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Nigeria: Exclusive Legislative List, a Great Impediment to Regional Development


Contemporary federal practice in Nigeria has hampered, rather than advance, development in states as a tier of government.

As the present agitation for a sovereign state of Biafra subjects the fabric of the nation to grievous strain, it is evident that the marriage of 1914 is not working.

Now is the time to revisit the structure of the federation and rethink it’s constitution.

Our target should be:

  1. The Second Schedule of the 199 constitution: Legislative Powers.
  2. Amend the Constitution to include the right to self determination.
  3. Revenue Allocation Formula.

The Nigerian federal practice had constituted a clog in the wheel of progress of the states to include the lopsided revenue allocation formula, the constitutional delineation of power between the federal and state governments and the issue of security.

Two features of the military imposed 199 Constitution and federal practice hampers regional development:

Firstly, the lopsided revenue allocation formula, through which the Federal Government takes 52.8 per cent of all federally-collected revenue, the 36 states and the 774 local councils share 26.72 per cent and 20 per cent respectively.

The second feature of our federal system that hampers the speed of development in the states, is the constitutional delineation of power between the federal government and state governments. 

At present, the Federal Government controls 68 legislative items under the exclusive list and shares 24 with state governments on the concurrent list. 

Apart from the fact that the long legislative list raises issues of effectiveness at the federal level, given the expansive nature of the country, many of the items could be better executed by the states, rather than the Federal Government. 

Such matters include education, health, and even provision of public infrastructure within the states.  For instance, rather than appropriate funds to the federal government to provide township roads, would it not be better for such monies to be appropriated to states that are in daily contact with the townships and their needs?

On the issue of security, the foundation of all development was peace and security, this have, in essence, put the burden of security on any state government in search of development. 

Regrettably, security had been made the exclusive responsibility of the Federal Government. 

The states face enormous security challenges but are hamstrung by the present constitutional provisions.  

We need to rethink the constitutional provisions on security for efficiency and effectiveness.

1999 Constitution for Nigeria: the 68-Item Exclusive Legislative List

These are the areas the powers reserved exclusively for the central government are defined. This means that only the central or federal government can legislate on the subjects in the exclusive list. Interference of the regional or state governments on matters in the exclusive list can be declared null and void and unconstitutional:

  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.
  5. Bankruptcy and insolvency
  6. Banks, banking, bills of exchange and promissory notes.
  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, naturalization 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. Defense
  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. Evidence
  24. Exchange control
  25. Export duties
  26. External affairs
  27. Extradition
  28. Fingerprints identification and criminal records.
  29. Fishing and fisheries other than fishing and fisheries in rivers, lakes, waterways, ponds and other inland waters within Nigeria.
  30. Immigration into and emigration from Nigeria
  31. Implementation of treaties relating to matters on this list
  32. 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.
  33. Insurance.
  34. Labour, including trade unions, industrial relations; conditions, safety and welfare of Labour; industrial disputes; prescribing a national minimum wage for the Federation or any part thereof; and industrial arbitration.
  35. Legal proceedings between Governments of States or between the Government of the Federation and Government of any State or any other authority or person.
  36. 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, l ightships, 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).
  37. Meteorology
  38. Military (Army, Navy and Air Force) including any other branch of the armed forces of the Federation.
  39. Mines and minerals, including oil fields, oil mining, geological surveys and natural gas.
  40. 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.
  41. Nuclear energy
  42. Passports and visas
  43. Patents, trademarks, trade or business names, industrial designs and merchandise marks.
  44. Pensions, gratuities and other-like benefit payable out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund or any other public funds of the Federation.
  45. Police and other government security services established by law.
  46. Posts, telegraphs and telephones
  47. Powers of the National Assembly, and the privileges and immunities of its members
  48. Prisons
  49. Professional occupations as may be designated by the National Assembly.
  50. Public debt of the Federation
  51. Public holidays.
  52. Public relations of the Federation
  53. Public service of the Federation including the settlement of disputes between the Federation and officers of such service.
  54. Quarantine
  55. Railways
  56. Regulations of political parties
  57. Service and execution in a State of the civil and criminal processes, judgements, 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.
  58. Stamp duties
  59. Taxation of incomes, profits and capital gains, except as otherwise prescribed by this Constitution.
  60. 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.
  61. The formation, annulment and dissolution of marriages other than marriages under Islamic law and Customary law including matrimonial causes relating thereto.
  62. 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.
  63. Traffic on Federal trunk roads.
  64. Water from such sources as may be declared by the National Assembly to be sources affecting more than one state
  65. Weights and measures.
  66. 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.
  67. Any other matter with respect to which the National Assembly has power to make laws in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution.
  68. Any matter incidental or supplementary to any matter mentioned elsewhere in this list.

CONCURRENT LIST: These areas are where powers are shared jointly by both the central and regional or state governments as stipulated in the constitution. Even though both governments can make law on matters that fall under concurrent list, the central government is supreme.  This means that in case there is a conflict of law made by both, central government law will supersede that of the regional or state governments subject to all matters on concurrent list, including health, education, agriculture, road, housing.

RESIDUAL LIST: These areas are the leftover powers not included in either the exclusive or the concurrent list. If powers in the residual list are left for the regions or states as is done in some constitutions, that will render the central weak and vice versa. In some constitutions, residual powers are exercised by both levels of government. Such matters in the residual list in Nigeria include chieftaincy matters.


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