In an apparent reaction to the call, former President Goodluck Jonathan inaugurated a national conference on March 17, 2014 to address a lot of issues including the call for true federalism.
The conference, led by Justice Idris Kutigi, former Chief Justice of Nigeria, submitted its reports on Aug. 21, 2014.
Among the recommendations in the reports, especially from the conference Committee on Politics and Governance is the need to return Nigeria to a true federal structure with the states as federating units.
The conference also adopted other recommendations which will allow the states to create local governments as they deem necessary.
Admitting that the contents of the reports are cardinal to the socio-political development of the country, Prof. Jerry Gana, Pro-Chancellor of University of Lagos, said in an interview that: “to function well, a federation must have a balanced and equitable structure of federating units.
“I believe we should have the courage to correct some fundamental defects in our federal system’’
“Only a federal structure can provide a sustainable basis for living together in peace in such a huge country with deep cultural, political and historic diversities such as Nigeria.
“You will recall that we started with three very unbalanced regions, then four and later transformed to 12 states in 1967.’’
Gana noted that many Nigerians argued that the existing states had become too weak to serve as effective federating units to mediate relations with a powerful centre.
He observed that the arguments had inform decisions of some Nigerians to call for restructuring to find a fair, balanced, equitable but functional federal structure.
“Beyond the number and size of credible federating units, we must also agree on the devolution of powers from the centre to such federating units.
“We must properly resolve the very contentious issue of the fiscal federalism, especially the extremely crucial matter of revenue mobilisation, resource ownership and fair revenue allocation.
“Added to these major issues are the profound and fundamental matters of leadership, good governance, balanced development and mutual agreement on the very nature of the Nigerian state; we need to talk, dialogue and consult’’, he said.
Sharing similar sentiments, Chief Olu Falae, former Minister of Finance, advised the Federal Government to initiate the process of implementing the resolutions of the conference on true federalism to enhance national development.
He said that Nigeria should return to 1959 Constitution where every unit in the country was given the power to control its resources and develop at its own pace.
According to him, every state should be allowed to have its constitution, build its railway and ports, among others, to spur economic development in the country.
“A system whereby all the powers are concentrated at the centre would not bring development; rather it would bring about inefficiency, corruption, insecurity and stunted growth.
“The present system we are operating in the country now can be regarded as a lock-up system,’’ he said.
Falae, who was the leader of the South West delegates in the conference, said that the adoption of true federalism was a general consensus of the delegates in the country.
He said the conference adopted more than 600 resolutions by consensus and the decisions could give Nigeria lease of life, progress and development.
According to him, true federalism will bring about healthy competitions among the federating units and enhance unity and friendship among them.
He said that the only solution to the crisis in the Niger Delta region was to recognise the peculiarities of each unit by granting considerable autonomy to each region.
Falae said that the only solution to insecurity, restiveness, unemployment and agitation for self determination by some ethnic militia in the country was to adopt true federalism.
According to him, this will encourage every unit to have its railway, airports, seaports and roads among others,
“It will engender job opportunity and give necessary fillip to national development because there will be healthy competitions among the federating units.
“Inappropriateness of the political structure is fundamental to the crisis in the Niger Delta and in the south eastern part of the country where the Indigenous People of Biafra is agitating for self-determination.
“These matters cannot be resolved by force but through dialogue and consultations, hence the wisdom of the 2014 National Conference.
“We urge that its major recommendations be examined and implemented,’’ he said.
Similarly, Prof. Tunde Adeniran, a renowned political scientist, said “fiscal federalism is practised in such a way that monetary policies, taxes, revenue mobilisation and utilisation are determined and controlled by the federating units.
“It is not like what we have in Nigeria in which financial allocations or revenues are divided centrally, using some uniform criteria.
“If Nigeria were to follow fiscal federalism, the resource base of each state and local government areas would determine a lot of things.
“It will mean that the local government chairmen, governors and civil servants will not be earning equal salaries and enjoy identical benefits across the board.
“For instance, the vice-chancellors or lecturers in Federal University of Technology, Akure, will not be earning what their counterparts in University of Port Harcourt or Bayero University, Kano, are earning,’’ he observed.
In the light of this, the Afenifere Renewal Group, the Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, therefore, called for the constitution of Nigeria’s six geo-political zones to federating units.
“The country is over-governed with 36 states and 774 local governments and a Federal Capital Territory.
“With the prevailing dire economic situation, the country can no longer afford to maintain the alarming cost of governance.
“The reason for the infrastructure decay in the country is that a huge part of government revenue in all tiers of government is used to service the bureaucracy of government,’’ the group said.
It also solicited the devolution of power and the restructuring of the revenue allocation formula where states would control the resources in their domain and an agreed percentage of it would be contributed to the government at the centre.
It frowned at a situation where Lagos is not earning derivable funds for the thousands of ships that berthed at its coastline yearly.
All in all, some prominent Nigerians, including former Gov. Balarabe Musa of Kaduna State, prominent chieftain of Afenifere, Prof. Banji Akintoye and former Gov. Peter Obi of Anambra, among others, observe that restructured Nigeria will enthrone true federalism to promote peace, stability and development.