

The calls had recently got to unexpected heights forcing skeptics to jump on the fray.  For instance, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) which initially dismissed the calls for restructuring as a sing song of the defeated forces in the 2015 polls is right now promoting a nationwide conference aimed at collating data that would inform its views in handling the restructuring debate.

The Presidency, which was equally on the same wavelength in its opposition to restructuring also recently announced it is not opposed to the idea.

The Northern political establishment which also rejected restructuring with a deceptive alibi that the idea meant different things to different people has also changed its focus with state governments organising meetings to define the idea.

Way forward: Restructuring Nigeria inevitable?

What all this amounts to is that the time is ripe to reorganise the structure of the Nigerian polity.

The South-West geopolitical zone where the loudest noise around restructuring and institution of true federalism had been rife had on September 7 organised a grand rally to pick the zone’s standpoint on the restructuring agenda.

The meeting, which also featured delegates from the South-East, South-South and the Middle Belt arrived at the need to re-adopt the 1963 Constitution.

The republican constitution guaranteed the right of the then four Regions to operate as federal components of the Nigerian Nation with the revenue formula that guaranteed the regions 50 percent of the products derivable from the particular area.

Over-concentration of powers at the centre has sustained a bitter struggle for power at the federal level because of a quasi-federal structure imposed by a military based on its command structure. States have become mere appendages of the centre, which has taken over their key constitutional powers against the cardinal principles of federalism. The usurpation of the functions and acquisition of resources of states by the Federal Government has created room for unprecedented scale of corruption in high places, as the end now justifies the means, just as it engendered primitive accumulation of wealth by those that find themselves in political powers. This has given rise to the cry of marginalisation and demand for fairness, equity and justice. Eminent persons like the renowned Constitutional lawyer, Professor Ben Nwabueze (SAN), have offered the way forward, which includes genuine fight against the scourge of corruption.

“The cleansing process requires that Nigerian State be redesigned and re-built, not just rebranded. It requires, not its break-up into its component parts, but a more healthy integration of all its parts and groups into one solid entity, firmly united in its diversity. The new creation is the New Nigeria of our dream. The rebuilding of an existing rotten state, like Nigeria, requires that its superstructure be redesigned. The super-structure of a state is its Constitution. The present constitution of Nigeria is defective and unfit for use for the purpose, not only because it is not a People’s or democratic Constitution, having been made, not by the people, but imposed on them by the military rulers, just as its predecessors were imposed on us by the colonial masters.”

Former President Goodluck Jonathan also craves for a new Nigeria, where unity, social justice and rule of law would be sacrosanct. “I hope and pray that 100 years from now, Nigerians will look back on another century of achievements during which our union was strengthened, our independence was enhanced, our democracy was entrenched and our example was followed by leaders of other nations whose ambition is to emulate the success of Nigeria; a country that met its difficulties head-on and fulfilled its promise.” However, he believes the quest for a new Nigeria must be predicated on some critical and fundamental factors, which the leaders had viewed and handled with levity over time. He said it is imperative to rise above the rhetoric of the indivisibility of the union, all of which according to the former president, underlined the decision of his administration to convoke the 2014 National Conference. His words: “Even as we remain resolute in our conviction that our union is non-negotiable, we must never be afraid to embrace dialogue and strengthen the basis of this most cherished union. A strong nation is not that which shies away from those difficult questions of its existence, but that which confronts such questions, and together provides answers to them in a way that guarantees fairness, justice and equity for all stakeholders.”

The national chairman of another party, the African Democratic Congress (ADC), Chief Ralphs Okey Nwosu, believes there is hope for the country in the coming years on the condition it does the needful. He says those opposed to restructuring, including the National Assembly should be decisive on the current wishes of the majority of Nigerians. “Restructuring and true federalism will give our country the latitude to be a global economic and political force. We should embrace it. The National Assembly should stop their timidity and allow Nigeria to blossom. ADC believes that governance is not collection and squandering of rents; rather it is building an enamoured ecosystem for wealth creation, security and prosperity. ADC will ensure that any state in Nigeria can compare and compete with its counterparts in any part of the world,” he said.

