Home
  Newsletters
  BMP Mission
  The Biafran Story
  Osondu Forum
  Getting Involved
  About Us
  FAQ
 

"Haggling over which state gets what percentage of nation’s revenue shall cease if the average citizen has an unencumbered constitutional right to reside in any state of his choice within Nigeria as is the case in the US, for example. The federal government should aspire to partner with resource-rich jurisdictions and aim to derive its revenue mostly through taxation, licensure and sundry tariffs which must be paid regularly into the central coffer. As long as the mentality of state of origin determines citizens’ rights in Nigeria, no man-made formula for revenue allocation by the central government shall permanently placate the demands of agitators on either side of this debate. Natural justice demands that revenue derived from resources, whether renewable or non renewable, ought to remain close to where they originate. Citizens, who wish to directly partake in benefits and associated responsibilities of resource-rich states, should be free to excise the option of migrating and establishing legal residency in those states." - Dr. Nwosu

The debate over resource control lies close to the core of the dilemma that faces Nigeria as it grapples with many exigencies of nation building. Emotions usually run high whenever Nigerians deliberate over this thorny issue for obvious reasons. Nigerian political economy has become overly centralized since conclusion of the Civil War. The 4 regional governments of pre-war era were replaced with 36 states which are individually unable to self-sustain without constant infusion of funds from the center. Many, correctly or incorrectly, have blamed regional federal structure for enabling the circumstances that ultimately led to the Civil War. The Nigerian nation drifted in political doldrums sequel to the Northern-led counter coup of July 1966 that toppled the first military government headed by General Aguiyi-Ironsi mostly because of refusal by leadership of former Eastern Region to kowtow to central ruling junta in Lagos headed by General Gowon. In a quest to find a lasting solution to the ensuing stalemate and to forestall future resistance by a regional authority to central control, a political masterstroke was conceived and deployed in ways that changed the geopolitical destiny of Nigeria for good.

Creation of 36 new states out of the former 4 regions has put Nigeria on a totally different trajectory from what used to be the case in the First Republic. In fact, most would agree that the unilateral decision by Gowon’s regime to break up former Eastern Nigeria into 3 states made the secession of Biafra inevitable. The secession, in turn, precipitated the Civil War whose aftermath has transformed the country in far-reaching ways. Once initiated, the orgy of new state creation would not abate until 36 states have emerged. With creation of new states also came new local governments. But still, new state agitators are not done yet. The military rulers’ principal consideration during state creation exercise was mostly political with little or no regard for economic viability of the newly created entities. States were arbitrarily created by issuing decrees and the central government bureaucracy was simply instructed to apportion monthly subventions to enable the machinery of governance to commence operations. Now that the excitement of new state creation has mellowed, the implications of the whole exercise are beginning to dawn on the citizenry. The new states, which were primarily created to enhance the stature of central government over the peripheral federating units, have now come of age and are determined to challenge Abuja’s supremacy over the nation’s resources.

The current revenue-sharing formula is a legacy of military rule. Perhaps, in order to ensure justice or simply to placate local agitation for resource control, it was deemed appropriate to repatriate 13% of revenue generated from natural resources to states where they are derived. No one can properly explain how this percentage was arrived at and whether it should be fixed or adjustable with time. This uncertainty is the main reason why debates over resource control shall remain a feature of Nigerian political discourse for the foreseeable future. Hard line positions have developed on either side of resource-control debate. On the extremes, some argue for complete abrogation of revenue repatriation on one side while, on the other side, some have issued ultimatum for reversion to 50:50 revenue sharing formula of the First Republic. Somewhere in between, there is an array of opinions on readjusting 13% a few percentage points either way to assuage the angst of protagonists from oil-producing and non oil-producing camps. In this confusion, emotions are being dissipated on an issue which is really tangential to the core dilemma that confronts Nigeria’s very survival as a nation. Everyone appears to forget that the greatest threat to the country’s existence has always been lack of clarification of citizens’ rights, not a dispute over resource control. The Civil War, which almost destroyed Nigeria, was instigated by ethnic cleansing against a segment of the population whose rights to live and thrive in some parts of the country were arbitrarily repudiated by fellow citizens with official connivance.

Ongoing debate on resource control shall continue to be meaningless to the structured evolution of the Nigerian state unless the issue is coupled with clarification of rights of the average citizen. Haggling over which state gets what percentage of nation’s revenue shall cease if the average citizen has an unencumbered constitutional right to reside in any state of his choice within Nigeria as is the case in the US, for example. The federal government should aspire to partner with resource-rich jurisdictions and aim to derive its revenue through taxation, licensure and sundry tariffs which would be paid regularly into the central coffer. As long as the mentality of state of origin determines citizens’ rights in Nigeria, no man-made formula for revenue allocation by the central government shall permanently placate the demands of agitators on either side of this debate. Natural justice demands that revenue derived from resources, whether renewable or non renewable, ought to remain close to where they originate. Citizens, who wish to directly partake in benefits and associated responsibilities of resource-rich states, should be free to excise the option of migrating and establishing legal residency in those states.

