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Constitution Review: Middle Belt Demands 19 New States, 12 Provinces

A socio-political organisation, Middle Belt Congress (MBC), has called for a new federal structure in Nigeria with the creation of 19 new states to be grouped alongside existing ones into 12 Provinces.

MBC advocated that provinces, whould also be known as federating units, with their independent constitutions to operate.

In a memo conveying its 18-point proposals to the Senate Committee on the Amendment of the 1999 Constitution, dated September 4, 2020, the group also asked the committee to expunge Section 2(1) of the current 1999 Constitution (as amended) and replace it with a new clause, granting any Province or federating unit to exit the Federation whenever it so wishes.

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Section 2(1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) states that, “Nigeria is one indivisible and indissoluble Sovereign State.”

But MBC said such provision is undesirable and should be replaced with an exit clause subject to certain requirements.

“The choice to remain or withdraw from a federation is a fundamental human right and so cannot be wished away or removed by a Constitution.

The Constitutions of the USA and UK allow the federating units to exit if they so wish and follow the constitutional requirements by
referendum.

“S.2(1) is, therefore, undesirable and should be expunged from the Constitution and replaced by an exit enabling clause,” it said.

On the new federal structure envisaged by the group, it called for the amendment of Sections 2(2) and 3(1–5) of the current constitution in order to create new States and Geographical or Federating Units as against the existing 36 States and FCT arrangement.

“Clearly identify and name the geographical units that have federated to constitute the Federal Republic of Nigeria. They should be called Provinces.

“Mention that each of these federating units (Provinces) shall have their individual constitutions, which shall be subservient to the central Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” MBC said.

It posited that besides naming the federating units or Provinces, their boundaries should be specified, and adjustment to the boundaries can be made if the need arises through a referendum in the affected area.

It, therefore, suggested to the Senate panel “that two or more federating units (Provinces) cannot merge or split but can only cooperate on matters like  economy, waste disposal, water provision, transportation link, etc, to enhance living standards of their citizens,” in the proposed new constitution.

The group also called for the amendment of Section 2(6), calling for only two tiers of government as against the current three-tier system, namely the Federal Government and the federating units or Provinces as sub-national governments.

“Local Governments are no longer governments but administrative units of the sub-national governments. The former LGs should be renamed “Councils” or “Municipalities” or “Development Areas” or “Burroughs” or any other names Nigerians might prefer,” MBC suggested.

The group specifically named 12 federating units or Provinces comprising the proposed new and existing States of the Federation.

According to the MBC Memo, North-West Province shall comprises Sokoto, Kebbi, and the Zamfara States; North-Central Province to have Kaduna and Katsina States only; North-North Province to include Kano, Jigawa and Ghari States.

North-East Province will have Borno, Yobe, Gombe, Bauchi, Amana, Savannah, and Katagum States; Middle-Belt West Province will comprise Niger, Kwara, Kogi, Edu and Kainji States.

The new Middle-Belt East Province shall comprise Plateau, Benue, Nasarawa, Adamawa, Taraba, Gurara and Apa States; Western Province will have Oyo, Osun, Ondo, Ekiti, Ose, Okun and New Oyo States; South-West Province shall comprise Lagos, Ogun, and Ijebu States.

While Mid-West Province will include Delta, Edo and Anioma States; Niger Delta Province will have Rivers, Bayelsa and Oil River States; South-East Province shall comprise Anambra, Abia, Enugu, Ebonyi, Imo, Aba, Adada, Njaba and Etiti States; and South-South Province to include Akwa Ibom, Cross River, and Ogoja States.

Beside federal structure, state creation is the second aspect of the 18 proposals sent to the Senate Committee by the MBC, saying that the creation of 19 new States “will address many political, religious and ethnic problems bedeviling the country.”

Nigeria currently has 36 States including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja.

“Sixty-one (61) requests were received by the 7th NASS in 2012. This proves that majority of Nigerians are not satisfied with the groupings that the various military governments did and they want a democratic correction of the anomalies.

“Eighteen (18) of these were recommended by the 2014 National Conference, to be shared three to each of the six geo-political zones, while we have recommended one more, Okun State, to satisfy the yearnings of the Okun people in Kwara and Kogi states,” MBC said.

The list of the proposed 19 new States and where they will be carved out are as follows: Aba State from Abia State; Adada State from Enugu State; Amana
State from Adamawa State; Anioma State from Delta State.

Apa State from Benue State; Edu State from Niger State; Etiti State from South East Geopolitical Zone; Ghari State from Kano State; Gurara State from Kaduna State.

Ijebu State from Ogun State; Kainji State from Kebbi and Niger states; Katagum State from Jigawa State; New Oyo State from the Oyo State; Njaba-Anim State from Anambra and Imo states.

Ogoja State from Cross River State; Oil River State from Rivers State; Okun State from Ekiti, Ondo, Kwara and Kogi states; Ose State from Edo State.

22nd October 2021
Nigerian Pantagraph
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