| By Professor Godini G. Darah |
The Bloody Birth of Colonial Nigeria:
The quest for the restructuring of the Nigerian political system has been made relentlessly since the 1914 amalgamation of the Northern and Southern Protectorates by the British colonial conquerors. The British employed violence and military might to defeat opposition to their take-over of native lands. Bloodshed and widespread destruction resulted from the final overthrow of indigenous political authorities at the time. The effects of the British action are still haunting Nigeria till this day.
The British amalgamated Nigeria into a single country to serve their economic objectives of exploiting and looting agricultural and mineral resources. Nigeria was seen as Africa’s biggest source of industrial raw materials and market for British products. To establish this commercial empire the British, in the 1849, appointed John Beecroft the first Consul of the Bights of Benin and Biafra stretching from Calabar in the east to Sierra Leone in the west. The Consul coordinated the military annexation of Lagos in 1861 and the kidnapping, kangaroo trial, and exiling of King Perekule (Pepple) of Bonny in the 1860s. The British also kidnapped Jaja of Opobo, tried him overseas and exiled him to the Caribbean islands in the 1880s.
The British occupied Lagos in 1861, but they could not penetrate the Ijebu heartland because the Ijebu fought gallantly to stop them. Ijebu area was finally overrun about the late 1800s. The wars between the British invaders and Madam Tinubu of Lagos are still remembered. Madam Tinubu was the first Nigerian female heroine of the anti-colonial revolution. In the following decades the British colonial plunderers had prolonged conflicts with the Egba to the north-west of Lagos, and their territory was consequently annexed to the British empire.
The attack on Nana Olomu of Itsekiri in 1894 was also high drama. From his fortified town of Ebrohimi on the Benin River. Nana was a great merchant with an international reputation. He spoke about seven languages, including Portuguese and Spanish. His forces held the British at bay for three months. The town fell and Nana managed to get to Lagos via lagoon routes. He was arrested, tried deported to and tried in the Gold Coast, now Ghana. After Nana the only opposition was the Benin Empire, one of the oldest and most advanced in Africa. On February 17, 1897, the British expeditionary vandals entered Benin City, destroyed it with fire, and looted thousands of ivory and exotic art works. The Benin monarch, Oba Ovonramwen Nogbaisi, was arrested, handcuffed, dethroned, and sent on exile to Calabar where he lived and died in 1914. Nogbaisi’s Urhobo ally, Ovie (King) Oghwe of Agbarha-Otor kingdom of Urhobo was similarly arrested and exiled to Calabar where he died. That year, the British completed the amalgamation of the country.
The record of conquest and looting was inherited by the Royal Niger Company (RNC) that was granted trade monopoly in 1885. It was headed by Tubman Goldie. The Company whose name was later changed to the United African Company (UAC) signed trade treaties with kingdoms and peoples and operated as a government. The treaties were unfair to the native people. When some kingdoms protested against the injustice they were attacked by the armed troops of the Company. In 1885 the Company created the Oil Rivers Protectorate comprising most areas of coastal Nigeria. The protectorate was the first building block of what developed to the colony of Nigeria.
In 1884/85, European colonial nations held their conference in the German city of Berlin. They resolved to carve up Africa into colonies and economic vineyards. With this mandate Britain took steps to take over all areas of Nigeria. Other European imperial nations were determined to annex Nigerian territories. The French were advancing from the west and north of the area; they eventually grabbed Dahomey (Benin Republic) in the west and Niger and Chad in the north. The Germans were penetrating from the east via Cameroon, their colony. These imperial rivalries made the British to hasten their take-over of Nigerian lands. For this reason, the charter of the Royal Niger Company was revoked in 1900. Two countries emerged from the process of colonisation: (1) Protectorate of Northern Nigeria and, (2) Protectorate of Southern Nigeria.. Captain Frederick Lugard was the general colonial overseer from Lokoja as the capital.
Lugard had been a security staff of the Royal Niger Company. In this capacity, he was deployed regularly to raid and destroy uncooperative kingdoms and groups, and to massacre innocent peoples who resisted. Lugard’s “Taliban” forces invaded, conquered, killed, and plundered the lands of the people of Nupe, Igala, Gbagyi (Gwari), Egbira, Kebbi, and Sokoto. In 1904, Lugard’s forces finally defeated the resistance armies of the Sokoto jihad, executed their leaders, sacked and burnt many settlements, and turned most of the population into refugees. Royal majesties were not spared; thus, he exiled to Lokojo the Emir of Zaria, Aliyu Dan Sidi, because the Emir composed poems to denounce the British occupation of Hausaland. In March 1906, Lugard’s brigands downed in blood anti-British militants of the “Saturi” rebellion in Sokoto Province; thousands of the survivors, mostly women and children, were evicted and enslaved. It was Captain Lugard who forcefully drove out the Gbagyi (Gwari) people from their homelands in Kaduna which he intended to use as Nigeria’s capital. More than 100 years later, the victims of Lugard’s pogroms are still being hunted and killed like wild animals in Southern Kaduna.
Captain Lugard had been appointed High Commissioner for the Protectorate of Northern Nigeria in 1900. To enhance his curriculum vitae as an official terrorist, Lugard was sent to Uganda in East Africa and Hong Kong in China to massacre people who were against the imposition of British rule. He returned in 1913 to start the draft of the documents for the amalgamation of the two Nigerian Protectorates into a single country.
