Delegates to the National Conference yesterday said states willing to merge should be allowed to do so provided two third majority of the citizens of the states willing to merge is obtained.
This came up during intense debate on the recommendations of the Conference Committee on Political Restructuring and Forms of Government, even as prominence was given to the creation of additional state for the South East which presently has five states while others other zones have six except the North West with seven.
The committee, which was co-chaired by retired General Ike Nwachukwu and Hon. Mohammed Kumalia, had recommended that states that wish to merge can do so in accordance with the 1999 constitution as amended under three conditions:
The a merger receives support of two- third majority of all members in each of Houses of Assembly of states in which such a merger is proposed, a referendum be conducted in each of the states proposing the merger with seventy five per cent of eligible voter in each of those states approving the merger.
The committee said the above two procedures must receive a resolution passed by a simple majority of the members of the National Assembly in approval of the merger.
During the debate, many delegates supported the creation of a new state but insisted there should be proper definition of a true federalism in structure and laws.
However, Munzale Jibril said, “I would suggest that a technical committee be set up to show whether there is any scientific bases for the existence of local government as presently constituted in the country. What we are trying to do is to empower the governors more to make the councils not to work,” but disagreed with the recommendation for the handpicking of the vice president by the president, saying that the system would encourage dictatorship.
Former Governor of Akwa Ibom state said, “It was ridiculous for supervisory Councilors to be appointed by council chairman when they are elected councilors. I don’t see how we can say we love the local government but want the status quo to remain,” he said and suggested that the Conference sets up a committee to review all the submissions on state creation.
Also, he said states should be allowed to create local government and called for the Conference to take a strong position on the issue and drew attention to Section 7 of the Constitution adding that the local government is an internal matter to the state.
The committee has proposed restructuring and wants the joint sates/local governments’ account scrapped. Further, it recommended the establishment of States Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (SRMAFC) whose chairman and representatives of local government areas would be nominated by the governor, screened and confirmed by the state House of Assembly.
“In allocating funds to the government, local government councils and between local councils of a state, the SRMAFC shall apply the same distribution principles adopted by the Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission to allocate funds from the federation account.
On forms and content of government, the committee settled on what it called home made model of government which it says will effectively combine the attributes of the parliamentary and presidential systems of governments. This it called “modified presidential system.”