Anyaoku spoke, yesterday, in Abuja, at the launch of a book entitled: “Reforming the Unreformable,” written by the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala
He described the current structure of 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory as administratively too expensive, with huge recurrent expenditure and leaving only a meagre percentage for the badly needed capital development and that the current constitution review should form a basis for returning Nigeria to true federalism.
He said: “It is my view that the country’s chances of re-living its development opportunities will be greatly enhanced if it does a major restructuring of its political architecture. Without doing so, one can’t reduce the recurrent expenditure.
“When you look around, especially among developing countries, you will discover that their recurrent expenditure is far less than their capital. In Nigeria, what we have been spending on recurrent leaves us with too little for capital development which we need.
“The existing structure of 36 states and federal capital territory with all the paraphernalia and institutions of administration, as long as we continue with that, we are not likely to achieve the level of reduction of cost of administration that will enable us to develop as we ought to.”
Canvasses stronger regions
Anyaoku, who called for stronger regions as was the case in the pre-independence era, said the inordinate struggle for power at the centre had been mainly responsible for the ethno-religious violence that has engulfed the nation.
His words: “I do not believe that the present structure we have will not address the destructive competition for the control of power at the centre, while we sustain the largely non-viable states. We have become accustomed to the notion and practice of sharing the national cake from the centre.
“It is this destructive control of power at the centre that exacerbates the primordial instinct in our people and also fans religious and ethnic differences with the result that rather than being a source of strength, our pluralism has become a harbinger for discrimination and disunity.”
The chairman maintained that the nation witnessed a more accelerated development when it was made up of the then semi-autonomous regions, which later became four. But that steady progress was aborted with the military intervention of January 1966 and the later creation of states.
His words: “There can’t be no doubt in my view that Nigeria was making a steadier progress in development, when it was a federation of three regions and subsequently four federating units, called regions at the time.
“This progress was reversed by the military intervention in our politics beginning from January 1966 because it was the military intervention that has done the erosion on true federalism to what we now described as unitary federalism.
“I believe that we must return to true federalism if we are to achieve stability and the level of development that we aspire to. We can achieve all these with the current effort to review the 1999 constitution.”
Okonjo-Iweala,Nigeria’s most cherished adverts to outside world
On the book, Anyaoku said it “confirms why Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is one of Nigeria’s most cherished adverts to the outside world,” adding that it “gives a most incisive analysis of the reforms needed to turn the economy round.”
He added that the book was a candid and a brave narrative of the impediments the Economic Management Team under former President Olusegun Obasanjo had to battle as it battled to reform the civil service and the Nigeria Customs Service, among others.
Reviewing the book, Prof. Paul Collier of Oxford University warned against the temptation of returning to the old path of utilising a depleting resources, oil money, without investing in the future.
“Oil revenue is extremely volatile. We have seen it fall from $143 per barrel in 2008 to $40 per barrel,” he observed and stressed that Nigeria’s public expenditure “will be chaotic” if the nation relied entirely on a volatile revenue.
The don urged Nigerians to learn a lesson from the past failures just like germany, Europe’s current strngest economy.
According to him, Germany’s economy used to be the worst in the region but that the nation learnt from its failures of the past and has now built on its experiences to ascend to the position of the region’s current number one economy.
Prof Collier also stated that looting of public treasury has continued and that all good spirited Nigerians must rise to the occasion to fight the menace in the interest of present and future generations.