God Was Not Involved in the Amalgamation Robbery:
Those who say that God had a purpose for cloning Nigerian peoples into a single country are guilty of blasphemy. God had no hand in the stealing of peoples’ lands and resources to make the Nigerian colony. Rather, Nigeria was created by British military adventurers and capitalist plutocrats to generate maximum profit from the exploitation of human and natural resources. The economic motive for creating Nigeria is evident in the final process of the amalgamation that started in 1900. The British faced a dilemma at this point. The British knew that the Northern Protectorate was financially famished and could not generate the public revenue for running its administration. There were practically no tax payers and commercial firms to pay tax. The Colonial Office in London did not want British tax payers to bear the burden of subsidising an African colony that could not raise taxes internally for its survival. But Southern Nigeria already had business conglomerates many employees, commercially viable cities, staff of government and private institutions, and ports yielding export and import duties. To get revenue to subsidise the insolvent Northern Protectorate, the then Colonial Secretary, Lord Lewis Vernon Harcourt, made a proposal on how to sacrifice Southern Nigeria to subsidise Northern Nigeria. In his memorandum on the matter, Lewis Harcourt declared triumphantly thus:
“We have released Northern Nigeria from the leading strings of the Treasury. The promising and well conducted youth is now on an allowance on its own and is about to effect an alliance with a Southern lady of means. I have issued the special licence and Sir Frederick Lugard will perform the ceremony. May the union be fruitful and the couple constant.”
The piratical intentions of the 1914 amalgamation are revealed in Lewis Harcourt’s use of romantic and conjugal images in describing the coupling of Northern and Southern Nigeria. The indigent “promising and well conducted youth” is Northern Nigeria (husband) while the “Southern lady of means” refers to Southern Nigeria (wife). In plain terms, the British gave Southern Nigeria as wife/property to Northern Nigeria as husband/exploiter. It is noteworthy that in 1898, a British female journalist, Flora Shaw of the Times of London, who was Lugard’s girlfriend/concubine (later his wife), had suggested that the name of the emerging country be called “Nigeria”, that is, “lands of the Niger”. Both Fredrick Lugard and Lewis Harcourt got rewarded for their chivalric gamble: Lugard became the Governor-General of Nigeria and Harcourt was decorated by naming the new port town in eastern Nigeria after him, that is, PORT HARCOURT.
True to the prayer of Lewis Harcourt, the union between Northern Nigeria and Southern Nigeria has been “fruitful” for 100 years for foreign business exploiters and their Nigerian associates. But the union has been unfruitful and harmful to the people of Southern Nigeria. Southern Nigeria is still paying the bulk of the bills for running government in the northern states of Nigeria.
In 1939, the British created three Regions and made the Northern Region larger than the Eastern and Western Regions put together. This was done to perpetuate the supremacy of the “Northern” elite during civil and military regimes. It is military governments dominated by the Northern elite that destroyed Nigeria’s federal system from the 1960s. The struggles and agitations for federalist restructuring going on since 1940s are aimed primarily to liberate Nigeria from the 100-year-old yoke of politico-military slavery.
Restructuring for Federalism: 1939-1960)
The victims of the British sinister designs described in the foregoing sections were mainly the ethnic groups in the South and the Middle Belt region of the North. These dispossessed ethnic groups did not docilely accept their fate of victimhood. Rather, they have always organised and clubbed together to regain the freedoms and sovereign rights they lost through the 1914 amalgamation. At the early stage the victim groups and territories ventilated their positions through the formation of ethnic unions such as the Borno Youth Movement, the Bauchi Literacy Circle, the Egbe Omo Oduduwa, the Oron State Union, Ibibio State Union, and Igbo State Union. Other examples of self-determination fraternities were the Urhobo Progress Union and the Egba Descendants Union. Some of these formations were later enlarged into state creation movements and political parties such as the Benin-Delta Peoples Party, the Calabar-Ogoja-Rivers (COR) movement, and the United Middle Belt Congress.
What is now referred to in Nigeria as “restructuring” is a new name for struggles to tame and defang the oppressive, unitary political system that grew from the British amalgamation process. For the purpose of profit and administrative convenience the British colonial regime centralised political and economic power in the capital, Lagos. Yet the British were conscious of the need to diversify and localise the centres of power by creating provinces and divisions. In the 1930s, there were 24 provinces in the country and their governance capacity was enhanced through the existence of city and urban councils. In fact, from about 1900 the British established village-based customary courts in most areas of Southern Nigeria in support of their intention to devolve judicial power to the grassroots levels. What the British did by these reforms was another form of restructuring of the polity.
During the anti-colonial agitation for independence starting from the 1940s, Nigerian nationalists crusaded for a federal system of government to replace the over-centralised, exploitative one imposed by the British. Nigerian peoples opted for federal model because it was the most suitable arrangement for running and managing a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural country such as Nigeria. The clarion calls for restructuring since 1999 has focused on resource ownership and control, regional or state autonomy, and local initiative for sustainable development. The organisations and individuals involved in the advocacy want political and economic power devolved to the federating units for promote democracy and accountable, responsible leadership. Furthermore, restructuring is intended to remove the impediments of intolerance and abuses inherited from decades of dictatorial, military rule (1966-1999).
What is federalism?:
In the decade before Nigeria’s independence in 1960, the political elite subscribed to the definition of federalism provided by America’s Professor Kenneth Wheare, a distinguished authority on the subject. According to Wheare,
“…the fundamental and distinguishing characteristic of a federal system is that neither the central nor the regional governments are subordinate to each other, but, rather, the two are coordinate and independent.”
Wheare’s definition can be supplemented with that in the Oxford Advanced Leaners’ Dictionary, namely, that a “federation is a country consisting of a group of individual states that have control over their own affairs but are controlled by a central government for national decisions.”
