4th November, 2020
By Kazeem Ugbodaga
Former President, Nigeria Bar Association, NBA, Dr. Olisa Agbakoba has written to the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan on the simple way to restructure Nigeria through devolving of powers.
Agbakoba, in the letter dated 4 November, 2020, said Nigeria has been long engaged in the federalism question, saying it is clear that because of her diverse nature and large size, the political system best suited for Nigeria is a federal system.
“But the challenge has been what type of federalism. Many proposals, including restructuring, have been put forward without success. I believe there is a simple solution. This is devolution of powers. The Constitution has two legislative lists namely, Exclusive and Concurrent. These lists have 98 items of powers.
“The Federal Government exercises exclusive power over 68 items on the exclusive list. The states in concurrence with the Federal Government, exercise power over 30 items on the concurrent list. But the States may only exercise power on the concurrent list, only if the Federal Government has not already “covered the field” on any of the 30 items.
“In effect, State Governments really have no power. I suggest that to resolve this, a committee may review the 98 items of power and assign what is best to Federal and what is best to the states, based on the principle of subsidiarity. I also suggest the Exclusive list and Concurrent list be renamed as the Federal Legislative List and State Legislative list. The Federal Government will exercise reserved powers. The States will exercise devolved power,” he said.
According to Agbakoba, as president of the NBA, he worked with the Forum of Federations, which reviewed diverse models of Federalism which could be of assistance to the National Assembly.
“In their book: Federalism: An Introduction by George Anderson, the Author points out that many Federal models have strong central governments; yet other models have a weak central government. Some models have interlocking features where the principle of cooperative federalism enables the federal and state governments to jointly share heads of legislative powers.
“In my opinion, the simple process of devolved powers can be by virtue of an enactment styled, Constitution Alteration (Devolution of Powers) Bill. This will resolve the self-imposed complex issue of Restructure,” he added.