A valid case is again up, for the Creation of Savannah State, with the Capital at Damboa, out of the present-day Borno State, which has its capital at Maiduguri. The proposed Savannah State covers nine local governments in Borno State, as follows: Askira-Uba Local Government Area; Bayo Local Government Area; Biu Local Government Area; Chibok Local Government Area; Damboa Local Government Area; Gwoza Local Government Area; Hawul Local Government Area VIII; Kwaya-Kusar Local Government Area; and Shani Local Government Area. The population of the projected Savannah State being 2,000.000 as of September 7th, 2020.
The case for the creation of this new state is now coming on the back of previous requests for its creation like between 1982, 1983 and 1996, when a request was made by the people of these Local Government Areas of the former Borno State for the Creation of Savannah State to the National Assembly of the Second Republic; and during the agitation across the country in 1991 for the creation of more States, when requests were made for the creation of two States out of the former Borno State, namely; Savannah and the Yobe States. The request for the creation of Yobe State was granted, but Savannah was not. It is also coming after an earlier request to the National Constitutional Conference through its Committee on the States Creation; and also, in 2014, when the advocates approached the National Conference Committee on states creation, resulting in the short-listing of SAVANNAH State as one of the fifteen (14) states recommended for creation in Nigeria. The 2014 Conference report has again clearly shown that SAVANNAH state met all necessary criteria for the creation of the state in Nigeria.
The proposed State has long had a history of robust support, with a consensus amongst its people. They believe that there is still room for a breakup of the present Borno State which as of today is still the largest in the country in terms of Landmass, to enhance self-determination, compatibility, equitable and even development, and responsive governance. Nine local Government Areas making up the Southern Borno Senatorial District who have individually and severally agreed to make up the said Savannah State or adjoining states are making this renewed push for sharing similar aspirations and development objectives.
Arguably, the present Borno State is too large for effective state administration and cannot foster even and accelerated development on which the state structure is premised. In making the request, therefore, they have taken into consideration the size of the present Borno State, ecological constraints, and geopolitical problems that militate against rapid economic and social transformation of the State as well the economic and political viability of the proposed Savannah State and the New Borno State.
Since 1976 when the then North-Eastern State was split into Borno, Gongola and Bauchi State, the exercise of creation of additional states has gone a full cycle with Yobe State created out of Borno state, Taraba state out of Gongola State and later Gombe state out of Bauchi State. The Movement for the Creation of Savannah State out of Borno state dates back to 1982 when a request was presented to the National Assembly of the Second Republic. Savannah State was amongst the states recommended for creation before the termination of the administration. Since then, various memoranda have been submitted in 1989 and 1996 to the defunct Constituent Assembly and the equally defunct Constitutional Conference by the people of the Southern part of Borno state demanding the creation of Savannah State.
The advocates maintain that in the last exercise conducted by General Sani Abacha administration, the proposed Savannah State came second to Ekiti state in terms of rating. With the largest landmass and an attendant high population figure and given that Borno did not benefit from similar exercises since the creation of Gombe state out of Bauchi State in the North-East geopolitical zone, the creation of savannah state is most appropriate from the zone.
From records, the present Borno State, out of which they are agitating for the creation of Savannah State, has its headquarters in Maiduguri and has twenty-seven (27) Local Government Areas. In terms of landmass, it is the largest in the Federation with an area of about 69,436 sq. km. Physically, the state is characterized by decertification in the north and rocky and rich grassland which remains unexploited to the south. The extensive landmass and difficult physical terrain have made it practically and financially difficult for any administration to make any significant impact on the lives of the people through the provision of such basic amenities as water, health service, access roads, education, etc.
The practical inability of the government to provide these basic amenities and to harness the state’s rich agricultural potentials have led to socio-economic and political vices, the resultant effects including border communities having to cross to the neighbouring Niger, Chad or Cameroun Republics for health services; steadily rising unemployment with the corresponding rise in crimes; Rural-Urban drift which not only causes congestion in the cities and associated health and social hazards but also reduction in farm labour in the rural areas. Such situations have implications for internal security to lives and property, national food production and food security and social stability from rising urban unemployment; aside from uneven distribution of political potential and economic benefits across the state, making the people grossly underrepresented.
In making the demand for carving out Savannah State out of the present Borno State, bringing Government closer to the people, and speeding up rapid and even development of the sub-region and the need to remain united within the context of the New State and the Nation are motivations. They believe that the creation of Savannah State will make it possible for both states to plan and provide the basis for integrated and even development and thus create more investment and employment opportunities for the people. These will reduce the rural-urban drift, channel people’s energies into productive endeavours and reduce crime.
