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Agbakoba writes Senate, proposes “simple way to restructure Nigeria”


Human rights activist, maritime lawyer and former President of Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Dr. Olisa Agbakoba, SAN, has written the National Assembly proposing a simple formula to resolve the complex restructure question nagging Nigeria.

In a letter addressed through the President of the Senate, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, Agbakoba proposed the concept of devolution of powers as the easy way out.

Please see letter as well as other attachments:

Distinguished President of the Senate,

A simple way to restructure Nigeria by devolving powers

It is my honour and pleasure to present to you, for consideration at the National Assembly, a simple proposal in what is considered a complex issue. 

Nigeria has been long engaged in the federalism question. It is clear that because of our diverse nature and large size, the political system best suited for Nigeria is a federal system. But the challenge has been what type of federalism. Many proposals, including restructuring, have been put forward without success.

I believe there is a simple solution. This is devolution of powers. The Constitution has two legislative lists namely, Exclusive and Concurrent. These lists have 98 items of powers. The Federal Government exercises exclusive power over 68 items on the exclusive list.

The states in concurrence with the Federal Government, exercise power over 30 items on the concurrent list. But the States may only exercise power on the concurrent list, only if the Federal Government has not already “covered the field” on any of the 30 items.

In effect, State Governments really have no power. I suggest that to resolve this, a committee may review the 98 items of power and assign what is best to Federal and what is best to the states, based on the principle of subsidiarity.

I also suggest the Exclusive list and Concurrent list be renamed as the Federal Legislative List and State Legislative list. The Federal Government will exercise reserved powers. The States will exercise devolved power. 

As President of the Nigerian Bar Association, I worked with the Forum of Federations. The Forum reviewed diverse models of Federalism which can be of assistance to the National Assembly. In their book: Federalism: An Introduction by George Anderson, the Author points out that many Federal models have strong central governments; yet other models have a weak central government.

Some models have interlocking features where the principle of cooperative federalism enables the federal and state governments to jointly share heads of legislative powers.  I enclose a copy of the book as I believe it will be of value to the National Assembly. In truth, the Concept of True Federalism is a myth and does not exist. Every nation chooses its form of Federalism. 

I have enclosed a draft schedule of how powers can be devolved from the Federal Government to State Governments. 

In my opinion, the simple process of devolved powers can be by virtue of an enactment styled, Constitution Alteration (Devolution of Powers) Bill. This will resolve the self-imposed complex issue of Restructure.

I am happy to meet with your Excellency, if needed. 

Yours Faithfully 

Dr. Olisa Agbakoba, SAN 


  1. Schedule on devolved powers from the federal to state governments
  2. Constitution Alteration (Devolution of Powers) Bill
  3. Book on federalism titled: Federalism: an Introduction by George Anderson: A Collaboration between Forum of Federation and the Nigerian Bar Association

Federal legislative list

Proposed reserved powers


1. Accounts of the Government of the Federation, and of offices, courts, and authorities thereof, including audit of those accounts.

2. Arms, ammunition and explosives.

3. Aviation, including airports, safety of aircraft and carriage of passengers and goods by air.

4. Awards of national titles of honour, decorations and other dignities.

6. Banks, banking, bills of exchange and promissory notes, excluding banks at state level and Micro-Finance Banks

7. Borrowing of moneys within or outside Nigeria for the purposes of the Federation or of any State.

8. Census, including the establishment and maintenance of machinery for continuous and universal registration of births and deaths throughout Nigeria.

9. Citizenship, naturalisation and aliens.

10. Commercial and industrial monopolies, combines and trusts.

11. Construction, alteration and maintenance of such roads as may be declared by the National Assembly to be Federal trunk roads.
12. Control of capital issues.

13. Copyright

14. Creation of States

15. Currency, coinage and legal tender

16. Customs and excise duties

17. Defence

18. Deportation of persons who are not citizens of Nigeria

19. Designation of securities in which trust funds may be invested.

20. Diplomatic, consular and trade representation.

21. Drugs and poisons.

22. Election to the offices of President and Vice-President or Governor and Deputy Governor and any other office to which a person may be elected under this Constitution, excluding election to a local government council or any office in such council.

23. Exchange control

24. Export duties

25. External affairs

26. Extradition

27. Fingerprints identification and criminal records.

28. Fishing and fisheries other than fishing and fisheries in rivers, lakes, waterways, ponds and other inland waters within Nigeria.

29. Immigration into and emigration from Nigeria

31. Implementation of treaties relating to matters on this list

30. Incorporation, regulation and winding up of bodies corporate, other than co-operative societies, local government councils and bodies corporate established directly by any Law enacted by a House of Assembly of a State.

31. Labour, including trade unions, industrial relations; conditions, safety and welfare of labour; industrial disputes; prescribing a national minimum wage at the Federal level and industrial Arbitration, excluding Arbitration at State level.

32 Legal proceedings between Governments of States or between the Government of the Federation and Government of any State or any other authority or person.

