- Category: Opinions/Interviews
- Published on Thursday, 12 July 2012 18:08
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As part of recommendations for the review of the 1999 Constitution, the Presidential Committee on the Review of Outstanding Constitutional Issues has recommended that the present structure of the country which gives too much power to the Federal Government be reviewed in favour of the federating states.
The committee had submitted its report to President Goodluck Jonathan on Tuesday in Abuja.
In the executive summary of the committee's report, the committee noted that too much power is concentrated at the centre – the Federal Government.
The committee, which was headed by a former Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Alfa Belgore, therefore recommended that the Federal Government should retain powers only necessary for maintaining the sovereignty of the country.
In the report, it recommended as follows: “(a) Reduction of powers at the centre and devolution of same to the states federating units; (b) Allow the centre to retain necessary powers to enable it exercise its sovereignty; (c) Enable the centre to act for the federating units in areas of common and mutually beneficial interest and services.”
The committee also recommended that local governments should be independent of states. In the report, the committee observed that “the system of local government as a tier of government should be guaranteed, and its financial autonomy ensured, without prejudice to the creation and supervision of the state governments.”
It also recommended that the power to create local government areas should be wholly vested in states.
However, in order to avoid a situation where states will go on local government creation spree for the purpose of collecting more allocations from the Federation Account, the committee advised that the number of local governments shall not be a consideration in the allocation of national revenues.
“Instead, allocation of revenue between the states shall be based on the established allocation principles of population, equality of states, internal revenue generation, and landmass, terrain, as well as population density, as already enshrined in Section 162 (2) of the Constitution,” the committee suggested.
In this regard, the committee recommended the scrapping of the State Joint Local Government Account Committee and establishment of the States Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (SRMAFC), which will allocate funds to the state government, local government councils and between local councils of a state, using the same distribution principles for revenue allocation formula adopted by RMAFC when allocating funds from the Federation Account.
On the vexed issue of power rotation, the committee agreed with the 2005 Constitutional Conference that it should not be included in the constitution.
However, the committee advised that power rotation should be given legal backing below the constitution to compel political parties to apply the rotation principle in order to guarantee equity and justice in choosing people for electoral offices.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the committee said, should be empowered to enforce the law.
According to the Belgore committee, the sentiments generated by the debate over rotation of power, which nearly resulted in the over-heating of the polity, necessitated that the issue, though legally necessary should not be given a high priority by way of giving it a constitutional provision.
Instead, the committee recommended that another utilitarian angle of the law be exploited to make the issue lawful so that equity, good conscience and justice will prevail in the overcharged political atmosphere.
“In view of the emotive nature of rotation, it should not be included in the constitution. It should, however, be given legal backing below the constitution to ensure that political parties are enjoined to apply the rotation principle,” the committee advised.
The committee noted that this stance was taken to deepen the democratic process by giving equal access to all political players by encouraging “equity and justice in putting forward people for electoral offices”.
On immunity for the president, his deputy, governors and their deputies, the committee said that it should not be removed.
It, however, recommended that an Office of Independent Counsel, which will investigate allegations and initiate proceeding against such officers who enjoy immunity while they are still in office, be established.
On the tenure for office of the president, governors and local government chairman, the committee recommended that the issue be considered by a larger representative forum. On this issue, President Jonathan had already promised to constitute such a larger representative forum.
On states creation, the committee advised that for the purpose of equity and fairness, one additional state be created in the South-east geo-political zone so that it will have six states like other zones.
However, the committee recommended that "provided they comply with the requirements of the constitution, the additional state in the South-east and any other state can be created anywhere in the federation."
On election tribunals, the committee observed that judges now lobby for appointment to be made members of election tribunals, a situation which it said, had resulted in widespread allegations of corruption in the judiciary.
The committee held the view that the present arrangement is wasteful, distrustful and riddled with allegations of corruption because judges now lobby to be appointed as members of election tribunals.
It suggested that except for other elections, other than governorship and presidential elections, only one judge should hear election petitions. This, it said, would minimise waste and save time and reduce corruption.
“For petitions involving the election of a governor of a state, a chief judge from another state is to preside over the election petition. The chief judge of a state is the nearest judicial officer to the governor in the sense that the governor could have a hand in his appointment. Therefore, a chief judge from another state sitting with two other senior judges of that state is appropriate,” it said.