Justice Mamman Nasir: Resolving Nigeria’s Boundary Clashes, By Eric Teniola
There will always be disputes on boundaries in this country but the Mamman Nasir panel tried the best it could in reducing these conflicts. In the end, the panel recommended the establishment of a National Boundary Commission, which was later implemented by General Ibrahim Babangida in 1990. After his assignment, he was subsequently appointed a justice of the Supreme Court.
Of all the tributes poured on Justice Mamman Nasir, the late Galadima of Katsina, who died on April 13 this year at 89, his work in solving boundary problems was overlooked. Yet his contribution in this regard was the most outstanding duty that he performed for this country. On August 7, 1975, the then head of state, Brigadier Murtala Mohammed (1938-1976) set up a panel on the creation of more states in the country. At that time there were twelve states. The panel was headed by Justice Gabriel Ayo Irekefe (1922-1996). The secretary of the panel was Chief Patrick Dele Cole, who was then a senior administrative officer, political division, Cabinet Office in Lagos. Dr. Cole worked under Alhaji Yahaya Abubakar, that erudite permanent secretary, Political Affairs in the powerful Cabinet Office in Lagos.
Other members of the panel were Dr. Alli Danlami Yahaya, who was then a senior lecturer at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria; Mr. Solomon Daushep Lar (1933-2013); Brigadier Godwin Ally, then commander of the Lagos Garrison and Mr. C. Audifferen. Mr. Lar was then a Jos based lawyer. He later became chairman of African Continental Bank. In 1979, he was elected governor of Plateau State and in 1999, he became the pioneer chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Brigadier Ally was a gentleman officer from Obudu in Ogoja area in the now Cross River State and his ADC at that time was L.t-Col Lawan Gwadabe, who later became the military governor of Niger State between 1987 and 1992 under the tenure of General Ibrahim Babangida.
Brigadier Ally also doubled then as military secretary. The then lieutenant Colonel Shehu Musa Yar’dua (1943-1997) worked under him in the Lagos Garrison. But for him, the coup de tat of 1975 that brought Brigadier Murtala Mohammed to power would not have been possible. Colonel Gwadabe will shed more light on this in his forthcoming book.
The panel submitted its report finally on December 23, 1975 to Brigadier Murtala Mohammed.
On January 8, 1976, Brigadier Mohammed was promoted General along with chief of staff, Supreme Headquarters, Brigadier Olusegun Obasanjo who was promoted Lt-General. Brigadier Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma, the chief of army staff was promoted a Lt-General also. Equally promoted on that day was Commodore Michael Ayinde Adelanwa, who was chief of naval staff, to a Rear-Admiral. Admiral Adelanwa was the last naval ADC to the last British governor general in Nigeria, Sir James Wilson Robertson (1899-1983).
The chief of air staff, Colonel John Namadu Yisa Doko (1942-2012), from Doko village in Niger State, was also promoted to become a Air Commodore. On that day, the following officers were promoted to the rank of Major General from Brigadier: James Alani Ipoola Akinrinade, Martin Adamu, James Jaiyeola Oluleye, Iliya Bisala, Emmanuel Olumuyiwa Abisoye, Orho Obada, Gibson Sanga Jalo, Olufemi Olutoye, Muhammed Shuwa, Ibrahim Bata Malgwi Haruna and Henry Edmund Olufemi Adefowope.
Finally, General Murtala Mohammed created nineteen states on February 3, 1976. These included Anambra State, which was created from the the following areas: Enugu, Isi-Uzo, Uzo-Uwani, Ezeagu, Nkanu, Abakaliki, Ezzikwo and Njikoka; Bauchi from the Bauchi Province, with the exclusion of the Jarawa district. Also, Bendel State from the Ndomi area, Isoko and Western Ijaw; Benue State from Benue Province, with the exclusion of Wakari, but including Idah Dekina and Ankpa; Borno State from the Borno Province, without the Sheni District but with the Uba District; and Cross River State from Oron, Calabar, Akamba, Obubra, Ikom, Ogoja and Obudu areas. Furthermore, Gongola State was created from the Adamawa Province (without the Uba District), but with the Sardauna Province, Muri Northern Division, in addition to Wukari; Imo State was founded from Afikpo, Oguta, Nkwerre, Mbano, Mbaisse, Bende, Arochukwu, Umuahia, Okigwe, Orlu, Oru, Mbaitoli/Ikeduri, Etiti, Ohafia, Northern Ngwa, Owerri, Aba and Ukwa areas. Kaduna State was created from the former North-Central state, and Kano was founded from the Kano Province; Kwara State from the former Kwara, excluding Igala. While there was no change in the formation of Lagos State, Niger State was created out of Niger province, without Zuru; Ogun from Abeokuta, Egba, Egbado, Ijebu and Ijebu-Remo; Ondo out of Akure, Ondo, Owo, Okitipupa, Ekiti, W/Ekiti, S/Ekiti, C/Ekiti and Akoko. In addition, Oyo State was formed from S/Oyo, Ibarapa, Ibadan, N.W. Osun, Osun Central, S/Osun, C/E Osun, Ife and Ijesha; Plateau State comprised the Plateau province, Jos and the Jarawa district; Rivers Statefrom Port-Harcourt and parts of Opobo plus Western Ijaw; and Sokoto State became created from Sokoto province and Zuru.
