The Nigerian Nation: How Truly United?

418

The Federal Republic of Nigeria is in deep crisis.  The Nation and its people have become the innocent victims of the financial meltdown following the collapse of Global Capitalism arising from the financial crisis experienced by banks in the United States of America.

The story as told in different voices in different countries illustrates how integrated the World is today, and how intertwined our fates have become.

The situation in many countries is that poor and less educated members suffer the most and have the least ability to resist economic downturn.

The globally evident social cost of this crisis is unemployment and a reduction in economic productivity. The corporate existence of countries affected (of which Nigeria is one) will be difficult to sustain.  There is need for political and economic leaders to learn from experiences and build a system of governance and financial management to settle the issues of productivity and unemployment.

The Nigerian economy is solely dependent on oil revenues.  Much of the debate in respect of the use of these revenue centres on its classification as capital or recurrent revenues.  Should non-recurrent revenues be spent on expenses such as travelling and salaries or on capital projects, which leads to long-term economic advantage?

Any analysis of a typical national budget would indicate that 82.6% of the recurrent expenditure in any budget year is spent on travelling and salaries.  A significant part of this expenditure is from non-recurrent revenues.

NIGER-DELTA CRISIS: GENESIS, THE EXODUS AND THE SOLUTION

THE NATION:

Nigeria is a federation and should be run as such.  Why for instance, do we claim to be practicing federalism when the federating units are mere administrative arms of a central government?  Why is the exclusive federal jurisdiction over natural resources applied only to oil? Why should the debts of the states or even the federal debts find a place in the country’s constitution?  Why should the federal government shed its own monopoly and substitute it with a monopoly managed by the states as illustrated so often in our pursuit of the issues of privatisation?

The Niger Delta has suffered gross neglect and deprivation over the years despite its enormous contribution to the economic prosperity of this Country.  As a result of this utter neglect, there is widespread poverty, complete lack of social and economic infrastructures and also utilities.  There is high rate of unemployment and crime.  This state of affairs has in turn bred a frustrated population, ethnic polarization, communal suspicion, anti-establishment agitation and hostility, all of which create instability and further impede development.

An extensive deliberation on these issues took place at the Niger-Delta Conference in Abuja on November 8, 2007 in which I was the Chairman.  The gathering consisted of members of MEND, the traditional rulers, ex-Generals of Nigerian Navy and Army and distinguished professors who have excelled in their various fields of endeavours.

The Conference therefore resolved as follows:

(i)         Armed struggle has led to a further break down of law and order in the region and a continued armed struggle could lead to anarchy within the Niger Delta.  This does not present an option in the pursuit of peace and justice in the Region. Indeed, military solution is not the answer to the problems of the region.

(ii) The Conference called for greater involvement of all stakeholders through the establishment of a Development Board to address the issues of the Niger Delta.  This Board should consist of the following Agencies to ensure the development of Manpower, Infrastructure and Social Services.

· Manpower Evaluation Assessment and Training;

· Agricultural Development Board;

· Housing;

· Education;

· Health;

· Employment;

· Water supply;

· Power and Energy;

· Infrastructure (road, rail,           sea and air);

· Security.

(iii) In particular, the Conference called on the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, to put in place appropriate machinery for ensuring equity participation of host communities in oil and gas ventures located within their domain.

(iv) The Conference demanded that the issue of onshore/offshore dichotomy be resolved.  In the place of the Isobaths of “200 metres”, the “Continental Shelf” should be substituted.  This will extend the Derivation Principle in the Mining Act of 1999 throughout the 200 nautical mile breath of the continental shelf or to any greater width that may be approved by the UN for Nigeria.

(v) The Conference demanded that the rights and privileges, which the Mineral and Mining Act of 1999 confers on States, Local Government, Communities and Land owners, should now equally be extended to the case of Petroleum Resources.  In particular, royalties derived from oil and gas production should properly accrue to the host communities.

(vi) The Conference demanded the amendment of the Land Use Act Cap 202 (LFN 1990) to ensure the rights of the owners to their lands.

