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Nigeria: Give More Powers, Functions to States – LGs Group

A think-tank group in Akwa Ibom State has called for a constitutional re-engineeroing in Nigeria, that will allow for more powers to be devolved to states and local governments.

In an e-mail to AkanimoReports on Monday, the group, Eket Collectives, argued that given the country's experience with the centralising consequences of military rule for the country's federalism, "there is need to address the issueby ensuring that states and local governments are politically and financially empowered by giving them more constitutional powers and functions, and a corresponding revenue base".

The Legal Adviser of the group, Mr. Ita Akwaowo, said the principle that should guide such a constitutional re-engineering is that of "subsidiary".

"By that we mean that powers and functions over some legislative field should be devolved to Abuja, only if there is somke compelling reason to do so. In Nigeria, devolving powers and functions downwards should be our veritable tool of preventing centralisation and entrenching the autonomy of states and local governments", the group said.

According to the Eket group, "the 1999 Constitution should be reviewed by drastically reducing the exclusive federal legislative list to cover primarily defence, currency, foreign affairs, inter-state commerce and national security.

Continuing, they claimed that most of the items on the exclusive federal list and the concurrent list, "should be subsumed as residual to be shared between the states and local governments based on the principle and logic of subsidiarity", pointing out that the expected devolution of power would require enhanced fiscal revenue base and fiscal transfers to the two tiers of governance.

Akwaowo, said the think-tank group wants local government as the third tier, to be accorded "constitutional guarantees", and not to be treated as mere appendages of state governments. They added that Nigeria's political future would be bleak if the country continues with her present "centralised federalism".

They have therefore, advised President Goodluck Jonathan, to focus more on building federalism and democracy anchored on economic reform, accountability and transparency in public life.

They are however, of the view that current moves to amend the constitution will enjoy more legitimacy "because the April elections that produced the present crop of leaders has been fairly adjudged as better than those of the garison-like 'do or die' of the past".

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ENDS

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