JA Control Panle

Peoples Daily

Home News National News New States: The issues, the politics, the fears

New States: The issues, the politics, the fears

E-mail Print PDF
  • Agitators demand for 81 states
  • Politicians plot own states
  • Push for fiscal federalism intensified

By Richard Ihediwa

The push for the creation of new states in the country has intensified with the resolution of the National Assembly to treat every demand equally based on merit. Currently, demands for new states have hit 45 and the number may still go up.

The agitations have also received additional steam from the demands for the entrenchment of complete fiscal federalism in which proponents want states to control mineral finds and other resources and pay royalty to the Federal Government.

If the National Assembly and the state assemblies grant the already tabled 45 demands in the next round of constitution amendment, which may kick off in the next few months, the nation will have a total 81 states at the least.

However, the questions are; is the creation of additional states the panacea for the nation’s political, economic and social problems? Will the creation of additional states bring about harmonious co-existence and end hostilities among warring ethnic groups in the country? Will Nigeria be better off with additional states despite the huge cost of running the existing bureaucracy which will ultimately increase with more demands from new states?

On the other hand, one asks; is Nigeria actually ripe for the entrenchment of fiscal federalism? Is it indeed the panacea to the socio-political and economic problems facing the country? These and many more are questions agitating the minds of a lot of Nigerians as the nation come to the threshold of defining decisions that will come with the next round of constitution amendment.

This is especially as some quarters are pressing for the convening of a Sovereign National Conference (SNC) to allow ethnic nationalities and interest groups to determine what form of union and government best suits the nation.

A check by Peoples Daily Weekend shows that almost every clan in the country is clamouring for one political recognition or the other and the granting of new states is seen as major steps towards actualising such.

Currently, almost all the existing 36 states of the federation have one splinter group or the other, seeking the decimation of the exiting entity. These are especially areas which feel they are being marginalized by larger and more domineering groups in their states especially on issues of political appointment and development.

The reasons for the agitations vary. While some are genuine and based on the legitimate aspirations of the people to bring governance nearer to them, others are products of ego trips by few individuals seeking political and pecuniary profits.

Commenting on the long list of demands, Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu, who is also the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Constitution Review listed minority fears, search for equity and speedy development as well as quest for political empires and influence by the elite class as some of the key factors responsible for the demands for new states .

Some of the proposed states that are on the front burner include Aba and Equity states proposed to be carved out from the existing Abia state; Njaba state from existing Imo and Anambra states; Oduduwa, from present Osun state, Hadejia from the present Jigawa state and Ibarapa, Oke Ogun, Ibadan and Ibarapa states from the existing Oyo state.

Others are New Gurara state proposed to be carved out of existing Kaduna state, Adada, from present Enugu state, Ahoda from present Rivers state, Anioma, from the present Delta state, Katagun, from Bauchi state and Ugwu Aku, from present Abia, Imo and Anambra states and Apa State from the present Benue state; Amana, from Adamawa state and Savana from Borno state among others.

Though the National Assembly has assured that all the demands would be considered based on merit, it is not clear what criteria it would use to determine issues of viability and sustainability for the proposed states.

This is especially as some proposed states are being backed up by very powerful lobbies within and outside the government circles and are not willing to give in.

Those supporting the creation of more states believe that such will bring governance closer to the people and reduce the problems of marginalisation faced by minority groups within certain states.

However, there is also the thinking that new states will raise the tempo in peer group competition among states which is expected to result in massive harnessing of resources and development across the country.

Those kicking against the creation of new states on the other hand, hold that such will further divide the nation and increase the already high cost of governance in the country. They posit that many of the existing states are not viable and might collapse unless they receive external bail out.

This position has been backed up by data released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) and the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission which show that many of the states are in distress.

Already, the Senate has opened an investigation into the reports which was tabled before it late last year, indicating that about 33 out of the 36 states of the federation are in financial distress and might not be able to meet their obligations unless drastic steps are taken to salvage them.

That investigation followed a motion by Senator Olubunmi Adetunmbi who painted a harrowing picture of the economic state of the states and posited that virtually all the states were broke and cannot carry the burden of the new wage regime and meet their developmental obligations unless there was an external intervention.

