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DAVID MARK, NO TO STATE CREATION, NOT ECONOMICAL

By NBF News
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By Omoh Gabriel
When on May 27, 1967 General Yakubu Gowon announced the 12- state structure for Nigeria it was to solve a perceived political problem threatening the continued existence of Nigeria as a single entity. It was a political solution to the threat of secession. Gowon was humble enough to point out the economic consequences the nation was faced with if the action was not taken. He had said: 'The consequence of these illegal sets has been the increasing deterioration of the Nigerian economy.

David Mark
'It has also led to increasing loss of foreign confidence in the ability of Nigerians to resolve the present problems. This has been reflected in the stoppage of the inflow of much badly needed additional foreign investment, it has put a brake on economic development so essential to the well-being of the common man and the ordinary citizen whose only desire is for peace and stability to carry on his daily work.

'The main obstacle to future stability in this country is the present structural imbalance in the Nigerian Federation. This is why the item in the Political and Administrative Programme adopted by the Supreme Military Council last month is the creation of states as a basis for stability.'

The much desired unity, economic development and inflow of foreign investment have continued to elude the country several decades after the first shot at state creation. Ever since then, the politics of state creation has not taken into account  the ability of these states to sustain their existence. Of the 36 states in the country, only Lagos, Rivers and perhaps Kano states, can through internally-generated revenue pay their bills. Others have to wait for the monthly federal allocation for them to pay their bills. The internally-generated revenue of the existing states in the country cannot even pay the monthly wage bill of teachers in the various states. Some local governments are known to have generated not more than one million naira in a year.

In the face of this, the Senate President is quoted as saying that more states will be created in the life of the seventh National Assembly. Senate President, David Mark, was quoted last week to have said that the National Assembly remained committed to amending the 1999 Constitution to give room for the creation of more states in Nigeria. Senator Mark, who gave the assurance in his home town, Oturkpo, maintained that state creation was a certainty because the National Assembly was confident that the creation of more states would enhance development and bring government closer to the people.

It will appear that the Senate President is oblivious of the cry of Nigerians against the high cost of governance in the country that has robbed the people of the much needed funds for development. Creation of more states will further raise the already high cost of governance in the country. When new states are created, the membership of the National Assembly will increase by the proportion of the increase in the number of states. Each additional member of the National Assembly will bring additional cost to the nation. By CBN Governor Sanusi Lamido Sanusi's revelation recently, the National Assembly spends 25 per cent of the overhead cost of running the Federal Government. When more states are created, the National Assembly overhead will jump to 30 or 40 per cent of total overhead. This certainly is not economical for the nation.

Each of the states to be created will become a new cost centre to the federation account. The newly created states will need fresh civil service of their own, a legislature, governor, aides to the governor, commissioners, local government etc. All these are new cost centres to the federation. At the moment, both the federal and state governments spend close to 70 per cent of their annual budgets on salaries and cost of running the government. There is little or nothing left for infrastructure and other social services. The result is the high level of under-development in the country.

As at last week, existing state governments are crying out aloud that they cannot pay the N18, 000 minimum wage approved for civil servants by the Federal Government. They thus call for a new revenue allocation that will allocate more resources from the federation account to them. The big issue is: Why are Nigerian politicians not talking of how to develop more revenue channels to increase available resources for distribution but just how to share what is available by accident of nature?  Revenue allocation became contentious the very day General Gowon set in motion the machinery for state creation.

In his May 27, 1967 speech he said: 'As these states are established, a new Revenue Allocation Commission consisting of international experts will be appointed to recommend an equitable formula for revenue allocation taking into account the desires of the states.' As new states are created, new revenue allocation formula is evolved. The irony is that as more states are created, the share of the states from the federation account diminishes. Because politicians feel the big purse is always there to grab from, they continue in the agitation for state creation to placate the undiscerning citizenry, knowing full well that these states are not viable.

Nigeria does not need additional states. Creating un-viable states will create more economic problems for the nation. In fact, Nigeria should be thinking of consolidating the existing states by collapsing them into the present six geo-political zones. This will allow for a true federalism to emerge as each zone will have to develop its internal resources to empower and develop the area in their jurisdiction, not the creation of additional states that will be  perpetual liability.