The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, has said restructuring of Nigeria’s federalism was not feasible now because it would require the amendment of the 1999 Constitution to accommodate a referendum.
The minister stated this at conference in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, on Tuesday.
The conference with the theme, “Federalism and the Challenges of Dynamic Equilibrium in Nigeria: Towards a National Strategy,” was organised by the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS).
Some prominent Nigerians and groups, including former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and Governor Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State have canvassed the restructuring of the polity to enhance its development.
According to a statement by his media aide, Salihu Isah, Mr. Malami, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, said at present there are demands for restructuring, for deconstructing the excessive concentration of power 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.
He, however, noted that restructuring was not a matter of advocacy or agitation but that of constitution accommodation or amendment.
“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.”
Mr. Malami said Nigeria should use democratic means to reform its federal system.
He said there was a need to recognise that both federalism and democracy were 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,” he stated.
“We cannot wish away the particular conditions and circumstances that had produced the challenges in our federal system. We must use democratic means to find solutions to these numerous challenges.”
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