Adetunmbi had presented documents which shows that the accounts of 33 out of the 36 states of the federation were in red. A chart attached to the motion indicated that six states were classified as distressed, 15 states were classified as being in critical conditions, six were unhealthy while five were in tolerable conditions.

States said to be under in distressed condition include Kano, Sokoto, Niger, Zamfara, Katsina and Osun. Those in critical conditions are Ekiti, Plateau, Benue, Edo, Borno, Adamawa, Cross River, Enugu, Taraba, Ogun, Kogi, Yobe, Ebonyi, Ondo and Kaduna. Those classified as unhealthy include Oyo, Bauchi, Bayelsa, Nasarawa, Gombe, Rivers, Imo, Kwara, Lagos, Kebbi, Delta, Abia, Anambra and Jigawa. Akwa-Ibom was rated as healthy..

A chart he presented to buttress his point also showed that some state governments have been taken the capital market alternative since 2002. The chart shows that between 2002 and 2011 Lagos state have taken N122.5 billion, Ogun (N50 billion), Bayelsa (N50 billion), Imo (N18.5 billion), Kwara (N17 billion), Ebonyi (N16.5 billion), Kaduna (N8.5 billion), Delta (N5 billion), Kebbi (N3.5 billion) and Yobe (N2.5 billion).

Those kicking against the creation of more states opine that the country should rather concentrate on finding ways to revamp the economy through reduction in the money used to keep the bureaucracy at all levels running.

Be it as it may, the flurry of demands for new states which cut across the country indicates that Nigerians may have reached a consensus that more states should be created and the National Assembly appears to look at the issue from this view point.

However, several options are before the National Assembly. The first option is to embark on creation of new states based on merit arising from genuine political need to bring governance nearer to the people. This option will favour the creation of new states in areas where the current arrangement either by land mass or population density make it extremely difficult for enough government presence to get to the people. This option is however not popular among politicians as it were.

The second option is to create new states on the basis of geo-political zones in the country. In this option, there are two schools of thought. The first being the creation of an additional state to balance the current inequality in the number of states in the zones in which case only one state will be created in the South East zone. This is because while the other zones have six states with the North West having seven states, the South East only has five states resulting in inequality of zonal representation.

The other school of thought proposing the use of zonal arrangement for new states canvasses for the creation of a state each in all the geo-political zones to ensure even spread of new states.

The zonal option is however coming with some fundamental problems. These include, of course, the fact that the issue of geo-political zone is not recognized by the constitution and as such cannot be use as part of the criteria for state creation unless it is inculcated in the law.

Also there is a rejection of the creation of equal number of states by some agitators, who believe that it will not lead to the desired equality since the South East will still have less number of states while the others will still have more.

On the other hand, some zones which have larger land mass may not accept the equality of states based on zone as they fear that such will also put them in a disadvantaged position.

Though there are plethora of demands, there are indications that the National Assembly might at the end of the day, adopt the zonal arrangement, though there are those pushing for an exercise that will be based on adoption of a full fiscal federalism where state creation will be based on proof of sustainability by agitators.

However, the game, being that of give and take, politicians have opened high level Machiavellian maneuvering to guarantee a level of oligarchic consensus that will encourage cluster of states in a political zone to come out with a common position on the state to be created from their zones.

However, the fear is that politicians could have other plans to further their interests under that arrangement. Speculations are rife that certain big wigs will use this arrangement to influence the creation of Apa, from the North Central; Adada, from the South East, Ibadan, from the South West, New Kaduna, from the North West; Anioma from South South and Amana, from the North East.

However, those pushing for proliferation of state based on entrenchment of fiscal federalism are insisting that Nigeria could have as many states as the citizens want as long as they do not depend on the Federal Government for survival.

This argument started gaining currency with the new demand for total resource control by certain senators especially those from the southern part of the country.

This new resource control agitation surfaced late last year; a week after the Senate endorsed a motion seeking the review of the nation’s revenue formula to reduce the allocation of resources to the Federal Government and increase the percentage going to states and local councils.

