Thursday, April 29, 2010

On State Creation and Constitution Review

The strongest hint that new states will created before 2011 elections were today dropped by the Deputy Senate President, Usman Nafada.

According to the Deputy Senate President, the National Assembly intends to create 10 additional states as part of the ongoing constitution review. In his words, “The creation of new states is not as rigorous as the amendment of the constitution. The Governors Forum and many powerful interest groups have been inundating us with this demand”. Whilst he refused to confirm the actual proposed number of states, Mr Nafada confirmed that “there is no running from the fact that new states would be created next year”.

The debate on whether new states should be created has been ongoing for quite a while. Many interest groups have made representation to the National Assembly on the need for state creation. However, the civil society is yet to see a “business case” on the economic viability of these proposed states. The process of state creation might not be rigorous, just as the Deputy Senate President pointed out, however, common sense dictates that the rationale for state creation should transcend any procedural rigour. It’s the height of irresponsibility to create a state just because it’s easy to do so, without due consideration of its economic and social implications. I find it quite ridiculous that the National Assembly will just support state creation just because some kleptomaniacs called state governors sees it fit?

The need for additional states should be guided by key fundamental principles. The business case needs to compelling both economically and socially. Are the proposed states economically viable? Also, what has been the economic performance of existing states in terms of internal generated revenue?

To date , there’s no evidence in Nigeria to suggest any correlation between state creation and economic/infrastructure/human capital development. The only evidence available is that of increased looting of the nation’s treasury. With additional states, that means more Governors, Commissioners, Special Advisers, Permanent Secretaries, all feeding fat on the government.

Already, the nation is struggling with an over-bloated democratic structure and bureaucracy. The last time I checked, it was costing the nation N1.1trillion in salaries and allowances to maintain public office holders at all three tiers of government.

According to a 2008 report by Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the state with the highest internal generated revenue is Lagos with N139.2 billion, followed in distant second by Sokoto with N34.8billion . In terms of revenue, the IGR by 36 states and FCTA was N441.1 billion representing 1.8 per cent of national gross domestic product (GDP) or total output of goods and services amounting N24 trillion at current basic prices. Fast forward to 2010, it’s unlikely that there would have been much difference.

Minority ethnic groups see state creation as a way of addressing the inequality and injustice in the system. To date I can’t see any evidence to back such claim. For example, will creation of additional states prevent the last ethnic/religious crisis in Jos? Or will it have prevented the Ijaws/Itsekiris from hacking themselves to the death in the 90’s? What about the tribal clashes between the communities of Ife and Modakeke? It really begs the question of how many states we can practically create to appease everyone in a multi-ethnic society as ours. I will assume, we may need to create at least 14o states!

We also have political opportunists who see state creation as an opportunity for easy and quick access to the national cake. Since allocation of political appointment is bereft of any merit-selection process, but instead based on the nonsensical federal character principle, it means the political elites are a step closer to the dining table of the national treasury.

I anxiously look forward to the day when our (s)elected leaders will begin to get their priorities right. The Deputy Senate President from his comments has further confirmed the widely held belief that our political elites are VERY detached from the modern day realities of the average Nigerian. If I may ask, how will creation of new states alleviate the growing unemployment, which at the last count was grossly underestimated as 40%? How will state creation put food on the table of 70% of Nigerians who barely survive on $1 per day? How will creation of additional states ensure probity and accountability? How will it discourage state governments continuous dependency on monthly revenue allocation from the federal government?

For me, the most important amendment that can be made to the Nigerian Constitution is the correction of our pseudo-federalism cum unitary system of government. I even consider this to be more important than any electoral reform. Even if we succeed in having an electoral reform that guarantees free and fair election, that wouldn’t take away anything from the fact that our governance system has failed. Can anything good come out of a failed system?

Honourable members of the national assembly should focus on issues that will help build democratic institutions that will outlast political generations. We run a system of government that grants absolute power to the Executive. We say we are a federation but all powers of the federating units have been usurped by the Federal Government. We claim to be a democracy, yet some states are governed by ‘theocracy’.

What we need is a constitution that will entrench ‘true federalism’ and not creation of “mickey mouse” states or glorified local government.We need legislation that will promote accountability and transparency at all levels of government and not just provide unfettered access to the national treasury

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Its sad to know that at this time and age the leaders of this country still have not gotten their priorities right as to the governance of the nation....i just pray we Nigerian are ready to speak out instead of just speaking in our homes....believe me the state creations wont help matters any better but would add more to it cos its obviously all these state creations that has caused most of the ethnicity clashes we have had in this country....may God help us sha....