Network on fiscal federalism founded in Nigeria

A select group of 37 Nigerians created a network on fiscal federalism and drew up a five-year activity plan for the group, in a recent five-day retreat organized by the Forum of Federations.

The event, part of the Forum’s fiscal federalism program, was funded by the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID).

The event brought participants together from 10 federal government institutions, six states, eight universities and three media organizations. On the agenda were issues of taxation, revenue assignment and international practices in handling revenues from natural resources.

Participants were exposed to fiscal federalism from two perspectives. The first, from Professor Juan Antonio Zapata of Argentina, who provided an overview of fiscal federalism internationally. The second, by Nigerian Chinedum Nwoko, who presented a historical overview of fiscal federalism practices in Nigeria from its independence from the United Kingdom in 1960 to the present.

The two presenters were joined by Mr. A. N. Alok, an Indian expert in fiscal federalism as well as Shawn Houlihan, Director of the Forum’s Africa Program.

The retreat was the final of a series of outreach workshops that drew participants from all areas of Nigeria. The response to the outreach series was strong, with 246 participant taking part about 25 per cent more than expected.

The Forum held four sessions in Abuja covering northern Nigeria. For that, participants attended from Oct. 26 29, 2009. In Enugu, two outreach sessions were held from Nov. 2 3, 2009, covering the south and southeast of Nigeria, where 72 participated. In Lagos, two sessions were held for 47 participants from the Country’s south west.

The resource persons Prof. Zapata, and Mr. Nwoko, outlined the nature and evolution of fiscal federalism in Nigeria, explaining that:

  • Fiscal federalism is not an abstract theory of governance, but a body of practice which is directly relevant to many of the issues currently confronting Nigerian policy makers.
  • Practices of fiscal federalism have changed considerably in Nigeria, from a highly decentralized arrangement at independence, to a de facto unitary government during the period of military rule, to an emerging federal system at present.
  • Current issues, such as the allocation of revenue and assignments of responsibilities for service delivery, as well as ambiguities in constitutional and legal provisions, are outcomes of this past history.
  • Nigeria’s problems are not unique: there is much to be learned from the way other federations have addressed such issues.

Over the course of the workshops and retreat, a large quantity of the book Fiscal Federalism: A Comparative Introduction, written by Forum President George Anderson, and published by Oxford University Press was distributed to the participants and to numerous Nigerian institutions.

The event was held in the Nigerian capital city of Abuja from Nov. 9-13, 2009.

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