There are 28 notable federations in the world today; they preside over about 40% of the world’s population. Among the well-known ones are the United States of America, Canada. Brazil, India, Russia, Switzerland, and Australia. Ethiopia in Africa is the best example of the system. Nigeria which is also listed among the world’s federations is only nominally so as will be shown in subsequent sections of this lecture.
Derivation Principle and Fiscal Federalism:
In the 1940s the British took measures to mediate the structural defects exemplified by the imbalance in the creation of the three Regions in 1939. The mediation was introduced by way of the application of the principle of derivation in the distribution of public revenues. Following the Richard’s Constitution in 1945, four revenue commissions were set up from 1946-1958; the number of commissions reflected the intensity of the campaign by genuine nationalists to deepen the content of federalism. In all the reports produced by the commissions, the principle of derivation in revenue sharing was given prominence; the Regions retained no less than 50% of revenue derived from their areas. In addition, they all shared in the 20% of distributable pool with the federal government which received 30%. This fairly equitable system of fiscal federalism was adopted from 1946-1968, a period of about twenty two years.
The derivation criteria were enshrined in Section 134 of the 1960 Independence Constitution and Section 140 of the 1963 Republican Constitution. In the two constitutions, a specific explanation was given to minerals to include oil. Furthermore, it was specified in both constitutions that “For the purposes of this Section, the continental shelf of a Region shall be deemed to be part of that Region.”
It is important to mention here how the high derivation revenues accruing to the Regions from 1946 empowered them financially to embark on gigantic schemes of modernisation and development. In this drive for self-reliant development the Western Region outpaced all others in the fields of education, medical care, public infrastructure, communications, and agro-industrial investment. This is the sense in which it could be said that the years 1952-1966 marked the golden age of federalism in Nigeria. In the one and half decades of the operation of fiscal federalism, Nigeria’s modernisation profile accelerated to earn the country a status comparable to that of India, Malaysia, South Korea, Indonesia, and Singapore, otherwise known as the “Asian Tigers” in global economic ranking.
Restructuring, Minorities, and the Willinks Commission:
At the constitutional conference of 1957-58, the minority nationalities and other groups short-changed by the imbalanced regional structure were in an insurgent mood. They demanded the creation of new states or regions to free them from domination they suffered in the hands of ethnic majorities in the respective regions. At that time the Hausa-Fulani ethno-linguistic groups were dominant in the Northern Region to the detriment of about 400 other language groups. In the Eastern Region, the Igbo ethnicity overawed the minorities in what are now Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, and Rivers States. Similarly, in the Western Region the Yoruba enjoyed a domineering position vis-à-vis minority ethno-linguistic groups such as the Urhobo, Bini, Esan, Ora, Afemai, Ukwuani, western Igbo, Ijaw, and Isoko in the present-day Delta and Edo States.
The ruling parties in the Regions stoutly opposed the advocacy for new states in order to maintain their political control. Mention must be made of Obafemi Awolowo, premier of the Western Region and leader of the Action Group. He was an intransigent advocate of state creation, particularly in the minority areas of the Northern Region. In his 1947 book, Path to Nigerian Freedom he dwells extensively on this as a sine qua non of federalism. He argued that the creation of new states or regions should be based on ethno-linguistic affinity of people. Yet Awolowo consistently opposed carving out a new state from the Western Region.
As usual the British colonial regime sided with those who rejected the idea of states and new centres of power. But the cumulative efforts of the state creation movements finally compelled the British to institute the Sir Henry Willinks Commission in 1957 to “enquire into the fears of minorities and the means of allying them”. The Commission received copious memoranda on the matter and toured all parts of the country to collect views. But the Commission failed to support the demand for new states with the excuse that the emergence of new administrative units would delay the granting of independence scheduled for 1960. It was a known fact that the majority groups influenced the Commission to reject the demand.
The deferred issue of restructuring through the creation of new states haunted Nigeria during the First Republic (1960-1966). There were political and social tensions everywhere. In the midst of this the political elite exhibited class arrogance and wanton display of corruptly acquired riches and privileges. In 1962 Nigeria conducted a census and the figures released gave undue demographic superiority to the Northern Region. The census was rejected by the two other regions. Another census done in 1963 caused similar uproar; at last, a negotiated total of 55 million was announced. In 1964 elections to the Federal Legislature in Lagos put all parties at war. The following year, 1965, elections in the Western Region resulted in widespread violence of killing and destruction of property, otherwise known as “Operation Wetie”. This was a Yoruba rendering of the process of pouring petrol on perceived opponents and setting them on fire. Nigeria was moving in the direction of an ungovernable state.
On January 15, 1966, young army officers led by Major Chukwuma Nzeogwu overthrew the government headed by Prime Minister Abubakar Tafawa Balewa. Also killed were Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Premier of the Northern Region, the Premier of Western Region, Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola, and Chief Festus Okotie-Eboh from the Midwestern Region and Nigeria’s Minister of Finance. The coup was immensely popular as Nzeogwu announced that the coup was targeted at corrupt politicians, the “ten percenters, and VIPs of waste who made Nigeria look big for nothing in international circles.” But no notable Igbo politician was a casualty of the killings. This introduced an element of ethnic suspicion in the otherwise welcome change of government. No less perplexing was the fact that none of the young majors assumed the post of head of state; instead, an Igbo Major-General Johnson Umunakwe Aguyi-Ironsi headed a military administration. He messed up the situation further by enacting the Unification Decree of May 1966 that practically abolished regional structures as it fused the public services throughout the country.
