Nigeria’s 35 states are aligned in six regional geopolitical zones that determine revenue allocation and political services. Each of the regions consists of six states, except for the predominantly Imo Southeast, which has only five.
An advocate for correcting this imbalance is former Imo State Representative Chief Hilary Agim Ihenachor. He told Voice of America reporter Howard Lesser that an initiative to legislate the expansion through referendum was thwarted in May as it was connected to the proposed constitutional amendment that would have extended President Obasanjo’s term limit.
“The time is too short for that to be passed between now and the end of President Olusegun Obasanjo’s regime because it was tied to the constitutional review which has been deadlocked because of the issue of a third term agenda.”
Chief Ihenachor says the realignment of approximately one-third of Imo States into a new entity makes sense from a standpoint of correcting the revenue allocation disparity of his region. He says this is due to the conducive nature of the territory’s infrastructure, number of people, and land mass. Chief Ihenachor cautions however, a referendum would require far more votes passed than are currently behind the measure. “The members of the National Assembly from this zone do not constitute enough voting power to get such legislation passed in the National Assembly. So it requires the support of all the eastern states, all the zones of the western states, and most of the zones of the northern states and other zones in order to clear enough votes.”
Chief Ihenachor says that sooner or later, the statehood issue, along with the oil revenue allocation dispute that has caused uneasiness in the prosperous Niger Delta region, will have to be addressed through legislation. Otherwise, he claims, Nigeria’s younger population in particular will begin to raise its voice for more dramatic constitutional change.
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