Despite secessionist agitations, demands for new states flood constitution review panels | Dailytrust

Despite secessionist agitations, demands for new states flood constitution review panels

John Nnia Nwodo
John Nnia Nwodo

Despite outcries and calls for secession from many quarters on the grounds that Nigeria as a country is a misnomer, agitation for additional states is still a priority to some of those clamouring to have their separate country.

Also, many people are making case for a state on the grounds that the current arrangement did not favour them. They alleged that the “majority tribe or religion” in some of the existing states were ‘cheating’ them when it comes to allocation of resources or sharing jobs and political appointments.

However, experts believed 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 cry foul.

Agitations for the creation of new states in Nigeria have continued to be a common feature in every attempt to amend the country’s constitution since 1999.

While the forces behind such agitations argue that new states would be a solution to the problems of ethnic minority groups in the country, critics say other strategies could be adopted to address such concerns.

Creation of states started in 1967 when the then military head of state, General Yakubu Gowon (retd) 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 (retd), 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.

After the return to democratic rule in 1999, various minority groups have continued to agitate for new states. At every attempt by the National Assembly to amend the 1999 Constitution, the lawmakers are always greeted with a plethora of memoranda for more states. And the current review exercise by the Ninth Assembly is not an exception.

Deputy Senate President Ovie Omo-Agege, who chairs the Senate Constitution Review Committee, said his panel had received over 250 memoranda, and more than a dozen of them on creation of additional states.

Those clamouring for states

Our correspondents report that various groups from across the regions are clamouring for “freedom” from the state they are at present.

Adada

The immediate past president-general of the Ohaneze Ndigbo, Chief John Nwodo, led other stakeholders from Enugu State to submit a memorandum at the National Assembly to demand for the creation of Adada state.

The stakeholders said the proposed state was approved by delegates at the 2014 National Conference and there was no petition against it. He said the states in the South-East were unanimous in the demand.

Daily Trust reports that Enugu is one of the five states in the South East 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.

Oyo is one of the six states in the South West where a regional agitator, Sunday Igboho wants to create the Oduduwa state.

There are similar call for the creation of Okura state from Kogi, Cross River North from Cross River, Okigwe from Imo and Aba from Abia.

Katagum

A former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Yayale Ahmed, led a delegation from Katagum, Missau and Jama’are emirates in Bauchi to submit a memorandum for the creation of Katagum state.

Ahmed said the call dated back to the 1980s, adding that in 1981, the Senate approved the new state, and the 2014 National Conference did same.

According to him, the proposed state is economically viable in the areas of agriculture, solid minerals, livestock and water resources, and its creation would bring development closer to the people.

“We are reaffirming our confidence in the National Assembly to do the right thing at the right time,” Ahmed said when he submitted the memorandum at the Senate last year.

2 states from Kano

Different groups also submitted memoranda for the creation of Tiga and Ghari states from the present Kano State.

Making a case for the creation of Tiga state, Senator Mas’ud Doguwa El-Jibril, who represented the 16 local government areas that make up the Kano South senatorial district, said that since the creation of Kano State along with 11 others in 1967, no other state has been carved out of it, except Jigawa. He, therefore, said that Kano was being cheated as only one senator represents 16 local government areas, while states like Zamfara and Nasarawa, with less than 16 local government areas have three senators representing them.

The chairman of the Movement for the Creation of Ghari State, Alhaji Muhammad Sani Gadanya, said it would consist of 13 local governments from the present Kano State.

Taraba, Adamawa communities seek Mambilla, Amana, Gongola states

Senator Muhammad Danjuma Goje, who chaired the zonal public hearing at the Gombe centre, said over 70 submissions were received from various groups and individuals, three of which were seeking creation of  Amana and Gongola states from Adamawa, as well as Mambilla from Taraba.

In his submission, the leader of the Movement for the Creation of Amana State, Ahmad Sajoh, said communities in the area had been clamouring for the creation of the state since 1961 when the area was ceded to Nigeria from Cameroon.

He said the people had been marginalised in terms of infrastructure and federal appointments at the highest level, noting that the creation of the state would address the concern.

With a population of about 1.7 million people and 4,088sq landmass, he argued that they had the population and geographical criteria to become a state.

“We were convinced by the then premier of Northern Nigeria, Sir Ahmadu Bello, to be part of Nigeria, on the condition that the area would be an autonomous province, with a guaranteed equality of status.

“We were also promised equality of treatment and access to opportunities as any other Nigerian province of the time, so we are calling on the Senate to help us achieve this noble desire,” Sajoh stated.

Salihu Wobkenso, who leads the agitation for the creation of Gongola state, argued that the communities within the Gongola area deserve a state.