33.. Maritime shipping and navigation, including –
(a) shipping and navigation on tidal waters;

(b) shipping and navigation on the River Niger and its affluents and on any such other inland waterway as may be designated by the National Assembly to be an international waterway or to be an inter-State waterway;

(c) lighthouses, lightships, beacons and other provisions for the safety of shipping and navigation;

(d) such ports as may be declared by the National Assembly to be Federal ports (including the constitution and powers of port authorities for Federal ports).

34 Meteorology

35 Military (Army, Navy and Air Force) including any other branch of the armed forces of the Federation.

36 Petroleum and natural gas including oil fields, oil mining, geological surveys.

37. National parks being such areas in a State as may, with the consent of the Government of that State, be designated by the National Assembly as national parks.

38 Nuclear energy

39 Passports and visas

40. Patents, trademarks, trade or business names, industrial designs and merchandise marks.

41 Pensions, gratuities and other-like benefit payable out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund or any other public funds of the Federation.

42 Federal Police and other Federal Government security services established by law.

43 Posts, telegraphs and telephones

44 Powers of the National Assembly, and the privileges and immunities of its members

45. Federal Prisons

46 Professional occupations as may be designated by the National Assembly.
47. Public debt of the Federation

48. National Public holidays.

49. Public relations of the Federation

50 Public service of the Federation including the settlement of disputes between the Federation and officers of such service.

51 Quarantine

52. Railways

53. Regulations of political parties

54 Service and execution in a State of the civil and criminal processes, judgments, decrees, orders and other decisions of any court of law outside Nigeria or any court of law in Nigeria other than a court of law established by the House of Assembly of that State.

55. Stamp duties

56 Taxes on the income and profit of Companies and regulation of taxation of incomes, profits and capital gains by the States, except as otherwise prescribed by this Constitution. Securing uniform principles for taxation of income and profits accruing to persons in Nigeria from countries other than Nigeria and of income and profits derived from Nigeria by persons outside Nigeria.

57 The establishment and regulation of authorities for the Federation or any part thereof –
(a) To promote and enforce the observance of the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles contained in this Constitution;

(b) To identify, collect, preserve or generally look after ancient and historical monuments and records and archaeological sites and remains declared by the National Assembly to be of national significance or national importance;

(c) To administer museums and libraries other than museums and libraries established by the Government of a state;

(d) To regulate tourist traffic; and

(e) To prescribe minimum standards of education at all levels.

58 Trade and commerce, and in particular –
(a) trade and commerce between Nigeria and other countries including import of commodities into and export of commodities from Nigeria, and trade and commerce between the states;

(b) establishment of a purchasing authority with power to acquire for export or sale in world markets such agricultural produce as may be designated by the National Assembly;

(c) inspection of produce to be exported from Nigeria and the enforcement of grades and standards of quality in respect of produce so inspected;

(d) establishment of a body to prescribe and enforce standards of goods and commodities offered for sale;

(e) control of the prices of goods and commodities designated by the National Assembly as essential goods or commodities; and

(f) registration of business names.

59 Traffic on Federal trunk roads.

60 Water from such sources as may be declared by the National Assembly to be sources affecting more than one state

61 Weights and measures.

62 Wireless, broadcasting and television other than broadcasting and television provided by the Government of a state; allocation of wave-lengths for wireless, broadcasting and television transmission.

63 Any other matter with respect to which the National Assembly has power to make laws in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution.

64 Any matter incidental or supplementary to any matter mentioned elsewhere in this list.

State legislative list

Proposed devolved powers


1 Bankruptcy and insolvency

2 Banks at the state level including Micro Finance Banks

3 Insurance

4 Evidence

5 Regulation of labour and industrial relation at the state level, including prescription of Minimum Wage for the state

6 Income security

7 Arbitration at the state level

8 Natural and mineral resources, mines and mining, excluding petroleum and natural gas

9 Taxes on income and profits within the state, other than the income and profits of companies

10 Solemnization of marriages, including marriages under Islamic and Customary law and Matrimonial Causes relating thereto

11 Healthcare

12 Environment

13 Agriculture

14 Municipal affairs – local government etc

15 Trade within the state

16 Inland waterways and Ports within the state

17 The borrowing of money on the sole credit of the state

18 Establishment, maintenance and management of state Prisons

19 Establishment of state institutions in the state, including State Police

20 Incorporation of business enterprises with state objects

21 Administration of justice in the state, including the constitution, maintenance and organisation of state courts and provision of procedure for criminal and civil matters in those courts

22 The imposition of punishments by fine and or imprisonment for state offences

23. State Public holidays

24. Powers of the State Assembly and the privileges and immunities of members

25. State consolidated Revenue Fund

26. Labour including Trade Unions at State level.

Nota Bene:

Due to the high volume of the document “A Bill for an act to alter the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 by creation of the State Court of Appeal, introduction of State Legislative List and Adjustments/Modifications of Legislative Powers of Government between the Federal and State Governments“, sponsored by Olisa Agbakoba S.A.N., the document will be published in subsequent bulletin.

See also:

Bill for Act to alter 1999 constitution to modify Federal & State Govt Powers, by Olisa Agbakoba

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