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Constitution review: Senate forecloses state creation

 

The Senate has ruled out the creation of new states, it was learnt yesterday.

The Senate Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution observed that, apart from shrinking resources, which may render additional states unviable, the exercise may fuel national tension and further polarise the country.

There are agitations across the six geo-political zones that states should be increased from 36 to 56.

However, the Senate Committee reasoned that the new states will create an additional burden for the country.

Senate President Ahmad Lawan, who spoke on the report of the Constitution Review, said the recommendations, which would be harmonised before the Constitution Amendment Bill is passed, will top the agenda of the Senate after the Christmas recess.

There are over 30 items in the report of the Senate Committee on Constitutional Review, it was learnt.

According to the report, the 70-year retirement age limit for Supreme Court and Court of Appeal justices will now be extended to all judges nationwide.

Appeal Court as final arbitor on election cases

It was also gathered that election matters or petitions are now to end at the Court of Appeal, instead of recourse to the Supreme Court.

Until some few years ago, the Court of Appeal was the final arbiter on election petitions.

To decongest the Supreme Court, the apex court may no longer adjudicate on some matters like land and marital issues.

However, lawmakers are pushing for the decentralisation of the Nigeria Police, including financial autonomy for state and zonal commands.

According to the investigation, in spite of the fact that a recommendation has been made for a referendum to be conducted for 20 new states by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the Senate may not go ahead with the exercise again.

A source, who spoke in confidence, said: “We have realised that the nation’s resources are limited and cannot accommodate new states.

“What we have done so far was to document the requests for new states and those 20 we wanted INEC to conduct referendum about for future sake.

Argument against state creation

“We have also observed that most states are unviable and there is no basis creating additional burdens for the country.”

A member of the Senate Committee on Constitution Review said: “We are no longer considering agitation for state creation because there is a new development with the call for restructuring.

“If the nation bows to the pressure for restructuring, it is a bigger picture than state creation. So, restructuring is taking the centre stage.

“It is even apparent that we have weak states. There is no basis for new ones. Besides, state creation can lead to more political discord and tension in the country. We do not want to add to the security challenges nationwide.

“Some geopolitical zones are not keen on new states. The polarisation in Northcentral alone can lead to a major crisis in the zone. It appears only the Southeast is more coherent in its demand for a new state.

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“It is not easy to meet the conditions for the creation of new states without political rancour. We cannot and should not add to the prevalent tension in the country.”

Constitutional provisions

The Section in Part 1 of Chapter 1 of the 1999 Constitution on state creation states the conditions as follows:

“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 if the following –

(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.

“A proposal for the creation of the state is thereafter approved in a referendum in by at least two-thirds majority of the people of the area where the demand for creation of the state originated.

“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

“The proposal is approved by a resolution passed by a two-thirds majority of members of each House of the National Assembly.”

The Senate Committee member added: “State creation is no longer on the card as far as the ongoing constitution review is concerned.”

Proposed states

Some of the requests for new states are Itai State (from Akwa Ibom State); State status for the FCT; Katagum State from Bauchi State; Okura State from Kogi East; Adada State from Enugu State; Gurara State from Kaduna South; and Ijebu State from Ogun State

Others are  Ibadan State from Oyo State; Tiga State from Kano State; Ghari State from Kano State;  Amana State from Adamawa; Gongola State from Adamawa; Mambilla State from Taraba State; Savannah State from Borno State; and Okun state from Kogi State.

Also on the list are Etiti State from the South East Zone; Orashi State from Imo and Anambra states; Njaba from Imo State or the excision of Aba State from Abia State; Anioma State from Delta State; Torogbene and Oil River States, from Bayelsa, Delta and Rivers states; and Bayajida State from parts of Katsina, Jigawa and Zamfara states.

On the recommendations of a “uniform 70-year retirement age limit for High Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court judges,” a source said: “In the proposed amendment to 1999 Constitution, hearing of election matters or petitions will henceforth be concluded at the Court of Appeal, instead of the Supreme Court. We are returning to the previous practice, we do not want to overburden the Supreme Court.

“Also, we are going to oust the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court on some matters like land dispute, marital cases, child paternity, and others. We want a Supreme Court with accelerated hearing of substantial cases. At present, there are cases of 10 to 20 years before the Supreme Court. Some litigants having cases at the apex court have died without justice.

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“If a lawyer appeals to the Supreme Court, you will see him getting one or two-year timeline. A lot of political and election cases are distracting the Supreme Court.”

On the decentralization of the police, a principal officer said: “It is a key part of the constitution review which we will debate and approve after the recess.”

Devolution of police

The Constitution Review Committee has recommended decentralisation of the police operation and bring the police nearer to the people.

In the new arrangement, there will be an additional 17 Zonal Commands, Zonal Police Council, State Security Advisory Council, and Community Policing Advisory Council.

The Zonal Commands shall have operational and budgetary control over the police formations in the zones.

The Zonal Commands shall prepare and submit to the Force Headquarters their Budget, which the Inspector-General of Police shall forward to the National Assembly for approval.

The deployment of an Assistant Inspector-General of Police to a Zone and or his removal from a Zone shall be subject to confirmation by the Senate.

The Inspector-General of Police is stripped of powers to remove an Assistant Inspector-General of Police at will.

The removal of an Inspector-General of Police and an Assistant Inspector-General of Police shall be based on a two-thirds majority of the Senate.

While the removal of an Inspector-General of Police and an Assistant-Inspector-General of Police shall be based on a two-thirds majority of the Senate,  no Commissioner of Police can be removed in a state, except it is subject to approval by a two-thirds majority of the House of Assembly of the state.

Police funding

Also, the funding of the police will now be at zonal, state, and local levels.

Special levies and or taxes are to be introduced in the states in the Zones for the purpose of the Fund.

Some of  the amendments to the 1999 Constitution are as follows: “ Section 215(1)(a) an Inspector-General of Police who, subject to section 216(2) of this constitution shall be appointed by the President on the recommendation of the National Police Council from among serving members of the Nigerian Police subject to the confirmation of such appointment by the Senate.”

“215(1) (b) a Commissioner of Police for each State of the Federation who shall be appointed by the Police Service Commission and deployed by the Inspector-General of Police.

“215(1}(c) A commissioner of Police for a State shall serve in that capacity for a minimum term of two years which may be renewed or extended for another period of two years and no more.”

New police structure

On the Zonal Structure of the Nigerian Police Force, Section 215{1)(d) | The Zonal Commands of the Nigerian Police Force shall consist as follows:

The breakdown of the Zonal Commands of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) is as follows: Zone 1 (Kano/Jigawa); Zone 2-(Lagos/ Ogun); Zone 3-(Adamawa/Taraba); Zone 4-(Benue/Nasarawa/ Plateau); Zone 5-(Edo/Delta); Zone 6-(Akwa Ibom/Cross River); Zone 7-(FCT/Niger); Zone 8-(Kogi/Kwara); and Zone 9-(Abia/Ebonyi/Imo).

Source: The Nation

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