‘’Governors would rather troop out to Abuja on a monthly basis to get their share in the monthly distribution of the Federation Account which, because it is “awuff”, can easily be misappropriated to personal and other uses. The challenge of seriously seeking and exploiting innovative and more robust and enduring ways of generating resources for the good governance of their States was hardly contemplated by many State Governments.’’ – Prof. Akin Mabogunje
In Part 1 of this publication yesterday, we brought you the scholarly views of Prof Akin Mabogunje on the political situation in NIGERIA. He opened with the assertion that: ‘’ I have therefore divided the lecture into four parts. The first examines the nature and legacy of the military era in the governance of this country. I have referred to this legacy as the rise and fall of the “awuff” society. The second part then assesses the twist this legacy has made in leaving the nation with a most expensive and dysfunctional governance system at the federal, state and local level in the country. The third section attempts to show how the nation can get itself out of this morass by looking intelligently at its own rich historical and cultural experience in governance whilst the fourth presents some lessons of international experience especially of countries similarly caught in a situation of sudden access to “windfall revenue” from petroleum resources such as ours but which made more prudent and sustainable choices than we did about what to do with the windfall. A concluding section considers the way forward in the context of the recent National Conference and other attempts to amend our present flawed Constitution.’’
We closed Part 1 of the brilliant discourse with this declaration: ‘’Similarly, the question of the tenure of office of a government under a Prime Minister is based on the ability to muster a majority in the legislature and can be determined by a negative vote of confidence in the National Assembly. The Legislature thus elects its own Prime Minister and Ministers but these are formally approved by the President who also has the responsibility of formally dissolving the Legislature whenever its term expires. The Semi-Presidential system which is similar to what obtains in France and some 40 other countries has certain advantages that makes it more suitable for the Nigeria political situation than the American-type Presidential system. By preserving the system of a President elected nation-wide, the semi-presidential systems meet the challenge of the Nigerian situation. By removing the position of Vice President, it has done away with one of the causes of unnecessary tensions and conflicts in the administration of the country. By emphasizing the choice of Prime Minister and Ministers from among the elected representatives of the party in power, it enhances the process of political and policy education among politicians and removes the “awuff” temptation in the process of passing the annual appropriation bill as a surreptitious factor of corruption in governance.’’ Now we take you to Part 2 of the publication from which it is sure that readers will surely learn some lessons.
ISSUES & CHALLENGES OF GOVERNANCE IN NIGERIA: By: Prof. Akin Mabogunje, CON – PART 2
More than this, the capacity of political parties to choose from among their member-legislators both serving and shadow Ministers fosters greater party discipline and ensures greater loyalty, attention and commitment of party members to the implementation of the party manifesto and programmes. It also facilitates wide-ranging consultations among legislative members of the party in power and ensures their alignment behind critical policies of their government such as the withdrawal of petroleum subsidy. The semi-presidential system also enables up-and-coming legislators to fill in positions such as advisers and special assistants and even if some of these are needed from outside the legislature, the number can be pegged down significantly. It certainly obviates the corruption that is fostered in the interface of transactions between unelected Ministers and elected legislators and, more importantly, it drastically reduces the cost of governance in the country. For Nigeria, a system that makes recurrent expenditure more than 70 per cent of the annual budget can hardly be said to be in the best interest of the need for the rapid economic development of the country.
More than that, a system that has no in-built structure for the political education and reward for increasing competence among politicians cannot be good for a country in the early stages of democratic consolidation. Furthermore, a system that does not enhance the capacity of a government to have an executive and a legislative majority aligned in promoting the election-winning manifesto and programmes of its parties cannot foster the growth of a disciplined multi-party democracy in the country. Issues and Challenges of Governance: (b) at the State Level. The Petroleum Act of 1969 began the process of changing the relationship between the regions and the Federal Government. Up to that time, although mining and minerals were on the exclusive Federal Legislative list, the Federal Government did not claim any exclusive rights to those resources. Indeed, as already indicated, it allowed the regions where such resources were found to keep 50 per cent of the royalties and rent whilst 30 per cent went to the distributable pool to be shared among the regions whilst only 20 per cent accrued to the Federal Government.
