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State creation as bargaining chip for re-election in 2011

However, when the National Assembly after its inception in June 2007, indicated that it will amend the 1999 constitution, agitations for states creation usually sponsored…

However, when the National Assembly after its inception in June 2007, indicated that it will amend the 1999 constitution, agitations for states creation usually sponsored by Senators and House of Representatives members kept increasing even when it is glaringly clear that the lawmakers cannot surmount the many obstacles in the process of creating states and they are now using it as a bargaining tool for their re-election in the 2011 general elections. Turaki A. Hassan writes

A regular visitor to the Three Arms Zone where the National Assembly Complex is located in the Central Business District, Abuja, will testify to the fact that whenever the lawmakers are in session, there used to be at least every week, a tumultuous crowd who throng the complex. These crowd are always led by one group of lawmaker or the other and they comprise of traditional rulers, community leaders, religious leaders etc. They come with one mission: to submit a memorandum to the leadership of the two chambers demanding the creation of one state or the other.

At the moment, not less than 30 memorandums for states creation have been submitted to the President of the Senate, David Mark and the Speaker of the House of  Representatives, Dimeji  Bankole among which are Adada, Orashi, Njaba, Aba, Equity and Igboezue states all from the southeast geo-political zone which have always cried of marginalization since they are the only region with five states. The Igbo speaking people of Delta State are asking for Anioma state,  Ghari and Tiga states are the demands of people from Kano who were led by the Deputy Senate Minority Leader, Senator Kabiru Ibrahim Gaya (ANPP, Kano South). Nupe people of Niger and Kwara states are also demanding the creation of Edu state. So are the people of Southern Kaduna.

The Senate President’s kinsmen are not left out in this as they are also agitating for Apa state out of the present Benue State even as the Ijebu people in Ogun State are asking for Ijebu state.  From the northeast, there also comes agitations for the creation of Amana and Sardauna states out Adamawa state while the youngest Senator, Suleimen Nazip (PDP, Bauchi) also led his people to press home their denmad for the creation of Katagum state as the people of Southern Borno are not left out also since they are asking for the creation of Savanna state.

The senate leader, Senator Teslim Folarin (PDP, Oyo), is championing the quest for the creation of Ibadan state from Oyo state while Ife people are demanding Oduduwa state out of Osun. The list of agitators of state creation is endless and cannot be complete because everyday, one or two groups emerges as agitators for state creation even from the same state. Among the reasons given by these agitators is that their proposed state is economically viable and can sustain itself and will not depend on grants from the federal government.

Addressing agitators for the creation of Savanna state from Borno state recently, Speaker  Bankole said that those agitating for state creation may not realise their ambition if they fail to re-elect the present crop of lawmakers serving in the National Assembly arguing that only the current lawmakers can help their constituents realize their ambitions for new states in the country.

 “Demand for state creation is a serious business. I will advise you to go back and do proper homework.

You have to work very closely with your representatives in the National Assembly if you must actualize your dreams. These are the ones I know and whom I will work with. They have been on ground; they know the politics and the intrigues in the House and can network properly among their colleagues,” Bankole advised.

In the same vein, Deputy Speaker of the House, Usman Bayero Nafada, told agitators for the creation of Amana state from Adamawa state that the lower legislative chamber is now ready to begin the consideration of state creation

Similarly, Friday last week, Senate spokesman, Senator Ayogu Eze (PDP, Enugu North) said having finished with the electoral amendment bills, the next priority of the senate is the issue of state creation.  Dubiously, during the confirmation hearing of the Chief Justice of the Federation, Justice Aloysius Katsina-Alu on December 16, last year, Senator Eze  introduced himself thus, “I am Senator Ayogu Eze PDP, (Enugu North) soon to become Adada state.”

The questions to be asked here is how genuine are the demands for states creation, does Nigeria needs more  states, how sincere and honest are the lawmakers who are championing the “course” of state creation, can the National Assembly create more states?

However,  Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, seems to be the one who is bold enough to say the plain truth when he  told Weekly Trust  in July last year that the 1999 constitution did not in any way, empower  the National Assembly to create more states.

“I get worried that people are clamouring for state creation without being in tune with the present realities. That is the problem we have, so I hope that our colleagues who are pursuing state creation will take seriously, this section of the constitution. When you look at section 8 of the 1999 constitution, you will see the difficulties and the challenges in creating a state. Some of which is talking about members or elected people from a particular region who need a state. And you that those who are agitating for states, some of them don’t even have a clear cut boundary as to what they want so you must be able to have a clear cut boundary and thereby, isolate those who are elected from the ward to the federal level who will now sign the document, but if that doesn’t happen, then you have not even started. If you have done this, then you send it to the National Assembly and it is expected that there will be a vote of 2/3 of members of the National Assembly.

The constitution further says that you have to go and do a referendum. Unfortunately, the 1999 constitution does not provide for who will conduct the referendum. But I am aware that the 1979 constitution that has a similar provision, the National Assembly at the time passed a bill which they called the State Creation and Boundary Adjustment Act, which tried to give the duty to the National Electoral Commission at that time, but what we have today is a different electoral body; that is INEC. The constitution further says that you have to go and do a referendum.

Unfortunately the 1999 constitution did not provide for who will conduct the referendum,.”  Ekweremadu explained.

Section 8 of the 1999 constitution reads partly, “An Act of the National Assembly for the purpose of creating a new state shall only be passed if-  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 – the Senate and the House of Representatives,  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 the creation of the state originated; 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 the proposal is approved by a resolution passed by two-thirds majority of members of each House of the National Assembly.”

Mike Ahamba, SAN,  argued that one peculiarity about state agitation in Nigeria is that a group of people will come together and claim to have a common destiny.

He said the moment this common destiny is achieved, a new common destiny will emerge from within the original area of common destiny. He further sees state creation agitation as balkanisation for the purpose of political aggrandisement of the individuals involved in an empire of agitation and said, “in this state of disharmony, the desire and intention of the National Assembly legislators in respect of creation of states becomes virtually impossible to implement the provision of the constitution on the creation of state because consensus ad idem (agreement of the minds) becomes impossible.”

Perhaps, the genuine motive and indeed, the truth about agitations for states creation by the lawmakers is the one disclosed by Speaker Bankole when he told the agitators  for the creation of Amana state that, they either re-elect them or lose their proposed state. This invariably means that even if the lawmakers are genuinely intending to create more states, they will not conclude the process in the life time of this present Assembly which is why they need to be “re-elected” to enable them complete the “exercise” since according to Bankole and 469 of his colleagues in the National Assembly, they are the only ones who have the know-how of creating states among the entire 150 million Nigerians. But who knows,  if at all they will remember ever signing the promissory note of state creation with the Nigerian people if they get returned to the hallowed Red and Green chambers in 2011?

 

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