His position tallies with the views of Professor Nwabueze who has for the umpteenth time explained that it was wrong to insinuate about any intention to dismember the country, following calls for restructuring. According to him, “Re-structuring, as it is presently being demanded, seeks to revert our federal system to the true federalism of the 1960/63 Constitutions, to further reduce the powers of the Federal Government as may be thought necessary, and to reverse the specific matters mentioned above. The intention, furthermore, is to assuage, to an optimal extent, the demand for self-determination or self-government consistent with the territorial sovereignty of the country. Self-determination connotes essentially, not independent government, but the right of each group, within the territorial sovereignty of the country as one state, to govern itself in matters that concern it alone, without undue control by the Federal Government; the control is oppressive because it is being exercised without due regard to the requirements of justice, fairness and equity.” The erudite lawyer observed that the “over-concentration of power in the Federal Government with respect to the disposition of the pool of money in the Federation Account. The 1999 Constitution in section 162(1) establishes a pool of revenue belonging to all three levels of government, federal, state and local government, called the Federation Account, “into which shall be paid ALL revenues collected by the Government of the Federation, except the proceeds from the personal income tax of the personnel of the Armed Forces of the Federation, the Nigeria Police Force, the Ministry or department of government charged with responsibility for Foreign Affairs and the residents of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.”

President General of the Ohanaeze Ndigbe, Dr. John Nwodo, who spoke last week at the Chatham House. London also echoed a similar trend.In his paper entitled “Restructuring Nigeria: Decentralization for National Cohesion.” Nwodo analysed the nation’s journey through history and added that the structure in operation has failed the people.

He said: “Our present constitution is not autochthonous. It was not written by the people of Nigeria. It was not approved in a national referendum. In jurisprudence, its effectiveness will score a very low grade on account of its unacceptability. Regrettably, it continues to hold sway and begins with a false proclamation, “We the People of Nigeria….”

He said that the model in operation favours “a model based on sharing of government revenue” which he said must give way to a new structure that will challenge and drive productivity in different regions across the country.

“This new model must take into account that the factors driving productivity in today’s world are no longer driven by fossil oil but rather the proliferation of a knowledge-based economy,” he said.

His declarations came on the heels of the Yoruba summit in Ibadan which recommended a return to the 1963 Constitution and called for a return to six regional structure.

Why is the 1963 Constitution so Attractive?

The Constitution largely recognises the possibility of self-determination by the regions and guaranteed fiscal federalism.

For instance, the Yoruba summit recommended thus: “The sharing ration of all revenues raised by means of taxation shall be 50% to the states, 35% to the regional government and 15% to the government of the federation.”

That recommendation is rooted in the 1963 Constitution which guaranteed some monumental levels of growth at the Regions while it lasted.

Section 2 of the 1963 Constitution indicates that “Nigeria shall be a Federation comprising Regions and a Federal Capital Territory and shall be a Republic by the name the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”

Section 3 (1) of the Same Constitution reads: “There shall be four Regions, that is to say, Northern Nigeria, Eastern Nigeria, Western Nigeria and Mid-Western Nigeria.”

Section 3(2) states that “The Regions and the Federal Capital Territory shall consist of the areas comprised in those territories respectively on the thirtieth day of September 1963.”

Section 129 and 136 of the 1963 Constitution which deal with Finance of the Federation. The Sections, like several other sections of the 1963 Constitution provide a 70/30 percent allocation on certain taxable products in favour of the Regions.

Section 129 reads: “All revenues or other moneys  raised or received by the Federation(not being revenues or other moneys payable under this Constitution or any Act of Parliament into some other public fund of the Federation established  for a specific purpose) shall be paid into and form one Consolidated Revenue Fund.”

