..proposes The United States of Nigeria or The Commonwealth of Nigeria’, as new system of govt
..calls for e-governance via ‘Citizens’ Accountability Forums’
The kind of federalism system of government being practised in Nigeria has been described as the one that is fiscal dependency, unhealthy for the States and the Federal Government.
It was defined as the one that doesn’t grow its constituent entities but made them perpetually dependent and was therefore classified as a ‘Fatherism’ system of government, rather than Federalism.
This was the submission of the President of the African Development Bank, AFDP, Dr. Adewunmi Adesina today while delivering the second term inauguration lecture of Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu SAN in Akure, the Ondo State capital.
In his lecture, “Towards a New Nigeria: From Federal Fatherism to a Commonwealth”, the Former Minister of Agriculture noted that democracy was more than the right to vote, and emphasised the need for ‘Citizens Accountability Forums’, through which they could hold the Government accountable.
He said: “Transparency is the core of accountability. Citizens have the right to know. Today, therefore, there is a greater need for e-governance systems to enhance transparency and accountability to the people. That is people-oriented governance.
“For stable governments, the people must be allowed space to express themselves. If nation’s and states are about people, then the people’s hopes, aspirations and demands must be heard”.
The AFDP President who noted that Nigerian Government had no justification to increase tax rates, said, “participatory tax-based financing systems demand participatory Governance”.
Adesina called for economic and fiscal autonomy for Nigerian States rather than political autonomy, noting that the United States of America where Nigeria inherited Federalism, didn’t control resources at the state level, but that the States generated the bulk of income from taxes.
“we tend to copy systems that are not well suited to our context. The United States that we copied from, does not control resources at the state level. Instead, the States generate the bulk of their income from taxes.
“This is not the case in Nigeria. You can only tax people that have livable incomes. That is not the reality. Nigeria has an estimated 87million people living in extreme poverty. You cannot tax people who can barely afford to eat.
“This debilitating poverty makes the country highly vulnerable to social and political risks. And it provides fodder for anti-social behaviour and recruitment by insurgents and terrorists. Poverty provides supermarkets for terrorists”, He said.
The Guest Lecturer, therefore, proposed a change of system of government from Federal Government of Nigeria to either, ‘The United States of Nigeria’, or ‘The Commonwealth of Nigeria’, saying, “the old will pass away for the new”.
Speaking on financial autonomy for States, the AFDP President advised that resources found in each state should be under the control of the state government, while they pay federal taxes or royalties for the resources.
He stressed the need for constitutional changes to devolve more economic and fiscal powers to the states or regions. He said:, “if States focus on unlocking the huge resources they have, based on areas of comparative advantage, they will rapidly expand wealth for their people.
“We would change the relational mindset between the States and Abuja: the fulcrum would be the States, while the centre would support them, not lord over them. With good governance and better accountability systems, and a zero tolerance for corruption, more economically stronger constituent states would emerge, we would unleash massive wealth across the states.
“It would be a Commonwealth. Wealth for all, not wealth for a few. From the flickers of fading longings of forgotten rural villages, to our boisterous and dynamic urban areas; from the sparks of desire in the eyes of our children, to the heartbeat of hope of our youth”.
He noted that to extricate the country from the astonishing rise in crime, banditry, and kidnappings, the problems of extreme rural poverty, hopelessness, and the unemployment and under-employment of its largely youthful population must be tackled.