It is quite interesting to note that even the most ardent protagonists of resource control are not at all enthused by the idea of liberal state residency rights being granted to fellow citizens to enable them to become domiciled in their states if they so choose. For now, the resource control debate appears to be instigated more by selfish greed amongst the political elite than by genuine desire to ensure entrenchment of equitable sharing of proceeds from resources with which Nigeria is abundantly endowed. The superficial debate that has captivated the interests of the privileged elite is all about sharing the national cake as is and not necessarily on how to establish the basis for sustainable equitable development of all parts of Nigeria for ultimate benefit of the average citizen. It is an absolute waste of time and effort to dwell at length on how much to tinker with the current 13% derivation formula since whatever is agreed upon cannot endure under prevailing circumstances. Furthermore, pervasive official corruption amongst the political elite and the bureaucracy at all levels of governance guarantees that the average resident of resource-rich states may still remain impoverished even if a larger share of revenue is won on his behalf at the end of this debate.

It will be almost impossible to get a handle on official corruption in Nigeria until present methodology for deriving and sharing the nation’s resources is revamped in fundamental ways. In current method, the nation’s revenues are first aggregated in a central pool in Abuja before they are subsequently redistributed back to the peripheral jurisdictions where they originated in the first place. This lengthy circuitous process is not only wasteful but it also creates ideal opportunities for fraud and misappropriation of funds by those who are charged with the responsibility to make it work. This method may have been tailor-made to suit the command-style governance of erstwhile military regimes. That it has been adopted and allowed to persist as the modus operandi even in a civilian democratic dispensation is hard to justify. Who benefits from centralized control of all the nation’s vital resources from a given address in Abuja? Only a handful of politicians and bureaucrats who are well positioned in the leadership chain of command do. Who are the losers? Almost everyone else loses in an economic system that is predicated on inefficiency, corruption and non accountability as is the case today. This is what the ongoing debate in Abuja ought to be focusing on, not how to adjust the current formula for sharing revenue from oil amongst the well-placed few while the real owners of the land are eventually left to wallow in their predicament empty-handed.

Every inch of Nigerian soil is endowed with one type of resource or the other. We are currently only obsessed with crude petroleum deposits which constitute a non-renewable resource that is destined to be exhausted sooner than later if current pace of exploitation is maintained. It is thus myopic for our national leaders to go to a great length to define our economic destiny based on bloated importance of a resource that is here today but may be gone tomorrow. Nigerian economy can be programmed to evolve in a more sustainable fashion if equal or greater emphasis is placed now on generation and reliance on renewable resources which are bound to outlast our limited known crude petroleum reserves. Revenue sharing formula should, therefore, not be based entirely on just crude petroleum proceeds as is the case now, no matter how dominant they are in today’s economy. Any formula derived under present circumstances, because it is artificial and not based on natural law, shall be unsustainable for the long haul. Ultimately, the proper thing to do now for Nigeria and its diverse population is to allow natural justice to be the guiding principle in an equitable restructuring of the nation’s economic system.

Nigeria is in a mess, as we speak, because many fundamental errors have already become entrenched in the nation’s political economy. It is futile for us to blame Britain now for creating colonial Nigeria because that decision was never made to reflect the best interests of indigenous population at the time. As heirs of post-colonial Nigeria, this generation has to contend with the reality of its existence and endeavor to derive practical methods to make this piece of real estate to work for long-term benefits of all its inhabitants. An unsuccessful but expensive attempt has already been made during the Civil War to dismember this artificial creation and the only viable option left now for present generation is to make Nigeria a livable and prosperous geopolitical entity for its teeming population. Those who pitch discord tones that emphasize the negatives which abound in the system must, at end of the say, proffer practical solutions for moving the nation forward within the realities of today’s world. It is clear that dissonant and centrifugal voices within the nation’s sociopolitical realm unwittingly provide fuel and ammunition to forces that can only perpetuate the darkness that has currently enveloped the only nation we have today. Sensible minds ought to be able to discern the difference in the motives of those who are genuinely defending their group’s parochial interests from those who are merely playing to the gallery so as to position themselves to benefit more from the status quo.

Debates over resource control is legitimate, within context of today’s Nigeria, only if it is used as a means to better clarify citizen’s rights to live free and prosper in a country to which he claims ownership. Dissociating these two vital issues renders the resource-control debate vacuous and utterly irrelevant because both dovetail with each other inseparably. Late Dr. Chuba Okadigbo once headed a senate committee that was tasked to provide guidance in producing legislative amendments to guarantee universal citizen rights for the average Nigerian. Extensive consultations and hearings were held nationwide but the work of this committee was somehow drowned out by the noise that regularly disrupts the agenda of political operatives in Abuja. It would appear that the subject of citizen’s right to live free and prosper in all nooks and corners of his country has been shoved to the backburner while an important confab, which is convened to deliberate on our collective future, is busy bickering over sharing of revenue from a single commodity - crude oil. It is easy to predict that nothing meaningful shall come out of this revenue-sharing debate because it is akin to putting the cart before the horse. If there is any need to continue ongoing national discourse over resource control, let it be coupled with delineation of citizen rights. Doing otherwise is merely wasting everybody’s time and our scarce national resources.

Return to Newsletter Feature Articles
 
Osondu
The Survival Struggle for Ndiigbo

Home
Newsletter Biafran Story

BMP Mission

About Us FAQ Help
    News Services Our Mission Links Advertising