• Thursday, July 25, 2024
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How agitation for more state creation breeds rancour in Nigeria

How agitation for more state creation breeds rancour in Nigeria

The Senate, on Tuesday, July 3, 2024, passed for first reading bills seeking to create two additional States in the South-East, to increase states in the zone to seven.

A bill seeking the creation of Etiti State in the South-East geo-political zone was also read for the first time on the floor of the House of Representatives during plenary same Tuesday.

The development came about three weeks after another bill seeking the creation of Orlu State out of Imo, Abia, and Anambra States, similarly passed the first reading on June 6.

The states proposed separately by Ned Nwoko (PDP, Delta North) and Okechukwu Ezea (LP, Enugu North) are the Anioma and Adada States, respectively.

Nwoko’s bill seeks to alter three sections of the 1999 Constitution, to delete the word 36 and replace it with the word 37 to accommodate the new State and to insert the word Anioma, immediately after Delta in the list of States contained in the Constitution.

The proposed Anioma State would encompass the local government areas of Aniocha North, Aniocha South, Ika North-East, Ika South, Ndokwa East, Ndokwa West, Oshimili North, Oshimili South, and Ukwuani, with Asaba designated as the State capital.

Nwoko explained that he was presenting a bill for the creation of Anioma State to correct what he described as a “historical oversight.”

According to him, Anioma is composed of nine Local Government Areas, six of which are rich in oil and gas resources.

“The region also boasts significant human capital, making it a viable and sustainable candidate for statehood. Creating Anioma State is not just about increasing the number of States; it is about ensuring fair representation and resource allocation for the South East,” he said.

In the House of Representatives, five members of from the South-East, proposed the creation of Etiti State to be carved out of the present Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo states.

It will have 11 Local Government Areas, drawn from the five States with the capital to be located at Lokpanta.

The sponsors of the bill are Amobi Ogah, Miriam Onuoha, Kama Nkemkama, Chinwe Nnabuife and Anayo Onwuegbu.

They want an alteration of Section 36 of the 1999 Constitution, by replacing 36 States with 37 states.

The bill also seeks to alter the listing of local government areas according to states and transfer the 11 local government areas from their current states to the proposed Etiti State.

The Local Governments to be affected if the State is created are Isuikwuato and Umu-Nneochi (Abia), Orumba North and Orumba South (Anambra), Ivo and Ohaozara (Ebonyi), Aninri, Awgu and Oji River (Enugu) as well as Okigwe and Onuimo (Imo).

The bill comes about three weeks after one seeking the creation of Orlu State to be carved out of Imo, Abia, and Anambra states, passed the first reading in the House of Representatives on June 6.

The bill was sponsored by Ikenga Ugochinyere, lawmaker, representing Ideato North/Ideato South Federal Constituency of Imo State, and others.

The bill also seeks to amend the 1999 Constitution, by inserting a new paragraph, which will include 28 Local Government Areas, namely Orlu, Orsu, Oru West, Oru East, Ideato North, Ideato South, Njaba, Nkwerre, Nwangele, Isu, Oguta, Ohaji Egbema, Onuimo, Ihiala, Uga, Ihiala, Uli, Ozubulu, Akokwa, Arondizuogu, Umuchu, Umunze, Umuaku, New Ideato North, Nwabosi West, Nwabosi East, Owerre Nkworji, Alaoma, Amaifeke, and Owerrebiri Umuowa.

Ugochinyere, a member of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), appealed to his colleagues at the National Assembly to support the bill to ensure its passage through a second reading.

He stated that the creation of Orlu State would lead to the emergence of Ideato as a senatorial district. In the current political configuration, the North-West comprises seven states while the North-East, North-Central, South-South and South-West consist of six states each. Only the South-East has five states.

However, the South-West is seeking the creation of Oke-Ogun State, which, when created, would bring to seven States in the region.

This agitation for state creation, by clans and ethnic groups is born out of the cry of dominance and marginalisation, by others within the States and as a result, some of these clans want to stay on their own, Obinna Nwagbara, executive director, Youth and Students Advocates for Development Initiative (YSAD).

For example, before the 2015 general election in Nigeria, there were serious agitations for Aba and Adada States, to be carved out from Abia and Enugu States. Ngwa (proposed Aba State) and Nsukka (proposed Adada State) clans had not produced the Governor of Abia and Enugu States. When an Ngwa son and an Nsukka son became the governor of Abia and Enugu States, the agitation for both states died down.

Read also: Disadvantages of creating new states in Nigeria

Nwagbara said that another reason for the agitation for additional states and the rancour that goes with it is the desire to be in perpetual control of the States and the State’s resources, by certain families.

He said that the Saraki family in Kwara State is a good example here. And because of such dominance and control, individuals, who have the resources to sponsor such agitations for State creation do so to enable them to be in control of the newly created States and run them, as their personal businesses, since there’s no accountability in governance in most cases and the level of civic awareness is low in most parts of the country, which hinder citizens to demand for good governance.

Rather than hold the current State Governors accountable, Nwagbara noted that citizens are deceived into believing that once a new State is created, their problems will be solved and as such, they pay more attention supporting the selfish ambitions of the sponsors of agitations for new States, thereby paying less or no attention to the activities of leadership of their present States.

Okoye Chuka Peter, executive director, Centre for Human Rights Advocacy and Wholesome Society (CEHRAWS), Aba, Abia State, observed that agitations for the creation of more States in Nigeria have long been a source of contention, with some regions, particularly the South East, feeling marginalised, due to their fewer number of States, compared to other regions.

While this issue may appear divisive, Okoye said that it is crucial to approach it with a sense of justice and equity to foster national unity and development.

He said that the South East region, with only five States, has often expressed feelings of marginalisation compared to other regions with a higher number of States, a perceived inequity that has fueled calls for the creation of additional States, to ensure balanced representation and resource allocation.

He argued that addressing these concerns is not only a matter of fairness, but also essential for the stability and cohesion of the nation.

He stressed that the creation of more States should not be seen, as a threat or distraction to Nigeria’s broader development goals, but a means of ensuring equitable development across all regions.

He affirmed that a properly managed State creation can lead to more localised governance, better resource management and enhanced political representation.

“Notably, the proposal for creating more States aligns with the recommendations of the Oronsaye Committee, which aimed at restructuring and improving governance in Nigeria. Implementing such recommendations is a step towards achieving a more balanced and efficient federal structure.

“In light of the above considerations, the agitation for more State creation should be viewed through the lens of justice and equity.

“By proceeding with the creation of additional States, Nigeria can address long-standing grievances, promote national unity, and ensure that all regions are fairly represented and resourced”.

Okoye said, “To achieve a fair and balanced federation, it is imperative to address the genuine concerns of marginalised regions, like the South-East.”

He said that creation of more States, should be pursued as a means of fostering equity, justice, and national cohesion.

For those that are opposed to this initiative, he is of the opinion that they should be encouraged to present their reasons transparently, enabling an informed and constructive dialogue, so that Nigeria can move towards a more inclusive and harmonious future.