By Henry Umoru
ABUJA — Hopes for the creation of new states at the end of the ongoing review of the 1999 Constitution by the National Assembly were dashed yesterday.
The Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu speaking at a press conference to flag off the forthcoming Senate zonal public hearing on the review of the constitution affirmed that the National Assembly on its own cannot create new states.
Senator Ekweremadu who is also chairman of the Senate Committee on Constitution Review, SCRC said that those desirous of creating new states would have to kick-start the process carrying along other stakeholders in the National Assembly, State House of Assembly and Local Government Areas in the affected areas.
“So, I don’t think that the South-East will expect either myself or any person to announce that they are going to get a state tomorrow or next tomorrow because that is not what the constitution says. They will naturally follow the provisions which the constitution has provided,” Ekweremadu said.
The Deputy Senate President further explained that the National Assembly could only advise on how many states can possibly be created based on what the system can sustain. He affirmed that the constitution specifically in Sections 8 and 9, ruled out any specific power for the National Assembly in the creation of new states.
56 requests received
Ekweremadu nevertheless disclosed that 56 requests had been received so far for the creation of new states, adding that 241 memoranda have also been received from Nigerians to update those carried over from the Sixth Senate.
He also assured that the work of the committee would be concluded by the third quarter of 2013 well ahead of politicking that could shape the 2015 general elections.
The Deputy Senate President who noted that having held the national public hearing, the Senate was now moving the process to the people with the public hearing simultaneously in the six geopolitical zones. He said that the North Central will hold in Makurdi; North East in Gombe; North West, Sokoto; South East, Enugu; South South, Calabar and South West, Lagos.
Senator Ekweremadu’s position that the Constitution review will not come up with new states, is coming on the heels of requests from Nigerians for state creation both at the National public Hearing organised by the Senate in Abuja last October and the one day public sessions organised last Saturday at the 360 Federal Constituencies by the House of Representatives.
Constitution review won’t result in state creation
Ekweremadu said: “on the issue of state creation, I want to take the two together. I was in Enugu on Sunday where I met with my constituents regarding the constitution amendment exercise and I made it clear to them that Nigerians are confusing things and that is why anyone cannot begin to expect that at the end of this exercise, somebody will come up to announce that states have been created.
“That is not going to happen because the constitution does not make such provisions. So, the issue of state creation is completely different from what we are doing because if you look at sections 8 and 9, they are two different issues.
“So, any group that wants a state can necessarily start the process without the committee. It is something that can run its own course without involving the committee.
“What is going on really is that Nigerians are making their requests for the creation of states based on the fact that they believe that these two committees can come up with criteria that will favour them. We are supposed to make laws for the good governance of this country and in doing so, as part of this exercise, what we can naturally do is that, we have 56 requests for state creation. As responsible citizens of Nigeria, we can advise our colleagues on how many states that can possibly be created and that the system can sustain.
“If, for instance, we say, well, in the circumstance, the Nigerian system can contain maybe four states, three or eight states, we can possibly advise on how these states would be allocated to the various parts of the country.
‘’Then, naturally, the people who are requesting for states will still go and generate their requests and submit to the National Assembly and then generate resolutions of the requisite authorities, the council, the House of Assembly and it will still come up to the National Assembly, the Senate and the House will vote. Then, it will still go for referendum after which it will go to the House of Assembly of all the states in Nigeria.
State agitatiors must follow procedures
“So, even if you are requesting for a state in Sokoto, the House of Assembly in Abia State will also vote for it. I hope this has afforded me the opportunity to explain this so that nobody will say I came back from Abuja without bringing a state. Anybody expecting a state must follow all the procedures and I think we need to do more enlightenment for Nigerians to understand this process clearly because if those accusing any person of hidden agenda understand all these, they will not be worrying themselves. They will go and do more home work because if you look at Section 8, it is like passing a big snake through the eye of a needle. It is a cumbersome process and it just has to pass through that process because that is what the constitution says.”
On Kwankwanso’s allegation
Responding to insinuations by Governor Rabiu Kwankwanso of Kano State that he had an agenda to impose an additional state of the South-East on his colleagues in the National Assembly, Ekweremadu said : “I have addressed this issue before and I don’t intend to join issues with my friend, the governor of Kano State. If I have differences with him in respect of the conduct of what we are doing, I would like to discuss that with him directly but for the purpose of your question, we should read Section 9 (1) on the process of constitution amendment let us see if it is something an individual can have his own agenda.
“It is obvious that the process of constitution amendment is so rigorous that 109 Senators are involved, 360 members of House of Representatives are involved and all the members of the State Assemblies in 36 states are involved. So, there is certainly no way an individual can come up with an agenda and expect to market that agenda or get it through. It is practically unthinkable.
“So, I don’t know where he got that idea from and if he is thinking of state creation, I want to refer you to Section 8 of the Constitution to see how states are created and see whether it is something any individual can wake up and say that states have been created.
“So, you can see how difficult it is to even create a state. For any person to say someone has an agenda, I don’t think that person is being fair because you will require the votes of the House of Representatives, the Senate, the Assembly, Councillors and the ordinary people from where the state would be created. It is such a cumbersome process and I don’t think it is something any person can sit down at the National Assembly or anywhere and say he has created.
“So, we have to make this clear. Certainly, neither myself, the Deputy Speaker, the Senate President nor indeed the Speaker has any hidden agenda and I can say the same thing for all the 109 Senators and 360 members. There is no hidden agenda because it is practically impossible
“The Constitution is clear on how it would be done and it must be done transparently. You cannot do anything hiding under the table. You can see all the efforts we have made.”
“The House members have taken this to all the 360 federal constituencies and the Senate is taking it to 109 Senatorial Districts. In addition to this, we have done public hearing at the national level and we are doing public hearing at the six geo-political zones. If we have any hidden agenda, why do I have to go through all these troubles?
‘’I don’t think it is fair to me or to any person to accuse us of having hidden agenda but in summary, there is no hidden agenda. For the committees both at the Senate and the House of Representatives, every state is represented and all the female Senators are represented in addition to those who are representing their states. So, you can see the number.
‘’We made sure that every interest group is protected in the exercise. So, there is no issue of any state being short changed or any zone being short changed. The headship of the committee is vested on the position of Deputy Senate president or Deputy Speaker.”