These developments fuelled anger in the Northern Region and on July 29, 1966, military officers from there staged a “revenge” coup,
leading to the death of Aguyi-Ironsi; this was followed by the massacre of Igbo officers in the armed forces. The Northern coup makers also indicated their intention to break away from Nigeria with the slogan of “Araba” which is said to mean secession in Hausa language. Lt. Col. Yakubu Gowon, as he was then known, from a minority group in Plateau area of the North, took over as head of state. Constitutional conferences and negotiations were held from 1966 to 1967 to resolve the national crisis, but little was achieved. The pressure for regional autonomy and creation of more states was intensified. The Gowon administration had no choice but to create 12 states on May 27, 1967. Six states each were created for the North and South of the country.
Adaka Boro’s Militant Route to Resource Control:
As already explained, the Sir Henry Willinks Commission of 1957/58 frustrated the aspirations of sections of the country that demanded the creation of new states. This development was a great disappointment for many ethnic groups and organsations that had campaigned vigorously for more democratic space for themselves in the emerging Nigerian federal union. It was in this context of betrayal felt by the neglected people of the Niger Delta that the 12-Day Revolution led by Isaac Adaka Boro happened. Born in 1938 in Kaiama in present-day Bayelsa State, Boro experienced Igbo sectionalist discrimination when he contested for the office of President of the Student Union of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, in the early 1960s. But he won. He soon abandoned his studies, joined the Nigeria Police Force and disengaged to mobilise for the struggle to liberate his homeland from Igbo local colonialism and exploitation by oil companies.
Boro and his associates founded the guerrilla Niger Delta Volunteer Force (NDVF). This was the first ever armed rebellion against the Nigerian state, besides the Tiv Revolts against Hausa-Fulani oligarchs of the same era. On February 23, 1966, the NDVF proclaimed its independent Niger Delta Republic and launched its liberation war. The Boro uprising advertised its revolutionary agenda with its focus on the political economy of exploitation of oil host communities represented by Shell and the Nigerian government. In one of his addresses before the uprising Boro said that “if the Nigerian government refuses to do something drastic to improve the lot of the people, inevitably, a point of no return will be reached.” When that point of no return was reached, Boro proclaimed the revolution in unequivocal terms thus:
“Today is a great day, not only in your lives, but also in the history of the Niger Delta. Perhaps it will be the greatest day for a very long time. This is not because we are going to bring heaven down, but because we are going to demonstrate to the world what and how we feel about oppression. Before today we were branded robbers, bandits, terrorists, or gangsters, but after today, we shall be heroes of our land.”
After twelve days, the guerrilla group was overcome by the superior force sent there by the Federal military government then headed by Major General Johnson Aguyi-Ironsi who had become the head of state following the military coup of January 15, 1966. The General could have been motivated to quell the uprising by dual duties: to save Nigeria of which he was head and to safeguard the threatened dominant interest of his Igbo kinsfolk.
Adaka Boro and his comrades were tried for treason at the Port Harcourt Federal High Court and three of them were sentenced to death by hanging. The trio, Boro, Samuel Owonaru, and Nottingham Dick were awaiting the hangman in Ikoyi Prisons, Lagos, when General Gowon created the 12 states on May 27, 1967. A few days later, May 31, the Republic of Biafra was declared under the headship of Lt. Co. Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu. Two months after, In July 1967, Nigeria declared war to defeat the rebel Biafra. Around that time, Gowon granted amnesty to Boro and his comrades as a way of appeasing the Ijaw and other aggrieved minorities of Eastern Nigeria to support the federal war effort. Boro enlisted in the Nigerian army as a Major, perhaps with the desire to use the platform to complete his aborted revolution of 1966. But he died soon after in unclear circumstances in the Port Harcourt sector of the war in 1968. The Nigeria-Biafra war lasted from 1967 to 1970 and about two million people perished.
Seven Restructuring Attempts in Seven Years:
We can now sum up the dramatic events of the first seven years of Nigeria’s independence (1960-67). In 1960, the British colonialists left Nigeria tottering on the brink by deviously and duplicitously giving the Northern Region undue advantage of size, population, and power. Relentless agitation for freedom from this monstrous structure engendered the Tiv uprising of the early 1960s. Awolowo’s Action Group party backed the break-up of the Northern Region and aided minority politicians in the Middle Belt, including the Benue areas. In 1962, the populist Awolowo movement was castrated when he was accused of plotting to overthrow the Federal government headed by Abubakar Tafawa Balewa as Prime Minister. A coalition of interests between the ruling Northern Peoples Congress (NPC) and the Nnamdi Azikiwe-led National Council of Nigerian Citizens (NCNC) saw to it that Awolowo and associates were found guilty of treasonable felony and were sentenced to jail. Awolowo was jailed for ten years and sent to Calabar prisons. In August 1963, the Midwestern Region was created from the Western Region through plebiscite vote. Again, the collaboration of the NPC and NCNC ensured the quick conclusion of the process. But the NPC and the NCNC did not find it necessary to collaborate to carve up the Northern and Eastern regions into new states. This was political brinkmanship, Nigerian style.
In the seven years under review, there were seven (7) attempts to restructure Nigeria, namely, (1) the Tiv Uprising of the early 1960s (2) the Creation of the Midwestern Region in 1963 (3) the January 1966 military coup (4) the Boro 12-Day Revolution resulting in the Niger Delta Republic (5) the July 1966 revenge coup and the “Araba” break-away bid aborted by the British (6) the May 27, 1967, creation of 12 states, and (7) the May 31, 1967, birth of the Republic of Biafra. Given the trajectory of this momentum of events, those who are currently opposed to the restructuring of Nigeria for a more equitable, functional, and sustainable federal system are ranged against formidable historical forces. As a Niger Delta adage admonishes, a disease that needs blood transfusion cannot be cured with palm oil, even though the colour of the two substances is similar.
