Can states be created under democracy?

The agitation for the creation of new states has been revived once again. Since the advent of the fourth republic, every review of the constitution of the country had seen the agitation for the creation of new states as an integral part of it. However, since 1999, successive constitutional reviews didn’t record the successful creation of any additional state.

It’s instructive to state that no civilian government has been able to create any new state since Nigeria’s independence. From the 12 states before the civil war to the current 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, the successive military regimes were responsible for the balkanization of the regions into states. The military could achieve state creation because it ruled by fiat and decrees. States were created at the whims of the military regimes for certain purposes.

Creation of new states in a civilian dispensation is possible but extremely difficult for a number of reasons. In a civilian dispensation, decrees and fiat do not apply. It can only be achieved through constitutional means. For any portion of the extant construction of Nigeria to be amended, there should be two-thirds majority votes in both chambers of the National Assembly. The senate is composed of 109 senators while the House of Representatives is composed of 360 members. What it implies is that for any constitutional amendment, 240 members of the House of Representatives and about 73 senators must agree with any amendment for it to see the light of the day.

Aside from that, two-thirds of the states of the country’s Houses of Assembly must concur with the said amendment. It also implies that 24 out of the 36 states of the country must agree with the amendment. After that, Mr President will give his assent or be vetoed for that amendment to become a constitutional law of the country.

Recently, some members of the National Assembly resurrected the agitation for state creation. The last time I checked, there was agitation for the creation of 50 additional states in the country. In fact, there’s agitation for the creation of additional states from each of the current 36 states. There’s no single state in Nigeria where there are no people agitating for state creation.

The most prominent agitation in recent times is the creation of the Orlu and Anioma states. The proponent for the creation of Orlu state, Representative Ugochinyere Ikeagwuonu, proposed that Orlu state would be carved out of the present Imo, Abia and Anambra states. To be sure, the South-east of Nigeria deserves at least an additional single state. It is the only one among the six zones with the least number of states. It has just five states whereas the other zones have six states each with the North-west having seven states. Equity, justice and fairness demand that the other zones of Nigeria should grant the South-east at least one more state.

However, the agitation for the creation of an additional state for the South-east will be defeated even in the same South-east zone. Since Ikeagwuonu’s bill was read and passed first reading, some of the communities or local government areas included in the proposed Orlu state have been kicking against it. While some of them prefer to remain in their current states, others said that they were not consulted before the inclusion in the proposed Orlu state. In a democracy, you cannot force any community or local government area to be lumped together in the quest to create an additional state. That can only happen during the military regimes.

In any case, the governors have full control of the Houses of Assembly and even legislators in the National Assembly to a reasonable extent. The bill will require overwhelming legislative concurrence at both state and national levels. Which of the current governors will support the reduction of his territory which he swore on oath to protect for a period of four years? In other words, which governor will encourage his state legislators to vote in affirmation to remove some parts of his current state or territory? By the way, is it not a constitutional infringement or breach on the part of any governor to allow a part of his territory to be ceded to another new state before the expiration of his mandate which he swore on oath to protect and defend?

As plausible and laudable as the agitation for the creation of new states may be, it will be a Herculean task to achieve. The hatred and sentiments which have eaten deep into the fabrics of the country will make it near impossible for the other zones of Nigeria to be rational and equitable to grant the South-east the needed additional states. Those who derive immense joy in suppressing, subjugating and marginalising the South-east would be loath to see the zone get any good thing from the country.

Ifeanyi Maduako,

Owerri, Imo state

i[email protected]

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