Constitution review: Gov. El-Rufai suggests devolution of powers to reduce burden on FG

Constitution review: Gov. El-Rufai suggests devolution of powers to reduce burden on FG

Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State has stressed that devolution of powers is necessary to reduce the overburdens the federal government faces with many responsibilities it cannot efficiently handle.

The governor explained that the APC Committee on True Federalism which he headed, had identified legislative interventions that the National Assembly can more easily undertake to achieve a truly balanced, equitable and fair federal structure.

Speaking at the public hearing of the Senate Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution on Wednesday, Governor El-Rufai said, “We also drafted bills to alter the constitution and amend or repeal existing legislations to achieve the overall objective of true federalism.”

Governor El-Rufai proposed 10 items that should be shared responsibilities between the state and federal governments.

He explained that the reality of the security situation today requires that Nigeria must strengthen its military and security agencies, adding that this includes decentralizing the police to enable the states to exercise effective control in securing their residents and communities.

He suggested the need to have federal, state and community police, with each granted sufficient powers to make them effective in securing the areas assigned to them and cooperating closely with each other.

According to him, those expressing concerns about the ability of the states to bear the cost of policing should realize that apart from the payment of salaries by the federal government, saying that most of the operational and capital costs of the Nigeria Police are borne by state and local governments.

The governor argued that fear of abuse of State Police by sub-national governments is misplaced because a constitutional or statutory framework can be enacted to ensure federal intervention in cases of such abuses.

He noted that the constitution should be altered to remove the Police Service Commission because it is an unnecessary hinderance to effective policing in Nigeria.

Governor El-Rufai advised, “The power to hire and fire police officers should revert fully and totally to the Inspector General of Police, under the supervision of the National Police Council, as envisaged by the Constitution.”

The governor recommended that all mineral resources, including oil and gas and solid minerals, in the states should pay royalties and taxes to the Federation Account.

He noted that states already control land within their territories, courtesy of the Land Use Act, which is incorporated into the Constitution by reference.

According to the governor, one of the reasons why mining has not quite taken off in the country is because of the dichotomy and total disconnect between the federal institution that issues licenses for mining and the state agencies that ultimately control not only the land and title thereto, but any approval to undertake any development on the land.

The governor also argued that states should be empowered to establish, staff and run their own judiciary up to appellate level.

He noted that it is an anomaly to have a National Judicial Council appointing high court judges for states, suggesting that this should be the responsibility of State Judicial Councils.

He said that the remit of the National Judicial Council should be limited to the federal high and appellate courts, saying that the constitutional amendment should clarify that the states can establish courts to exercise jurisdiction at first instance, or on appeal on matters for which the states can make laws.

He suggested that judges of State High Courts, Sharia Courts of Appeal and Customary Courts of Appeal should be nominated by the State Judicial Council, subject to confirmation by the House of Assembly.

Gov. el-Rufai further said that states should also be enabled to establish State Courts of Appeal, similar to what it used to have at the regional level under the 1963 Republican Constitution.

He stressed that the State Court of Appeal would entertain appeals from State High Courts, Customary and Sharia Courts of Appeal, on matters on which the State House of Assembly is empowered by the Constitution to make laws.

He noted that this arrangement would make the judicial processes faster, encourage competition, deepen their jurisprudence and restore citizens’ trust, adding that it would reduce the burden on the Federal Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Nigeria.

The governor argued that each state should decide the model of democratic local government that best suits it because Nigeria is a federation of the 36 states and the Federal Government.

He observed that listing the 774 Local Governments in the Constitution and trying to establish for them direct relations with the Federal Government violates the spirit of federalism.

He suggested that each state should decide how many local governments it can efficiently run and fund for better governance and delivery of public goods.

He stated, “Each state should decide what typology of local governance fits its historical, cultural and administrative circumstances, but the resulting framework must be democratic, with periodic elections at no longer than four year intervals.”

He stressed that no state government should be allowed under any guise to take control of local government funds, and the Constitution should entrench safeguards and sanctions, including withholding state funds due from the Federation Account in the event of any reported diversions, impoundment or misappropriation.

The governor recalled that the APC Committee on True Federalism’s recommendations are clear, not controversial and simply conform with common sense.

He said that Kaduna State is the first government to pay the national minimum wage approved in 2019, with consequential adjustments of up to 66% for most state civil servants.

According to him, the proposed constitution amendment would enable the Federal Government to legislate a minimum wage for federal employees and those that reside and work in the FCT only.

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