Military Coup Against Derivation and Fiscal Federalism:
Up till 1969 the principle of derivation was still applied in the sharing of public revenue between the centre and the states. The first “coup” against derivation and fiscal federalism occurred in 1969 with the enactment of the Petroleum Decree 51, now Petroleum Act (Cap. 350, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 1990). The decree aimed to dispossess the people of the Niger Delta of their rights to the ownership of their oil and gas resources. Decree 51 states in part that “the entire ownership and control of all petroleum, in under, or upon any lands which this section applies shall be vested in the State (here…meaning the Federation of Nigeria)”. As the saying goes, with this stroke of “military might” the Gowon administration economically enslaved the Niger Delta region. When the decree was promulgated the impression was created that it was a temporary measure to prevent the break-away Biafra from having access to oil revenues to prosecute its rebellion. The Civil War ended in January 1970, clearly more than 45 years ago, yet the petroleum apartheid law has not been repealed or abrogated. Rather, it has been modified and adjusted to perpetuate the policy of internal colonialism against minority groups of the Niger Delta.
How was it that the same Northern ruling clique that abominated Aguyi-Ironsi’s centralism and unitary control suddenly embraced the extremism of a federation in which the central government owned and controlled all strategic economic resources? The answer to this enigmatic question can be found in the Memorandum the Northern Delegates submitted to the 1966 Constitutional Conference in Lagos. The exploitative objectives of the Memorandum are in the following paragraphs:
“The right to all mines and minerals was…before the handover of power (by Britain) in that regard, vested in the Crown. This right was derived from the Crown’s prerogative of being the owner of all minerals attaching to the land. The right was accentuated by the provision in our laws laying down that entire property in and control of all minerals and mineral oils in, under or upon any lands of Nigeria and of all rivers, streams, and water-courses throughout Nigeria was and should be vested in the Crown”.
Nigeria in 1966 was not a monarchy or an Emirate. In 1963 Nigeria attained the status of a Republic, with all appendages to Britain and their “crowned” monarch abolished. So, why did the Northern politicians and technocrats employ the image of Crown to represent the authority of the Federal Republic of Nigeria? By logical deduction, the language of the Memorandum can be traced to the British benefactors of the Northern elite whom they treated as the inheritors of British colonial power and privileges.
The substance of the 1969 Petroleum Decree has been retained in all laws pertaining to oil and gas resources from 1969 till date. It was reproduced in the 1979 Constitution of the Second Republic (1979-1983). The same legislative harness against the oil-rich minorities of the Niger Delta was evident in the 1989 draft constitution prepared by the self-perpetuating military junta of General Ibrahim Badamosi Babaginda (1985-1993). The semantic and lexical structures of the Petroleum Decree 51 are reproduced in Section 44 (3) of the 1999 Constitution as follows:
“…the entire property in and control of all mineral oils and natural gas in, under or upon the territorial waters and the Exclusive Economic Zone shall vest in the government of the Federation and shall be managed in such a manner as may be prescribed by the National Assembly.”
It is significant to note that the focus of this Section is on oil and natural gas, the two principal sources of wealth in the Niger Delta. That is why there is no reference to solid minerals which abound in the 19 northern States, particularly in the Middle Belt region or North-central geo-political zone of the country. It is clear, therefore, that the hegemonic ruling elite in the North, in collaboration with their “follow-follow” associates in the Southwest and Southeast, made these laws in order to legalise their conquest of the Niger Delta as an economic colony. This explains why these power blocs have resisted every attempt to restructure Nigeria politically, administratively, and economically to promote federalism and self-reliant development.
How did compromised professionals and eminent scholars from the Southwest and Southeast aid and abet the domineering agenda of the Hausa-Fulani predators of Niger Delta commonwealth? A few examples will suffice to prove the point. General Obasanjo was the military head of state (1976-1979). His hatred for democrats and advocates of fiscal federalism is well known. Obasanjo appointed the Professor Ojetunji Aboyade Committee on Revenue Allocation in 1977. The report of the Aboyade Committee showed that the members were complicit in the plot to disinherit the oil-producing states of the Niger Delta. The report abolished the derivation principle in revenue sharing, the first time in 30 years. The Aboyade Report was not implemented because of its technical complexity.
A few years after, that is, 1979, the elected government of President Shehu Shagari (1979-1983) set up the Presidential Commission on Revenue Allocation. It was chaired by Professor Pius Okigbo, a distinguished economist from the Southeast. The Commission’s report submitted in 1980 further obliterated the derivation principle for more equitable fiscal federalism. This instigated protests by the oil-rich States led by the Bendel State government with Professor Ambrose Alli as the governor; they sued the Federal Government to court to challenge the report. With the vocal support of elected legislators at the time, a bill was later passed by the National Assembly but the full benefits of derivation were not restored, and so, the prospects for post-military economic restructuring were dimmed.
The legal preamble to the subversive work done by Professors Aboyade and Okigbo was provided by the Chief Rotimi Williams-chaired Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) set up by the General Murtala Mohammed military government in 1975. In his inaugural address to the 49-memebr CDC, General Mohammed warned the members not to discuss the form and structure of government and the issues of the unity of the country. The CDC was headed by a legal luminary, but it obediently obeyed the military directive issued by the military dictators. The Report of the CDC and resultant draft constitution were debated by a Constituent Assembly and the outcome became the 1979 Constitution.
The CDC report contributed to the destruction of federalism by making the centre politically and financially omnipotent at the expense of the federating units (States). It is now known that General Obasanjo who succeeded Mohammed in 1976 (he had been killed in an abortive coup in February that year) used his prerogative of military fiat to include in the Constitution his 1978 obnoxious Land Use Decree which was not debated by the Constituent Assembly. The Land Use Decree, now Land Use Act (Cap. 202, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 1990) is the land property counterpart of the Petroleum Decree 51 of 1969, now Petroleum Act (Cap. 350, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 1990).
