Contrary to the expectation of many Nigerians that the 2014 National Conference proposed a return to the regional governments, Saturday Telegraph has learnt that the 494- man body did not recommended such neither did it endorse the abolition of the present system of states as federating units. Rather, the ‘wise men and women’ in a shocking revelation, recommended the creation of additional 18 states, a move that will no doubt shock many advocates of federalism and restructuring, who are expecting the senate to conduct a thorough debate on the report when it resumes plenary on Tuesday.
The Senate, before embarking on Sallah break, had called on the Presidency to submit the 2014 confab report to it, for deliberations, as the calls for restructuring continue to mount. Notable Nigerians including former Military President Ibrahim Babangida, former President Goodluck Jonathan and former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar had called for the restructuring of the polity.
Although, many Nigerians believe that the states created by successive military regimes were already too many and most of them economically unviable, the conference ironically adopted states as the federating units and recommended the creation of more states to satisfy the geographical equation question.
A perusal of the confab report shows that the document in Section 5.12 dealt with Political Restructuring and Forms of Government, where it was stated that delegates to the conference unanimously resolved that Nigeria shall retain a federal system of government whose core elements shall be a central government with states as the federating units; and that states that wish to merge may do so in accordance with the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The report further recommended that any group of states might create a self-funding Zonal Commission to promote economic development, good governance, equity, peace and security in accordance with the constitution. The report reads: “At independence in 1960, Nigeria had three regions and by 1964 had added a fourth region. All four were autonomous but subordinated only to the Federal Constitution.
Then came the military in 1966 when aspects of the Federal Constitution were suspended leading to the creation of 12 states, (six in the north and six in the south) in answer to political exigencies including the protection of minority rights. “More states were created to satisfy the yearnings of various ethnic nationalities which fear domination by some others. Nigeria now has 36 States plus the Federal Capital Territory. In spite of this subsisting arrangement, there continues to be demands for the creation of more states.
“After extensive consideration of Regionalism/ Zones, Conference decided as follows:
(I) The states shall be the federating units; and
(ii) any group of states may create a self-funding Zonal Commission to promote economic development, good governance, equity, peace and security in accordance with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).
(a) A two-thirds majority of all members in each of the Houses of Assembly of each of the states, in which such merger is proposed, support by resolution, the merger;
(b) A Referendum is conducted in each of the states proposing to merge with 75 per cent of the eligible voters in each of those states approving the merger;
(c) The National Assembly, by resolution passed by a simple majority of membership, approves of the merger; and
(d) States that decide to merge shall also reserve the right to demerge following the same procedure and processes for merger,” the report read in part.
The report observed that since the subject of state creation has remained a huge political issue in Nigeria, the delegates examined the reports of the 2005 National Political Reform Conference and that of the Presidential Committee on Review of Outstanding Issues from recent Constitutional Conferences, such the 2012 Belgore Report, and made its recommendations in the interest of equity, justice and fairness. “In the spirit of reconciliation, equity, fair play and justice, there shall be created an additional state for the South East zone; and that all other requests for state creation should be considered on merit. The conference approved the criteria for the creation of new states as follows:
“Any new state sought to be created must be viable. In considering viability, the following should be taken into consideration:
(a) Any new state should be economically viable;
(b) It should have human, natural and material resource;
(c) It should have a minimum land mass/water mass; and
(d) The viability of the existing state(s) should be taken into consideration as well, so as not to create a situation where new state(s) would leave the existing state(s) unviable,” the report said. According to the report, state creation should be on the basis of parity between the geo-political zones to ensure equality of zones; additional states should be created in each of the six geo- political zones to bring the number of states in each zone to nine (9), thus bringing the total number of states to 54.
According to the report, the additional 18 new states recommended for creation are:
Apa State from the present Benue State;
Edu State from Niger State;
Kainji State from the present Kebbi State;
Katagun State from the present Bauchi State;
Savannah State from the present Borno State;
Amana State from the present Adamawa State.
Gurara State from the present Kaduna State;
Ghari State from the present Kano State;
Etiti State from the present South East Zone;
Aba State from the present Abia State;
Adada State from the present Enugu State; Njaba-Anim State from the present Anambra and Imo States.
Anioma State from the present Delta State;
Ogoja State from the present Cross River State;
Ijebu State from the present Ogun State; and
New Oyo State from the present Oyo State. The report further stated that the third state to be created in the South South would be named later, along with its capital; just as the third state to be created in the South West would be named later, along with its capital while the 1999 Constitution shall be amended to make the process of state creation less cumbersome.