If the position of the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, is anything to go by hopes that new states would be created after the constitution review process might not be possible because their hands are tied over the matter.
Ekweremadu who is also Chairman of the Constitution Review Committee (CRC), told the South East zone who had centered most of their participation in the review process on state creation thus “, I don’t think that the South East will expect either myself or any person to announce that they are going to get a state tomorrow or next tomorrow because that is not what the constitutions says. They will naturally follow the provisions which the constitution has provided. I hope this has afforded me the opportunity”
The Ohaneze Ndigbo and most of the south east have agitated for an additional state to put the zone at par with other zones that have six states in each zone, in the exception of North West which has seven.
Addressing a press conference, in Abuja on the possibility of creating new states, Ekweremadu said, “On the issue of state creation, I was in Enugu on Sunday where I met with my own constituents regarding the constitution amendment exercise and I made it clear to them that 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 that states have been created. That is not going to happen because the constitution does not make such provisions.
“So, the issue of state creation is completely different from what we are doing because if you look at section 8 and section 9, there are two different issues. So, any group that wants a state can necessarily state the process without the committee any requirement of the committee of the Senate or the House dealing with the issue of constitutional amendment.
“It is something that can run its own course without involving the committee. What is going on really is that Nigerians are making their request for the creation of states based on the fact that they believe that these two committees can come up with criteria that will favour them.
“we are supposed to make laws for the good governance of this country and in doing so, as part of this exercise, what we can naturally do is that, we have 56 request for state creation, as responsible citizens of Nigeria, we can advise our colleagues on how many states that can possibly be created and the system can sustain.
“If for instance we say, well, in the circumstance, Nigerian system can contain may be four states, three or eight states, we can possibly advice on how these states would be allocated to the various parts of the country. then, naturally, the people who are requesting for state will still go and generate their requests and submit to the National Assembly and then, generate resolutions of the requisite authorities, the council, the House of Assembly and it will still come up to the National Assembly, the Senate and the House will vote, then, it will still go for referendum after which it will go to the House of Assembly of all the states in Nigeria.
“So, even if you are requesting for a State in Sokoto, the House of Assembly in Abia State will also vote for it. It is something you don’t expect that at the end of the Constitution Amendment exercise, this committee or indeed the national assembly will announce states that have been created, that is not going to happen.
“So, I don’t think that the South East will expect either myself or any person to announce that they are going to get a state tomorrow or next tomorrow because that is not what the constitutions says. They will naturally follow the provisions which the constitution has provided.
“I hope this has afforded me the opportunity to explain this so that nobody will say I came back from Abuja without bring a state. Anybody expecting a state must follow all the procedures and I think we need to do more enlightenment for Nigerians to understand this process clearly because if those accusing any person of hidden agenda understand all these, they will not be worrying themselves, they will go and do more home work because if you look at section 8, it is like passing a big snake through the eye of a needle.
“It is a cumbersome process and it just has to pass through that process because that is what the constitution says.” He said.
Nontheless, Sen. Ekweremadu lambasted those who written off the current constitution amendment process as men of little fate.
He said “I am sure you are aware we are not doing this business for the first time. We have amended this constitution successfully for the first, second and the third time and I chaired the committee during those three processes. Before that, they were attempts that never succeeded.
“So, I am used to this kind of cynical statements and doubts but I never allowed myself to be distracted. I remember I met all of you in this particular room and I told you I don’t get myself involved in things that don’t work because even you were not convinced when I started in 2009 but I assured you it was going to happen. I had a meeting with a council of foreign relations in Washington and they said that Nigeria made efforts in the past and it didn’t work, what was the assurance that would work but I told them I was going to deliver and we delivered. I don’t get distracted by men of little faith, I don’t allow them to distract me, I focus on the price and I am sure my colleagues are all part of this process. If it was going to waste our time, we would not start at the first instance. We have enough to border ourselves. It is something we are determined to do and we are determined because Nigerians want it. If at the end of the day we succeed, fine but if we don’t succeed, everybody will see that it was not because we did not try.
“So, we are going to put all the cards on the table, put all the issues before Nigerians, put it before the National Assembly members and people will vote. We are not going to influence anybody to vote one way or the day. So, if we believe that what we are doing will add value to our system and deepen democracy, Nigerians will see the enemies of the people who do not want things to work. We are going to drive it to the last point and Nigerians will see where it fails but God forbid that it fails.
He also replied the Kano State Governor, Rabiu Kwankwaso over allegations that the leadership of CRC had a hidden agenda. Ekweremadu said it was unfair and unthinkable for anybody to allege that the process will be skewed in favour of the leadership of the National Assembly.
” I have addressed this issue before and I don’t intend to join issues with my friend, the governor of Kano State. If I have differences with him in respect of the conduct of what we are doing, I would like to discuss that with him directly.
“From Section 9 (1) on the process of constitution amendment…., it is obvious that the process of constitution amendment is so rigorous that 109 Senators are involved, 360 members of House of Representatives are involved and all the members of the State Assemblies in 36 States are involved. so, there is certainly no way an individual can come up with an agenda and expect to market that agenda or get it through. It is practically unthinkable. So, I don’t know where he got that idea from and if he is thinking of state creation, I want to refer you to section 8 of the Constitution to see how states are created and see whether something any individual can wake up and say that states have been created.
“So, you can see how difficult it is to even create a state. For any person to say someone has an agenda, I don’t think that person is being fair because you will require the votes of the House of Reps, the Senate, the Assembly, Councillors and the ordinary people from where the state would be created. It is such a cumbersome process and I don’t think it something any person can sit down at the National Assembly or anywhere and say he has created. So, we have to make this clear. Certainly, neither myself, the Deputy Speaker, the Senate President and indeed the Speaker has any hidden agenda and I can say the same thing for all the 109 Senators and 360 members. there is no hidden agenda because it is practically impossible.
The Constitution is clear on how it would be done and it must be done transparently. You cannot do anything, hiding under the table. You can see all the efforts we have made. The House members have taken this to all the 360 federal constituencies and the Senate is taking it to 109 Senatorial Districts. In addition to this, we have done public hearing at the national level and we are doing public hearing at the six geo-political zones. If we have any hidden agenda, why do I have to go through all these troubles? In don’t it is fair to me or to any person to accuse of having hidden agenda but in summery, there is no hidden agenda.
So, you can see the number. We made sure that every interest group is protected in the exercise. So, there is no issue of any state being short changed or any zone being short changed. The headship of the committee is vested on the position of Deputy Senate president or Deputy Speaker, so, it is not given to Ekweremadu or Ihedioha. If Kwakwnazo becomes the Deputy Senate President tomorrow, he will be chairman of that committee, recall that he was the Deputy Speaker, assuming there was an exercise then, he would have chaired the House Committee. So, that is the situation with that.”He said
Key among issues slated for discuss are; devolution of powers, state creation, constitutional recognition for the six geopolitical zones, local government system, fiscal federalism, residency and state of origin, and the police system.
Others are rotation of offices, immunity clause, executive (terms of office and system of government), judicial reforms, mayoral status for the Federal Capital Territory, gender and special interest matters. Nigerians will also be expected to bare their minds on constitutional roles for the traditional rulers, and removing the Land Use Act, National Youth Service, and Code of Conduct from the 1999 Constitution.