Statistically, Nigeria also has the 2nd highest poverty rates in the world, the highest global incidence of diseases such as polio, the 2nd highest road accident rates in the world, the 2nd lowest life expectancy in the world and off course tops the list as the most corrupt country in the world. These are grim statistics which is indicative of Nigeria’s steep decline into a failed state and underscores the urgency and importance of a new deal from President Goodluck Jonathan in addressing these issues. The proposal as outlined below is my modest contribution to the process.
Constitution of a Cabinet of Technocrats:
The first indication of the direction of President Jonathan’s cabinet will come from the constitution of his cabinet. To signal a change from the decadent past, President Jonathan should constitute a cabinet of technocrats and other such persons of proven integrity and competence to drive core and critical sectors of the economy.
Convening Of a Sovereign National Conference:
The president must confront the reality of a badly structured and deeply divided nation that has as a consequence been largely self destructive. A nation with such an overwhelming diversity must at a minimum have a genuine federal structure that allows each unit develop at their own pace in line with their cultural, religious and ethnic peculiarities. The absence of such a genuine federal structure has led in large part to the friction that continues to tear at the fabric of the nation. Whether from the media, the struggle for power, the routine ethno-religious conflicts, the lack of consensus, it is obvious that there is an “ethnic cold war” simmering just beyond the surface. No matter how much we wish otherwise, Nigeria remains a stillborn nation. The convening of a conference of ethnic nationalities that will engage in exhaustive dialogue on the future of Nigeria is therefore an urgent task before the president.
Unemployment: Direct Labour and Infrastructural Development
The army of millions of unemployed youths without any means of income is a time bomb whose explosion will leave no one spared. Massive infrastructural development and other public works programs that will repair and build new roads, hospitals, schools, water generation and distribution schemes etc will significantly create jobs. The president should also consider creating a committee on direct labour that will register unemployed youths in every state whom should be used at lower costs to carry-out public works on a recurrent basis.
War against Corruption and Creation of Special Tribunals:
Nothing has devastated the nation as much as corruption. It has single handedly destroyed every national institution and brought the nation to her knees. In spite of the monumental destruction corruption has wrought on the nation, there has been no genuine and effective strategy to decisively combat it. There is a general consensus that the war on corruption is largely a sham. President Goodluck Jonathan must demonstrate a determination to combat corruption by sponsoring a bill to create time limited special criminal courts or tribunals to adjudicate and dispense with corruption cases within a maximum of 6 months with stiffer sentences including capital punishment.
Civic Registration by Biometric Registration and Introduction of Social Welfare programs:
The absence of a data base in Nigeria has made it impossible for effective planning and the creation of social order. President Goodluck Jonathan must now take advantage of the digital age to modernise the art of governance by carrying out a comprehensive biometric registration of every Nigerian. It is recommended therefore that every state set-up civic registration centres where all residents of the state will register for a biometric identity card by having their fingerprints, digital photographs and other personal details captured and stored in a database and an identity card issued as proof of registration. A unique lifelong social security number should be assigned to every registered resident. To facilitate registration and issuance of identity cards, the federal government can contract or partner with private IT companies to set-up database logistics and commence registration of all residents in the respective states.
To make sure that everyone registers, identity cards should be made compulsory by law and also tied to accessing public services such as hospitals, schools etc. The law should make it mandatory for every resident of the state from 16 years of age to carry an identity card at all times. It should be an offence punishable with up-to 1 year in prison or the payment of a fine not to carry an identity card.
President Goodluck Jonathan should also pass a social welfare bill which will guarantee the payment of some monthly allowances to unemployed graduates and the setting-up of vocational training centres for other categories of unemployed persons. The social welfare bill should also cover the provision of housing and basic medical care for poor and low income earners. Funding for the social welfare or social security program can be derived by introducing a national social security tax which all corporate organisations and workers will contribute to. A marginal social security tax can also be introduced in the sale of alcohol and petroleum products. A national annual property tax and car road tax by the federal government and state governments can also be introduced. Account holders and bank card holders should also pay marginal annual social security taxes as part of widened tax initiatives to pool resources to fund the social welfare programs.