From the foregoing accounts of events, it is clear how the conservative and anti-democratic forces in the country liquidated the principles and structures of federalism nurtured from colonial times in the 1940s. As we have seen, even the imperialist British oppressors found it expedient and necessary to operate the system of derivation and regional control of economic resources because it was congruent with the universal values of a Federal Union. Three decades after, it was the Nigerian elite who destroyed that federal system. The central objective of those who did this was to use the disguise of law to dispossess and dominate the minority people of the Niger Delta in particular. The consequence has been unending instability, stagnated development, social anarchy, and intractable insurgency.
The Resurgence of Restructuring Agitation (1990s-2017):
The clamour for federalist restructuring has remained loud and clear from the 1990s. The military wing of the country’s pro-democracy momentum intervened via the April 22, 1990, coup of officers mostly from the dispossessed and exploited Niger Delta. Known as the Gideon Orkar coup (Orkar was Tiv from Benue State), the plotters aimed to overthrow General Babangida who was desperate to be president for life. Before the coup attempt collapsed, Orkar’s broadcast contained a section that excised or removed core Islamic states of the North from Nigeria. This was a drastic move of restructuring that identified the Hausa-Fulani areas of the country as the chief obstacle to the restoration of federalism and fiscal democracy. They were right. For their audacious initiative over 100 of the mutineers were hurriedly tried and murdered. But their cries of death resonated thereafter, especially in the oil polluted lands and creeks of the Niger Delta. Babangida tried to respond to the mutineers’ demand by creating six more states in 1991. But it was largely a self-serving exercise that was not resolve issue of power structure and resource ownership.
Babangida’s coup de grace came with his annulment of the free and fair presidential election of June 12, 1993. The victory of Chief M.K.O. Abiola in that election symbolised a resurgence of the spirit of federal equity in politics although it was clear that Abiola himself was a product of the corrupt and manipulated system compounded by military dictatorship dominated by officers from northern states. The emergence of the pro-democracy movement in the 1990s emblematised by the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) was the high point of this resurgence. It was NADECO that stamped the idea of Sovereign National Conference (SNC) on popular consciousness. The SNC was code name for radical restructuring of Nigeria’s caricature federation. The NSC demand has remained a mantra for two decades.
General Sani Abacha who succeeded Babangida in November, 1993, improved on the fascist methods of repressing the popular uprising fostered by the June 12 imbroglio. Abacha too wanted to be president for life. His 1994/95 constitutional conference was meant to endorse this self-succession gamble. He was consumed by the ambition as he died in 1998, thanks, largely to the irrepressible activism of the pro-democracy movement.
General Abdulsalami Abubakar who took over was a dye-in-the-wool conservative and scion of the Hausa-Fulani power bloc that has always blocked every effort to return Nigeria to full-fledged federalism. His transition programme merely recycled the outmoded model of a centralised, unitary government system introduced by the Mohammed-Obasanjo diarchy in the 1970s. This partly explains why Abubakar and his foreign backers brought out anti-federalism Obasanjo from jail and beatified him to become elected president in 1999-2007. It was a disastrous era for democracy and federalism. Always ambitious, Obasanjo, too, schemed to have a third term in office in disregard of the constitutional limit of maximum of two terms of four years each.
Kaiama Declaration and Resource Control Mantra:
The bloody years of the Babangida-Abacha-Obasanjo trio of dictators were hallmarked by the intense impetus for restructuring typified by the Niger Delta movements for resource ownership and control. The early trigger points came from the founding in 1990 of the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP) and the Ijaw National Congress (INC). MOSOP presented its Bill of Rights in 1992 that included financial reparation for three decades of plunder by Shell and other oil majors as well as demand for restoration of damaged environment. This political economy approach unveiled the hidden structure of exploitation and state-sponsored terrorism against resource-rich minorities. The global human rights and environmental justice movements picked up the encore and Nigeria was in deep diplomatic waters.
In the same 1992 Anthony Enahoro’s Movement for National Reformation (MNR) published a manifesto for an eight-region federal restructuring. He was placed on the watch list by the military autocrats for daring to suggest a break-up of what the British handed over to the Northern power elite. Again, in 1992, the publisher of The Guardian, Alex Ibru, an Urhobo patriot from Delta, rallied Niger Delta nationalists to float the Association of Minority Oil States (AMOS) that submitted a memorandum to Babangida for the upgrade of derivation quotient for oil revenues and investment in development of infrastructure. General Babangida immediately proscribed AMOS and similar bodies and went ahead to establish the Oil Minerals Producing Areas Development commission (OMPADEC). It was a diversionary effort as his government systematically starved the Commission of approved funds, leading to its failure within a few years. In 1994 The Guardian was proscribed by the Abacha cabal for backing the nation-wide clamour for the redemption of the result of the June 12, 1993, acclaimed to have been won by Chief M. K. O. Abiola. Alex Ibru joined the Abacha government as Minister of Internal Affairs and was relieved of his post a few years after for sponsoring a platform for Niger Delta interest groups to crusade for their claims to oil resources. That was not all; in 1996, Ibru narrowly escaped an assassination attempt in Lagos.
The Southern Minorities Movement (SMM) coordinated by A. T. Akobo was founded at Eku, Delta State in 1994. The SMM added its strident voice to the struggle of the Niger Delta people. Its memorandum to the Abacha constitutional conference of 1994/95 included a demand for an increase in derivation to 50% as was the practice in 1960; the SMM also supported the call for the devolution of powers from Abuja to six geo-political zones in the country. The conference accepted the idea of the zones but did not devolve power to them.
