Senaor Ike Ekweremadu
Ernest Chinwo, Dele Ogbodo, Adibe Emenyonu and James Sowole
Chairman, Senate Committee on Constitution Review, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, Tuesday cautioned agitators of state creation against undue optimism over their requests.
He said at a press briefing in Abuja on the ongoing public hearings nationwide on the review of the constitution, that given the rigorous provision of Section 8 of the 1999 Constitution, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to create new states.
Also, at one of the public hearings in Benin City yesterday, oil-producing communities advocated a radical review of the management of Nigeria’s resources and demanded that the 13 per cent derivation fund should have a first line charge on the Federation Account.
Ekweremadu said sponsors of new states should do more homework, as it would “take a snake to go through the eye of a needle” than for additional states to be created.
The National Assembly has received about 56 requests for state creation from various parts of the country.
He, however, stated that all the procedures under Section 8 of the constitution must be followed before any state could be created.
According to him, it had become imperative to educate Nigerians on the rigorous procedures involved in the creation of states as stipulated in the constitution.
“I think we need to have more enlightenment for Nigerians to understand this process clearly, because I’m sure if a lot of Nigerians understand this, they will not be worrying themselves because if you look at Section 8, it is like passing the snake through the eye of the needle,” he said.
He added that coming to the National Assembly to submit memoranda for state creation was not just enough for any group to get a state, given the cumbersome process.
He explained that members of the National Assembly lacked the power to create a state for any region or zone.
He said: “On the issue of state creation, I was in Enugu recently where I met with my own constituents regarding the constitutional amendment exercise and I made it clear to them on this issue.
“You see, Nigerians are confusing things and that is why anyone can begin to expect that at the end of this exercise, somebody will come up to announce the creation of states; that is not going to be expected.
“That is not going to happen because the constitution does not make that provision. So the issue of state creation is completely different from what we are doing; any group that wants a state can start the process without the committee of the House or the Senate; it can run on its own course without involving the committee.”
However, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Petroleum (Downstream), Senator Magnus Abe, dropped a hint yesterday of the possible merger of states to ensure their viability.
He said in Port Harcourt that the Senate had received many requests for state creation, but it might not be out of place for it to consider the merger of even existing states.
“There are a considerable number of state creation requests for the review exercise. However, it might not be out of place for state mergers to be considered, considering the economic viability of the federating states,” he said.
Nonetheless, Abe’s position on the possible merger of states was dismissed by another senator, who did not want to be named.
He said: “Although I would not like to join issues with my colleague, the constitution does not provide for the merger of states, but for the creation of states.
“Section 8 of the constitution is quite clear on this and prescribes what should be done by the constituent members agitating for the creation of a new state and how to go about it. There is absolutely no provision for merger of states.”
Abe also said there was need to strip the Federal Government of some powers as the current dispensation does not augur well for the country’s growth.
At one of the public hearings conducted by the House of Representatives, oil-producing communities from Abia, Akwa-Ibom, Bayelsa, Delta, Edo, Rivers, Ondo and Imo States, in a memorandum presented to the House Constitution Review Committee, called for an amendment to Section 162 or related sections of the 1999 Constitution as they relate to the distribution of national resources.
In the memorandum, the oil and gas-bearing communities are demanding that the 13 per cent derivation fund should be paid to them as a first line charge on the Federation Account.
They proposed the setting up of a National Derivation Board whose members would be recommended for appointment by the president on the advice of leaders of the communities.
Membership of the proposed board, according to the communities, should include an executive chairman and members/commissioners, including a member of the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), as well as a secretary. The chairmanship of the board is to rotate among the states every four years.
“The National Derivation Board shall receive and distribute the 13 per cent directly to the respective states’ implementation committees whose members shall be solely nominated and appointed by the leaders of the oil and gas communities,” the memorandum said.
The communities also demanded for direct management of their derivation resources, following allegations of mismanagement of the revenue that accrues from derivation by governors.