The 1979 Constitution concretized this new relationship with the creation of a “Federation Account” into which shall be paid all revenues collected by the Government of the Federation. It went on to state that “any amount standing to the credit of the Federation Account shall be distributed among the Federal and State Governments, and the local government councils in each State , on such terms and in such manner as may be prescribed by the National Assembly. Please note the difference between the “Distributable Pool Account” to which the Regions all contributed 30 per cent of their claims from royalties and rent so as to assist in evening out development across the country and this new “Federation Account” which swallows all revenues from the States and leaves them able only to have their share as determined by a body known as the Revenue Mobilization and Allocation Fiscal Commission set up by the National Assembly.
EROSION OF FISCAL INDEPENDENCE:This constitutional amendment, in a sense, not only undermined the fiscal independence of States and made their sustainable development a function of how prudent they manage their allocation from the Federation Account. It also discouraged States from striving for novel and innovative ways of raising new revenue. More than this, it made it possible for the Federal Government to begin to give away States and Local Governments on an “awuff” basis. Whilst it can be claimed that the first set of 12 states created in 1967 was exigent as a means of keeping the Federation as one, all subsequent creations of States and Local Governments cannot be justified on any other basis than that some of the agitators for those States knew someone at the highest level of the Federal Government. Most of these States were thus created without asking the fundamental question as to their long-term viability or ability to provide their citizens with needed services. Because these questions were not asked at their inception, most State governments became lay-back as far as raising the necessary resources for good governance.
GOVERNORS TROOP TO ABUJA FOR SURVIVAL: They (Governors) would rather troop out to Abuja on a monthly basis to get their share in the monthly distribution of the Federation Account which, because it is “awuff”, can easily be misappropriated to personal and other uses. The challenge of seriously seeking and exploiting innovative and more robust and enduring ways of generating resources for the good governance of their States was hardly contemplated by many State Governments. The manner in which a number of State Governors ended up in the clutch of the EFCC at the end of their term in office underscores how deleterious against good governance has been the institution and role of the Federation Account in the development of Nigeria. But perhaps more serious is the impact of this “awuff” money on the economy not just of Nigeria as a whole but of its states. A well-recognized syndrome in such circumstances is what has come to be known as “the Dutch disease”. This is described as “the negative impact on an economy of anything that gives rise to a sharp inflow of foreign currency such as the discovery of large oil reserves.”
The currency inflows lead to currency appreciation, making the country’s other products less price competitive on the export market. It also leads to higher levels of cheap imports and can lead to de-industrialization as industries, apart from resource exploitation, are moved away to cheaper locations outside the country. The syndrome has militated against most State governments paying attention to the development of the more authentic bases of their economies, revenue from which could have bolstered their overall revenue position. As against this situation, it has been argued that Lagos State in particular has thrived economically very strongly in spite of these circumstances owing to its special location as a port city, an industrial centre and the former capital of the country. While these cannot been gainsaid, it is also true that Lagos State has been one of the few which had paid critical attention to its other basic resources in land and property administration. It was this that could allow it to resist the buffeting of the Federal Government when it refused to release to it funds due to its local governments.
THE LAGOS STATE EXPERIENCE& POSSIBLE MERGER OF STATES: The positive situation in Lagos, of course, derives very much from the municipal property registration of the colonial Government which was extended to cover a large part of the State under the civilian Governorship of Chief Lateef Jakande who had embarked on the project of providing Lagos with a mono-rail and needed to indicate to prospective private investors a viable source of revenue, independent of the Federation Account. The end of the era of the “awuff” syndrome is patent in the present situation where with the dramatic fall in the global price of petroleum a majority of “free gift” states in Nigeria have been unable to pay the salaries of their civil servants for many months, an item that should be the very first on the list of annual appropriation and expenditure.
For the first time in the history of the country, voices are being raised as to the viability of many of these states. It has been suggested that the country may be well advised to use the SIX geopolitical zones as the basis for a new set of regions so as to reduce the high level of recurrent cost of governance and release needed funds for infrastructural development all over the country. The jury, in respect of the viability of a number of the present 36 states is probably still out. Indeed, it can be argued that the first step on the future of the State structure of the country is to establish a system in which internally generated revenue of States must be adequate to cover recurrent expenditure and any subvention from the Federation Account should be to enhance infrastructural development in the State.
