By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
CALABAR – CHAIRMAN, Senate Committee on Constitution Review and Deputy Senate President, Chief Ike Ekweremadu, has debunked reports credited to him that the National Assembly had ruled out the possibility of creating more states and was pursuing special agenda on the matter.
According to him, National Assembly has no such powers to stop creation of states.
Senator Ekweremadu, who refuted the report while declaring open the two-day zonal public hearing on the review of the 1999 Constitution for the South-South geo-political zone in Calabar, Cross River State, yesterday, said the position of the National Assembly was to ensure that every request for state creation was treated on its merit.
He said: “It is not true that the National Assembly has ruled out state creation. It is also not true that it is pursuing any special agenda on the matter. We have no such powers.
“Rather, the position of the National Assembly is that while it is committed to ensuring that every request is treated on its merit, taking constitutional requirements, good governance, justice, and national development into account, Nigerians need to understand that the processes for state creation is slightly different from that of conventional constitution amendment.
“It is very important that those agitating for new states thoroughly understand the provisions of Section 8 (1) of the 1999 Constitution which spells out the requirements and processes for the task.
“While state creation under the military was an event as states were decreed into existence by fiat, state creation in a democracy, especially going by the provisions of Section 8 (1), is a long and cumbersome process requiring the inputs of every part of Nigeria.
“It is not an entirely National Assembly affair, but a process that should, in fact, originate and be driven by the people, local government councils, members of the state Assemblies, and members of the National Assembly, from the areas seeking to be created into new states.
“Our role at the National Assembly is to provide leadership, moderate the process, and ensure compliance with legislative due process. For instance, the onus lies on the areas seeking new states, not the National Assembly, to generate the requests and reach out to other parts of Nigeria to see reason with them and support their aspirations.
“Thus, a people seeking an additional state to be carved out from the present Ondo State, should also bear in mind that such requests must receive the blessing of Sokoto State and Abia State, among others, to scale through.
“A referendum is also required with the involvement of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC. But whereas the processes are obviously cumbersome, it is certainly not an impossible task. All that is needed is political maturity, consensus building, patriotism, enlightenment, and a sense of justice.”