In 1995 the use of state terrorism against the Ogoni resource-control agitators reached a tragic climax with the sentencing to death of the President of MOSOP, Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other compatriots. They were hanged on November 10, 1995. An outraged global community responded by pushing Nigeria to a pariah status in international relations.
The scenarios described above were preludes to the swelling drama of December 11, 1998, when a congress of Ijaw youth in Isaac Boro’s birthplace of Kaiama, Bayelsa State, announced a 10-Point Kaiama Declaration. The first two items struck at the heart of economic restructuring thus:
- “All lands and resources (including mineral resources) within the Ijaw territory belong to the Ijaw communities and are the basis of our survival” (2) “We cease to recognise all undemocratic decrees that rob our people/communities of the right to ownership and control of our lives and resources which were enacted without our participation and consent. These include the Land Use Decree and the Petroleum Decree, etc.” The last item of the list of demands added that “We agreed to remain within Nigeria but to demand and work for self-government and resource control for the Ijaw people.”
The three issues highlighted from the Kaiama Declaration constitute the portmanteau summary of the all the struggles for federalism and resource ownership and control described in the previous sections. They are the kernel of the politics of restructuring that have made Nigeria virtually ungovernable for several decades. The cost and consequences of ignoring the popular clamour will form the next segment of this paper.
From Kaiama Declaration to the Yar’Adua-Jonathan Era:
At this point it is helpful to briefly examine how the post-military elected governments from 1999 responded to the gales of demands for restructuring. I have explained in an earlier section that the June 12, 1993, resistance and pro-democracy movements foregrounded the issue of reconstructing Nigeria and restoring the federal arrangement of the First Republic (1960-66). This was ventilated through the slogan of Sovereign National Conference. At that time, this approach to demilitarisation was popular in French-speaking countries of Africa such as Benin Republic, Gabon, and Central Africa Republic where there were sit-tight leaders. General Abdulsalami Abubakar’s transition programme of 1998-99 was a manipulated “army arrangement” as Fela Anikulapo-Kuti used to say. The gregarious speed of the one-year transition overshadowed the clamour for Sovereign National Conference. The revolutionary forces had hoped that the elected civilian government from 1999 would readily subscribe to the national conference option.
This expectation was betrayed by the elected government of Obasanjo who was hostile to democracy and federalist reorganisation. Of course, like Babangida and Abacha before him, Obasanjo unveiled his hidden agenda for tenure extension or third term in office as had been noted in a previous section. To realise this goal, Obasanjo convoked the National Political Reform Conference in 2005. The first matter put before the conferees was a proposal for changing the constitution to allow for a third term for the president. Through the vigilance of most delegates, including many from the northern states, the third term gambit was shot down instantly.
The most significant aspect of that Conference that concerns restructuring was the debate on derivation and resource ownership. All Niger Delta or South-South delegates were united in demanding raising the derivation from 13% to 50%. Similarly, all 19 northern states formed a formidable opposition. Their working paper to the “Committee on Revenue Allocation & Fiscal Federalism” was prepared by Professor A.H. Yadudu, erstwhile Attorney-General and Minister for Justice to dictator Abacha. Almost every night the northern delegates held strategic meetings with all 19 governors. The conference secretariat headed by Father (now Bishop) Matthew Hassan Kukah capitulated to the northern side of the politico-ideological cold war. A new drama for the destiny of federalism in Nigeria was about to explode.
At the Conference leadership for the South-South solidarity for federalism was provided by Chief E.K. Clark (Leader of the South-South Delegations) and Deacon Gamaliel Onosode (Head of Delta State Delegation), both from Delta State. The research and intellectual preparation was done by Delta State Think Tank in which I served. The Delta State Memorandum titled “Federalism & Resource Control” was adopted by the South-South. Delivery at the plenary debate was handled by Professor Omafume Friday Onoge, a distinguished Marxist and Harvard-trained social anthropologist. Laying emphasis on contribution of states to the Federation Account, the memo established the fact that Southern Nigeria accounted for 100% of all government revenues. On the basis of these statistics, Onoge concluded by describing all the 19 states in the north as “economic parasites”. It was a bombshell the intentions of who hoped to use the conference to perpetuate their domination and manipulation of Nigeria. When the northern delegates deployed their advantage of numbers to shoot down the case for an increase in derivation percentage, the South-South delegates boycotted proceedings and the 2005 Conference collapsed without conclusion. Obasanjo’s ambitions evaporated with this cataclysmic ending.
As a consequence of the collapse of the conference option, oil-instigated protests agitations in the Niger Delta assumed a new militancy. The suspended oil wars resumed with devastating fatalities. New guerrilla groups such as Niger Delta Volunteer Force (NDVF) lead by Alhaji Dokubo Asari and Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) coordinated by High Chief Government Ekpemupolo (Tompolo) typified the new mood of resource control by whatever means necessary, to invoke the words of Malcom X, the African American revolutionary of the 1960s.
President Obasanjo’s government reacted to these developments by intensifying violent repression and militarisation of the Niger Delta. The Joint Task Force (JTF) became the instrument for this scotched-earth programme. Frequent clashes between aggrieved groups and security agencies told the tragic story. Using the election machine of the Peoples Democratic Party (PD), Obasanjo introduced other divisive tactics of control. This led to the impeachment of the Bayelsa State Governor, Daniel Solomon Peter Alamieyeseigha, for alleged corruption charges. He co-spearhead, with Governor James Onanefe Ibori of Delta State, the agitation for derivation from 1999 that shot popular temper in the Niger Delta to revolutionary levels. For the 2007 presidential contest, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, Alamieyeseigha’s deputy was made Umaru Musa Yar’Adua’s running mate. Their ticket won at the polls. This was a clear case of stick-and-carrot strategy to contain the oil-induced insurgency.
