Thursday, July 23, 2009

How Many States Do We Need?

Following a meeting of National Assembly members under the umbrella ‘Forum of the National Assembly for the Actualisation of State Creation’, Senator Ayogu Eze was quoted in the media saying, "…….. And all of us agree on one thing; that there can be no constitutional amendment in Nigeria without state creation”. The Senator was even confident that these states could be created before the next general in 2011, which means people can contest elections in the new states. What an ambitious statement to make!

The Speaker of the House of Representatives Hon. Dimeji Bankole, has also played his own part in the recent call for state creation. Firstly, we were told that the Hon Speaker broke down in tears as agitators for the creation of Ijebu state from the present Ogun State stormed the House to press home their demand. Secondly, the Speaker was reported to have told the delegation agitating for the Edu State that ”If it was up to me right now, this moment, this minute and this second, I would call for the creation of this state. This is the most enthusiastic, largest ever contingent that will come and ask for a state”.

Most Nigerians get very emotive when the issue of state creation is discussed, and I understand the reason for this. This is mostly common among minority ethnic groups who feel marginalized because they see state creation as a way of addressing the inequality and injustice in the system. Whilst this may be true, I do not think it will provide a lasting solution to the inherent problems in our federal structure. I consider the “pseudo-federalism” to be the major cause of the marginalization of ethnic minorities. But as the agitation for state creation continues to gather pace, there are important questions which remain unanswered.

First it was General Yakubu Gowon who on May 30, 1967 announced the creation of 12 states from the then four regions in a bid to frustrate Chief Odumegwu Ojukwu's efforts to reap the benefits of his declaration of the Republic of Biafra three days earlier (May 27, 1967). General Murtala Mohammed who succeeded Gowon in 1976 created additional seven states, bringing the number of states in Nigeria to 19. General Ibrahim Babangida (1985-1993) created additional 11 states in 1991 while General Sani Abacha added six more state, bringing the total number of states in Nigeria to its present 36. We will however note that no additional state was during the civilian regime between 1979 and 1983.

History has shown that the rationale for state creation by the military was to appease certain ethnic groups. Unfortunately, the same thinking exists today among our politicians. But in a country of 140 ethnic groups how many states will we need to appease everyone? The situation is bad enough with 36 states. How can the reason for dividing state into two be because the state has not been divided into two since 1976.

Also, on what basis is a state considered viable? Is the economic viability of the state based on projected revenue allocation from the Federal Government or ability to generate sufficient “internal revenue” through taxes etc.? According to figures contained in the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) annual report for 2008, the state with the highest internal generated revenue is Lagos with N139.2 billion, followed in distant second by Sokoto with N34.8billion in 2008. According to the report, the IGR by 36 states and FCTA was N441.1 billion representing 1.8 per cent of national gross domestic product (GDP).

Let’s take the situation for the proposal to create Edu State from the current Niger State as an example. The proposed Edu state is considered long overdue because of its population of 2.1 million and the landmass of 76,000 square kilometres. However, the CBN report noted Niger State as one of the states heavily reliant on federal allocation. Now tell me how can the creation of Edu state from a state that his heavily dependent on federal allocation be economically viable? We may in fact acsk ourselves, if Nigeria as a country itself is economically viable. Of what benefit is a state of 2.1 million people? We all know the so-called federal allocation is intrinsically linked to proceeds from “volatile” crude oil sales.

Creation of states just to appease ethnicity without regards to its long term economic viability should not be encouraged. It is time we start looking beyond tribal lines on issues that affects us as nation. Section 8 of the 1999 Constitution is very clear on matters of state creation. As easy as it may look, the process is very laborious and I will be really surprised if state creation can be achieved by any civilian administration. Even if federal lawmakers are successful in their quest for state creation, the decision will still need to be subject to a referendum. How anyone thinks this can be done before the 2011 elections beats me imagination.

There are fundamental problems with our Constitution that needs to be addressed as matter of urgency. The only way to address ethnic marginalisation is through establishment of sound democratic principles, and promotion of true federalism. Honourable members of the national assembly should focus on issues that will help build democratic institutions that will outlast political generations. These issues are more important than state creation at this present time.

The nation is in dire need of legislations to support a reformed electoral system. Nigeria needs a change in constitution that will entrench “true federalism”. We need legislation that will support and encourage good governance. We need a constitution that will support and encourage genuine separation of power. We need legislation that will promote accountability and transparency at all levels.

We are not interested in a constitution review that is wholly dependent on state creation! We are not interested in manipulation of our constitution to suit individual political aspirations!! We are not interested in a constitution review that will allow perpetuation of kleptomaniacs in power!!!

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

i think we should have a united states of nigeria, and people should cultivate more of a national identity than an ethnic identity, so as not to have another biafra someday, sometime in the future.

9ja_Kuti said...

Our leaders make me sick to me stomach with the decisions they make. could it be because no one stands up to them?

banki said...

they are not our leaders!!! they are our robbers to the effect that they robbed us of the votes that put them there in the first place.