MERGER OF DISTRESSED STATES AS AN OPTION: A protocol should then be developed to enable States that cannot meet this viability criteria to be prepared to merge with a neighbouring State. Issues and Challenges of Governance: (c) at the Local Government Level It is, however, at the local government level that the “awuff” syndrome did the greatest damage to governance and, more seriously, undermined the prospect of consolidating a virile and robust democratic culture in the country. It was Alexis de Tocqueville (1980: 54) who noted during his visit to the United States in the 19th century, that the strength of their democracy, indeed, of any democracy, is based on the institution of local governments. According to him: “…local assemblies of citizens constitute the strength of free nations. Town-meetings are to liberty what primary schools are to science; they bring it within the people’s reach, they teach men how to use and how to enjoy it. A nation may establish a system of free government, but without the spirit of municipal institutions it cannot have the spirit of liberty.” Yet, when the military decided to reform our local government system they were totally indifferent to the existing “local assemblies of citizens” or the importance of their “town meetings”.
Instead, in other to be able to give them “awuff” money, they created “artificial local governments” based on a demographic criterion. This sought to create local governments in Nigeria on the demographic principle that “no local government should have a population of less than 150,000 and not more than 800,000”. (FRN, 1976; Adamolekun& Rowland, 1979 ) On this basis, the country was divided into 299 local government areas. The system paid no regard to the basic human process of settling in urban or rural areas. It merged into a single local government a number of small to medium towns with the villages around them; it broke up large cities and metropolitan areas into two, three or more local governments; it tried to carve out parts of large cities and merge them with neighbouring smaller centres to form a local government where the population was less than the expected number. Mobalufon in Ijebu-Ode was thus made to be part of Odogbolu Local Government. What we had was thus a number of amorphous local governments with no inherent cohesion or social raison d’etre. Not unexpectedly, as soon as the particular military government handed over to a civilian regime, the agitations for a local government system that is better aligned to the wishes and aspirations of the people became strident all over the country.
Most State governments began to respond to these reasonable demands of their people. The Buhari coup of December 1983 truncated these developments as it regarded the agitations as another evidence of the social indiscipline in the country. Consequently, the country was forced back to the system of 299 local governments. But the agitations continued forcing the succeeding military government of General Babangida to increase the number first to 489 and later to 569 but without pretense to any objective criteria or rationality. Since even with this relaxation the agitation continued right up to the regime of General Sani Abacha, the latter responded to it by creating more States and local governments, this time clearly on the basis of his whims and caprices. Thus, Lagos and Kano State which, up till then had the same number of TWENTY local governments each, suddenly found that Kano State from which a new State, Jigawa State, was carved out was assigned 44 local governments and the new Jigawa State another 26 local governments whilst Lagos State remained with only 20 local governments. On this basis, the country ended up with 768 local governments excluding the area councils of the Federal Capital Territory. It is this number of local governments that entered into the 1999 Constitution of the country.
LOCAL GOVERNMENTS & THE 1999 CONSTITUTION: The 1999 Constitution has three main sections on Local Government apart from a Fourth Schedule which spells out their functions. Section 7(1) states: “The system of local government by democratically elected local government councils is under this Constitution guaranteed; and accordingly, the Government of every State shall subject to section 8 of this Constitution, ensure their existence under a Law which provides for the establishment, structure, composition, finance and functions of such Councils.” Section 8 (5) & (6), however, virtually took away these powers of the States since it requires the National Assembly to approve these local governments so “established” by having to pass “An Act of the National Assembly …. to make consequential provisions with respect to the names and headquarters of such local government areas.” Section 3(6) further shows the diminution in the powers of States to “establish” their local governments by stating that “there shall be seven hundred and sixty-eight local government areas in Nigeria…” All of these intrusion of the Federal Government into an area which is properly within the purview of the States is, of course, because of the “awuff” resources which the Federal Government provides for local governments from the Federation Account.
