Wednesday, 4 November 2020

TRUE FEDERALISM: OLISA AGBAKOBA WRITES THE NIGERIAN SENATE, INSISTS THAT STATES HAVE NO POWERS UNDER THE CURRENT ARRANGEMENT, MAKES A CASE FOR PROPER DEVOLUTION OF POWERS UNDER A PRINCIPLE OF "SUBSIDIARITY"


Olisa Agbakoba, Ph.D, SAN

Ex President, 

Nigerian Bar Association

The letter reads in full, as follows:


4 November 2020

 

Senator Ahmed Lawan

Senate President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria

National Assembly Complex

Three Arms Zone

Federal Capital Territory, Abuja


Distinguished President of the Senate,


A SIMPLE WAY TO RESTRUCTURE NIGERIA BY DEVOLVING POWERS


It is my honour and pleasure to present to you, for consideration at the 

National Assembly, a simple proposal in what is considered a complex issue. 

Nigeria has been long engaged in the federalism question. It is clear that 

because of our diverse nature and large size, the political system best suited 

for Nigeria is a federal system. But the challenge has been what type of 

federalism. Many proposals, including restructuring, have been put forward 

without success. I believe there is a simple solution. This is devolution of 

powers. The Constitution has two legislative lists namely, Exclusive and 

Concurrent. These lists have 98 items of powers. The Federal Government 

exercises exclusive power over 68 items on the exclusive list. The states in 

concurrence with the Federal Government, exercise power over 30 items on 

the concurrent list. But the States may exercise power on the concurrent 

list, only if the Federal Government has not already “covered the field” on 

any of the 30 items. In effect, State Governments really have no power. I 

suggest that to resolve this, a committee may review the 98 items of power 

and assign what is best to Federal and what is best to the states, based on 

the principle of subsidiarity. I also suggest the Exclusive list and Concurrent list 

be renamed as the Federal Legislative List and State Legislative list. The 

Federal Government will exercise reserved powers. The States will exercise 

devolved power. 


As President of the Nigerian Bar Association, I worked with the Forum of 

Federations. The Forum reviewed diverse models of Federalism which can be 

of assistance to the National Assembly. In their book: Federalism: An 

Introduction, by George Anderson, the Author points out that many Federal 

models have strong central governments; yet other models have a weak 

central government. Some models have interlocking features where the 

principle of cooperative federalism enables the federal and state 

governments to jointly share heads of legislative powers. I enclose a copy of 

the book as I believe it will be of value to the National Assembly. In truth, the 

Concept of True Federalism is a myth and does not exist. Every nation 

chooses its form of Federalism

 

I have enclosed a draft schedule of how powers can be devolved from the 

Federal Government to State Governments. 

In my opinion, the simple process of devolved powers can be by virtue of an 

enactment styled, Constitution Alteration (Devolution of Powers) Bill. This will 

resolve the self-imposed complex issue of Restructure.

I am happy to meet with your Excellency, if needed. 

Yours Faithfully

Dr. Olisa Agbakoba, SAN 

 

ENCLOSED: 

 

1. SCHEDULE ON DEVOLVED POWERS FROM THE FEDERAL TO STATE 

GOVERNMENTS. 

2. CONSTITUTION ALTERATION (DEVOLUTION OF POWERS) BILL

3. BOOK ON FEDERALISM TITLED: FEDERALISM: AN INTRODUCTION BY 

GEORGE ANDERSON: A COLLABORATION BETWEEN FORUM OF 

FEDERATION AND THE NIGERIAN BAR ASSPCIATION

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