• Saturday, May 25, 2024
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Nigeria: Revisiting the restructuring’s fiasco

Learning from success: Strategies for Nigeria’s economic development

Nigeria, the “Giant of Africa,” faces persistent challenges stemming from its complex political and economic landscape. Among the numerous issues plaguing the nation, the call for restructuring has remained a point for debate and agitation amongst Nigerians for years. It is paramount to study Nigeria’s restructuring debate and fiasco, examine its systemic weaknesses, the failure of centralised governance, and the implications for development, poverty alleviation, and corruption, notwithstanding, it is often believed that restructuring might remain a far-fetched dream for Nigerians.

Nigeria’s governance structure has been criticised for its ineffectiveness in addressing challenges, with the country consistently ranking poorly on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index. The centralised model, inherited from colonial times, enables corruption by concentrating power and resources in a few.

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Centralised governance in Nigeria is hindering developmental efforts, as federal decisions often fail to consider the diverse needs of the diverse population. The country’s infrastructure deficit is estimated to be $878 billion by 2040, with significant disparities between urban and rural areas. The lack of localised decision-making also leads to neglect of critical infrastructure projects in marginalised communities. The poverty rate in rural areas is higher than urban areas, stifling grassroots development initiatives and perpetuating cycles of poverty and underdevelopment.

I have been studying the decentralised systems of governance used in countries like the United Kingdom and the United States, which empower local authorities to address community-specific challenges and allocate resources based on local needs. For example, in the UK, local councils have significant autonomy in areas such as education, healthcare, security, and transportation, allowing for more responsive and efficient governance. Similarly, in the US, states have considerable authority over matters such as taxation, law enforcement, security, and infrastructure development, resulting in tailored policy responses that reflect the diverse needs of local communities.

Another obstacle that constantly arouses the need for restructuring is Nigeria’s centralised policing model, which is overseen by the central government. This has remained a subject of considerable critique due to its inefficiencies and susceptibility to political interference. Corroborating this, Ifeanyi Onyeonoru, PhD, a specialist in governance and security studies, opined that Nigeria’s centralised policing system has contributed to a lack of responsiveness to local security concerns and a failure to effectively combat crime all around the country.

The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) reports a high crime rate in Nigeria, including robbery, kidnapping, banditry, and cybercrime. The centralised police force, which often leads to bureaucratic red tape and delayed responses to security threats, further exacerbates citizens’ feelings of insecurity, highlighting the need for a more localised approach to security.

The management of infrastructure, particularly roads, remains a hassle, reflecting the shortcomings of Nigeria’s centralised governance system. Unlike in countries such as the UK, where local councils are empowered to maintain roads within their jurisdictions, Nigeria’s road network is divided among federal, state, and local council roads. This fragmented approach to infrastructure management has resulted in bureaucratic inefficiencies, inadequate maintenance, poor maintenance, and uneven development across regions.

 “Centralised governance in Nigeria is hindering developmental efforts, as federal decisions often fail to consider the diverse needs of the diverse population.”

A policy analyst, Chukwudi Enekwechi, PhD, stressed the detrimental effects of this centralised approach on Nigeria’s road infrastructure. Enekwechi argued that the lack of decentralisation in road maintenance perpetuates disparities in infrastructure quality, with rural areas often bearing the brunt of neglect. This is seen in data from the Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA), further corroborating these irregularities and revealing the effect of centralization in infrastructure between urban and rural areas. Enekwechi postulated about the urgent need for decentralised decision-making in infrastructure management, stating that it is more viable for local authorities to prioritise projects based on local needs and realities without relying on the state or federal government.

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Nigeria’s tax system and fiscal centralization represent significant barriers to equitable development and governance. According to data from the World Bank, Nigeria’s tax-to-GDP ratio stands at a mere 6 percent, significantly lower than the global average of 15 percent indicating a shortfall in revenue mobilisation efforts. This tax revenue is further worsened by the country’s reliance on oil revenues, which are susceptible to fluctuations in global oil prices.

Uche Uwaleke, a public affairs analyst, highlights the detrimental effects of Nigeria’s centralised tax system on local governments’ autonomy and capacity for development. He states that while the federal and state governments collect the bulk of taxes, local councils are left with limited revenue sources, often dependent on federal allocations for survival. This centralisation marginalises local governments, depriving them of the resources needed to address critical infrastructure needs, healthcare services, and educational initiatives at the grassroots level.

Nigeria’s governance framework needs restructuring to address fiscal centralization and empower local governments. Socio-political groups like Afenifere, Ohaneze, and the Middle Belt Forum advocate for devolving power to grassroots levels and promoting inclusive governance. In 2014, a national conference provided a platform for dialogue and reform recommendations.

The dream of restructuring Nigeria’s governance has faced resistance from Northern elites, who view decentralisation as a threat to their interests. This was evident in the 2015 presidential election, where Goodluck Jonathan was defeated by Northern voting blocs. President Muhammadu Buhari’s dismissal of the 2014 National Conference report further reflects this resistance. Disagreements between the North and South hinder progress towards creating fair rules.

Central to the restructuring debate is the issue of resource control and the devolution of powers to the subnational level. Proponents argue that greater autonomy for states and local councils would enable more effective management of resources and promote equitable development. However, resistance from some interests, particularly in the North, has hindered progress on this front.

President Bola Tinubu has been a champion of restructuring since the early 1990s, but despite his stance on the need for restructuring, Nigerians await the huge steps to be taken by him to drive forward his Renewed Hope agenda.

Tinubu’s advocacy for restructuring reflects a broader recognition of the need for decentralised governance to address Nigeria’s diverse socio-political realities. However, the translation of this advocacy into effective policy reform remains elusive, with Tinubu’s political manoeuvring constrained by a lot of factors, including intra-party dynamics and vested interests.

It is important for Tinubu to leverage his political influence, as the father of Nigeria, to garner support for restructuring measures, either through championing the implementation of reforms outlined in the 1962 Independence Constitution or advocating for the dissolution of the 1914 amalgamation in the worst-case scenario.

The ability to navigate intra-party dynamics and forge consensus among factions remains an indelible attribute crucial to advancing the restructuring agenda, which only President Tinubu possesses. Tinubu’s strategic alliances within the APC, coupled with his grassroots mobilisation efforts, could serve as catalysts for substantive governance reform.

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As the sitting President of Nigeria, the realisation of this vision hinges on Tinubu’s ability to translate rhetoric into action, navigate political complexities, and garner support for policy reforms that would be effective in driving change. As Nigeria stands at a crossroads, the hope for restructuring Nigeria to promote development at all levels lies with President Bola Tinubu.


Maxwell Adeyemi Adeleye, a Communication-for-development Expert, sent this piece from London, United Kingdom. He can be reached via [email protected]