Defanging The Federal Government: A Panacea to Nigeria’s Problems
What if there was a cure that would address all problems affecting Nigeria? - a cure so simple and efficient. From underdevelopment to a scramble for Federal government positions, bad governance, and mismanagement. Well, this is more than a tall tale that needs to be paid attention to.
First of all, a short history lesson on how we got to this point. Nigeria gained independence in 1960 with three regional governments (North, West, and East) that consolidated power hence leaving the central government somewhat weak. With the emergence of the first military government on 15th January 1966, Decree 34 also known as the Unification Decree was passed with the effect of consolidating power in the central government; making the central government ever so stronger. This decree along with certain emergency powers usurped by the central government during the civil war produced a more centralized government run in Nigeria to date. Making Nigeria seem like the proverbial “all eggs in one basket”.
This uni-federal system (possessing unitary and federal characteristics) so to say, was maintained by the 1999 constitution which gave the Federal government monopoly over the important sectors of the economy through the exclusive list.
This exclusive list contains 68 items including aviation, banking, commerce, construction, copyright, export, fishing, insurance, labour, maritime, mines and minerals, police among others. The items contained in this list are the driving force of an economy capable of propelling such economy or leaving it regressed; and we all know which of the states Nigeria is. What this list means for Nigeria is that federal presence is needed in all the parts of Nigeria which are now made up of 36 weak states, formerly 3 powerful regions to develop. This spreads the federal government very thin depriving it of efficiency; resulting in clamours of marginalisation by certain stakeholders in the country.
One such sector adversely affected is the mines and mineral sector which the Federal government has a monopoly. This has led to the over dependence of the Federal government on the oil-rich creeks of Niger Delta which represents 65% of its revenue as of June 10, 2020. This over dependence has birthed marginalisation of the Niger Delta and neglect of other resources. One such resource being bitumen which Nigeria has the second-largest deposit in the world, as well as coal, gold, columbite, iron ore, uranium all of which are untouched and inaccessible to the state governments because of the Federal monopoly.
Another sector impeded by this over-centralization is trade and commerce. This can be seen especially in the area of ports that are responsible for trade with other countries; these ports are under the auspice of the Federal government. The Lagos seaport is the only functional port in Nigeria responsible for servicing Nigeria and other landlocked neighbouring West African states. The inefficiency of the Lagos ports has cost Nigeria a re-occurring loss of $17 billion which is almost on par with the yearly budget. This inefficiency is predicated by the fact that several state governments with coastal cities like Warri, Port Harcourt (which ironically has a port to its name), Calabar has low federal government presence on its ports and state governments cannot develop infrastructure because of Federal government monopoly.
It is clear as day that Nigeria’s potential is hampered by the current uni-federal system that inefficiently manages the resources readily available. The simple solution to this would be the devolution of some power back to the states to reduce reliance on the Federal government and foster some form of economic independence by looking inwards into the capacity of each state by the individual states. This is not a call for abolishing of the Federal government but for true federalism similar to the clamour for the restructuring of Nigeria.