What has made it difficult to reform this lop-sided local government system was the fact that from General Babangida’s time, the local governments were made to receive “awuff” subventions directly from the Federation Account. Thus, the more local governments a State has, the more it received from the Federation Account. To reform the local government system on an equitable and rational basis thus looked like reducing the resources accruing to those States which had enjoyed the inequity of the Sani Abacha’s local government creation. There is, however, no denying the fact that the local government areas are simply subdivisions of a State. The summation of their population or territorial extent is no greater than that of the State of which they form parts. Thus, the criteria used for providing subventions to States from the Federation Account could equally be used for subventions to their local governments even when the ratio of entitlement for States and Local Governments could be different. More seriously, however, is the fact that the attempt to ignore the different settlement patterns and therefore traditional local governments in each state of the Federation has done great harm to the efficiency and effectiveness of this level of governance in the country. Indeed, it can be said to have confused administrative effectiveness with economic efficiency. For one, it tried to obliterate the distinction between urban and rural settlements with their very different infrastructural and socio-economic requirements.NO PROVISION FOR URBAN DEVELOPMENT: Indeed, nowhere in the Constitution is there a reference to urban development in the country. Yet, one of the most important phenomena that accompanies the development of any country is the rise in the level of its urbanization. This was why as Britain began to industrialize in the 19th century it had to pass the Municipal Development Act in 1835 which sought to provide for the financial and management requirements of the infrastructural needs of urban centres such as tarred roads, street lighting, storm water drainage, internal transportation and traffic system, waste disposal and other specialized needs of urban Centres like reticulated water and electricity systems not required in rural settlements.
Furthermore, the local government reform by ignoring, rather than building on, the traditional structure of local governments in the country alienated itself from the needs of the common man and thus virtually became irrelevant to serious governance in the country. What this indifference to historical and cultural antecedents did was to destroy the integrity of local administration; or in other words, it made citizens no longer concerned or able to influence the quality of the people who aspire to rule them. This in itself fostered the burgeoning rise of corruption at the local level. To make matters worse, the military regime insisted that those who intend to contest any election, even one as prosaic as that to a local government council, must first resign from their paid employment. The idea of teachers, lecturers and other public officers (other than civil servants) being allowed leave of absence to serve their local communities in this manner thus became no longer possible.
It thus left the field to people in the private sector, most of whom operate in the informal sector generally with limited education and appreciation of the importance of local governance. The idea of serving the community on the basis of being paid “sitting allowance” thus disappeared and corruption blossomed at this level of government. One consequence of the reformed local government is simply that it undermined the access of government at this level to the robust resource of “social capital” which had in the past been responsible for development in many urban centres of the country. Social capital (Putnam, 1993) refers to resources in kind or cash which people are prepared to deploy for the development or welfare of their home communities. It is this form of capital that had been responsible for the building of many schools, churches, mosques, post offices, community banks, water and electricity supply to many communities not able to depend on or wait for governmental provenance (Honey & Okafor, 1998). The amorphous nature of the present system of local governments simply made it impossible to mobilize this type of resources although some communities still continue to access this resource on an informal basis. But generally, it has not been possible to deploy a robust system of social capital to complement or enhance effort at good material and infrastructural development at the local government level.
