Arguments for Review of Section 8 of 1999 Constitution
There are a number of reasons advanced for a review of Section 8 of the 1999 Constitution. Some of them include the following:
- To allow deserving groups have their own littoral state.
- To bring government closer to the people.
- To prevent marginalization of minorities.
- To reflect true federalism
We shall consider these arguments one after the other.
To allow deserving groups have their own Littoral States:
The current legislative framework for creation of states in the country is too complex and does not allow many deserving groups have a littoral state of their own.
There are a number of deserving demographic groups who have been clamouring for creation of new states, but who have been unable to actualise this ambition. Some of these geographical areas are more viable in terms of population and land mass than several existing states, and yet they are unable to have their own littoral states.
Speaking of one of such examples of viable geographical entities capable of standing alone as a littoral state, Marshall Katung who is clamouring for the creation of Gurara State out of the southern Kaduna area of Kaduna state remarked thus:
‘Nationalities such as the Southern Kaduna people of Kaduna State, with an estimated population of 5.1 million people, comprising 67 ethnic groups and inhabiting a landmass of about 26,000km, which landmass is greater than those of Kano (a State in the same North Western region as Kaduna, which has 20,131km2landmass); Sokoto State (25,973km2); Jigawa State (23,154km2), among many others…’
Therefore, by reviewing the provisions of Section 8 of the 1999 Constitution, deserving groups with viable indices for development (i.e., population, landmass, industries, etc) can have their own littoral states.
To bring government closer to the people:
Almost with monotonous frequency, the bringing of government closer to the people is often cited as a preeminent reason for creation of more states. It informed the decision to create more states in the past, and the statement that creation of states can bring government closer to the people in interior areas, is as true today as it was when the first states were created in the country.
Even with 36 states created, there are some states that are so densely populated that some indigenes in interior areas feel little or nothing of the impact the state government is making in the area. So, creating more states will mean, more local governments areas will be created, and thus bringing government closer to the people. Therefore, a review of Section 8 of the 1999 Constitution is necessary to make this possible.
To prevent marginalization of minorities:
There are many ethnic groups in Nigeria unlike it is in other countries of the world and the creation of more states will give them more access to power and reduce the cry that they are marginalized. Larger states tend to create dissatisfaction among ethnic minorities and the feeling of ethnic seclusion from power.
This is especially because many states in Nigeria are comprised of diverse ethnic groups who are frequently marginalized by larger ethnic group in the larger scheme of things. A review of the provisions of Section 8 would grant ethnic minorities of teaming up together to form their own states where they will feel less marginalized than they currently are under the existing 36-states structure.
To reflect true federalism
Federalism refers to a structure of government wherein governmental powers are shared among tiers or levels of government. The emergence of federalism in Nigeria is traceable to the Nigeria Letters Patent, 1946.
Commonly called the Richards Constitution of 1946 it balkanized the hitherto amalgamated Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria into three groups of provinces – the North, East and West. It went ahead to create three administrative capitals (Ibadan, Kaduna and Enugu) for the regions, as well as establishing legislatures for each region.
These new structures existed side by side with the central executive and legislative structures (Nigeria Letters Patent, 1946). This situation made Nigeria to meet some of the fundamental attributes of federalism: existence of national government side by side governments of component units; existence of component units called group of provinces or regions; a vertical division of governmental powers; and finally, the presence of a constitution.
Thenceforth, federalism has been a recurrent theme across all Nigerian constitutions. There can be no denying that by reviewing the provisions of Section 8 to simplify the provisions of state creation in the country, a system of true federalism in which residents of Nigerian hinterlands can reap the dividends of democracy would be fostered.
Arguments Against Review of Section 8 of 1999 Constitution:
The review of the provisions of Section 8 of the 1999 Constitution is likely to simplify the state creation process so much so that politically-motivated individuals might hijack the simplified amendments to achieve their selfish political objectives.
In light of this, some arguments have been advanced against the review of Section 8 of the 1999 Constitution. First, Nigeria has challenges associated with resource distribution and humongous cost of governance. As a matter of fact, this high cost of governance is exacerbated by the several states in Nigeria. To compound the problem, many states are unable to finance their expenditure without federal allocation. Therefore, to review Section 8 and simplify the state creation process would lead to so many states, and adversely increase the cost of governance.
Secondly, it may be argued that the creation of states does not solve the problem of ethnic marginalisation; rather, it increases the calls for more states which could over-fragmentize the administrative structure of the country. Finally, and as a corollary to the point above, it has been argued that the creation of more states in 1996, had not solved the problems which warranted the creation of such states.
Therefore, there is no assurance that a simplification of the constitutional process for state creation can make any tangible difference in solving the problems which state-creation has been touted to solve. This is especially in light of the fact state creation can open more avenues for corruption which continues to remain a setback for administrative governance in the country.