A former Vice-President, Atiku Abubakar, has said there is no better time to restructure Nigeria than now when there are calls from various quarters to restructure the country.
Atiku, who said this on Monday while delivering the annual Prof. Ademola Popoola Public Lecture, at the Faculty of Law, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, Osun State, said restructuring would offer permanent solutions to many problems confronting the nation.
Speaking on the topic, “The constitutional and political framework for reconstructing Nigeria for true federalism and national integration,” the former VP stated that the merger of states which were not viable with viable ones would translate to better life for the citizens.
He added that states should be able to generate fund to run their affairs without depending on the Federal Government for the monthly allocation to pay salaries and execute projects.
While condemning the present structure of the country, which he said allowed states to be unproductive, Atiku believed that restructuring would encourage federating units to be more productive.
He added that restructuring would engender healthy competition among states, which he said was good for the overall development of the nation.
The former Vice-President stated, “There is no doubt that many of our states are not viable and were not viable from the start; once you take away the Federal Government allocations from Abuja. We have to find creative ways to make them viable in a changed federal system. Collaboration among states in a region or zone will help.
“We can examine the plausibility of using the existing geopolitical zones as federating units. We can also find other ways to determine the viability of states, for example by introducing a means of test, such that a state that is unable to generate a certain percentage of its expenditure internally for a specified period of time, will be deemed not viable and collapsed into another or a group of states.
“We need to start producing again and collecting taxes to run our governments in a more sustainable way with greater transparency and accountability.
“We have a unique opportunity now, with all the agitations and clamour for restructuring, to have a conversation that would lead to changes in the structure of our federation in order to make it stronger, enhance our unity and promote peace, security and better and more accountable governance.”
Atiku, who contested the 2007 presidential election on the platform of the defunct Action Congress, also called for devolution of power.
He said there was too much concentration of power at the federal level, stating that delegating more power to the states would ease administration and make the states more productive.
According to him, the FG should be concerned with the issue of defence, foreign affairs and national economic policies and allow states to take decisions on the number of local governments they want to have and how to fund them.
He added, “Why do we have federal roads all over the country that don’t get maintained? Why do we have federal hospitals and schools all over the country that are no better than their state counterparts?
“We even have more clamour for the federal takeover of existing state institutions. That is not how to run a federation; rather, we are centralising more and making a mockery of federalism. This is a parody of federalism and we must get away from it.”