SYSTEM DENIES CITIZENS OPPORTUNITY OF INDIRECT PARTICIPATION IN GOVERNANCE: One other deficit of the present system of local government is that it provides relatively little opportunity for the citizens or the community at large to have much say in their governance. Although the usual cliché is to assert that local government is the government nearest to the grassroots, there is little evidence that the grassroots feel any closeness to the present local governments. No local government, for instance, submits its annual budget to its local community or report its achievements to them, except at great expense sometimes on the pages of newspapers. In truly democratic dispensation, these are the usual reasons for holding “town-hall meetings”, to enable the elected officials of the town to report to the citizens of the town and receive feedback from the citizenry and directions for the future. It is at such meetings that democratic learning is nurtured and participatory democracy strengthened such that people are encouraged to learn how to put their purse where their mouth is in terms of the development they desire for their local environment. Instead of this, the present situation in Nigeria is that it is State governors that hold town hall meetings, especially during their campaign tours to a town which could thus be once or twice over a four-year period and it is always so fleeting and riotous. This absence of a forum or a Town Hall meeting to discuss the problems of a given locality and how to resolve them has been a major reason for the inability of local governments to improve on their internally generated revenue instead of depending almost wholly on subventions from the Federation Account
ACCOUNTABILITY: It is this opportunity that traditional Town Unions and Development Associations had that enabled them to make more impact on the development of their communities. Apart from being open to all citizens of the area, membership of such a Town Hall meeting should include neighbourhood leaders, leaders of different occupational and informal sector trade associations, representatives of the local chamber of commerce, leaders of women and youth associations, religious and traditional leaders as well as representatives of non-governmental organizations within the local government area. The list should cover critical groups in the area whose advisory deliberations can easily be transformed into decisions of the council. More than this, the failure to distinguish between urban and rural settlements had made it impossible for Nigeria to establish a mayoral system for its municipalities and denies her participation in international conferences of mayors of cities. It has also made it difficult to evolve appropriate management systems for agglomeration bigger than cities such as metropolitan authorities which oversee the transportation planning and development of expanding urbanized areas. When the Kano State Government during the first coming of Alhaji Kwankwaso attempted to establish such an authority for the orderly planning and development of the extensive urbanized Kano, the local governments protested that he was circumscribing their authority and resources.
Lessons of Nigeria’s Historical/Cultural Situation: Although not many Nigerian ethnic groups and nationalities were sufficiently organized and powerful enough to establish kingdoms and empires, every one of them had a system of local government. Each settlement based its local government either on the oldest member of the community (usually known as Elder) or the earliest settler on the site (which could also be a representative of the family). Whether as the Elder or the representative of the oldest settler, this local government and its members consult constantly with all the inhabitants of the settlement in respect of services required by the community as a whole. For the bigger ethnic groups and nationalities, there were clear systems of local government which revealed some hierarchical relationships. Among the Igbos, for instance, the traditional local government was based on the structure of settlement. This structure is the obodo, a group of six to seven villages acknowledging a common descent and social bond. Although each of the villages had an elder as its head, the administration of the whole community was based on the obodo. So enduring was this system of local government that it was critical for the recovery of the Igbo after the civil war of 1967-1970. Indeed, UkpabibAsika, the Administrator of the East Central State was so impressed with the resilience and capacity of the system that he decided to build on it his new system of Development Administration (Odenigwe, 1977) which was obviated with the Local Government Reform of 1976.
In the northern part of the country, where the Fulani had articulated a somewhat unique system of local governance based on the Hausa settlement structure, the smallest communities were probably family groups clustered into hamlets. These hamlets, known as kauyuka (sing. kauye) were regarded as wards or unguwoyi (sing. unguwa). They were independent and separated from each other by uncultivated land. The political authority in each hamlet or ward was vested in a ward head (maiunguwa) who presided over family heads or masugida (sing. maigida) (Smith, 1970). The hamlets, in turn, were organised into village areas under a village head or dakace. Village areas were then further organized into districts with a district head or hakimi. Where, as a result of favourable conditions, larger settlements eventually grew up and became towns or garuruwa (sing. gari), these were organized also on the basis of wards or unguwoyi. In such larger settlements general political authority came to be vested in the sarkingari, king of the town. A further stage in the development of political organization when a particular sarkingari began to exercise authority not only over the town and its associated rural area but also over substantial tracts of territory containing other garuruwa as well. Such a sarkingari then becomes a sarkinkasa, king of the country, the ruler of a Hausa State. These rulers lived in walled cities containing a mixed population of diverse origins and providing places of protection and refuge for people living in the surrounding countryside. Such settlements of which there were many examples in Hausaland were characterised by their fortifications and are known as birane (sing. birni).