However, what had delayed the creation of states then was the problems over boundaries. General Murtala Mohammed explained to the nation in his national broadcast that problems over boundaries amongst states were the greatest fear the Supreme Council faced. He then set-up a six man panel under Justice Nasir to carry out these assignments: examining the boundary adjustment problems identified by the Irekefe panel on the creation of states, specifying which areas of Andoni and Nkoro in Opobo Division of the Cross River State and which areas of Ndoni should form part of the Rivers or Imo States, investigating and defining the boundaries of any other areas, district or division which might be brought to the notice of the panel; to define inter-state boundaries, especially in cases of inter-governmental official disputes and make recommendations on the fore-going terms and any other matters incidental to boundary adjustment in the structure of the new states.
While examining the boundary adjustment problems identified by the Irikefe Panel, the Nasir Commission was to, in particular, look into: the Egbema villages in Rivers and Imo States; the Ndoki areas in Rivers, Cross River and Imo States; Awarra/Asa and Umuakpu clans in the Oguta Division; Amala, Alulu, Oburu, Mbano and Obakwe Community Council areas in the Owerri Division in Imo State; Ette in Igbo-Eze Division; and Olumbanassa and Ozam in Anambra Division in Anambra State. Also, Ofe-Omuma in Aba Urban Division; the villages of Ikot Abana, Ikot Utin, Ikot Uko, Ikot Ebok, Ikot Ekpenyong, Ikot Umo Essien, Ikot Ineme and Okotin Ikot Ekpene Division of Cross River State; the Obotne-Arochukwu boundaries in the Imo and Cross River States; the Itu Mbamuso-dan in Cross River State. Equally, the Nasir Commission was to consider the Biase administrative district in the Akamkpa Divsion of Cross River State; The Erei dan in Cross River and Imo States; the Itigidi-Agbo dan in Obubra Division in Cross River State; the villages of Sabe and Iyagba in Ondo State; and the Ikales of the Ariyan Community in Okitipupa Division in Ondo State.
Other member of the panel were Justice Joseph Diekola Ogundire, who was then the solicitor-general of the federation and permanent secretary, Ministry of Justice; Mr. R.O. Coker, director of Federal Survey; Mr. G.E. Menkiti; Mr. Andrew Izikwu Obeya, who was then Secretary to Plateau State Government and later became the executive Secretary of National University Commission; and Mr. C.O. Ikpi.
After the inauguration, members of the panel embarked on a countrywide tour and they experienced hostile receptions but they kept on in their assignment. There will always be disputes on boundaries in this country but the Mamman Nasir panel tried the best it could in reducing these conflicts. In the end, the panel recommended the establishment of a National Boundary Commission, which was later implemented by General Ibrahim Babangida in 1990. After his assignment, he was subsequently appointed a justice of the Supreme Court. Justice Nasir later became the second president of the Court of Appeal. He retired back home as the Galadima of Katsina.
He had earlier worked at the Public Works Department Engineering School, Kaduna, 1947-1950; University College, Ibadan, 1951-1953; Council of Legal Education, London, 1953-1956; was called to the Bar at Lincoln’s Inn, 1955; became a Crown counsel, 1960-1961; Minister of Justice, Northern Nigeria, 1961-1966; and was engaged in private legal practice from 1966-1967. He was director of public prosecutions, Northern Nigeria, 1967; solicitor-general, North Central State, 1968-1975; Justice of the Supreme Court, 1975-1976; he became appointed a judge of the Federal Court of Appeal, 1976; also president, Federal Court of Appeal, 1978; and legal adviser, Nigeria’s People’s Congress, 1961-1966.
A very good, competent public servant answered the final on April 13. Surely he will be missed.
Eric Teniola, a former director in the Presidency, writes from Lagos.