Origin of State Creation in Nigeria
An understanding of the various hurdles associated with the legal process of State-creation under
Nigeria’s current constitution, must necessarily be situated in a proper historical context to facilitate a full appreciation of the subject about to be considered.
It must be stated that although the Nigerian federation had since independence been polarized into federating units in the form of regions, States as governing constituents was not a feature of Nigerian structure until May 1967 when the Nigerian federal military government dissolved the extant four regions and created twelve states.
While the purpose of this move has generally been attributed to the federal military government’s intention to frustrate the secessionist moves of the eastern region of Nigeria, there is also a general consensus among scholars that the move was timely to cater for the needs of minority groupings in the country. Be that as it may, since 1967, creation of states has been a recurrent trend in Nigeria’s administrative landscape, so much so that it is constitutionally provided for both under the defunct 1979 constitution, and the current 1999 constitution.
State Creation during the Military Era
To be sure, all the present states within the Nigerian federation are products of military fiats. This is in part due to the history of Nigerian governance which was largely dominated by military administrators. The regimes under which state-creation exercises were carried out are examined below:
State Creation under Gowon’s Regime
The creation of twelve Nigerian states was one of the most daring and historic initiatives implemented by the government of the then Col. Yakubu Gowon when he announced it in May, 1967. This decision was actually symbolic of the desire of the Nigerian people to gain greater autonomy and self-determination in the administration of their regional affairs.
However, because the crisis of trust in the military that eventually resulted in the Nigerian civil war, was the most topic national issue of the time, many analysts and scholars alike, have attributed the state-creation of Gowon’s regime to the federal military government’s intention to increase its likelihood of victory against the secessionists.
While this might be true to a certain extent, the effect of the change in the basic formula of governance that it brought about, served a more far-reaching purpose than that of military opportunism. As a matter of fact, it is Gowon’s commitment to maintain national unity and avoid further instability that led him to seek support for the states creation exercise from a broad section of regional leaders before announcing the order creating new states.
This was because at the time, the cry for the creation of the CalabarOgoja-Rivers (Cor) State in the eastern region had become increasingly vocal. At the same time, aspirations of the middle-belt for the creation of their own state were gaining momentum. Therefore, Gowon’s initiative was implemented with the intention to alleviate these tensions as much as anything else.
The 12 new states created by the Gowon regime include the following: the North-Western State (Now Niger & Sokoto States), North-Eastern State (Now Yobe, Borno, Adamawa, Gombe, Bauch& Taraba States), Kano State, North-Central State, Benue-Plateau State (Now Benue & Plateau states), Kwara State (Now Kwara and Kogi states), Western State (Now Ogun, Ondo & Oyo states), Lagos State, Mid-Western State (Now Delta and Edo states), Rivers State (Now Rivers and Bayelsa States), South-Eastern State (Now Cross-Rivers State and Akwa-Ibom State), and; East-Central State (Now Anambra & Imo States).
State Creation under Muhammed’s Regime
Gen. Murtala Ramat Muhammed rose to power in 1975 following a bloodless coup which ousted the regime of Col. Yakubu Gowon while he was away from the country. Although Muhammed’s regime was fleeting – lasting only six months –one of Muhammed’s enduring legacies remains the creation of additional 7 states to the existing twelve states in the country.
This was preceded by a panel headed by Justice Ayo Irikefe, to investigate the issue of state creation and boundary adjustment. This panel was inaugurated on August 7, 1975 with specific terms of reference to:
- Advise on the delimitation of such states;
- Advise on economic viability of the proposed states;
- Advise on the location of administrative capitals of the proposed states; and,
- To receive and examine written representations from individuals, groups, organizations or associations who may have views on the desirability or otherwise of creating states in particular areas.
The panel came up with a report which was utilized in the formation of new states in 1976. The
7 new states created out of the existing states on the 3rd of February 1976 include the following; Bauchi, Benue-Plateau, Borno, Imo, Niger, Ogun, Oyo and; Ondo States. Gen. Murtala Muhammed emphasized three basic considerations that informed his decision; the need to ensure even development within a federal structure of government; the need to bring government nearer to the people; and the need to make the creation of new states as one-time operation that would minimize future agitation for new states.
The 1976 states creation exercise was implemented also in the wake of phenomenal expansion in federal petroleum export revenue allocation arrangements that enthroned inter-state equality as the preeminent standard of financial devolution.
State Creation under Babangida’s Regime
General Babangida rose to power in a bloodless coup in the eve of the New Year – 31st December, 1983. While the achievements and weaknesses of his regime have been the most hotly debated in Nigeria, one of the most significant successes of his regime was the creation of states in the country.
The Babangida’s regime set up Political Bureau headed by Dr. Samuel Cookey and was mandated to coordinate the debate on the country’s political future. In carrying out its assignment, the Bureau was presented with specific requests and general suggestions for new states. This was extensively discussed in its report as one of the contentious or special themes in Nigeria political debate.
Also, the Bureau was presented with different proposal on how additional states could be created in the country. The Bureau in its report recommended six additional states in the interest of fair play and justice. On September 23, 1987, General Ibrahim Babangida, based on the five-man committee report, announced the creation of two more states, Katsina and Akwa-Ibom making it twenty-one states in Nigeria.
It has been argued that the state-creation exercise of 1987 sought to complete the unfinished business of the 1976 state creation. This is because the creation of Akwa Ibom had been explicitly recommended by Irikefe Commission, while Zaria-Kastina imbroglio in Kaduna state and the attendant agitation for the separation of the two communities have become extremely strident even before the military disengagement in 1979.
On August 27, 1991, Babangida announced the creation of additional nine states (Abia, Enugu (carved out of the old Anambra state) Jigawa, Kebbi, Osun, Kogi, Taraba, & Yobe states) to make the total number of the states in federation thirty.
While the 1987 reorganizations genuinely appeared to be in national interest, as claimed by General Babangida, the 1991 reform underscored both the continuing popular pressure for new states and Babangida’s desired to exploit these demands to promote his personal rulership project.
State Creation under Abacha’s Regime
General Sani Abacha became the head of state, through a palace coup in November 1993, it was a period when the Nation was experiencing political crisis as a result of annulment of June 12, 1993 General Election. As a way of resolving the problem of the country, the regime set up the National Constitutional Conference (NCC).
State creation was one of the issues that dominated the debate of National Constitutional Conference (NCC) set up by the Abacha’s government. Unfortunately, NCC found it difficult to resolve this issue because of the member’s conflicting interests.
It later transferred the responsibility to the Abacha’s government. In the view of this, General Abacha inaugurated Chief Arthur Mbanefo – led committee on the creation of state and local government on December 13, 1995.
On the assumption of office, the committee requested for submission of memorandum from members of the public and set January 15, 1996 as the dead line. At the end of the day, 2,369 demands for local governments and 280 boundary adjustments were made. The committee received a total of seventy-two requests for states.
The committee submitted its report, in which it made a number of recommendations. The report of the committee, unlike Irikefe Panel was neither publicized nor published. On October 1st, 1996, General Sani Abacha announced the creation of new six states namely, Bayelsa, Ebonyi, Ekiti, Gombe, Nasarawa and Zamfara, making the total number of states in the federation thirtysix.