The All Progressives Congress (APC) panel on restructuring has recommended devolution of power to states and the scrapping of local governments as a tier of government.
It recommended resource control, state police, independent candidacy and merger of states.
Panel chairman and Kaduna State Governor Nasir El-Rufai submitted its report to National Chairman John Odigie-Oyegun in Abuja yesterday.
Oyegun said with the report the APC’s stance on true federalism and restructuring are clear, adding: “this is the totality of our views, but it is still going to go through the mill.”
El-Rufai said the panel collated the views of Nigerians, especially party members, which were mostly reflected in the report.
He said: “The first item that we felt needed legislative action is the merger of states. It is pertinent to note that only 36 per cent of Nigerians wants more states created while majority of Nigerians don’t want more states. For us, since the creation of states is already in the constitution, there is no action needed than to implement that.
“So, the first recommendation for which we have proposed a draft bill for constitutional amendment is the merger of states. Though there was no consensus from stakeholders on the merger of states, we felt that we should propose a bill that allows states to merge and it is left for the National Assembly, the party and the people of Nigeria to decide on that.
“On derivation principle, it is recommended that the Revenue Mobilisation and Fiscal Commission Act be amended to vest it with the power to periodically review the derivation formula and make recommendations to the President who shall table the same before the National Assembly for necessary action.
“On fiscal federalism and revenue allocation, we propose an amendment to sub-section two of the constitution to give more revenue to the states and reduce the Federal Government’s share.
“There was overwhelming popular demand that there should be devolution of power to the states and the committee recommended same. We have recommended that the first schedule, part one and two be amended to transfer some powers to the states.”
The committee also recommended that states be allowed to have their own police.
Oil and other mineral resources, said the committee, should be left to the control of the states where they are located. Offshore resources should be owned by the Federal Government.
The committee proposed the amendment of the first schedule to the constitution to ensure that names of local government councils are removed from the constitution. States should be allowed to create and fund their own local governments.
El-Rufai said the committee recognised the fact that the country was operating a federal system. He described as an aberration, having more than two tiers of government as federating units in a federal system.
El-Rufai said: “Local government autonomy is a very interesting subject in which we were surprised at the outcome. There were divergent opinions on this issue. We recommend that the current system of local government administration provided for by the constitution should be amended and that states should be allowed to develop and enact laws to have local government administration system that is peculiar to each of them.
“What we heard from Nigerians is that as far as local government is concerned, there is no one size fits for all. We all come from different histories, different cultures, different administrative systems and we believe that the constitution should ensure that there is a democratic local government system in every state. But the details of, and the nature of that local government system, the number of local governments should be left to the states and states houses of assembly.
“We propose amendment to Sections 7, 8, 162, the first schedule, part one and the first schedule of the constitution to give effect to our recommendations. The section that lists the local governments and their headquarters should be removed so that local governments are no longer named in the constitution.
“States can create their local governments and determine the structure of their local governments. We are, by this, recognising that in a federal system, you cannot have more than two tiers of government. Having three tiers of government is an aberration. There is nowhere in the world where our research has shown us that you have more than two federating units.
On resources control, the governor said: “We have proposed that mining, minerals, oil should go to the states. Then there will be certain constitutional amendments.
“The Petroleum Act will be amended to show that states can now issue oil mining licences; the Land Use Act, Nigeria Minerals and Mining Act, the Petroleum Profit Tax Act 2007 would all need to be amended. So, we have proposed amendment that will ensure that minerals, mining and oil are vested in the states except offshore minerals.”
The committee recommended a constitutional amendment to allow for a referendum to be conducted on burning national or state issues before decisions are taken. Now, the constitution has no room for referendum, but only in the creation of states.
On independence candidacy, the committee recommended that anybody who wants to contest an election as an independent candidate should not have to be a member of any registered political party six months prior to the election the person wants to contest as a candidate.
El-Rufai said: “On independent candidacy, the committee notes that majority of respondents were opposed, surprisingly, to independent candidacy. However, the committee still recommends that the party should support the demand for widening the political space by allowing for independent candidacy.
“We believe that having independent candidates with necessary safeguards will make the political parties to be more honest and more democratic. So, because majority of the respondents were against independent candidacy, we took note of the fact that most of those that took interest in our deliberations were party members. We therefore believe that widening the political space is consistent with APC’s and the President’s commitment and we have made recommendations but with very strict conditions.
“We have included in the bill to allow for independent candidacy that no one who wants to run as an independent candidate should be a member of a political party six months to the election. What it meant is that you cannot be a member of a political party, lose primaries and then go ahead to run as an independent candidate. You have to make up your mind six months to the elections that none of the parties is good enough and you want to run as an independent candidate.
“We have put this safeguard to ensure that independent candidacy is not a platform for opportunism, but a deliberate, passionate decision, not an emotional one. We have put four safeguards.
“One, any person who desires to stand as an independent candidate must not be a registered member of any political party at least six months before the election in which he intends to contest. Two, his nominators must also not be members of any registered political party. Three, the said candidate must pay a deposit to INEC in the same range as the non-refundable deposit payable by candidates sponsored by political parties through their parties.
“So instead of paying to the parties, you now pay to INEC. If a governorship candidate pays one million to his party, you must pay one million to INEC to stand as an independent candidate.
He went on: “On citizenship, the issue of local government or state of origin is discriminatory and should be replaced with state of residence. It is around this that we have proposed an amendment to the Federal Character Commission Act to allow people domiciled in a place to be considered as indigenes.
“We have proposed an amendment to create the State Judicial Council that will appoint and discipline judges within a state while the National Judicial Council will exercise control over the appointment, discipline of judges of the federal government only.
“We have proposed the creation of the state court of appeal so that from the High Court, you can first appeal to the state court of appeal before it goes to the Supreme Court of the federation. Again, this is consistent with federal practice all over the world.”
Oyegun said: “I‘m going to promise that before the middle of February, it would have been considered and decided upon by the major structures of this party, the NEC, the Caucus of the party. And whatever is thereafter agreed will be presented to the authorities as the considered views and decisions of the APC for appropriate implementation.”