He said the creation of the proposed state would ensure that governance is brought closer to their people, who he said are being neglected in the present setting.

He noted that they had nine local government areas, a population of about 1.4 million people as at 2016 census, adding, “We have what it takes economically to stand as a state.”

Ahmed Dahoji said creation of Mambilla state from the present Taraba would address the challenges being faced by the people.

SOKAPU seeks Gurara

The constitution review committee also received a memorandum from the Southern Kaduna Peoples Union (SOKAPU), a socio-cultural group, seeking creation of Gurara state from the present Kaduna.

The union’s president, Jonathan Asake, said creation of the state would end suppression and oppression the Southern Kaduna people had been suffering.

Southern Kaduna is made up of 67 ethnic nationalities spread across 13 local government areas.

Asake said Gurara was among the 18 proposed in the 2014 Confab report.

Creation of Gurara state will help in solving the incessant conflicts between our people and the other divide,” he said at the zonal public hearing in Kaduna.

Savannah

Communities from nine local government areas in southern Borno are also advocating the creation of Savannah state from the present Borno State.

A former Secretary to the Borno State Government, Ambassador Dauda Danladi, who led the movement, said the request was to address marginalisation.

Danladi told the committee that the movement started in 1982.

But in his presentation, the Speaker of the Borno State House Assembly, Abdulkarim Lawan, said the state did not support the creation of additional states and local governments. He said that the activities of insurgents had reduced the number of local governments in the state as the inhabitants were displaced from their ancestral homes.

Okun people want state, relocation to South-West

The Okun ethnic nationality in Kogi State, in a memorandum to the Senate committee, demanded relocation from the North-Central geopolitical zone to the South-West and a separate state, which would be made up of Okun people, separated by artificial boundaries from their kith and kin.

The memorandum, signed by Ambassador Babatunde Fadumiyo, on behalf of the president of the Okun Development Association, stated, “The Okun people of Kogi State reaffirm their Yoruba origin.

It is incontrovertible that their culture and values are the same as those of Yoruba in the South-West of Nigeria, with whom we share territorial contiguity and economic relations.

“We, therefore, put forward as our core demand, the readjustment or relocation of Okun people’s political and land boundary from the North-Central zone to the South-West.

“In joining the South-West, we demand that Okun land be incorporated as a state to be known as Okun since we have all it takes to be viable.”

Agitations constitutional, legitimate – Lawan

Senate President Ahmad Lawan said the agitations were constitutional and legitimate.

“You are in order. You are at the right place. This is the people’s Assembly, saddled with the responsibility and mandate of receiving and listening to Nigerians who desire one form of legislative intervention or another to ensure that Nigeria is stable and peaceful.

“We are going to give you every opportunity and support that will be necessary for the creation of Adada state.

“It is a constitutional and legitimate agitation. Nigerians should take the opportunity of the constitutional review process that the Ninth Senate and indeed the National Assembly have embarked upon,” Lawan told a delegation from Enugu State who were requesting for the creation of Adada state.

Lobby federal, state lawmakers – Omo-Agege

Deputy Senate President Ovie Omo-Agege also urged those seeking new states to lobby to both federal and state legislators.

“You will need to do a lot of lobbying. No matter what we think as members of this committee about the appropriateness and justness of your cause, I want to plead with you to reach out to our colleagues from all of the geopolitical zones because not one state or geopolitical zone can give you a state. It is about lobbying. If you do this, there is no reason why you should not be able to pull this through.

“This is an exercise we take very seriously. This is a serious request. We are going to look into it and give you all of the assistance we can muster. It is not just about the National Assembly, our job is to lay the foundation before it goes to the other stakeholders,” Omo-Agege told a delegation from Bauchi State asking for the creation of Katagum state.

Why demand is increasing – Lawyers 

E.M.D Umukoro, a lawyer, said agitations for creation of new states were a reflection of the failures of the present governance structures to meet the basic socio-economic aspirations of the people.

“The truth is that 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, the cries for the creation of more states and other agitations would have died a natural death because the real issues Nigerians want would have been addressed,” he said.

Also reacting, Kelvin A. Mejulu said more states would not be sustainable, adding, “The most important thing is to have true fiscal federalism by empowering the six zones and a weak central system instead of states running to Abuja for everything.”

But Malachy Nwaekpe said the creation of new states was not a matter of economic viability, adding that “more states are created to promote stability and address agitations from some parts of the country, which in turn boosts economic viability.”

Abdullateef Salau,  John C. Azu (Abuja), Clement A. Oloyede (Kano), Mohammed I. Yaba (Kaduna), Hassan Ibrahim (Bauchi) & Haruna Gimba Yaya (Gombe)