Connect with us
WANT LATEST NEWS UPDATES STRAIGHT TO YOUR PHONE? CLICK HERE TO FOLLOW US ON FACEBOOK

News

Renewed call for more states sparks fresh controversy

Published

on

The recent call for the creation of additional three states in the South West by the House of Representatives member representing Obokun/Oriade Federal Constituency of Osun State, Mr. Oluwole Oke, has re-ignited the arguments for and against the creation of more states in Nigeria.

While some have argued that available empirical records do not support creating more states, others are saying that it would bring about more development.

There are those who insist that there is nothing wrong in creating one additional state in the South East.

The proponents of this argument believe that an additional state for the South East would ensure justice, equity and fairness, as it remains the only zone in Nigeria with five states, while others have six, and even seven for the North West.

Yet, there are those who believe that the only panacea to end agitation for more states creation agitation is to revisit the 2014 confab report, which they believe, takes care of all the concerns and fears of every zone in Nigeria.

Since Nigeria adopted the zonal structure, with three zones in the north and three in the south, the South East appears to have been the weeping child.

That is largely because while the other five zones of the South West, South-South, North Central, North East and North West, have at least six states, with the exception of the North West, which has seven states, the South East has been left with only five states.

This situation, according to the Southeasterners, has adversely affected the zone in representation in the national assembly, and in terms of federal allocation, as the zone also has the least number of local governments.

One of the recommendations of the 2014 National Conference during the Goodluck Jonathan presidency was to create additional 18 states, three for each zone, after an additional one state must have been created for the South East to bring it at par with the other zones, with the exception of the North West.

But, the report never saw the light of the day as far as implementation is concerned.

Former President Jonathan never acted on the report until he left office, and the subsequent governments have not deemed it fit to act on the report; it has continued to gather dust in the presidential villa.

Only last week, the media was awash with the report that the House of Representatives was set to consider a bill seeking to create three additional states in the South-West.

The bill, which according to the report, has been listed to be brought for first reading before the Green Chambers, was sponsored by the lawmaker representing Obokun/Oriade Federal Constituency in Osun State, Mr. Oke.

Oke, who chairs the House Committee on Judiciary, has proposed the bill to create Oke-Ogun, Ijebu and Ife-Ijesa states.

Advertisement

The proposed bill titled, ‘A Bill for an Act to amend the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended)’ in the amendment of the First Schedule, Part I of the Constitution reads: “The First Schedule, Part I of the Constitution is amended by introducing new states and reducing the number of local government areas.”

Looking at the drafted bill, Ijebu State, when created, would include Ijebu East, Ijebu North East, Ijebu Ode, Ikenne, Odogbolu, Ogun Waterside, Remo North and Sagamu Local Government Areas. The proposed capital city for Ijebu State is Ijebu Ode.

Oke-Ogun State, with Iseyin as the proposed capital city, on the other hand, is expected to comprise 12 local government areas, including Olorunsogo, Irepo, Oorerelope, Ogbomosho North, Ogbomosho South, Saki-East, Saki-West, Atisbo, Itesiwaju, Iwajowa, Kajola and Iseyin.

Also, Ife Ijesa State will consist of 11 local government areas, made up of Atakunmosa East, Atakunmosa West, Boluwaduro, Ife Central, Ife East, Ife North and Ife South. Others are Ilesa East, Ilesa West, Oboku and Oriade.

The bill, according to the lawmaker, was cited as “The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (Amendment Bill, 2024.).”

If eventually passed, the South West region would surpass the North-West, which currently has seven states, the highest among the other zones of North-Central, North-East, South-West, South-South-South and South-East.

However, analysts have said it would not be a walk in the park, as there would be some legislative hurdles to surmount before a state could be created in Nigeria.

Recall that the national assembly is currently amending the 1999 constitution.

In January, the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Benjamin Kalu, assured Nigerians that work on the amendment of the 1999 constitution would be completed in December 2025.

However, a lawyer and public affairs analyst, Innocent Anayo, told Pmnews.ng that the requirements for state creation and boundary adjustments are among the most challenging provisions in a constitutional amendment process.

According to him, Section 8 (1) of the constitution stipulates that a new state could only be created if it is supported by at least two-third majority of members representing the area demanding the creation of the new state, in each of the Senate and the House of Representatives, as well as the House of Assembly in respect of the area.

It is instructive to note that no state has been created since 1999 when the country returned to democratic rule.

Instead, there have been pockets of intermittent agitations by different groups from across the country for the creation of more states since 1999.

With the recent move for the creation of three more states for the South West, which if approved would bring the number of states in the zone to nine, surpassing the North West with seven states, and still leaving the South East behind with five states, people from other zones would certainly not keep quiet.

Advertisement

Speaking on the development, the National Publicity Secretary of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Dr. Alex Ogbonnia, reiterated the position of the apex Igbo socio-cultural body.

He lamented that the zone has been shortchanged for many years, and that Ohanaeze’s position on the matter is that the zone has lost so much as a result.

“We have lost billions of naira in terms of the number of local government areas, the number of states, the number of representations in the National Assembly (NASS), and the number of appointments as ministers and other patronages.