With the conquests of most of Hausaland early in the 19th century, most sarkinkasa became Emirs and only fine-tuned this earlier system of local governance. In the Yoruba area, it is the ilu, translated to mean “a town” but which could embrace numerous villages and hamlets that constitute the unit of local government. According to Fadipe (1970: 200, 208), the average Yoruba state comprised the capital, generally walled (in some cases with double walls) together with one or more other towns, townlets, farmers’ villages (abule) and hamlets (ileto) whose inhabitants regarded themselves as belonging to one or another of the towns. The other towns besides the capital were usually either originally settled from the capital or annexed by conquest as tributary towns. The government of each local community, whether town (other than the capital), townlet or village, was self-contained except in extra-state relations which was in the hands of the government of the capital. A dependent town or community had no power of the sword with regard to capital punishment. The authority to execute must come from the king. In all other respects the government of the local community and even its organisation were a reproduction on a small scale of the government of the capital town……Ward chiefs were a part of the active personnel of the state. The ward embraced many compounds and, therefore, generally many extended families. (The extended family was actually the smallest political unit in Yoruba)
The main purpose of this hierarchical organization of communities everywhere from the ward level to the highest traditional position was to facilitate information dissemination, mobilization and the fostering of a strong sense of belonging. Apart from the hierarchical organizations, this purpose was also pursued through the instrumentalities of age-grades (or Egbe) and occupational guilds or association. More than this, as Fadipe again noted, there were other democratic features observed in the constitution of Yoruba states before the establishment of colonial rule. According to him (1970: 212), in Ondo, for example, “at its great council, members of the general public were generally present, although they could not take part in the proceedings. Individual members of the public were, however, asked on occasions for their opinions on important matters. The device of the mass meeting for the purpose of ascertaining the wishes of the people on important matters was also used.” All of this is to emphasize that even within our own traditional systems, principles of participatory democracy and consultation in decision-making were highly regarded. In short, the traditional system made arrangement for administrative presence even in the smallest settlement and organized them into identifiable units. It also gave recognition to settlements on the basis of their size and importance.
INTERNAL MIGRATION: More than this, it acknowledged the dynamics of internal migrations on the growth and development of settlements in favoured locations making them transit from being a village to becoming a town needing further recognition such as a crowned head. Barnes (1986) provided a detailed story of the growth of Mushin, a satellite town of Lagos in the 1950s and now part of the Lagos Megacity and the effort of the landlords’ association to secure a “crown” for the Olu of Mushin, the head of the emerging urban community at the time. It will, of course, be equally interesting to explore the circumstances in which the status of “sarkin” (town-head)” is conferred on an emerging urban settlement (“gari) in the northern part of the country. And it is not unlikely that the rash of igwes and ezes noted in the south-eastern part of the country in recent years is indicative of a number of settlements crossing the threshold to urban size among a people which were said to be republican and to have no traditional rulers and where the British claimed to have established most urban settlements like Port-Harcourt, Enugu, Aba, Umuahia and Owerri.
MOVE AWAY FROM THE ‘’AWUFF’ ORIENTATION: Three lessons of international experience are worth stressing if only to indicate how each level of governance in the country can be moved away from an “awuff” orientation to a more constructive and business-like approach. At the Federal level, there has been two issues as to how the government could have managed our abundant resource inflow from petroleum instead of setting out on the spending spree as we did. Norway, when she found herself in the same position as Nigeria from the abundant reserve of North Sea Oil reserve, decided to “sequester” these oil export receipts which were in foreign currency into an “Oil Fund” which she then invested outside the country mainly in European and US stocks and bonds. This Fund as of 2011, has exceeded US$500 billion, second in the world only to that of Abu Dhabi (Hudson, 2001). It is claimed that treating these savings this way avoids domestic inflation that would have resulted from spending more than 4 per cent of the returns to the Fund at home, a situation into which Nigeria rushed and which has been with us since the 1970s. However, there is also the experience of other countries such as China and Singapore which decided to put a substantial portion of such foreign currency inflows into a “Sovereign Wealth Fund” and invested most of it in modernizing and upgrading domestic infrastructure and the economy, thereby lowering the cost of living and doing business in the country, and making the domestic economy more competitive globally. This latter idea of putting significant proportion of inflow from petroleum resources into a ‘Sovereign Wealth Fund has nominally been accepted by our Federal Government.
