The recent presidential court ruling has ignited a nationwide debate on the governance structure of Nigeria, particularly concerning Abuja’s status.
The Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) rejected a literal interpretation of section 134(2)(b) of the 1999 Constitution, stating that the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja’s votes couldn’t be decisive in the presidential election.
It also ruled that FCT does not enjoy any special status compared to the other 36 states of the federation concerning the mandatory 25% vote requirement in the presidential election conducted on the 25th of February 2023.
This ruling came after Peter Obi challenged President Bola Tinubu’s victory, arguing that the principle of “equality of the weight and value of votes” was not upheld.
The court’s decision has set the stage for a re-evaluation of Nigeria’s governance structures, all under the looming shadow of the presidential court ruling.
Nigeria’s Capital City – A State Without a Governor and Assembly
Nigeria’s capital city, Abuja, finds itself in a unique conundrum.
While it serves as the seat of power and is often treated with the importance of a state, it lacks the governance structure that comes with being a state—specifically, a Governor and a House of Assembly.
This absence has led to debates about Abuja’s status and whether it should be regarded as a state.
African Countries Whose Capital Cities Have Governors
In stark contrast to Abuja’s governance vacuum, several African countries have capital cities with their own Governors, Mayors, or Premiers.
For instance, Nairobi in Kenya has a Governor, Addis Ababa in Ethiopia is governed by a Mayor, and Pretoria in South Africa falls under the jurisdiction of a Premier.
Other examples include Dar es Salaam in Tanzania with a Regional Commissioner, Kampala in Uganda with a Lord Mayor, and Harare in Zimbabwe, which also has a Mayor.
These capital cities are often better developed and managed than Abuja, benefiting from focused governance that addresses local issues effectively.
For example, Nairobi has seen significant infrastructure development, while Addis Ababa has made strides in urban planning. Kampala, under its Lord Mayor, has been able to implement community-based projects that have a direct impact on the residents.
The presence of these governance structures has allowed for more effective administration, raising the question: Could this model be replicated in Nigeria? The recent presidential court ruling has made this an even more pertinent question. If Abuja were to have its own Governor and Assembly, it could potentially see a similar trajectory of development and effective governance, elevating it to the standards of other well-managed African capitals.
What Section 299 of the 1999 Constitution Says
According to Section 299 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, is to be treated “as if it were one of the States of the Federation.”
This means that all legislative, executive, and judicial powers that would typically vest in a state’s Governor and House of Assembly are vested in the National Assembly and the President of the Federation.
The section further clarifies that these powers must be exercised in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution.
The Possibility of an Abuja State Governor
For Abuja to have its own Governor and Assembly, significant changes would need to occur. One option could be to amend the 1999 Constitution to allow for a governance structure similar to other states.
Alternatively, the presidential court ruling could serve as a catalyst for this change, although this would likely require further legal and constitutional reviews.
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