By Gbenga Akinmoyo
The country called Nigeria is governed today by the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and the opening statement of that document says, “We the people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria”, a remark that has often been condemned in many quarters, on the contention that it was simply thrust upon us by the exiting military junta who prepared it and handed it over in 1999.
Whilst that argument is neither here or there, it is significant to note that Nigeria, by virtue of the opening pronouncement operates a federal system or style, which is clearly stated in Section 2 (2), “Nigeria shall be a Federation consisting of States and a Federal Capital Territory”.
Therefore, we should be in no doubt about the style of government arrangement that is in place and in S3 (1), the Constitution goes on to name each of the 36 states from A to Z, Abia to Zamfara. Also note that in S3 (6) the Constitution makes provision for Local Government Areas (initially 768, now 774) and those LGA’s are listed one by one, under the second column of Part I of the First Schedule.
Having identified the various components that make up the entity called the Federation, the Constitution then goes on to distribute powers that are to be exercised at the various levels and in the event of any potential conflict, the Constitution stipulates whose power will be superior in areas of conflict in order to eliminate confusion. As a result, the Constitution states that:
the legislative powers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria shall vest in a National Assembly, which shall comprise of a Senate and a House of Representatives – S4 (1);
the legislative powers of a State of the Federation shall be vested in the House of Assembly of the State – S4 (6);
the executive powers of the Federation shall be vested in the President and may….. Vice-President and Ministers of the Government of the Federation … – S5 (1) (a);
the executive powers of a State shall be vested in the Governor of that State and may……….the Deputy Governor and the Commissioners of the Government of that State …. S5 (2) (a);
the judicial powers of the Federation shall be vested in the courts to which this section relates, being courts established by the Federation. – S6 (1);
the judicial powers of a State shall be vested in the courts to which this section relates, being courts established subject as provided by this Constitution, for a State. S6 (2).
In my humble submission, that is the point at which clarity stops and in practice, it is the point where the confusion begins, which is the bane of contention in this article. It is a fact that each of the 774 LGAs falls within one of the 36 States and each of those states in turn falls within the Federation. The legal distinctions between Federal, State and Local levels were merely for the purpose of conveniently distributing powers amongst the component units, in such a way as to avoid (I would suggest) duplication, overlaps and confusion which is why the Draughtsmen took the pain of clearly defining the distribution in Sections 4, 5 and 6 of the Constitution.
Now when we knuckle down at the nitty-gritty of running governance in Nigeria today, we begin to really appreciate how humongous and expensive the process has become by virtue of the fundamental construction that governs our co-existence that is the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Let me make the point in more simplistic terms with the following illustrations relating to the basic needs of the citizens.
Every citizen or resident in this country lives in a particular location which is definitive, for example 260 Broad Street, Idanre. That location is in Idanre LGA, which is in Ondo State, which is in the country Nigeria. It is one location not three locations, however there is a local government, state government and federal government of which expenditure provisions are made in respect of that single location. Arguably, the location is within a local government area which is within the jurisdiction of a State, but only one of the two levels should be responsible. In this particular example nobody resides in a Federal Government, so it is needless.
Every primary school, secondary school, tertiary institution that provides education at the different levels is situated somewhere in Nigeria within one of the 36 states and the F.C.T, but not one single institution is situated in a location that can be referred to as the Federal Government. So why not leave them to the State and Local governments where the reside?
Every hospital or primary health centre that provides medical services and treatment, whether public or private, to citizens and residents of this country is located within one of the 774 LGAs established by the Constitution. No clinic or hospital that is dispensing medical services is situated in a place call the Federal Government.
Citizens and residents of Nigeria want to be able to go out and earn a reasonable wage or salary from employment/self employment, or establish their businesses; make their profits and fend for themselves and their families. Every business and employer of labour is located in business premises traceable to one of the 774 LGAs within one of the 36 States and the F.C.T, again there is no business traceable to a location called the Federal Government. Yet there is a long list of Taxes that businesses are required to pay to each of the federal, state and local governments, some official, many unofficial, but the cumbersome nature of government creates ambiguity and raises serious questions about the authenticity of many of the charges.
The examples are endless when we look at the inter-relationship with the citizenry and the various channels of governance through government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs)- such as Agriculture; Education; Health; Environment; Finance; Science & Technology; Defence; Youth and Sports; Petroleum Resources; Justice; Information; Culture, Tourism; Women’s’ Affairs; Police Affairs; Power, Works; Housing; Interior Affairs; Foreign Affairs; Water Resources; Budget; National Planning; Communication and Digital Economy; Industry Trade & Investment; Labour & Employment; Niger Delta; Mines and Steel Development; Transportation; Aviation; Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management & Social Development; Forestry, Special Duties, etc.
All of these are being funded from the public treasury and this is just the Executive arm of government, often duplicated at the federal, state and local levels. Then we ask the cost of running the other two organs of government, namely the Legislative houses – Senate, House of Representatives and the 36 State Houses of Assembly; and the Judiciary – from the Supreme Court at the apex all the way down the chain to the Customary Courts at the tail.
In a few weeks, the President-Elect, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu will be taking over as the next President of the Federation called Nigeria. He will take over a country with an estimated population in excess of 200 million people where:
the national debt stood at N46.25 trillion (USD 103.11 billion) at the end of December 2022 (Businessday, 30 March 2023);
nearly 12 percent of the world population in extreme poverty live in Nigeria, considering the poverty threshold at USD1.90 a day (Statista);
approximately 20 million Nigerian individuals are not enrolled in school (UNESCO 2022);
unemployment rates are projected to hit 37% in 2023, (NESG);
housing deficit is currently 28 million units as at January 2023, (Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria);
one doctor to 10,000 patients in Nigeria as at 20 October 2022 (NMA) and one nurse to 1,160 patients as at 12 Jan 2023 (Nigerian Association of Nurses and Midwives);
the inflation rate using Consumer Price Index (CPI) stood at 22.04 percent in March 2023 (TheCable, 15 Apr. 2023); and
the minimum wage is N30,000 or USD 65.152 per month (Take-Profit.org).
In conclusion, these may not be the best of times to be taking over the mantle, but the new administration must face at least one hard truth that the overall cost of government as it currently stands is not sustainable. It will take a while to overhaul the Constitution to bring about the radical change required, if at all attainable. So, one of the first casualties arising from an objective Reality Check should be the size and cost of running the Government of the Federation, when the truth is that more resources should be allocated to governance within the 36 states of the Federation through the 774 LGAs and the F.C.T, through the 6 Municipal Councils. To be frankly candid, the Federal Government in Nigeria today is an artificial vehicle that was given subtle credence by the Constitution through the allocation of powers, which needs to be urgently and substantially down-sized.
This article was written by Gbenga Akinmoyo who is a legal practitioner, public affairs analyst and the C.E.O of LeadiFollow Limited.