What Is Federalism?
The concept of Federalism refers to the interrelationship between the different tiers of Government, specifically the Federal Government, State Government and Local Government.
Ideally, in a country where Federalism is practiced strictly, power and authority is allocated in a way that means each level of Government is independent of the other, and thus there will be many functions that can only be exercised at a certain level of Government.
Issues that directly affect a State or a particular area within a State, in a perfect scenario, should be left for the State and Local Governments to govern. As you can imagine, in an instance where there is a pothole at the junction of Idowu Martins and Kofo Abayomi, it would be difficult and tedious if the residents of the area had to wait for the Federal Government to rectify it.
Exclusive vs. Concurrent vs. Residual Powers of Government
In Nigeria we have various lists that prescribe the various powers exercisable at Federal level and at State level.
The Residual list refers to matters that are left for the State Governments to govern, whereas the Exclusive list refers to items that are to be dealt with at the Federal level.
However, there are some instances where powers are shared by both the Federal and State Governments, thus both may act and intervene with regard to same, although the decision of the Federal Government will override that of the State Government. This list of powers is called the Concurrent list.
Over the years, there have been many difficulties with the effective administration of the concurrent list. In the event of an issue who then becomes liable and saddled with the responsibility of rectifying it. Formally, the powers of the Federal Government override that of the State Government; however in an instance where there is an issue, it is the State Government that will be seemingly obligated to put things right, as well as being the recipient of all the usual associated slander.
Federalism and Lagos State
Any one living in Lagos Nigeria would have heard of, or actually been negatively affected by, the severe flooding often experienced in the State during the raining seasons. Many who do not know the cause, have often called out Governor Ambode, or his predecessor Governor Fashola, for failing to properly address the situation. However, as stated above, where there is a conflict as to who is actually responsible for the internal water ways of the State, it becomes difficult for definitive action to be taken, and that was the case with Lagos State, which then resulted in the severe flooding.
In Lagos State we have seen many instances where uncontrolled dredging has affected water levels, thus causing all the associated issues. In many instances, people with dredging permits issued by the Federal Government are not even mandated to comply with the standard environmental impact assessments compelled at State level. This has led to a lot of discourse on the issue and formed the foundation for necessary court action.
Over the last few months there has been a tug of war as to who is responsible for the Lagos State inland waterways. There have been many instances where individuals were paying their licensing fees and registering with both the Federal and State waterways authorities for permits to dredge for sand, licenses for the operation of their boats and other water related issues.
On the 31st July 2017 Lagos State Government won a groundbreaking case against the National Inland Water Ways at the Court of Appeal, where it was held that the Lagos State Government may control its intra-inland waterways through the Lagos State Waterways Authority established in 2008 by a Law enacted by the Lagos State House of Assembly.
“All other inland waterways within the State are within the legislative competence of the Lagos State House of Assembly and any revenue accruable therefrom is payable to the Lagos State Waterways Authorities”
Many have condemned the manner in which Federalism is operated in Nigeria and have empathized that this judgment is a monumental achievement, stressing that it is a necessary step towards State Governments claiming control of their resources to further enshrine the true spirit of Federalism.
One thing that I know is that many amendments are needed for the current State of the nations affairs to be aligned, to that which is necessary in a true federation. These amendments are vital and are the only way State Governors and Local Government chairmen will be able to implement the positive changes they want to implement…without being tied up in Federal bureaucracy.