STATE GOVERNMENTS AND THE ‘’AWUFF’’ (FREE) PROPENSITY: It has, however, not succeeded in weaning State Governments away from their “awuff” propensity such that they are not truly in favour of such a Fund and have gone to court to challenge the initiative of the Federal Government in this matter, belated as it is. At any rate, even with the Federal Government, there is no evidence that the Fund was being instituted to modernize and upgrade the infrastructure in the country. A proposal could thus be made for the future that a certain proportion of what goes into the Federation Accounts be designated for the Sovereign Wealth Fund by law and committed to modernizing and upgrading critical infrastructure in the country especially power and the railways. With respect to governance at the State level, the lesson of international experience is for them to better manage their land resources, almost as the Lagos State Government has done. This requires a commitment to a land reform which ensures that the possessory rights of individuals to the land they till or own is properly surveyed, titled and registered. The present situation in which State Governments are recognized as the custodians of the land in their state with powers to grant statutory certificate of occupancy to those with existing or definable rights of occupancy has not propelled State Governments to the appreciation that only when the possessory rights of all citizens are surveyed, titled and registered can they come to have a significantly reliable source of revenue devoted to the development of the state.
Until a parcel of land is titled and registered, it has only use value of producing crops at best. Once it has a registered title, it also acquires an economic exchange value and can be used as collateral to raise credit to improve the productive capacity of its owner. Thus, land titling and registration not only are fundamental to reducing poverty of citizens but are important for raising substantial revenue for State government and can underscore their capacity to raise additional resources in the capital market. Certainly, it would purge State Government of the prevailing “awuff” orientation and strengthen their governance capability to raise and increase tax revenue. It is, however, at the local government level that the lessons of international experience are most salient. No country in the world that I know of has a local government system that does not recognize the difference between urban centres (however small) and rural settlements especially given their contrasting infrastructural and service needs. Or, as Beckinsale & Houston (1968: 72) put it, “for many purposes town and country had different problems: legal justice must exist everywhere, but street lighting belonged to towns. Poverty must be relieved everywhere but policing was an urban need. Gas lights could burn all night to brighten Brecon but the countryside rightly remain dark and asleep”.
In other words, the needs of urban centres for various infrastructural amenities and services such as waste management are not replicated in rural areas and must be paid for by urban residents through property taxes and tenement rates. To lump urban and rural areas together as we have done in Nigeria is thus to deny both areas the development they deserve. Hence, the daily spectacle on the television of infrastructural decay in most of our urban centres, with residents always awaiting the state or federal government to do something about them, including removing their solid wastes. There is, of course, nothing intrinsic about having just 774 local governments. It is nice to remember that it was to have been 299. But the United States with about just 1½ times our population has over 19,000 local governments and Britain with less than half our population has over 9,000 local governments.
All these local governments are specific as to the communities they serve and are able to extract from them the resources needed to provide the citizens with services. Indeed, the situation at the local government level in some of these countries is such that they are already involved not just in participatory democracy, but also in participatory budgeting in which the citizens at the local level take active part in the preparation of their budget, especially the determination of capital projects and their equitable locations among neighbourhoods in particular urban centres. Most urban centres, however small, are thus chartered or legally incorporated in order to enhance their capacity to raise additional resources from the capital market needed for their infrastructural development.
Such capacity is made possible because the citizens are involved in the decision-making about such development and can see it as it progresses. They are willing to pay for the development because of what is referred to as “perceptible interdependence”, that is their appreciation of the fact that they all have to play their part through paying their taxes in order for the community to enjoy the particular benefit. As urban centres grow in size and result in the merging of smaller distinct urban entities, metropolitan authorities are established with even greater ability to source for capital for more sophisticated infrastructure such as light railways, large water supply schemes and power supply systems as well as more diffused suburban development.
CONCLUSION ON MAJOR ISSUES FACING GOVERNANCE IN NIGERIA: I believe I have said enough to emphasize that the major issues and challenges facing governance in Nigeria at all levels is largely structural and derive from the military government wanting a federation turned upside down to align with the unified command structure of military administration. This, of course, was made possible because of the coincident windfall of high petroleum prices. The resulting overthrow of the “derivation principle” in the nation’s constitutional fiscal arrangements, placed the Federal Government in the position to provide the funds, or at least most of the funds, for the governance activities at State and local government levels.
