STATE CREATION…Stakeholders Argue For Economic Viability, Regional Balance

STATE CREATION…Stakeholders Argue For Economic Viability, Regional Balance

The agitation for the creation of additional states in Nigeria has been a long-standing issue, with proponents arguing that it would promote effective governance and development in the country.
The Southwest and Southeast geopolitical zones have been at the forefront of this agitation respectively.
Two bills are currently before the House of Representatives seeking the creation of three additional states in the southwest geopolitical zone.

LEADERSHIP reports that state creation in Nigeria dates back to 1967 when the then head of state, Gen Yakubu Gowon, created 12 states out of the four regions in existence. His successor, Murtala Mohammed, created additional seven states in 1976, which brought the total number to 19.

General Ibrahim Babangida, who was Nigerian head of state between 1985 and 1993, created 11 more states; two in 1987 and nine in 1991, which brought the number of states in the country to 30 till 1996 when another military ruler, the late General Sani Abacha added six states, bringing the number to 36 states that are currently in existence.

Also under the Abacha regime, Nigeria was divided into six geopolitical zones. Out of these, the northwest has seven states, the northeast, north central and south-south comprise six states each while the southeast consists of only five states.

Though history has shown that state creation had been done only by the military government, demands and even recommendations have been made at different times, especially in the last 24 years since the return to democratic rule in 1999 for more states to be created.

For instance, the 2014 National Conference recommended the creation of 18 new states (three per geo-political zone) and one new state for the southeast to make the zone have an equal number of states with the other zones, except the northwest which has seven.

Also, in February this year, the Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, threatened to sue the Nigerian government over its failure to create an additional state in the South-east.
Experts have suggested that a more pragmatic approach to the creation of additional states would be to base it on economic viability and a sense of fairness and balance.

They argue that any new state should be economically viable and able to sustain itself, and that the creation of new states should be based on a clear set of criteria that takes into account factors such as population, geography, and economic potential.

The president-general of the Ohanaeze, Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, had in a statement said it was improper that the southeast is the only region in Nigeria with five states.

Iwuanyanwu said the situation had cost the region billions in financial losses and losses in government positions, ministerial appointments as well as legislative representation.

“In 2005 and 2014, we raised this issue at various political conferences. All men of goodwill at the conference agreed that it was unfair for the southeast to have only five states and recommended that an additional state be created in the southeast, but up until today, this has not been done,” he said.

With the 10th National Assembly on another constitution amendment process, the House of Representatives has passed through first reading and also slated for second reading a Bill for an Act to Amend the Constitution to Provide for the Creation of Oke-Ogun with Saki as the Proposed Capital City, sponsored by Hon. Kareem Tajudeen Abisodun.

Similarly, the House has received a bill proposing the creation of three states, namely Ijebu, Oke-Ogun (also in the other bill) and Ife Ijesa states in the southwest region, sponsored by Hon. Oluwole Oke.
The proposed legislation is entitled “A Bill for an Act to amend the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended)” with the amendment of the First Schedule, Part I of the Constitution to read:

“The First Schedule, Part I of the Constitution is amended by introducing new states.”
In the draft bill, Ijebu State, when created, will compromise 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 would consist of 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 be made of 11 LGAs made up of Atakunmosa East, Atakunmosa West, Boluwaduro, Ife Central, Ife East, Ife North, Ife South, Ilesa East, Ilesa West, Oboku and Oriade.
The South-West geo-political zone is currently made up of six states: Ondo, Oyo, Lagos, Ogun, Osun and Ekiti states.

Speaking to LEADERSHIP, the executive director of Yiaga Africa, Samson Itodo, said there is inequity in the way states have been structured, with regions like the southeast having less number of states.
He, however, said more states should not just be about balance but the need for development and economic viability.

“We need to ask ourselves if the 36 states we have in the country are economically viable, and those are the kinds of conversations: how do we make those states more functional? But I think that people who are advocating for more states, especially regions like the southeast; we need to create that balance because it has impact on how the nation allocates its resources; resources are distributed across the states.

“It also has implications for the configuration of political power. So if you look at the National Assembly, the regions that have more states are more likely to have more representatives in the House of Representatives and that tilts the power against other regions, so when decisions are being made, you will have a particular section of people who may be adversely affected by this nature of configuration.

“But also, and I must say that this whole debate around state creation will need to revisit how we create states in our Constitution because this Constitution Review also provides the opportunity.

“Are they economically viable, are they able to generate their own resources? Those are critical discourses, but you need to strike a balance because you also need to ensure that there is inclusion and there is no marginalisation, and a particular region does not feel disproportionately affected,” Itodo noted.

Also, the chairman, the Independent Media and Policy Initiative (IMPI), Niyi Akinsiju, told LEADERSHIP that no states in Nigeria is deficient of economic opportunities, and advocacy for the creation of states should be based on such indices

“Historically, the bases of state creation in Nigeria are not on capacity for self-sustenance but rather on similarities and contiguity of culture and historical origins of the people in a geographical area. So, we have always been limited to that, and to that extent consideration for state or rather advocacy for state creation has not been on economic capacity.

“It is done principally about longing to find ethnic fellowship within the same geographical space for a given people. So for me, that could also be a good reason for state creation because, indeed, people that belong to a given geographical space that share the same ethnic origin, that share the same common culture, nothing stops them from having to belong in a geopolitical system that they can call their own. It gives them a sense of belonging.

CSOs Reject Calls For Creation of News States
Meanwhile, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have rejected proposals for the creation of additional states.

According to the CSOs, advocates of more state creation are not motivated by community development, but to create more avenues for looting the public purse.

The CSOs said Nigerian should think on how more funding should be coming from the states to support the centre and not creating additional states to depend on the centre for sustenance.

The CSOs which spoke to LEADERSHIP are Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), Transparency International (TI) and the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC).

Speaking through their leader, Awwal Musa Rafsanjani, the CSOs insisted that some states in Nigeria are not viable: they cannot pay salaries, nor contribute to the centre.
“It’s a very funny call,” Rafsanjani said of the proposals for additional states already in the National Assembly.

“Anyone calling for more states to be created, he should first of all ensure that the present state he is in is viable. Their calls should have been to contribute for their states and local government to be viable. If not, they just want more avenues for looting,” Rafsanjani said.

According to Rafsanjani, the CSOs are not in support of more states to be created because they will still depend on the centre, Abuja.
“We are not in support of state creation now because most of the states are not paying salaries. They have become lazy instead of contributing to the centre.

“We are opposed to it. If the proponents want development, they should contribute to the current state now and not advocate for more states. They only want avenues where they will be siphoning money or get more money from the centre to loot,” Rafsanjani added.

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