Savannah State has a population of over 2,000,000 people according to the 2006 population census as published in the Federal Republic of Nigeria official Gazette no 24 volume 94 of 15 May 2007 projected at 3% growth rate per annum. Although the Census Tribunal has ordered a recount in Hawul Local Government Area which was grossly undercounted, they are compelled to use these figures for now. Savannah State is richly endowed with Solid Minerals, agricultural products, tourism potentials and human resources that can be harnessed to lay a solid foundation for the transformation of the State. It is an incontrovertible fact that a greater part of both the human and material resources of the present Borno State come from the southern part. They are confident that the resources available to the proposed savannah state can sustain it and make it even more viable than many already established states.
Agricultural resources include vast fertile land for agricultural activities. The land is suitable for Sorghum, Millet, Maize, Cowpea, Cotton, Groundnut, Watermelon, Cassava, and Wheat. Economic trees like Tamarind, sheer butter, locust beans, and Fruits and Vegetables abound. With less than 40 per cent of the land under cultivation, the sub-region is already a significant contributor to food production in the country. When fully developed, therefore, the State will be a major contributor to national food security. The area of the proposed State also has abundant livestock including Cattle, Sheep, Goats and Poultry. Great potentials exist for the development of viable fishery industry in all the nine local government Areas
For tourist attractions and historical monuments, the area is blessed with a good climate, beautiful and captivating sceneries and interesting tourist attractions. The Sambisa Game Reserve; Lake Tilla tourist resort, Jafi Falls, Mandara Hills, the Marama Mountains and caves, Walama Rock formation, etc. have already been attracting visitors from far and near. When fully developed, these tourist sites will enhance the nation’s tourist industry as they’ll provide not only many job opportunities to the people but also serve as sources of revenue to the Government.
Human resources potentials are in evidence through the ability of the state to provide 70% of the total manpower needs of Borno State. As a people, they became educationally conscious early and have continued to cherish education and human development. As a result, the sub-region has cultivated a good number of trained personnel in all areas of human endeavour, thus sustaining the present State civil service. The proposed State should therefore not suffer from a shortage of manpower to efficiently and effectively run the administration of the new state.
The People of Savannah State comprises small ethnic groups who are linguistically interdependent but culturally, socially and politically interconnected. Because of common historical origins, economic and political ties as similar levels of education throughout the sub-region, the people understand and relate with each other very well. In addition, because of the small sizes of the various ethnic groups, there is high self-determination and a sense of equity, empathy and group spirit among the people. These virtues are important ingredients that will be developed further to enhance the unity, equality of opportunity and self-determination for the benefit of the accelerated and even development of the State in particular and nation.
Population, landmass, economic viability and human capacity are the universal elements that guarantee a nation’s quest at providing good livelihood to its citizens, according to UNDP and OECD standards. The principles that underpin the creation of states as stipulated in various theories internationally and locally include, the need to bring government closer to the people, the need for even development, the need to preserve peace and harmony amongst groups, the need to redress minority problems and the need to preserve a federal structure with Nigeria. These issues have re-echoed at various times in Nigeria’s evolution from a twelve-state structure into a thirty-six-state structure.
The prolonged struggle for the creation of Savannah State out of Borno State is based on the conviction that, as one of the earliest in such struggles, and given the potentials both human and natural, against the background of the equally prolonged deprivations, they deserve Savannah State as a fair deal. They are convinced that the majority of members of this esteemed National Assembly are aware of the plights and position and shall passionately look into the merits of the demand and favourably grant the humble request. The vast human, agricultural, mineral, industrial, commercial, tourist and political potentials of Southern Borno, coupled with the determination and will to make the difference, are enough indicators that the proposed Savannah State can develop even more rapidly than some existing states. It is a truism that many states did not possess half the potentials of the proposed savannah state but are today well-positioned. That some states created in the past, rated below the proposed Savannah State, but are today thriving, are enough reasons for the consideration of the demand for the creation of Savannah State.
From the briefs given, Savannah State will be economically, socially and politically viable. The abundant human endowments, tremendous agricultural potentials, the untapped mineral resources and the tourist attractions will be exploited more rapidly and thus improve the quality of life for the people and other Nigerians if Savannah State is created. The vast potentials that exist in the proposed Savannah State will also receive greater attention as the State administration will have greater focus and concentration than is now possible. The creation of Savannah State out of the present Borno State will provide greater opportunities for the transformation of both states. Finally, they reiterate that the request has been guided by highly responsible, and development-motivated considerations.
*EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO is head of the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA and