Making Nigeria’s zonal structure functional

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By Dr. Dons Eze

The establishment of Amotekun, a joint South West Nigeria security outfit, which is now being buffeted on all sides, has shown the hollowness of the system which we currently operate, and which calls for urgent review of the system, taking the bull by the horns and rising to the challenge, to make the Nigerian zonal structure active and functional.

They will tell you that Nigeria has been divided into six geopolitical zones, but when you want to operationalize it, when you want to put it into practice, you will find out that it is merely on paper, that it is not workable, as exemplified by the Amotekun issue.

The main point they have against Amotekun was that the security outfit was not backed by law, since in the eyes of the 1999 Nigerian constitution, as amended, there is nothing like South West Zone, or any zone in the country for that matter, which could embark on any joint venture project, like the sensitive issue of security, without legal backing.

When you refer them to the Hisbah in Kano State, or to Civilian JTF in Borno State, for example, they will tell you that these were established by laws passed by their respective State Houses of Assembly and assented to by their Governors, but as for Amotekun, there is nothing like the South West Nigeria House of Assembly which could have passed a law establishing it, and there is also no South West Governor General, who could have assented to any such law. That’s the main problem.

The South West Governors have now gone back to the drawing board, or are lobbying the federal authorities to allow them to continue with their Amotekun, while the South East Governors, learning from the mistakes of their South West counterparts, were said to be fine tuning a system that would enable them to establish their own security outfit. In the same vein, Governors of the middle belt zone, were equally said to be tinkering on how to set up their own security outfit, and so on and so forth.

In all, each of the zones presently, would be relying or hoping on the generosity or goodwill of the federal authorities to allow them to make their own internal arrangements to secure their lives and property. This is because it is increasingly becoming very difficult for the federal government to shoulder the security problems of the country.

In other words, since none of the state governments had the capability to float a viable security system that would see to the protection of lives and property of people under their domain, they would also not be allowed to come together as a zone to establish a security outfit that could protect them, unless the federal government grants them the permission. That is the dilemma of the situation in which we are.

When Dr. Alex Ekwueme, a former Vice President of Nigeria, during the 1994/95 Abacha Constitutional Conference, proposed the restructuring of Nigeria into six geopolitical zones, his argument was that each of the existing 36 states structure, plus the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, was not viable enough to make any meaningful impact in the polity, if Nigeria was still to be regarded as a federation.

Though, Ekwueme’s proposal was accepted in principle, but it was not included in the Nigerian Constitution, and therefore, not functional. It is simply a mere nomenclature.

Recent happenings have however demonstrated the fact that it has become extremely difficult, if not impossible, for one man to stay in Abuja and be controlling the destiny of over 200 million people living in a country as large and as heterogenous as Nigeria. Therefore, even though our Constitution recognizes the existing 36 states as the country’s federating units, there is therefore, the need for the aggregation of these states, which have proved to be unviable, into zones, and give them legal backing, the legal authority, for them to operate, in order to become functional.

Under the arrangement, we would propose for six Vice Presidents, corresponding to each of the six geopolitical zones, who would be coordinating the activities of their respective zones. While the State Governors would be reporting to the Zonal Vice President, the Zonal Vice President would in turn be reporting to the President. Together with President-in-Council, that is to say, the President, meeting with all the Vice Presidents, and members of the Federal Executive Council or Ministers, they would be superintending over the affairs of the entire country.

There should be only one legislative Assembly at the federal level, as the present bicameral system has proved to be mere duplication of functions, and wasteful resources of taxpayers’ money.

At the zonal level, an equal number of legislators, drawn from the respective State Houses of Assemblies in the zone, would be elected to constitute the Zonal Legislative House of Assembly, which will make laws for the good governance of the zone.

At the same time, every zone will have its own Constitution that will regulate the activities of the zone, but the Zonal Constitutions will not be in conflict with the Federal Constitution.

Recent happenings have however demonstrated the fact that it has become extremely difficult, if not impossible, for one man to stay in Abuja and be controlling the destiny of over 200 million people living in a country as large and as heterogenous as Nigeria.

State Governors, while reporting to the Zonal Vice President on the activities of their various states, will also be meeting from time to time to with the Vice President-in-Council, i.e. the Zonal Vice President and the State Governors, to deal with issues affecting them.

The existing 36 states should be retained, but the local government administration should be the internal affairs of their respective state governments. Even now, the local government councils are still not independent, but under the whims and caprices of the state governments.

Restructuring Nigeria into zones will make for healthy competition among the zones, as each zone will be trying to maximize its potentials to enable it stand on its own, so as to no longer crawl on the feet of the almighty federal government, begging for alms.

Nigeria has proved to be too difficult to be administered under a unitary system, which we ironically call the “Federal Republic of Nigeria”. This may not hold on for long. It is a time bomb, which may explode at any time.

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