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Wednesday, 21 November 2018

‘Restructuring possible without constitution amendment’– Agbakoba SAN

‘Restructuring possible without constitution amendment’– Agbakoba SAN

 Olisa Agbakoba, Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN)

National Intervention Movement Co-chairman Dr Olisa Agbakoba (SAN) yesterday said the country can be restructured administratively pending constitution amendment.

According to him, while restructuring, which he described as power transfer “from exclusive Federal list to concurrent state list”, will involve constitutional alteration, administrative devolution of powers could be deployed in the interim.

He said it will involve administrative transfer of power from the centre to states pending constitutional power devolution.

This, he said, will be a temporary measure before constitutional restructuring.

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“The Federal Government can administratively devolve powers to states by Executive Order,” Agbakoba said.

The former Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) President, who chairs the Peoples Trust Party (PTP), spoke at a briefing in Lagos.

Agbakoba, who also chairs the third force political parties, said restructuring should be top on the list of political agenda.

“The Constitution requires that two-thirds of the 36 states, the Federal Government and the National Assembly participate in restructuring. That may take a bit of time.

“There are things that can be done immediately through administrative restructuring. The Federal Government can make statutory transfers to the states.

“For example, the President can receive money for a Federal road in Anambra and transfer the money to the state government to execute

“There are so many things the Federal Government is doing. You see Minister of Transport Rotimi Amaechi and his power, works and housing counterpart Babatunde Fashola (SAN) everywhere, up and down. But there are commissioners of works.

“The Federal Government can prepare the budgets, because under the Constitution, the Federal Government does roads. But if they budget for a particular road and it is touching two states – Lagos and Oyo for instance, you can call the governors and give them the money.

“That way, you begin to free yourself from the challenges of a big federation. If we do this, we’ll see substantial change,” Agbakoba said.

The SAN called for a national order, which he described as a stable arrangement of systems, as opposed to social chaos as seen in existing structures.

“It is crucial to stabilise our national disunity. This is why restructure is vital. Examples of national order include: the treaty of Westphalia, the treaty of Vienna, the League of Nations, and Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) etc. In Nigeria, there is none. This is a big issue.

“Without resolving issues around a stable national order, Nigeria will continue to be disunited. And we cannot move. This, therefore, is issue No.1 – the Big Issue,” he said.

Tied to political devolution, Agbakoba said, is the notion of strengthening institutions.

To him, the Federal Government is weak because it is made up of weak institutions.

He suggested the adoption of Chapter 9 of the South African Constitution, so that institutions such as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the Police, anti-graft agencies, Judiciary, Accountant General, among others, are assured to work free of interference.

This, he believes, will limit impunity and improve independent action, as according to him, “strong institution is a critical big issue for good governance”.

Agbakoba described the justice sector as dead, adding that legal failure has had massive impact on economic development.

“The legal and justice sector has suffered institutional failure over the last three decades. Comprehensive and radical reform of the legal and justice sectors is overdue. The rule of law is vital to economic development. But lip service is paid to this vital process.

“Investors, whether local and international, will not invest in a lawless country. We must give urgency to this sector and reverse legal failure. A speed of justice strategy will reduce delays.”

On the way out, he called for new methods of dispute resolution, such as Alternative Dispute Resolution, small claims courts, traditional and customary arbitration, as well as a major centre for investment disputes resolution.

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He advocated the establishment of quasi-judicial sector-based administrative tribunals, following the UK example.

“In England there exist many administrative courts to cover telecommunications, taxation, transportation, insurance, education, financial services, trade, investments, etc.

“The impact on Nigeria will be enormous as consideration may be given to devolving judicial power from Federation to state level,” he said.

Agbakoba said the government must pay attention to the three critical policies of economic governance: monetary, fiscal and trade.

On monetary policy, he called for a reduction of lending rates to single digit to encourage business growth. To him, borrowing at 20 per cent is crazy.

On fiscal policy, Agbakoba advocated the expansion of money supply to meet expenditure and other needs –without which government cannot fund its money requirements.

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