•Says new constitution’ ll be ready in July 2013
From ADETUTU FOLASADE-KOYI, Abuja
The clamour for states creation in the ongoing Constitution Review exercise yesterday suffered a setback with the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Constitution Review (CRC), Ike Ekweremadu saying the National Assembly’s hands are tied over the issue.
Speaking against the background of agitations from the South East for an additional state and the Babel of voices demanding for new states during last weekend’s public sessions on Constitutional Review, Ekweremadu told the agitators to acquaint themselves with Sections 8 and 9 of the 1999 Constitution.
Addressing journalists in Abuja yesterday, Ekweremadu also said that it was foolhardy of anyone to expect any lawmaker to make a pronouncement on states creation and actualize it.
The Deputy Senate President spoke ahead of the commencement of a two-day zonal public hearing convened by the Senate in the country’s six geopolitical zones on Thursday.
His words: “The issue of states creation is very rigorous, 109 senators are involved, 360 members of the House of Representatives are also involved and all the members of the 36 states Houses of Assembly are also involved. There is certainly no way an individual will have an agenda and muscle in that agenda. It’s basically unthinkable. “On this issue of state creation, I will also refer you to Section 8 of the Constitution.
Things are clearly stated there and there’s no way an individual will just wake up and say he wants to create a state. “I don’t think the South-East should expect either myself or any other person to announce that they are creating a state either tomorrow or next tomorrow. That is not what the Constitution says. “They would naturally follow the procedure which the Constitution has provided and I hope that this. I have deliberately explained this, so that, nobody would say that I came back from Abuja and I didn’t bring a state for him.
“That is not what the Constitution says. The Constitution has laid down the procedure for states creation. Anybody looking for state creation must naturally follow the procedure as laid down by Section 8 of the Constitution. There’s nothing anybody can do about it. I think we need to do more enlightenment for Nigerians to understand this process clearly. It’s not just enough to come to the National Assembly with requests for state creation.”
Throwing more light on the procedure, Ekweremadu noted, “you would require the votes of the Senate, the House of Representatives, the states Houses of Assemblies, councillors and the ordinary people from where the state would be created. “I don’t think it’s something someone can sit down in the National Assembly or anywhere and say, ‘oh, he has created a state.’ It’s impossible to have a hidden agenda in this process.
The Constitution is clear on how it would be done and it must be done transparently and there’s no hiding anything under the table. “I was in Enugu last Sunday where I met with my own constituents and I made it clear to them that, see, Nigerians are confusing things and that is why anyone can begin to expect that at the end of this exercise, somebody will come up and announce that so and so state has been created.
“That is not going to happen because the Constitution has made provisions for that. The issue of state creation is different from what we are doing because if you look at section 8 and section 9, you would see that they are two different issues..” Ekweremadu then explained that any section of the country that desires a new state must necessarily go through constitutional provisions, failing to which, such requests will not scale through.
“Any group that wants a state can necessarily start the process without any requirement of a Committee of the Senate or the House of Representatives, dealing with the issue of Constitution amendment. “It’s something that can completely run its own course without involving the Committee. Now, what is going on really is that Nigerians are making their requests on states creation based on the fact that they believe that, maybe, these two committees, the Senate and the House of Representatives can come up with the criteria that would favour them.
I’ve explained this, we are supposed to make laws for order and good governance of this country and I believe that in doing so, as part of this exercise, what we can naturally do is; we have 56 requests for states creation and as responsible citizens of Nigeria, we can advise our colleagues on how many states can possibly be created and if the system can sustain it.
“If for instance we say, well, in the circumstance, that maybe the Nigerian system can contain maybe, three states, four states or even eight states, we can possibly advise on how these states would be allocated to the various parts of the country. “Then, naturally, the people who are requesting for states, can still go ahead to generate their requests and if they have done so, they would have to submit it to the National Assembly and they would also generate resolutions of the requisite authorities.
“It’s something that you expect that at the end of the Constitution Amendment exercise, that this committee or indeed, the National Assembly would announce that states would be created. That is not going to happen. “If you look at Section 8, it’s almost like passing a big snake through the eye of a needle in getting a state created.
So, anybody asking for state should go back and do a better homework; coming to the National Assembly with a request is not just enough to get a state created. Also responding to comments attributed to Kano State Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso over purported hidden agenda in the amendment, Ekweremadu said: “I’m used to cynical statements and doubts but I don’t allow myself to be distracted.
I don’t get myself involved in things that do not work. When we started the process in 2009, some of you seated here didn’t believe it would work but we succeeded in amending the Constitution. I don’t get distracted by people who don’t believe in the process, I don’t believe in people of little faith. I don’t want them to distract me; I focus on the prize. For me, it’s a mere distraction.
“We are determined to amend the Constitution because it’s what the people want. We are going to put all the cards on the table; we are going to put all the issues before Nigerians; before our people in the National Assembly and our people would vote. “It’s naive for anybody to think that anybody is being targeted or whether any section of Nigeria is being targeted. It doesn’t make sense at all! I want Nigerians to give us the benefit of the doubt as they’ve always done.
We’ll do our best and let history judge us.” Ekweremadu, however, reiterated the Senate’s commitment to giving Nigerians, a new Constitution by July 2013. His words: “As I pointed out sometime in June this year, our target is to ensure that we conclude work by the third quarter of 2013.
That should be in July so that it is steered clear of the politics of 2015 general elections. “Collation of inputs will end by this last quarter of 2012 to enable us submit our report to the Senate by March 2013. hoped that debates will have commenced by April 2013.