Problems of Nigerian federalism and solutions: Federalism is a mixed system of government that combines the federal government with regional governments also termed component states to form a single political system. It is a system of government in which powers are shared between the federation and it’s units or regions or components. These two levels of government are autonomous in that, they have the freedom to utilize their powers independent of the other.
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Countries where Federalism is practiced
Some countries with federal- like characteristics, include Argentina, Brazil,Nigeria,Canada, Germany,South Africa , United States of America, Belgium, India, Malaysia, Pakistan, Spain,Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela these countries are mostly termed quasi-federations.
Features of Nigerian Federalism
1.It’s nomencleture: It is often described as a three (3) tier government.
However, this is peculiar to some countries like Nigeria, Argentina, Brazil, Switzerland and South Africa which has the federal government, state government and local government .
The jurisdiction of the respective tiers of government are specified in the constitution.
2. Separation of power: The principle and separation of power triumphs.
There’s no concentration of power either at the Federal or State level.
3. Equality and protection of group interest: It ensures equal representation of all groups (even minority)as well as recognizing and protecting their interest..Majority will have it’s way but minority has a say.
4. Kind of legisture: Bicameral legislature is adopted in a federal system.
The legislature in Nigeria for instance is divided into two; House of Representatives and Senate.
5. Federal constitution: A federal system is characterized by the use of a federal constitution, which is mostly codified in a single document and thus rigid in nature as the process of amendment is not so easy.
6.The grundnorm: The constitution is the grundnorm from whence other laws obtain their validity and any law that is inconsistent with or derograte from the tenets of the constitution is a nullity.
The fundamental provisions enshrined there in cannot be unilaterally changed by one level of government.
7.The judiciary is independent: This is the essence of federalism. The courts have the power to interpret the provisions of the constitution and define the powers of different levels of government without fear or favour. The apex court which in Nigeria as a case study is the Supreme court acts as an umpire in an event where in dispute arises between diverse levels of government in the exercise of their respective power and performance of individual functions.
8. Grass root participation: This is encouraged in a proper Federation.
9. Autonomous states: A true federal state ought to grants autonomy to the constituent units both in theory and practice.
Financial autonomy is of essence else independence of the various tiers will only be a fairytale.
To ensure this autonomy, specified sources of revenue is often allocated to various levels.
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Problems of Nigerian Federalism
1. Allocation of revenue: The revenue generated from various states are not distributed properly in accordance with the mode by which they were obtained.
A region that generates more revenue ought to receive more however, regard must be had to the actual need of every region or State.
In contemporary times, competition for control over politics and resources particularly over the revenue and related benefits which can be derived from the production of the oil and gas industry, engineers conflict in Nigeria Delta.
Attempts by the Government to resolve conflict tends to provoke tension because an overly militarised approach to policing is employed.
2. Power sharing: The three arms of government all have distinct functions as stipulated in sections 4,5 and 6 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria the legislature, executive and the judiciary have the power to make law, implement the law and interprete the law respectively and are supposed to exercise the same independently without interference from the other arms but this is being compromised in Nigeria.
3. Rivalry between diverse ethnic groups: This is as a result of multi- ethnicity in the country and their conflicting interests coupled with the fact that the government has failed to meet the needs of various groups.
In Nigeria,different geopolitical regions agitate for power which leads to disagreements and ethnic conflicts among the parties involved. The primary reason for ethnic rivalry in Nigeria is a lack of cohesion and the unwillingness of the parties concerned to accept defeat aimed at promoting peace, unity and progress in Nigeria.
4. The rights/interest of minority is not protected: This is the true position of things as political power is proportionately vested in the North over and above other regions.
Accordingly, those in power also control resources and use the same for the growth and development of the region of interest at the expense of minority who apparently have no say.
In Nigeria for instance, Niger Delta a region rich in crude oil and from which the Nation obtained most of it’s wealth suffered greatly even with regard to the basic necessities of life such as food, portable drinking water due to pollution of water bodies and their farm lands by the same crude oil that benefits the entire nation without getting any meaningful form of assistance whatsoever from the government this caused great unrest during that period and shortage in oil production until President Yar’Adua granted the Militants amnesty on the 6th of August, 2009 which did not even reslove the issue.
Analysts acknowledging that the amnesty offer is a positive move, said the government has not yet shown a willingness to tackle the underlying problems in the region.
The situation in Nigeria appears to be, “the majority has both the say and the way and minorities are but spectators”.
Solutions to the problems of federalism in Nigeria
First, Nigerian federalism ought to be restructured,the peculiarities and the needs of Nigerians ought to be taken into consideration to ascertain what kind of federalism can work effectively or efficiently in Nigeria.
Again, the tenets and spirit of the constitution ought to be upheld. There would certainly be a change if government officials adhere strictly to their constitutionally defined duties and do not unduly encroach on or usurp the power of another arm of government.
Moreso, the government ought to be one put in place by popular votes and any person not properly elected should not preside over the country’s affairs. Any government in power that is not re-elected should step down like Good luck Ebele Jonathan did.
Conclusion: It is quite easy for one to conclude in a haste that,Nigeria does not practice true federalism and cannot effectively do so as our economy is being choked by bureaucracy and corruption is the new normal.
But what exactly is true federalism? Who defines federalism? What is the yardstick? The failure of federalism in Nigeria can be traced to the practice of copy and paste without considering the peculiarities of the Nation to ascertain what really works for us.
Hence, the question should not be whether or not Nigeria practices true federalism or seeking a platform for practicing the supposed true federalism rather it should be how to restructure Nigerian Federalism.