From Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
The Chairman, House of Representatives, Committee on House Services, Honourable Wale Raji, has said that devolution of power from the center to states will make the country, a truly federal state.
Raji, who represents Epe Federal Constituency of Lagos State, on the platform of the All Progressives Congress(APC), told Daily Sun that there is so much concentration of power at the centre, presently.
He explained that with devolution of power, the states will be more economically buoyant and empowered to take more responsibilities.
In recent times, there have agitations for a restructuring of the tension has been mounting in the country. On its part, the Presidency says it is for the National Assembly to decide whether or not to restructure the polity. What is your take?
There is no doubt about the fact that our federalism as practiced in Nigeria is still a work in progress. We are not there yet. Restructuring means different things to different people.
But my own understanding of restructuring is the redistribution of power; devolution of power such that the states and local government will have more responsibilities; because they are closer to the people than the federal government.
There is no doubt that there is too much concentration of power at the centre and we need to devolve power to the states. Issue of state police and other issues should go to the state.
A situation where you call the governor of a state, the chief security officer, and yet the structure is such that he cannot effectively carry out that responsibilities of the Chief Security Officer. That has to be addressed.
Issue of resource control need to be worked on. And so many other issues.
There is no doubt that the 9th Assembly is committed to working on the constitution in such a way to devolve power to the states , so that fiscal federalism for instance, will be possible.
A situation where every state will be coming to Abuja monthly to take a share of the federally collected revenue is not ideal. By restructuring the fiscal structure, the states will have control over resources in their jurisdiction, which will make them financially buoyant. There is no doubt that restructuring is the way to go towards achieving true federalism. I am for restructuring, such that it will make our federal structure truly federal.
Recently, your colleague, Honourable Toby Okechukwu came up with a motion asking that the House Committee on Constitution Review be mandated to obtain the reports of the 2014 National Conference and the APC Committee on True Federalism, chaired by Governor Nasir El-rufai. But leadership stepped it down for breach of procedure. What do you think of that motion?
It made sense. We spent huge resources in putting together the 2014 national conference. And they came up with a very good report. I think looking at all these reports, there are very good recommendations contained in them, that can help us in the whole process of constitutional amendment. The el-Rufai committee also did a great job.
After all, the process of constitutional review involves amending the constitution through bills and act of parliament.
One of the stages in the process of enacting a law is public hearing. The whole essence of public hearing is to get input from stakeholders. Which group of stakeholders could be more than the national conference?
I believe that it is a good suggestion. A useful suggestion. And that does not stop others that may have good suggestion, documented suggestions from submitting their positions party to the committee.
There are have been several agitations, including from your state- Lagos, for the creation of more states; considering the fact that most of the existing states depend on federal allocation, do you think, we should be talking about creation of more states, at this point?
It is a fundamental human right of every Nigerian or group to request either for more local government councils or states. But economic viability will be a major issue to look at. Whether it makes sense or not is a matter of personal opinion.
But it does not stop anybody that may be interested or any group of people that may be interested from agitating for the creation of more states.
For me, I would say, rather than have mushroom or unviable states, we should consolidate on what we have; make them viable, so that we do not have states that will find it difficult to pay workers. That intends to increase the cost of governance. That is my opinion. But it does not stop any group of people that may be interested in creation of more states from agitating for such. But , I think we should be talking about consolidation rather than creating more states.