However, at the crux of the imminent campaign is a new quest, not for an increase in derivatives, but a total overhaul of the system in such a way that states will be given perfect control of the resources in their localities from where they will be made to pay certain percentage to the Federal Government as royalties.

This is as against the current practice where most mineral resources are under the control of the Federal Government which harnesses them into a pool controlled by the center from where allocations are shared among the Federal Government and all the states of the federation.

Already, the group of lawmakers are said to have started preparing a bill to that effect, which they intend will be incorporated as one of the major items that should be treated in the next constitution amendment.

The proposal has already started generating a level of controversy as some analysts opine that the idea will widen the sectional and ethnic gaps already militating against national development. However, others tenaciously hold that it would rather cement them, arguing that it will result in mutual respect and healthy competiveness among the federating units.

Arrowhead of this agitation, Senator Ayogu Eze said the adoption of fiscal federalism was the answer to the myriads of socio-economic and political problems in the country.

According to him, the problem with the country was not in the number of state but the over dependency on the federation account which he said has resulted in the inability of states to harness and utilise the mineral resources available in their territories in such a ways that their comparative advantages are fully maximised.

In his words, “A lot of people have said that a lot of states are not viable and that creating additional states would therefore not be desirable. I am standing here to disagree completely. The problem with Nigeria is not the number of states. The problem with Nigeria is the absence of the rule of law, due process, accountability, prudential utilization of the commonwealth of this country. It is not about the number of state or local government, it is about our inability to manage our resources and to husband our resources and to use them patriotically for the benefits of our people.

“I think that what we should be doing is to look at our revenue formula in a manner that will give states opportunities to take responsibilities for deposits and mineral finds within their geo-political confines and pay royalties to the Federal Government. What has happened so far is that we have not tried to look at how we can maximise the potentials that our states have. Every state should be encouraged to go back and harnessed its minerals and potentials within its borders. Every state in this country is very viable because there is no state in this country that does not have one comparative advantage or the other”, Eze stated.

It is suggested that under a fiscal federalism, states and local government should be made to handle issues that have direct impact on the people including, education, internal security, road infrastructure, power, health, Agriculture and water resources, youth development, internal finance, science and technology, state and local council election and so on while the Federal Government should be left to handled issues such as national defence, foreign policy, national finance, national security, boundary arrangements among others that do not have direct impact on the people.

However, despite the plethora of problems, the National Assembly is still optimistic that it will create new states in the present dispensation. Already the project is having the backing of top brass in the National Assembly and states.

Senate President David Mark has in various fora noted that his support for the creation of new state is based on his conviction that such will lead to rapid development across the country as it will bring governance nearer to the people resulting in the expansion of focus for the harnessing of the nation’s natural and human resources for economic growth.

Though Mark’s position towards the creation of new state has been greeted with a level of skepticism from some critics who opine that the legislature may merely be playing to the gallery, the Senate President had maintained his optimism on the project.

Be it as it may, the demand for new states must be backed up by genuine motives and must show evidences of viability and sustainability. Though the National Assembly is not expected to create all the states demanded of it by agitators, it must ensure that the principle of equity, justice and fairness is upheld in the entire exercise.

Comments (1)Add Comment
State creatio
written by OGO, March 24, 2012
Even if you create one milion states the problems will still be there. There should be no creation of states rather; we shuold learn to live with one anther. We should put some constitutional measures in place to ensure that minorities are not marginalised in thier state if they are marginalised, There should be recourse for them in the constitution. OR Let us break up Nigeria and go our seperate ways. If a people are so golden, so sure of themselves, if they so intelligent and knows everything and every survival technics why do they fear seperation. My friend if we cannot live together we go our seperate ways as friend

Write comment
smaller | bigger


Nigerian News Video


WEEKEND  If government were clean...

THRILLER FROM THE VILLA  Demonstration of craze

ICT ESSENCE  Ways to create a more focused computer-based work environment (2)

POTS 'N' PANS  Spice up your meals with Asian type salad

WELLNESS ZONE  Emotional wellness

GREEN PASTURES  Do you have sense of destiny?