The decision to consume most of the windfall from high petroleum prices in recurrent expenditure largely of heightened personnel emolument not only ran counter to international best practices but ended up creating an “awuff” mentality in the population and fostering widespread corruption with impunity in the country. The present almost unconscionable exhibition of crass corruption at the very highest level of government even in the midst of a devastating insurgency and national emergency shows how deep the cankerworm of corruption had eaten into the moral and ethical fabric of the country. But, as Tom Friedman of the New York times opined, there is a down side to this situation since it is increasingly apparent that “as the price of oil goes down, the pace of freedom goes up”.
REVISIT THE PRESENT STRUCTURE OF GOVERNANCE: In the Nigerian case, the present revenue crisis could provide a new opportunity to re-visit the present structure of governance and restore the country to a more truly federal and democratic bases. To this end, it can be suggested that where to start off is at the local government level, to recognize and give freedom to urban centres to start to be able to greatly look after themselves. If states are unwillingly to wean themselves from the present local government structure because of the asymmetric benefits to some state governments, then maybe the present local governments can be treated as counties.
A second level of local governance which recognizes the distinction between urban and rural communities can then be established below it in which the different needs of both communities can be seriously addressed. Citizens would thus have secured their democratic freedom to actively participate in their own governance and perform their civic responsibility of paying their taxes and overseeing how well these are used to meet their needs and requirements. Just to underscore what this freedom entails. Imagine a local government system in which Ijebu-Ode is treated as a true municipality, a municipality in which Mobalufon is not treated unconscionably as in the “awuff” system as part of Odogbolu Local Government from which it can receive no services whatsoever.
CIVIC RESPONSIBILITIES: Imagine that we all have to pay our tenement rate or property tax to provide the resources for our municipality. Imagine that the municipality can build on the efforts of our Kabiyesi to restore some of our traditional governance institutions such as the ituns and the regberegbes to be relevant features of our governance. Imagine that as a municipality we could insist on at least ONE Town Hall meeting a year not to listen to the State Governor but for our Councillors to present to us the annual budget of the Council and a report of the Council’s achievements in the preceding year. Imagine that the Council is sufficiently forward looking to engage all residents of the municipality in what is known as “participatory budgeting” whereby neighbourhoods or ituns agree among themselves because of the limited resources where infrastructural development such as road tarring, storm water drainage channels, street lighting will take place in a given year until the whole municipality is properly serviced. Imagine the importance of “perceptible inrterdependence” as a result of which we all can “see” and “appreciate” what we are paying the tenement rate or property tax for. Imagine that the Town Hall Meeting also allows the residents to discuss the desirable economic and social development in our municipality almost in the manner of the initiation of the programme of the Ijebu-Ode Development Initiative for Poverty Reduction Programme.
I believe we can all appreciate that Ijebu Ode Municipality would be a very different place to live in than what we have under the present “awuff” dispensation. More than this, it will be clear that individuals we will vote for to go to the State House of Assembly or the National Assembly would be individuals with well-known track records of local achievements rather than individuals with the gift of the gab or one imposed on the community by political parties for no ostensible reason. It is instructive to note that the Governor of Edo State recently raised his voice to alert citizens as to the imperative of appreciating the need to return to the “good old days” when government services were provided on the basis of the tax revenue collected from the citizens. Even if the price of oil does not slump this low, the international climate change campaign and the global search for renewable energy sources are destined to reduce the dependence of people all over the world on hydrocarbons especially petrol. So, as we contemplate the future, it is my earnest hope that our political leaders would re-visit a number of institutions deriving from the period of military rule, especially the local government system. They should help create truly effective democratic local governments for the governance of our towns, cities and rural areas so as to empower the citizens and make them take ownership of their governance at the local level. Re-visiting our governance system at the State and Federal level should be specifically to cut down the cost of governance at those levels and make governance more efficient and effective for collective service delivery to citizens.
MODIFIED PRESIDENTIAL SYSTEM:In this regard, it is gratifying to note that the National Conference of 2014 (NC, 2014: 202) had itself recommended what it called a Modified Presidential System at the Federal level which combines the best practices in both the Parliamentary and the Presidential system of government; although it says very little about local governments other than to return them to the states. It, however, still proceeded to recommend the creation of 18 new States on the “awuff” basis.
Emeritus Prof Akin Mabogunje, CON; is the first African to be elected as a Foreign Associate of the United States National Academy of Sciences is the Chairman of Ibadan School of Government and Public Policy.