Section 136(1&2) further clarified the relationship in revenue sharing between the Regions and the Federation on such special taxes.

The Section reads: 136. (1) Where under any Act of parliament a duty is levied in respect of the import into Nigeria of motor spirit, diesel oil, tobacco, wine, potable spirits or beer, the Federation shall, in respect of each quarter, credit to a special account maintained by the Federation (to be called “the Distributable Pool Account”) a sum equal to thirty per cent of the proceeds of that duty for that quarter.

136 (2): For the purposes of this section, the proceeds of a duty for a quarter shall be the amount remaining from the receipts from that duty that are collected in that quarter after any drawbacks, refunds or other repayments relating to those receipts have been made or allowed for.

The 1963 Constitution recognised the creation of a Distributable Pool Account which has its equivalent in today’s Federation Account.

The constitution makes resource control attractive byproviding free access and utilisation of mineral resources to the Regions while allowing them to pay 50 percent to the distributable pool.

The Constitution provided for Mining royalties and rent in Section 140 thus:

(1) There shall be paid by the Federation to each Region a sum equal to fifty per cent of –

(a) the proceeds of any royalty received by the Federation in respect of any minerals extracted in that Region; and

(b) any mining rents derived by the Federation during that year from within that Region.

(2) The Federation shall credit to the Distributable Pool Account a sum equal to thirty per cent.

(a) the proceeds of any royalty received by the Federation in respect of minerals extracted in any Region; and

(b) any mining rents derived by the Federation from within any Region.

(3) For the purposes of this section the proceeds of a royalty shall be the amount remaining from the receipts of that royalty after any refunds or other repayments relating to those receipts have been deducted therefrom or allowed for.

(4) Parliament may prescribe the periods in relation to which the proceeds of any royalty or mining rents shall be calculated for purposes of this section.

(5) In this section “minerals” includes mineral oil.

(6) For the purposes of this section the continental shelf of a Region shall be deemed to be part of that Region.

The 1963 Constitution also answered the question of revenue formula in Section 141 where it provided an equitable formula for distribution of funds in Distributable Pool Account

Section 141 states that: “There shall be paid by the Federation to the Regions at the end of each quarter sums equal to the following fractions of the amount standing to the credit of the Distributable Pool Account at that date, that is to say–

(a) to Northern Nigeria, forty ninety-fifths;

(b) to Western Nigeria, twenty-four ninety-fifths;

(c) to Eastern Nigeria, thirty-one ninety-fifths.

To lessen the burden on the Federal Government, the Constitution provides that the Regions are to contribute towards costs of administration. The details are provided in Sections 142 and 143 thus:

In section 142, It provides thus: “Each Region shall in respect of each financial year pay to the Federation an amount equal to such part of the expenditure incurred by the Federation during that financial year in respect of the department of customs and excise of the Government of the Federation for the purpose of collecting the duties referred to in sections 136 to 139 of this Constitution as is proportionate to the share of the proceeds of those duties received by that Region under those sections in respect of that financial year.

(1) Any sum that is required by this Chapter to be paid by the Federation to a Region may be set off by the Federation in or towards the payment of any sum that is due from that Region to the Federation in respect of any loan made by the Federation to that Region.

(2) The right of set-off conferred by subsection (1) of this section shall be without prejudice to any other right of the Federation to obtain payment of any sum due to the Federation in respect of any loan.

Section 144 of the Constitution provides that: “Any payments that are required by this Chapter to be made by the Federation to a Region shall be a charge on the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation and any payments that are so required to be made by a Region to the Federation shall be a charge on the Consolidated Revenue Fund of that Region.”

With the growing debt burden weighing down the Federal Government and the states, many have seen the reality that the “feeding-bottle” federalism guaranteed by the 1999 Constitution can only lead the nation’s economy to the woods.

That surely is why the call for a restructured Nigerian polity has refused to die.

Source: News Express

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