From Magnus Eze, Abuja
Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, has advised those campaigning for restructuring of the present federal structure to stop dissipating their energy as no amount of advocacy or agitation would lead to restructuring.
The AGF, who admitted that reforms and modifications of institutional arrangements, systems and processes were normal in federations world over, said they were not done in single swoop as advocated in Nigeria.
Speaking at the Think-Tank Conference on “Federalism and challenges of dynamic equilibrium in Nigeria: Towards a National Strategy,” organised by the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPPS), in Abuja, yesterday, Malami posited that mega changes are not healthy for federations.
“Change is a gradual exercise which 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 of diverse identity claims, by providing them with representation, voice and political mechanisms by which their competing claims are balanced and reconciled, ” the AGF stated.
He said there was no true or false federalism anywhere in the world and added that each federation reflected the particular conditions and circumstances that produced it.
Malami pointed out that federalism was embedded in Nigeria’s Constitution as contained in sections 2, 3 and 5 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), and insisted that Nigerians must use democratic means to find solution to the numerous challenges bedevilling the country’s federal system.
The AGF said as far as constitutional democracy was concerned “the idea of restructuring is not a function of advocacy or agitation. It is about constitutional accommodation and/or alternative constitutional amendment.”
He said at present, restructuring required 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.
He, however, expressed the fear that the inevitable implication that abolishing states through restructuring process will certainly translate to abolishing the State House of Assembly and, perhaps, downsizing the National Assembly, would hamper the process.
Earlier in his welcome address, Acting Director General of NIPPS, Mr. Jonathan Juma, said the conference was aimed at providing platform for problem-solving discourse on the myriad of challenges facing Nigeria’s federal system and eventually develop a national strategy for effective response to them.