CREATION OF ADDITIONAL 18 STATES: NEED FOR A REFERENDUM (6)
“The creation of the 12 States by General Yakubu Gowon structure was necessitated by a need to address structural imbalance which was at that time seen as the greatest impediment to the political and economic stability of the country. However, it appears that subsequent creation of States were born out of other considerations of which the ability of the new states to sustain themselves was obviously not one”.
Last week I focused on the agitation for the creation of new states and how this will further aggravate the problems being encountered by Nigeria as a result of the adoption of the Presidential system of government. This is why the issue of creation of new states is a fundamental one. If created, the new states themselves will require new Civil Services and urgent infrastructure to meet the demands of the new governments. New commissioners, personal assistants, etc will have to be appointed at huge cost to the States. In an article published online by Ajayi Opeyemi, the writer highlighted the facts that each State governor goes about in a fleet of vehicles, in the company of officers from the Police, Department of State Service, National Civil Defence Corps and Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC). Therefore the creation of the new states will also impact negatively on the ability of these important security organizations to fulfill their constitutional duties; after all a situation in which a sizeable percentage of their personnel are dedicated to providing security for elected officials cannot be described as being in the best interest of the country.
To further compound matters, there are also countless parastatals and agencies, at bot the state and federal levels, which end up performing the same tasks. The only difference between the Economics and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) is said to be the fact that whilst the former is concerned with the investigation of financial crimes, the latter is saddled with the responsibility of investigating cases of official corruption. Each body despite the similarity in their functions, receive allocations from the National Treasury to support their organizational structures and functions. There is also the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Nigerian Civil Defence Service Corps (NCDSC), National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) and numerous others saddled with law enforcement duties. Yet in this same country we have the Nigeria Police Force which constitutionally and statutorily is the number one law enforcement body but which has had its duties eroded by some of those mentioned.
To sustain a huge work force comprising of political office holders and career civil servants, the federal government of Nigeria expends about 70% of its annual budget. As a result of this government lacks the funds necessary for development. Several sectors of the national economy such as power, housing, health, education, transportation, etc have all been deprived of much needed funding particularly at the state levels. As a result, many states engage in unending bickering with the federal government over issues of statutory allocation. On the 24th September, 2014, it was widely reported in the media that the 36 States of the Federation had instituted a suit against the Federal Government of Nigeria over deductions being made by the Federal Government through the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, from funds which ought to have gone directly into the Federation accounts. The States contend that whatever deductions are deemed just or legal can only be made after the funds have been firstly paid into the Federation Accounts and not before. Prior to this development, the government of Lagos State had threatened to institute an action against the Federal Government over what it claimed to be unlawful deductions on revenue due to it from the Federation Account. In this respect, the Governor of Lagos State held a special briefing with members of the State House of Assembly during which he revealed that he had even written a letter of protest to the Federal Government. In a similar vein, during the last administration, governors elected under the auspices of the All Progressive Congress (APC) met in Abuja to discuss what was termed the dwindling federal allocation to the 36 states. The governors also highlighted increasing instances of deduction from allocations due to their States. In essence, over reliance by the states on federal allocation is a serious problem and continually as recent events have shown, comes with the risk that states will in the event of deductions or reduction in the said allocation, become unable to perform their duties to the populace.
RATIONALE BEHIND STATES CREATION IN TIMES PAST
It is in the light of this that it is important to recall the rationale for the creation of 12 States by the then government of Gen. Yakubu Gowon. The creation of the 12 States by General Yakubu Gowon structure was necessitated by a need to address structural imbalance which was at that time seen as the greatest impediment to the political and economic stability of the country. However, it appears that subsequent creation of States were born out of other considerations of which the ability of the new states to sustain themselves was obviously not one. I am of the firm view that the creation of a new problem is not the solution to an existing one. The way out of the problem posed by the inability of the current 36 States to self-sustain is not the creation of additional 18 States. The possibility of getting the current States to merge should be explored rather than carving new ones out of them.
I conclude by reiterating that I cannot conceive how the present National Assembly can in good conscience and impartially address some of the issues from which they are benefitting under the lopsided 1999 constitution. Some of such issues include the following:
- Whether the number of legislative chambers should be reduced
- Abolition or drastic reduction in salary or allowances.
- Reduction of number of legislators in each house of Assembly
- Payment of sitting allowances to National Assembly members instead of jumbo salary
- Abolition of constituency development grant
- Abolition of bicameral legislature
- Abolition of 1999 Presidential system
- Adoption of parliamentary system
- Reduction of the huge annual budget for the National Assembly etc.
- State Creation/ Creation of additional states
I therefore call on the government as a matter of urgency to put in place measures for the holding of referendum on all the above issues which have already been discussed and addressed by the last Constitutional Conference.
AARE AFE BABALOLA SAN, CON, LL.D, D.Litt, FNSE