Security: Police Reforms
Nigeria is experiencing the worst security crisis in her entire history which has amongst so many other challenges recently progressed to include bombings. The Protection of life and property is the most fundamental constitutional responsibility of governments anywhere in the world. President Goodluck Jonathan must give security the priority it deserves so that social order can be restored across the nation. A practical first step to reforming the Nigerian police is the introduction of benchmarking and accountability. The Nigerian police has practically collapsed due to corruption, and lack of accountability. Reforming the police must thus begin by introducing accountability in the police.
Police commissioners, divisional police officers, and zonal commanders should henceforth be promoted or demoted through specific benchmarks. Police formations should be re-organised and properly equipped with vehicles, mobile communication gadgets and given specific benchmarks of crime control within their jurisdictions. Any divisional police officer, police commissioner and zonal commander that fall short of the stated benchmarks in their respective jurisdictions should be removed and possibly demoted. This initiative of accountability which was used successfully in New York will almost immediately begin to produce results as respective police officers will become more disciplined and determined to combat and thus drastically reduce crime.
Creation of State Sheriffs (police)
Nigeria has a total police strength of about 360,000 which given a population in excess of 150 million is severely under-policed. Many of the existing policemen are also drafted to protect politicians thereby reducing the number of policemen available for policing. Nigeria needs police strength in excess of 1 million to effectively police a vast population. To complement the existing police force, President Goodluck Jonathan should urgently sponsor a review of the constitution to make way for the creation of state sheriffs (police) to be recruited only from residents of local communities within the state. State policing is crucial because it recruits locals who have a good knowledge of the people and area. Local content in policing is very important all over the world and would also help to increase police strength. Since most crime is local, the creation of state sheriffs is a necessary area of policing which will lead to a significant decline in crime.
Owing to the fear of abuse by respective governors, which has been at the heart of the argument against the establishment of state police, the federal government can sponsor a bill for the creation of state sheriffs on a pilot basis with constitutional safeguards that will prevent any abuse in the operational use of the state sheriffs by the respective governors. This can be done by creating state police with a constitutional clause that grants the federal government residual powers over the state sheriffs to be exercised only in exceptional cases where there are established cases of abuse. In practice, this would mean that while the governors are in charge of hiring, firing and other operational responsibilities for the state sheriffs in crime control, the federal government will have residual powers that will enable it take temporary control of the state sheriffs when there are established cases of abuse by the respective state governors until the issues are resolved in much the same way as the federal government can exercise its powers in declaring a state of emergency in any state where there has been severe crisis or breaches of security.The possession of residual powers by the federal government will guarantee that the state sheriffs operate only within the constitutional requirements for which it is set-up and minimise the risk of abuse.
Establishment of Free confidential Police Telephone Lines:
Nigeria is long overdue to have a free national police number as it exists in other nations to make it easier for members of the public including those who might want to be anonymous to report crimes and give valuable tips or intelligence to the police, which will no doubt make policing more effective and efficient. President Goodluck Jonathan should partner with telephone service providers to set-up free national police confidential lines that will make it easier for residents to report incidents of crime.
Science and Technology:
Science has made it easier to fight crime. Forensic laboratories should be established in each of the six zones for proper investigation of crimes and electronic tagging should be introduced for bailed offenders. CCTV cameras should be installed in all public places and major highways as part of an overall security anti-terrorism strategy.
Intelligence Gathering and Re-organisation Of the State Security Service:
The state security service or SSS as it is commonly known has become a largely ineffective and comatose organisation, yet it is supposed to function like the American FBI in intelligence gathering and crime fighting. President Goodluck Jonathan should set-up a committe to the root and branch re-organisation of the SSS to make it a more accountable and functional organisation that functions properly in intelligence gathering, crime fighting and other complementary efforts in the restoration of social order across the nation.
President Goodluck Jonathan has a great opportunity to leave a legacy that allows Nigerians decide their future through a constitutional conference and to create prosperity and security across the nation. Since no man is an island nor a repository of wisdom and as I still dare to hope, this is my modest contribution of ideas to help him in his onerous task ahead.