Opinion: A case for implementation of the 2014 National Conference Report

by Ugochukwu Amasike

The foundation of Nigeria’s problems is its obsolete political-economic system that sustains rent-seeking, and nurtures corruption. The beneficiaries of this system have chosen to turn a blind eye to the folly of maintaining a tragically flawed system, choosing as it were to postpone the evil day; but the chickens are already coming home to roost, as exemplified by our current economic fortunes.
This UNITARY system which was bequeathed to us by our erstwhile military dictators was crafted specifically for the purpose of weakening the then regional governments and the maintenance of a vertical command and control structure in the aftermath of the Nigerian civil war. This system of governance was never intended to deliver the dividends of democracy to us, simply because it was NOT designed for that purpose.
There are those who have in defence of our ex dictators suggested that the motivation for the creation of this system was to ensure the unity of Nigeria and extinguish separatist fires. A noble objective at the time, yes, but today’s Nigeria faces an entirely different set of challenges and they require an entirely different set of solutions.
Today, Nigeria is burdened with a mono-product economy, that has given birth to a biting economic recession. It is also burdened with the practice of a political system that is destroying social cohesion and eroding our fragile national unity.
To remedy the situation we today find ourselves in, must begin by accepting the failure of the 1999 constitution. The 1999 Constitution ensures that states remain appendages of the Federal Government, in direct contradiction with the most basic tenets of Political and Fiscal Federalism, which envisages that states/regions are to be free, economically self-sustaining, whilst contributing to the maintenance of the government at the centre.
The reverse is however the case in Nigeria, where today, state governments can not function or exist without the monthly stipends from the purse of the Government at the centre and o‎ne of the primary causes of this aberration is captured by Section 162 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) which provides thus:
(1) The Federation shall maintain a “special account” to be called “the Federation Account” 
(2) The President…shall table before the National Assembly “proposals” for revenue allocation from the “Federation Account”, and in determining ‘the formula’, the National Assembly shall take into account, “the Allocation Principles“…
(3) Any amount standing to the credit of the “Federation Account” SHALL BE DISTRIBUTED…”on such terms and in such manner” as may be prescribed by the National Assembly
The foregoing sections of the Constitution effectively rendered Nigeria’s erstwhile productive regions (now states) into dependants and ultimately stifled the economic development of Nigeria.
It may be said also that the 1999 Constitution is also the cause of the poor leadership that Nigeria has been burdened with particularly at the State level, with politicians simply aspiring to get elected into office in the knowledge that no mental input or industry is required of them vis a vis the economic development of their states, because frankly speaking there is no incentive to think or to work, when there is free “oil-money” to be “distributed”, by Law.
The politicians would rather focus their energies on “legacy projects” and grand schemes to attract a larger cut of the corruptly termed “national cake”. Hence, Nigeria may never achieve its famed great potential, IF it persists in practising an obsolete ‎political-economic system that stifles economic growth and political maturity.
The current system we practice, patronise and rewards the indolent and has given rise to a society that places premium on doctored population figures, ethnicity, and other general “Allocation Principles” rather than on enterprise and merit.
To correct this aberration, the Government of Nigeria is humbly advised to see to the amendment of the 1999 Constitution along the lines of the recommendations of the 2014 National Conference Report. ‎
Whilst appreciative of the fact that not all the recommendations contained in the Report may be perfect, its progressive and nationalistic thrust, leaves no one in doubt, and in its pages, we find an excellent template for the reconstruction of our national political-economic architecture for the attainment of growth and development, under terms that are JUST and agreeable to ALL Nigerians.
In conclusion, I borrow the closing remarks of President Buhari which he spoke during his inaugural speech, “…Our situation somehow reminds one of a passage in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, ‘There is a tide in the affairs of men which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and miseries.’ …We have an opportunity. Let us take it.” 
Op–ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija
Ugochukwu Amasike is a Lawyer based in Lagos

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