Demands for new states have continued to flood the constitution review panels, despite secessionist agitations in Nigeria. The Senate Constitution Review Committee has considered various factors, including the ability of civilian administration to create states.
Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege, who chairs the Committee, said his panel had received over 250 memoranda from various groups from across the geopolitical zones clamouring for “freedom” from the state they are at present.
The Upper Chamber of the National Assembly has just denied the media report that it is proposing the creation of additional 20 new states.
The Senate, in a statement by its spokesman, Senator Ajibola Basiru, said that the report is a gross misrepresentation of the decision of the committee on the request for creation of more states.
“Far from recommending creation of any state, the Senate Committee, while acknowledging receipts of several Bills proposing creation of new states, decided that it is not in a position to recommend or proposed the creation of any state unless there is compliance with the provisions of section 8 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic as amended,” the Senate said.
Using the Constitution to back up its position, the Senate said, for ease of reference, Section 8 of the Constitution provides: An Act of the National Assembly for the purpose of creating a new State shall only be passed if –
(a) a request, supported by at least two-thirds majority of members (representing the area demanding the creation of the new State) in each of the following, namely – (i) the Senate and the House of Representatives, (ii) the House of Assembly in respect of the area, and (iii) the local government councils in respect of the area, is received by the National Assembly;
“(b) A proposal for the creation of the State is thereafter approved in a referendum by at least two-thirds majority of the people of the area where the demand for creation of the State originated;
“(c) The result of the referendum is then approved by a simple majority of all the States of the Federation supported by a simple majority of members of the Houses of Assembly; and
“(d) The proposal is approved by a resolution passed by two-thirds majority of members of each House of the National Assembly.”
The Upper Chamber added that by the position of the Constitution, the Senate is not in a position to propose creation of states.
It said: “The Senate Committee is not in a position to propose creation of any state as reported. Rather, the committee decided to refer the requests received to Independent National Electoral Commission to ensure compliance with section 8 of the Constitution by conducting referendum in the areas if the requests supported by at least two-thirds majority of members (representing the area demanding the creation of the new State) in the Senate, the House of Representatives and the House of Assembly in the area”.
The balkanisation of the Nigerian federation through the creation of states began partly as a reaction to General J.T.U. Aguiyi Ironsi’s Decree 34, which abrogated the federal structure in favour of a ‘unitary’ system in which the centre became much more powerful than ever before.
Creation of states started in 1967 when the then military Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon (Rtd.), dissolved the regions and gave the country 12 new states. Almost a decade later, the late General Murtala Mohammed created seven more states, making the number 19 in 1976. Eleven years later, another military ruler, General Ibrahim Babangida (Rtd.), created two new states, increasing the number to 21 in 1987.
In 1991, Nigeria was made up of 30 states with the creation of nine more by Babangida. The late General Sani Abacha also created six more states in 1996, making it 36 states in Nigeria.
At every attempt by the National Assembly, including the Ninth Assembly, to amend the 1999 Constitution, the lawmakers are always greeted with a plethora of memoranda by various minority groups for more states.
Analysts have argued that although less than five of the current 36 states are economically viable, it was gathered that the Senate Committee was determined to respect what it termed “the genuine desire of Nigerians.”
Some of the states’ requests include ITAI State (from Akwa Ibom State); State status for the FCT; Katagum State, from Bauchi State; Okura State, from Kogi East; Adada State, from Enugu State; Gurara State, from Kaduna South; and Ijebu State, from Ogun State.
Others include Ibadan State, from Oyo State; Tiga State, from Kano State; Ghari State, from Kano State; Amana State, from Adamawa; Gongola State, from Adamawa; Mambilla State, from Taraba State; Savannah State, from Borno State; and Okun State, from Kogi State.
Others on the list are Etiti State, from the South East Zone; Orashi State, from Imo and Anambra States; Njaba State, from the present Imo State or the excision of Aba State from Abia State; Anioma State, from Delta State; Torogbene and Oil River States, from Bayelsa, Delta and Rivers States; and Bayajida State, from parts of Katsina, Jigawa, and Zamfara States.
The source said: “The Senate Committee on Constitution Review has seen the desirability of creating new states which may even solve the nation’s present security challenges.
