SOUTH-EAST TO GET NEW STATE —Confab Committee •Also okays merger of states •Immunity clause for President, others to be expunged

Posted by News Express | 25 April 2014 | 4,474 times

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Agitation by the people of the South-East for creation of an additional state in the area to put them at par with other zones of the federation received huge support yesterday when the demand received the unanimous backing from members of the National Conference Committee on Political Reforms and Forms of Government.

Members of the committee who took turns to make submissions on the contentious matter unanimously agreed that there was need for creation of one more state in the region in the interest of justice and fair-play and to give the people of the South-East a sense of belonging.

The Political Reforms and Forms of Government Committee, however, submitted that every other region demanding the creation of more states would only get it on the basis of merit.

The 30-member committee further submitted that without prejudice to states constituting the federating unit, those that wish to merge may do so in accordance with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria subject to three conditions, namely:

•That a majority of the two-thirds of all members in each of the Houses of Assembly of each of the states, in which such merger is proposed, support by resolution, the merger;

•That a referendum is conducted in each of the states proposing to merge with 75 per cent of the eligible voters in each of those states approving of the merger; and

•That each House of the National Assembly, by resolution passed by a simple majority of membership of each of the Houses, approve of the merger.

Addressing journalists after the committee adjourned its sitting yesterday, the chairman, Gen. Ike Nwachukwu (rtd.), said by supporting the creation of an additional state in the South-East, delegates have shown that everyone can have a win-win situation.

He said: “I must thank my committee members for their maturity and ability to discern the needs of Nigerians to have more states based on merit, particularly the South-East, thereby bringing the zone at par with others.

“I want to indeed say to my colleagues that they have shown great understanding and they believe in a win-win option. That is the spirit we should maintain in this Conference.

“At the end of the day, we will be recommending that there should be equality of states in the various zones of the country, and then allowing the zones that have agitations across the country to decide which state should be created.

“Those who make the request for the creation of more states do so because they feel marginalised where they are.”

Before arriving at the resolution ahead of the commencement of debates, the committee had proceeded on a five-minute coffee break following a motion by Dr. Abubakar Saddique Mohammed ostensibly to allow the delegates and members of the committee to confer with each other.

At the resumption of session, Chief Gary Enwo-Igariwey while making a case for the South-East, pointed out that the zone which had only five states among the 36 in the country stood at a disadvantage which, according to him, was a great challenge to the people of the area.

“We don’t want to be more than other zones; we just want to be like others. I appeal to this committee to strongly take into consideration the need to bring the South-East at par with other zones in this country,” he said.

Senator Femi Okurounmu, in his argument, said there should be creation of more states to meet growing demands.

He said there should be the same number of states in every zone in the spirit of fairness. He, however, warned delegates to be mindful in order to avoid the abuse of the process.

Binta Masi Garba advocated for the creation of Amana State in the North. She also supported the creation of an additional state in the South-East in the spirit of fairness.

Chief Benjamin Elue from Delta State, while supporting the call for the creation of an additional state in the South-East, begged delegates to consider the long agitation of the Igbo-speaking people in his state who want their own state. He said Anioma State should be carved out of the present Delta State in the interest of justice.

Senator Ahmed Aruwa argued that it was outside the purview of the committee to create a state.

He said the panel could only make recommendations and create an enabling environment for those agitating for more states to have their way. He said the South-East zone deserves an additional state based on merit.

Yinka Odumakin said states have become tenants to the Federal Government. He said states must have the capacity to look inward and create its own revenue base instead of becoming slaves to the Federal Government. He said the practice where governors come to Abuja at the end of every month to collect salaries must be discouraged.

Lawrence Agubuzu, a South-East delegate, said every region should get an additional state. He, however, argued that in the new arrangement, his region should be given two states. He said the creation of additional states in the six geo-political zones will create a better balance.

Also fielding questions at the end of session, co-Chairman of the committee, Mohammed Ukara Kumalia, said in the interest of justice and fair-play, the South-East should be given an additional state.

He said every other region agitating for more states must be given based on merit. He said this is needed in order to avoid abuse of the process.

He said that genuine demands for the creation of states from all the other zones will be looked into and disclosed that decisions will be taken based on the merit of such demands looking at their viability, contiguity and a host of other factors that usually determine the creation of states.

Kumalia further disclosed that the committee will revisit the issue of local council creation next week, and specifically address other elements such as the mode of funding, among others.

Meanwhile, members of the Conference Committee on Political Matters have agreed to expunge the contentious immunity clause for the president, his vice, governors and their assistants from the constitution.

They, however, gave an exception to the rule, adding that in case of civil offences, the president, vice, governor and his deputy are protected by the law.    

The delegates argued that detractors might take advantage of the removal of the immunity clause to institute unnecessary civil cases against executives.

In a related development, members of Conference Committee on Judiciary want the government to separate the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation from that of the Minister of Justice.

If this recommendation is adopted by the general house during the adoption of committees’ reports, years of agitation by lawyers and other activists who have persistently called for the separation would have succeeded.

The judiciary committee also recommended that the government should create constitutional courts across the 36 states of the federation and the FCT, similar to Wednesday’s recommendations that Supreme Courts should be created in all the 36 states of the federation.

•Pieced together from separate reports in The Guardian. Photo shows Chairman of National Conference Committee on Political Reforms and Forms of Government, Ike Nwachukwu.

Source: News Express

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