Revenue Allocation: Okowa wants NASS to uphold true federalism, RMAFC independence
By Nosa Akenzua
Delta Governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, has called on the National Assembly to embody in the 1999 Constitution being amended, true federalism and independence of the Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC).
The Governor made the call on Monday at a nationwide sensitization on the review of the existing revenue allocation formula held at Unity Hall, Government House, Asaba.
He explained that an independent RMAFC would carry out its functions independently, including laying its proposals directly before the National Assembly for approval.
According to the governor, the current practice where recommendations of the Commission are presented to the President has led to the non-review of the revenue allocation formula since 1992 as no president has demonstrated the political will to forward the amendments to the parliament.
He commended RMAFC for the ongoing sensitization of the States before a zonal exercise where recommendations from the States would be received.
“For quite some time a lot of talks have gone on in the revenue allocation and it’s very unfortunate that in this country we are still operating a revenue allocation formula that was actually reviewed in 1992.
“As we look forward to a new revenue allocation formula, we hope that you come out with something that is fair, justifiable and equitable.
“But, the challenge is that when you have done all this work, you are going to eventually, by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, lay this before the President and the President ought to lay it before the National Assembly.
“There is a challenge there and there has always been a challenge there, because what is there in our laws that will ensure that the President lays the recommendations of RMAFC before the national assembly?
“We hope that the national assembly takes a look at this amendment because RMAFC is supposed to be an independent commission, a commission on behalf of all federating units and component parts of the federation.
“They cannot tie your hands; the Constitution ought to be amended to enable Chairman of RMAFC to directly lay before the national assembly whatever review it has come up with so that nobody stands it down,’’ he said.
Okowa stated that the National Assembly must do what was right because “a nation is a nation. A federation is a federation with federating units and we must have that principle of justice and fairness.
“The independence of the RMAFC must be entrenched in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and they must ensure that this aspect of the Constitution is reviewed to ensure that RMAFC Chairman lays its report directly to the National Assembly.”
According to him, efforts of the commission can be in vain if the president fails to lay the report before the national assembly.
“No matter how much we propose and no matter how our good intentions tend to be, there is a challenge on the execution of the revenue formula as it ought to be because of limitations in the Constitution of the country and that’s an aspect we have to attend to.
“There is no doubt that for good governance in this country and for sustainable development, it’s important that the revenue allocation is revisited in such a manner that more money goes back to the sub-national units in our federation.
“At the moment, the Federal Government is taking too much of the totality of the revenue accruing to the federation to the extent that sub-national governments, including the states and the local governments, are actually short-changed and do not have enough resources
“They are the governments closest to the people who understand the needs of the people and they are the governments that can truly develop the various localities in such a manner that the impact of government would be felt in our various communities,” he added.
The governor said that the States in the country were over-burdened with lots of responsibilities, especially with a lot of security challenges across the nation.
Earlier, the Federal Commissioner representing Delta State in RMAFC, Mr Andrew Agbaga, had commended Governor Okowa for his giant strides in governance, which had culminated in improved standard of education, entrepreneurship programmes for youths, infrastructural development, especially in roads and the gigantic Central Secretariat Complex in the state.
He said that RMAFC was empowered by law to review from time-to-time, the revenue allocation formula, in line with changing realities.
Agbaga admitted that the revenue formula ought not to be in force for more than five years, but regretted that all previous attempts to review the formula in the past 28 years had been fruitless.
Welcoming participants to the event, Commissioner for Finance, Chief Fidelis Tilije, said that Delta was a special state with more than 20 cities and big commercial activities.
He stated that Delta had large upland and riverside areas, with attendant huge costs on infrastructural development, adding that issues of housing, environment, water resources, among others, ought to be devolved to the states.
Tilije urged RMAFC to strive towards arriving at the indices that would dovetail into computation of a revenue allocation formula favourable to the sub-national governments.