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Agitators demand for 81 states

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  • As push for fiscal federalism gather more steam

By Richard Ihediwa

If the National Assembly and the state assemblies agree with agitators for new states, the country will eventually have 81 states at the least in the next round of constitution amendment which is expected to kick off in the next few months.

This is even as the demand from some quarters for the entrenchment of fiscal federalism is fast gathering steam with some federal lawmakers now working on a bill to that effect ahead of the next constitution review.

At the last count, the number of memoranda for new states currently tabled before the National Assembly has hit 45 which if endorsed will move the total number of states from the existing 36 to 81.

The creation of additional states is expected to be one of the major issues in the next round of constitution review. This is despite the insistence by some stakeholders that some of the existing states are no longer economically viable and may collapse unless they get bailout from external sources.

Sources in the Senate Committee on Constitution Review hinted that the agitators had intensified their lobbying for new states following pronouncements by the National Assembly that every demand will be treated on merit.

Chairman of the Constitutional Review Committee, Deputy Senate Ike Ekweremadu, who confirmed the development recently, revealed that about 34 of such memoranda were intra-state demands, seven were interstate while four cut across the six geo-political zones.

Ekweremadu, who made the disclosure at a recent public lecture in Lagos, 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 .

Peoples Daily Weekend check shows that nearly every ethnic nationality in the country are involved in the demand for new states even as demands for states within the proposed states were said to have started surfacing.

It was learnt that the demands heightened after some senators rejected the argument that states are not viable and backed the demand for proliferation of states in the country.

“We have been receiving memoranda but the tempo increased after some senators argued that there should be no limits as to the number of states that should be created as long as each state should be able to sustain themselves. Now we have proposal for new 45 states and the committee has resolved to look at all of them based on merit. So if you add that to the 36 existing states we will have 81, that is if more proposals did not come”, the source said.

It would be recalled that Chairman, Senate Committee on Works, Senator Ayogu Eze had during a debate on the viability of states and review of the Revenue Allocation Formula insisted the problem with the country was not in the number of states but in the inability of states to harness and utilise their resources well.

Eze, who is already planning a bill for entrenchment of fiscal federalism said as many states as possible should be allowed in so far as they will not depend on federal allocation but on internal resources for sustenance.

Speaking to Peoples Daily Weekend, the lawmaker said, “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. That is the truth.”

Under such arrangement, Eze said states will be allowed to control the mineral funds and other resources within its territory and pay royalty to the Federal Government.

It is not however exactly known what criteria the National Assembly will adopt in ascertaining viability and merit for the creation of the additional states.

However there are suggestions that there should be even distribution of states across the six geo-political zones in the country.

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