Akin Akande, Abuja
Hope of some ethnic groups across the country canvassing for creation of new states may have been dashed as Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu has said most agitators for new states had failed to operate within the constitution.
He emphasised that the process requires the support of two thirds of elected lawmakers at the local government, state at national levels. Senator Ekweremadu also cleared the air on his rumoured governorship ambition in 2015 in Enugu state saying, “As for me, I’m not running for governorship.”
Speaking with members of the Senate Press Corps in Abuja on Monday, the Deputy Senate President said Nigerians had the erroneous impression that they can just submit memoranda before the Senate and expected new states to be created by fiat.
He said, unlike during the military era when states were created as events, the process of state creation in a democracy must conform with Section 8 (1) of the 1999 Constitution as amended.
The section states, “An Act of the National Assembly for the purpose of creating a new State shall only be passed if – (a) a request, supported by at least two-thirds majority of members (representing the area demanding the creation of the new State) in each of the following, namely – (i) the Senate and the House of Representatives; (ii) the House of Assembly in respect of the area and (iii) The local government councils in respect of the area, is received by the National Assembly; (b) a proposal for the creation of the State is thereafter approved in a referendum by at least two-thirds majority of the people of the area where the demand for creation of the State originated; (c) the result of the referendum is then approved by a simple majority of all the States of the Federation supported by a simple majority of members of the Houses of Assembly; and (d) the proposal is approved by a resolution passed by two-thirds majority of members of each House of the National Assembly.”
His words: “So, that include the councilors and the chairmen of the council from the area requesting for the state. And you must know these must be elected councilors and chairmen because the constitution did not envisaged caretaker.
“If it is found out that they are not elected chairmen, that means that they have not fulfill that obligation.
“Furthermore, there must be signature of the two-third of the state assemblies from those respective areas requesting for a state. Then, there will be two-third signature of the National Assembly.
“What has happened now is that our traditional rulers, out of the love for their people, quickly signed the request for creation of state and come and submit in Abuja without looking at what the constitution says.
“There not the one who should be signatories. It has to be parliamentarians. My own understanding of the constitution is that it is not just going to be parliamentarians, but serving a parliamentarian, that is, sitting members, not those who were members in 1960.
“That is one of the details people have avoided in making these requests. So this is one of the constrains.
“But for us, we support creation of states. But you have to follow the procedure laid down by the constitution, which most people are trying to avoid.
“That is our stand on it. I will like you (media) to help us explain to the public because it is an issue that will be very controversial.”
The Deputy Senate President said he was not contesting for the governorship seat of Enugu State in 2015, adding that he was not aware of any zoning arrangement in the state ahead the election.
“I have been in politics in Enugu since the beginning of this particular dispensation. People from every parts of the state have vied but somehow, somebody would win.
“So, I am sure that our brothers from Nsukka understand that clearly. I stand to be challenged. I want anybody to tell me of a document or a meeting where the governorship of Enugu has ever been zone since 1999.
“I will be happy if somebody from Enugu North becomes governor but not on the basis of zoning.
“Probably they are the only one that has not produce the governor of the state. But like I said, it has nothing to do with zoning. There is nothing like zoning in Enugu as at today.
“Until zoning is done, I don’t think anybody who wants to run from other parts of the state can be stopped. But for me, I am not running for governorship”, he said.