(vii) The Conference called for the amendment of the Petroleum Act 1969 by the addition of provisions that will involve the State and Local Governments and Communities in whose territory the resources to be mined at the negotiation stage, before the grant of any licence.

(viii) The Conference demanded that Oil and Gas companies operating within the Niger Delta should be compelled to comply with international environmental best practice, to ensure the protection of the natural habitat.

(ix) The Conference called for the implementation of a policy on gas flaring within the Niger Delta.

(x) The Conference called for the establishment of the Niger Delta Reconstruction and Development Bank to act as the custodian of the funds accruing to the communities from royalties.

(xi) The Conference called for the enshrinement of good governance practice by the amendment of Section 308 of the 1999 Constitution to exclude immunity for public office holders from being prosecuted for fraud and embezzlement of public funds.

(xii) The Conference affirmed its commitment to the principles of justice, equity, fairness and the rule of law.

In view of the conclusions of the 2007 Conference, the current amendment styled the Petroleum Act 2010 vesting the rights in Oil and Gas in the Federal Government of Nigeria is unacceptable to the people of Niger Delta ab-initio for the following reasons:

(i) The proposed Petroleum Act 2010 is discriminatory against the people of Niger Delta;

(ii) Mutata Mutandi – the same applies to the Land Use Act

(iii) The Federal Republic of Nigeria is a creation of the States and not vice-versa;

(iv) There is no justice in the treatment of the people of Niger Delta as environmental abuse and degradation, oil spillage, corrosion and leakages from pipelines, flooding, erosion, salt water incursion, gas flaring etc, have taken their ugly tolls on the social and economic lives of the people;

(v)        Equally, the exploration and exploitation methods adopted by the oil companies in the region have resulted in a pandemic loss of biodiversity, ecological destabilisation and substantial reduction in aquatic lives.  In particular, the agricultural lands have been rendered unproductive while the fishing industry has been destroyed.

C. COMMUNAL CRISIS AND THE PROBLEM OF TRIBALISM IN NIGERIA

The Nigerian society is fast losing her national cohesion due to ethnic and tribal rivalries.  Some ethnic groups lay claim to superiority over others.  Ethnic values and norms are being eroded.  Due to these developments, several societies now associate ethnicity and religion with negative characteristics such as parochialism, fanaticism, and backwardness.  Nigerians lack any consensus on major national issues.  We need to imbibe the philosophy that there is strength in diversity.  We also want to see a country that works as a team to forge consensus and balanced sectional, religious and ethnic needs with the national interest in order to build a strong and virile nation, where everyone has equal rights and opportunities.  Nigeria should be transformed to a country where individuals and groups maintain close relationships with other Nigerians, who may not share the same political and religious convictions or do not have the same ethnic background.

THE CRISIS IN JOS, PLATEAU STATE

The records in the archives in 1946 when I was in the Secretariat in Kaduna indicate that a conglomerate of people inhabits the Jos Plateau

(a) Tarok, Jukun, Berom, Ron, Mushere and Jarawa;

(b) The European Traders and Miners;

(c) The Nigerians who are clerks, drivers and workers in the mine fields;

(d)       The Hausa-Fulanis who came from the Hausa States as a result of the 19th Century Jihad.

This was about 60 years ago and with exception of the Europeans, the composition of the population is still the same. 

The first Administrative Officer of Plateau in the name of Mallam Abdul-Rahman Okene further confirmed this narration during the North-South dialogue between the people of Niger-Delta and the people of Middle-Belt between 1990 and 2000.

These people lived in peace and in love with one another without a distinction of where you were born or where you came from during the era of Sir Ahmadu Bello until his death in 1966.

THE CONFLICT

Historical evidence in 1994 indicates that there was a conflict in Jos when Jos Central Market was destroyed.  Another conflict took place in 2004 between the Tarok from Langtang and the Hausa-Fulani in which 54,000 people were killed or missing.

Needless to say that the crisis which took place in 2009 between the Hausa-Fulani and Berom people resulted in 5,000 Hausa-Fulani losing their lives and in that of 2010, between the Hausa-Fulani and the Berom indigenes, 215 Hausa-Fulani died and over 22,000 heads of cattle were missing or destroyed.

 

David Dafinone