“What the Senate Committee has recommended is to amend the constitution to empower INEC to conduct the referendum on state creation.
“When INEC gets the constitutional mandate, we can then invoke the Section in Part 1 of Chapter 1 of the 1999 Constitution.
“We are talking of referendum for less than or about 20 new states.”
“The procedures for creating new states may be cumbersome but realisable.
“In this Fifth Amendment to the 1999 Constitution, the National Assembly can create new states if the conditions are met.”
However, experts believe that only “fairness” would resolve the impasse, insisting that even if each of the local government areas in Nigeria would become a state, some minority groups would still cry foul.
Enugu State is one of the five states in the southeast which the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), led by Nnamdi Kanu, is working hard to excise from Nigeria, to form the Biafra Republic.
There are also demands from various socio-cultural groups for the creation of Oke-Ogun from Oyo State, which is one of the six states in the southwest, where a regional agitator, Sunday Igboho, wants to create the Oduduwa Republic.
Some stakeholders have insisted that their proposed states are economically viable in the areas of agriculture, solid minerals, livestock, and water resources, and that such creation would bring development closer to the people. But that is easier said than done, and the question to ask is why the existing states have not been so viable.
Others claimed being cheated with the number of senators representing them, while others also said they had been marginalised in terms of infrastructure and federal appointments at the highest level.
E.M.D. Umukoro, a lawyer, opined that agitations for creation of new states are a reflection of the failure of the present governance structures to meet the basic socio-economic aspirations of the people.
According to him, the cries for the creation of more states and other agitations would have died a natural death if the government had, over the years, focused on economic growth, generation and supply of stable power, industrialisation, diversification of the economy, functional education that meets the needs of the country, as well as a conducive environment for Nigerians with creative abilities to thrive.
On his part, David Adoni said more states would not be sustainable, but stressed the need for true fiscal federalism by empowering the six zones, creating a weak central system, and abrogating the system of states running to Abuja for everything.
However, Collins Adebayo disagrees, saying that the creation of new states was not a matter of economic viability because more states are created to promote stability and address agitations from some parts of the country, which in turn enhance economic viability.
Without doubt and as stated by the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, the agitations for new states are constitutional and legitimate.
The 2019 Annual States Viability Index released by Economic Confidential listed only 6 states which include Lagos, Ogun, Rivers, Kwara, Kaduna, and Enugu to be economically viable in Nigeria.
It also listed the poor and insolvent states to include Katsina, Kebbi, Borno, Bayelsa, and Taraba, based on their poor Internally Generated Revenue (IGR), which is far below 10 percent of their receipts from the Federation Account.
Many states remain unviable, and cannot survive without the federally-collected revenue, mostly from the oil sector, because the IGR generated by states are through Pay-As-You-Earn Tax (PAYE), Direct Assessment, Road Taxes, and revenues from Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).
The BudgIT report recounted that most Nigerian states have become fiscal basket cases, unable to fulfil the basic role of driving and sustaining development as well as harness resources to drive development and reduce poverty.
Pundits have argued that beyond rhetoric and empty pledges to diversify revenues sources, neither the federal nor the state governments have moved radically or fast enough to match words with action, as their lean resources are incapable of meeting wage bills, while recourse to borrowing to fill the gap has not curbed their fiscal insolence.
A school of thought has canvassed that if local government creation is to encourage grassroots development, there still will not be even development; and if states creation was to foster national integration, its uneven distribution among the regions will cause more agitations.
Minority-majority conflict, therefore, cannot be eliminated using state and local government areas creation.
States creation in this sense can be seen as a vicious circle because once there is majority and minority and there is an attempt to appease the minority by creating states for them, a new minority will emerge from the former minority.
It is worthy of note to say that the number of local governments in a state is one of the major criteria for revenue allocation in Nigeria’s fiscal federation.
This culminates in every state demanding for more local government areas in order to boost their revenue profiles, which also undermines the very philosophy of local government creation, which is to boost grassroots development and promote national integration.
The nation can achieve national integration if it downplays such faulty strategies of national integration as federal character, state of origin syndrome, and quota system, and put in place appropriate domicile laws which will allow Nigerians to acquire residential rights that would enable them to attain every possible heights wherever they are anywhere in Nigeria, without ethnic, religious or gender discrimination.