Activist lawyer Femi Falana (SAN) has advised state governments to insist on power sharing with the Federal Government with respect to the management of the economy and security of the nation as stipulated by the Constitution.
According to him, power devolution to the states from the centre without the democratisation of the said powers will not promote development.
“In other words, restructuring without the equitable redistribution of the commonwealth will not engender unity as unity is not an abstract phenomenon”, he said.
Falana stated this in a lecture he delivered at the 20th Convocation of Ekiti State University titled, “Restructuring and Liberation of Nigeria”.
Notwithstanding the shortcomings of the 1999 Constitution, he said there are some residual powers reserved for state governments which have not been explored to promote the development of the country.
“We have identified specific areas where state governments have refused to jointly exercise powers with the federal government as stipulated by the Constitution.”
Falana advised governors who are genuinely interested in restructuring to democratise the powers that have devolved to state governments from the centre through litigation instead of dismissing the campaign.
He said the demand for restructuring of the country persisted because of the defects in the federal system.
Falana argued that in many instances, the 36 state governments have had to resort to litigation to challenge several laws and policies of the federal government which have violated the basic tenets of federalism.
He postulated that this may continue in many other areas that were exclusively reserved for regional governments before January 1966.
He ascribed the development to prolonged years of military dictatorship which he said aided the usurpation of residual powers of state governments by the federal government.
The SAN noted that apart from litigation, a few state government have dared the federal government by enacting laws in areas not covered by the exclusive and concurrent legislative lists in the Constitution.
He said the legal and political struggle waged by state governments has altered the national economy to the advantage of all state governments.
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He said in spite of the vehement determination of the federal government to retain powers that were taken viet armis from state governments, the courts have ruled in favour of federalism.
The activist lamented that the crisis of federalism has also been compounded by some decisions of the courts that have upheld the powers of the federal government to encroach in the areas of state offences.
He said: “the way forward is that the struggle for restructuring and the liberation of the poor people of Nigeria from the bondage of poverty and inequality require the adoption of vertical and horizontal measures to build a peaceful and united Nigeria rooted in social justice, equity and genuine freedom. “
Falana further advised advocates of restructuring not only to put pressure on Buhari to lead the process of restructuring, “they should also push the state governors to take advantage of legal openings to deepen Nigerian federalism as Lagos state has done.
He added: “Some Supreme Court decisions from all which states now benefit were as a result of cases pursued by the Lagos state government against the federal government. In other jurisdictions, court pronouncements have also helped to recast the structure and mechanisms of federations.”
On internal security, he lamented that some governors in the last few days, have claimed that they are helpless in maintaining security in the country because of lack of control of the police.
“According to Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State, the recent #endsars protests has called into question “why State Governors are called Chief Security Officers of their states whereas, they do not have the necessary powers to control the Police force. Peaceful protests are a big part of our democratic process. The right to freedom of speech and assembly are guaranteed by our constitution, and I will never support any attempt to rob citizens of their fundamental human rights.”
Falana contended: “With profound respect, the Constitution has empowered state governors to share police powers with the President but for reasons best known to them they have abdicated the responsibility to the federal government.”
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