There was another heated argument yesterday at the plenary of the ongoing National Conference as delegates from Southern part of the country and their counterparts from the North disagree over the regions’ population.
An Edo state delegate, Chris Agbonwanegbe, who was contributing to debate on the report and recommendations of the Conference Committee on Political Restructuring and Forms of Government, challenged previous census figures that have been produced since the amalgamation of Nigeria.
He urged the Confab to address what he described as the “injustice” that led to the creation of more states and local government areas in the North as against what is obtainable in the South.
Agbonwanegbe made specific reference to the disparity in the number of local governments in Kano and Lagos states. He said while Lagos has the highest number of people in Nigeria, it was unacceptable that it has only 20 local government areas as against Kano state on the other hand, with a population close to that of the former, but which has more local government areas (44).
“I did my National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) programme in the North. So, I know what I saw during my service year. I can authoritatively tell you that there is injustice in this country.
“How can a state like Katsina or Kano have more local government areas than Lagos which has the highest population? It is obvious that there is injustice and this should be addressed.
“From previous censuses we have had, it is obvious that Nigeria cannot conduct a credible census. We need to invite the United Nations to help us in conducting a census that will be accepted by everyone and finally put the argument about the region with the highest number to rest,” he said.
Reacting to Agbonwanegbe’s submission, a delegate who is of northern extraction and retired Assistant Inspector-General of Police (AIG), Ibrahim Ahmed, who was not comfortable with the Edo delegate’s position, said: “Arrest him! Arrest him now!”
Some other northern delegates immediately also called for a “point of order” to correct the position that they were not happy with, which generated grumbles and side talks for sometime at the plenary.
There were displays of anger in side talks anger on the floor, following the refusal of the Confab Chairman, Justice Idris Legbo Kutigi, to accommodate the views of northern delegates who wanted to air their views on the contentious issue.
The report of that committee was presented to the Conference on Tuesday by its co-chairmen, General Ike Nwachukwu and Hon Mohammed Kumalia.
Although the committee’s recommendations are yet to be adopted by the Conference, high on the list was the creation of additional state for the South-east geo-political zone, to place it on the same level with other zones.
Regarding creation of new states, the committee said such ambition must be backed by the viability of the proposed state in terms of economic potential, human, natural and material resources as well as minimum land and water mass.
In its examination of Nigeria’s political structure, the committee recommended a proper federal system of which has the central government and the states constituting the federating units.
See pages 8 and 9 for details of the recommendations of the committee.