Malami: Restructuring Nigeria is a tall order

Abubakar Malami, the minister of justice and attorney-general of the federation, has said the restructuring of Nigeria will require an amendment to the constitution for it to come to fruition.

He said restructuring cannot be achieved in one fell swoop as being clamoured for by several eminent Nigerians, noting that “change is a gradual process”.

Malami gave his position on the debate of restructuring on Tuesday during an address at a conference organised by the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS).

The AGF noted that provocative rhetorics and emotional outburst cannot bring about restructuring, adding that many obstacles will have to be surmounted for it to happen.

He said: “In Nigeria today, there are demands for restructuring, for deconstructing the excessive concentration of powers at the Centre, for a dispersion of power to the lower levels of government along with special provisions for the empowerment of women and other socially disadvantaged groups for the country to move away from the cooperative federalism of several decades to a more competitive form of economic federalism, for a fiscal federalism that presents the challenges of addressing regional inequalities and of balancing the concerns of equity and efficiency in intergovernmental fiscal relations, among many others.

“Federalism is imbedded in our constitution as contained in sections 2,3 and 5. It is not out of place to state that as far as our constitutional democracy is concerned, the idea of restructuring is not a function of advocacy or agitation. It is about constitutional accommodation and or alternative constitutional amendment.

“As things stand, restructuring requires amending the constitution to accommodate referendum or, in the alternative, a constitutional amendment to the 1999 constitution, which in this case must be supported by majority of legislators in 24 states of the federation as enshrined in Section 9 of the constitution.

“Whether that process is going to be an easy sale is a conjecture that should be left for deliberation. But one thing that is certain is the inevitable implication that abolishing states through restructuring process will certainly translate to the eventual multiplier effect of abolishing the state house of assembly and perhaps downsizing the National Assembly and probably the civil service and other related federal institution.

“This indeed is a tall order that cannot be achieved through advocacy, emotional outburst or provocative rhetorics and demonstrations. The beauty of democracy is in the process and legislative process is in our case the only answer.

“It is true that Nigeria’s federal system has been experiencing challenges and there have been agitations and prescriptions to reform and modify it. Reforms and modifications, institutional arrangement, systems and processes are normal in festoons, but are not done in single swoop as being advocated in Nigeria. Mega changes are not healthy for federations.

“Change is a gradual process that must be democratic and subjected to legislative and administrative processes as provided by law. We must use democratic means to reform our federal system. We need to recognise that both federalism and democracy are mechanisms for managing diversity.

“Indeed, while federalism provides the Institutional framework for managing diversity, democracy makes possible the negotiation for diverse identity claims by providing them with representation, voice and political mechanisms by which the competing claims are balanced and reconciled.

“There is no true or false federalism. Indeed, there is no single, pure ideal federal model that is universally applicable everywhere. Each federation reflects the particular conditions and circumstances that produce it.

“We cannot wish away the particular conditions and circumstances that have produced the challenges in our federal system. We must use democratic means to find solutions to these numerous challenges. It is democracy that articulates citizens’ preferences and places limits on arbitrariness.

“As political realities and experiences across the world have shown, all federations, whether established by a coming together or holding together process, experience deep rooted conflicts and ours cannot be an isolated case.”