“Above all, each time they go for a national convention, the South East presents the least number of delegates compared to other zones. So, Ohanaeze’s position is that the South East needs at least one more state,” he told DAILY POST.

He, however, insisted that what was more paramount was how to restructure the country, so that agitations for state creation would cease once and for all.

“Beyond the issue of state creation, what we are talking about is true federalism, where every state will have the authority over its revenue and expenditure profile, so that it will be able to tap its mineral resources.

“But, all these notions of having a cash cow only amounts to eating the cake, not baking the cake; and that creates more problems.

“People are not resourceful anymore; but with true federalism, each federating unit will work hard and go into a kind of competition.”

He also noted that if there is any region that needs more states in Nigeria today, it would be the South East, insisting that anything short of that amounts to being inconsiderate on the part of anybody thinking otherwise.

“So, talking about three states in the South West is inconceivable in the present day realities.

“This is because if you are talking about Nigeria today, the only shortchanged zone is the South East.

“Anybody talking about creation of more states anywhere outside the South East zone is not being considerate.

“So, our position, which is valid, is that the South East should be granted at least one more state to bring it to the same status with other zones, with the exception of the North West,” he argued.

But for the president of Middle Belt Forum (MBF), Dr. Pogu Bitrus, the 2014 confab report is the magic wand.

Advertisement

He said: “The 2014 confab report made recommendations that encompass all the zones in Nigeria, including the South East. So, what this member in the South West is doing is trying to prompt the government to revisit the 2014 confab report, which was broadly accepted by Nigerians.

“Those of us in the Middle Belt made our demands. What we are saying is that this government should restructure the country. And by restructuring the country, all the federating units, in this case, the states, will now seek to be viable and contribute to the centre.

“We are going to have a more workable country than this one where some people are just using the federal might to dominate others. So, what we are saying is that we should go back to the 2014 confab, and get the solution to all the people’s concerns and fears.”

He added that “all those requests, including those of the South East are contained in the 2014 confab report, and I believe that revisiting it will address the issues of all parts of the country, because it is a more representative report.”

“Even the Nasir El Rufai report, which came after and which was done by the All Progressives Congress (APC) under former President Muhammadu Buhari, still provided for restructuring, just that the 2014 confab report is more holistic. The 2014 confab report would address the concerns of the South West, South East, South-South, North East, North West and North Central,” he further told Pmnews.ng.

However, the former National President, Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR), Malachy Ugwummadu, is of the view that the agitation for the creation of more states in contemporary Nigeria, represents one of those sad commentaries in the country.

He described it as an ill wind that blows no one any good.

The reason, according to him, is that statistics have shown through empirical records that less than 30 percent of states are viable in Nigeria today.

He said: “Viability, independence, and economic sustainability, as well as cultural affinity and identity, are the conditions for state creation; it is not a whimsical thing.

“The big point is that many states in Nigeria cannot survive without the federal allocation, and if that is the case, then the South West protagonist, who is pushing for state creation for the South West should tell Nigerians why he is saying so.

“What is more; allocation of the federal resources is dependent on the number of states in the region, as well as available local governments, and the entire South East has complained bitterly about this lopsidedness.

“Therefore, if there is going to be equity in Nigeria in terms of balancing the political economy of state creation, it should be in favour of the South East at the moment, just so there will be parity.

“But, I am not in the business of the clamour for state creation; what we are looking at is to focus directly on the merits and demerits of state creation.

“It is not about having 500 children when you cannot even train 12. And this is replicating itself in so many ways and ramifications, which shows that we don’t love this country; there is no patriotism.”

Advertisement

Continuing on the argument that the call for state creation is selfish rather than patriotic, he cited the call by a South East politician for an establishment of a South East Development Commission, just because there is a Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) in the South-South and the North East Development Commission in the north.

He told Pmnews.ng: “The other day, I saw Victor Umeh pushing for the creation of the South East Development Commission. It is understandable but regrettable. And what he was saying is that there is a lot of infrastructural deficit and collapse in the South East because of the civil war between 1967 and 1970.

“You can see how we travel. Because there was a genuine intervention programme, by which the NDDC was created, over the years, the northerners said Boko Haram had destroyed everything, and that they should have North East Development Commission.

“So, the way we travel shows that people are not thinking about this country. People are self-centred and just thinking about what they can get for themselves. I am a bit bothered about it.

“It may sound nice in the ears of the people who are affected, but in the long run, it is because we have left untouched, the business of nation building that we are all crying.

“For how long are we going to continue to remain parochial about all of these, to the detriment of the survival of the nation? This is a country that now suffers from a food crisis. A bag of cement, as I understand, is now about N13,000. Naira to dollar exchange is almost N2000.”

On the solution, he said; “The way out is to suspend and discard every parochial and selfish agitation, and focus on the survival of this country first, because the country is dying.

“There is no country any more. Chinua Achebe, in his book, said there was a country, but as it is, there is no country any more. So, let us rescue the country first. Somebody is in oxygen and you are pumping more toxic materials into his system; that is exactly what we are doing. Let us rescue the country first.

“The call for state creation is poorly timed, and it is also not a patriotic one. Secondly, it will never end, because the statistics do not even show that it can be sustained.”

Trending