The National Assembly will next week vote on the amendments proposed to the 1999 Constitution by its Joint Special Ad Hoc Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution
The committee had recommended devolution of powers from the Federal Government to the state and local governments by moving several items from the Exclusive Legislative List to the Concurrent List.
Among the issues which the National Assembly plans to remove from the exclusive legislative list are railways, airports, power and prisons.
According to the Committee Chairman, Ahmed Idris, Section 29 of the proposed amendments read in part, “That the House do receive the report of the Special Ad-hoc Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution on a Bill for an Act to Alter the Provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 to Move Airports from Exclusive Legislative List to the Concurrent Legislative List; and for Related Matters.”
Section 32 of the proposed amendments also read in part, “That the House do receive the Report of the Special Ad-hoc Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution on a Bill for an Act to Alter the Provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 to move Railway from the Exclusive Legislative List to Concurrent Legislative List; and for Related Matters.”
He also quoted Section 31 as reading in part, “That the House do receive the Report of the Special Ad-hoc Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution on a Bill for an Act to Alter the Provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 to Delete prisons in the Exclusive Legislative List and Redesignate it as Correctional Services in the Concurrent Legislative List; and for Related Matters.”
On power, the lawmaker quoted Section 33 of the proposed amendments, saying “That the House do receive the Report of the Special Ad-hoc Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution on a Bill for an Act to Alter the Provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 to allow States Generate, Transmit and Distribute Electricity in Area covered by the National Grid; and for Related Matters”.
Decentralisation’ll improve efficiency, reduce cost of goods -LCCI
Reacting to the development, the Lagos State Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the proposed decentralisation of the facilities would enhance efficiency in management.
The Deputy President, LCCI, Gabriel Idahosa, said, “Generally speaking, it is a welcomed development to move the management of any facilities closer to where it is located. Rather than managing the entire airports from one office, it will be decentralised making the management much more efficient.
“For businesses, if businesses want to move goods through trains and the trains are much more efficient you will find that the trucks on the road will disappear. If you have an efficient railway system, the entire logistics sector in the country will be transformed.
“The cost of movement of goods and services will fall drastically which in turn will bring down the prices of goods and food that we consume.
According to him, private management of critical facilities is the best option for the country, citing the example of the telecommunication sector.
“So, for the railways, what we really need is the Nigerian Railway Transport Commission just like the NCC that will grant licences to operators of rail lines. Operators who have the financial and technical experience will run the rail lines. Once we do that we don’t have to keep borrowing money from China to run our rail lines,” he added.
Also, some economists backed the proposal, saying it will enhance growth.
A development economist, Aliyu Ilias, said the decision to decentralise the management of railways was long overdue.
Ilias said, “I think it is long overdue for government to decentralise the management of railways especially, the Federal Government can manage inter-state while state governments can manage intra-state.
“It will help in supply chain management. It will also drive down the cost of transporting goods and services thereby reducing the price of these commodities. Additionally, it will bring more money to the hands of people in the sense that purchasing power will increase.”
Corroborating his view, another economist, Prof. Akpan Ekpo, supported the inclusion of states in the management of the facilities.
He however advised the government against private ownership, arguing it would create monopoly and lead to higher cost of moving passengers and goods.
Workers support railway decentralisation, kick against unbundling
Commenting on moves by the National Assembly to decentralise the country’s railway system, the Secretary-General, Nigeria Union of Railway workers, Segun Esan, said the NUR would welcome it.
He, however, warned that railway workers would not accept the form of unbundling that was carried out in the power sector.
Esan said, “There wouldn’t be much problem decentralising the rail transport industry and eradicating the monopoly that the Nigerian Railway Corporation enjoys up till this moment.
“The economic advantage when we decentralise is that the industry will have new players and services will be competitive. The economy and particularly the rail transport sector, will be better for it.”
He added, “But what I think shouldn’t be the right thing to do is to unbundle the railway system, by selling it out in pieces just like what happened with the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria.
“That will be so bad. It will be too bad economically. So privatising, concessioning, unbundling and selling it in fragments to some money bags will not really provide the needed answers to the problem of the rail transport industry.”
Article first published on the Punch Website