BY HENRY UMORU & JOSEPH ERUNKE
A delegate from the South South geo- political zone, Mr Chris Agbonmwanegbe yesterday faulted the census figure being showcased by states in the northern part of the country.
He also raised what he called high level of injustice in the country against the backdrop of imbalance in local government creation.
The delegate, who urged his fellow delegates to address the injustice that led to the creation of more states and local government areas in the North, however made a specific reference to the disparity in the number of local governments in Kano and Lagos states, adding that while Lagos with the highest number of people in Nigeria has only 20 local government areas, Kano state with a population close to that of Lagos, has 44 local government areas.
This led to uproar on the floor apparently from the Northern delegates who were not comfortable with his submission.
Refusing to be intimidated by the uproar, Agbonmwanegbe said that Nigerians do not have the capacity to conduct a free and credible census.
He therefore called on the United Nations to assist in conducting Nigeria’s census if the country must have credible results.
All their efforts to shout him down proved abortive, as the conference chairman, Justice Idris Kutigi ignored their calls.
A Kano state delegate and former Assistant Inspector-General of Police (AIG), Ibrahim Baba Ahmed who could not hold back his anger flouted the procedure rules of the Conference where screamed, saying, “Arrest him! Arrest him now!”
Agbonmwanegbe continued “I did my National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) programme in the north. So, I know what I saw during my service years. I can authoritatively tell you that there is injustice in this country. How can a state like Katsina or Kano have more local government areas than Lagos which has the highest population? It is obvious that there is injustice and this should be addressed?
“From previous censuses we have had, it is obvious that Nigeria cannot conduct a credible census. We need to invite the United Nations to help us in conducting a census that will be accepted by everyone and finally put the argument about the region with the highest number to a rest”, he stressed.
Meanwhile, a delegate in the Elder statesmen category, Dr. Tunji Braithwaite suggested that all federating units or states must control their resources but should pay taxes and royalty to the federal government.
In his contribution, Braithwaite who supported the creation of additional state for the southeast, said that it was all about redressing imbalance in the country.
He said that “each of the six geo- political zones or such number of geo- political zones as may be agreed upon, owns its resources (mineral and / or agricultural) from which an agreed percentage of the zones’ revenues be paid to the Federal Government for the operation of the federal Government services and responsibilities.”
“This is Resource Control best suited to the Nigerian situation, which will engender a trickle- down social / economic development and benefits to all nooks and corners of the federating States or the Geo- political zones as the case may be”, he said.
On his part, former governor of Imo State and a delegate on the platform of Former Governors, Chief Achike Udenwa lampooned members of State Houses of Assembly accusing them of failing in their responsibilities of checking the excesses of state governors.
While calling for an increase in local government areas s, he said “state legislators are not doing what they should do. The state houses of Assembly have failed to check the excesses of Governors, the legislators are powerful, but not using their power.”
A former governor of Ogun State and a delegate on the platform of former governors, Chief Olusegun Osoba, who called for the correction of the current injustice regarding the number of council areas in some parts of the country, made a similar reference to Lagos state, which he said contributes more than 80 percent to the nation’s Value Added Tax (VAT), yet does not have the required number of local government areas as obtained in some states of the north.
Osoba said, “the era of trying to manipulate census figure is over. With the help of Google, we can now get the number of people in a particular area. We can use that to conduct our census. I do not subscribe to the fact that the United Nations should conduct our census for us.”
Delegates recommend an Mayor for FCT
Meanwhile, delegates at the on- going National Conference have recommended that there should be an elected Mayor for the nation’s capital territory, Abuja with an inner nucleus of about 2000 Sq.Km.
It was also recommended that there should be a Ministerial slot for the Federal Capital Territory at the Federal cabinet, an increase in the number of area councils from the present six to eight Area Councils.
Also, delegates recommended for an increase in the number of Federal Constituencies from two to four.
These were some of the recommendations presented for debate yesterday by delegates by the Committee on Political Restructuring and Forms of Government.
The Committee with Gen. Ike Nwachukwu and Mohammed Umara Kumalia as co- Chairmen also recommended that the President should as a matter of urgency pay all outstanding compensations due to the indigenes of the Federal Capital Territory by the Federal Government.