The Yar’Adua administration continued with the policy of violent repression for a while but switched gear to that of stick-and-carrot after the fiasco of the invasion of Gbaramatu kingdom in Delta State in May 2009. The government retreated and opted for negotiation via the Presidential Amnesty Accord signed in October, 2009. The Amnesty Deal involved the surrender of arms by agitators, payment of a monthly stipend for about 25,000 amnestied agitators, with skill training schemes for ultimate rehabilitation. Temporary peace was restored and oil revenues, reduced to one-third during the zenith of disturbances, recovered. President Yar’Adua died in 2010 and Jonathan took over. It is needless to add that the presence of Jonathan’s at this critical stage helped the armistice process.
In the five years of Jonathan on the saddle, the cardinal demands of federalist restructuring and resource democracy that fired the Kaiama Declaration were left in abeyance. Yet the Niger Delta people kept their side of the peace bargain. But as the 2015 general elections approached, vital time was running out as the carrots offered were not satisfactory substitute for the people’s revolutionary expectations. About a year to the presidential elections of 2015, Jonathan subscribed to the long deferred project of a national conference to save Nigeria.
The 2014 National Confab Exit to Federalism:
The 2014 National Conference was the 17th to be held in Nigeria since the 1914 amalgamation. A total of 492 delegates attended; they represented geo-political zones, states, national institutions, professional bodies, and diverse interest groups. The chairman of the Confab was Justice Legbo Kutugi, assisted by Professor Bolaji Akinyemi and the Secretary was Dr. (Mrs) Juliet Azinge. The conference sat from March to August, 2014. Twenty committees were set up to deal with specific themes and issues. The reports of the committees were debated at plenary sessions to arrive at decisions through consensus without voting or dividing the house. About 600 resolutions and recommendations were made and classified into subject areas, with action plans attached to each. The report of the conference were submitted in 20 volumes.
To appreciate President Jonathan’s conviction about the Confab as an excellent opportunity to redeem Nigeria, let me recall a paragraph of his inauguration address focusing on some of the fundamental issues for deliberation. In his words,
“…the issues range from form of government, structures of government, devolution of powers, revenue sharing, resource control, state creation, state police and fiscal federalism, to indigeneship, gender equality, and children’s rights…”.
This tone of patriotism and objectivity animated the deliberations of the conference. All though the six months of stormy sessions, robust exchanges and ideological/regional clashes, Jonathan never attempted to influence, tele-guide, or manipulate the delegates. Even when occasions warranted contact with the presidency for clarification, he never entertained the requests. The government’s stance of neutrality and respect for the delegates’ autonomy and integrity inspired everyone to work hard to avert premature failure to arrive at consensus on traditionally divisive and explosive matters.
It is important to enter a caveat here before proceeding to some details. The Hausa-Fulani ruling elite never wanted the conference convoked at all. When this ploy failed, they came poised to sabotage it as they did in 2005. In the first four weeks of the Confab there was a sudden outburst of violent clashes between nomadic Fulani herdsmen and communities in the Middle Belt States resulting in deaths and destruction. Almost on a daily basis “Northern” delegates orchestrated legislative gambits such as “point of order”, “information”, “a matter of urgent national importance”. There were calls on President Jonathan to declare a state of emergency in the affected areas. All of these dramas were scripted, rehearsed, and acted to achieve one aim: that Jonathan was an incompetent President and was, therefore, not politically and morally qualified to convoke a national conference. The Southern delegates deftly subdued these pressures and the conference continued, thanks largely to the tolerance, ingenuity, and integrity credit of the Chairman, Justice Kutugi. On the part of the pro-federalism delegates, there were regular nightly caucus meetings of delegates from the North-Central, South-East, South-South, and South-West to reach accords on how to counter the subterfuges of the anti-federation delegates in the conference.
The Confab report submitted to President Jonathan was discussed and approved by the Federal Executive Council for implementation. We can now attempt a digest of some recommendations that touch the heart of the national question and federalism in Nigeria.
- Devolution of Powers & Federating Units:
In the prevailing arrangement, the central of federal government in Abuja relates to the States and local councils as impoverished and impotent appendages. This is in contradiction to the timeless tenet of a federal system in which the centre and states exist as co-equals and coordinates. The 1999 Constitution undermines this principle because it was a military document imposed on the Nigerian people. The Confab reviewed this authoritarian anomaly by approving that there shall be only two tiers of government: the federal/central and the states as federating units. The local governments shall not constitute a tier of government as is currently the case by default. Therefore, the names of the 774 local councils shall be removed from the First Schedule, Part !, of the Constitution. This listing of councils according to states makes it impossible for any State to create or merge or abrogate any local government. Fiscal federalism is enhanced by the decision of the Confab in that local governments shall no longer participate in the sharing of public revenue. This is, indeed, congruent with the spirit and letter of Section 7 as shown below:
“The system of local government by democratically elected local councils is under this Constitution guaranteed; and accordingly the Government of every State shall …ensure existence under a Law which provides for the establishment, structure, composition, finance and functions of such councils.”
With this affirmation of what exists in the Constitution, which has been violated since 1999, States such as Kano with 44 local government areas shall now be required to either provide for their funding or dissolve/merge some for viability if the need arises. Similarly, short-changed States such as Lagos shall be free to either increase or reorganise the number to suit their peculiar situations. Bayelsa with the least number of local governments (8 in all) can exercise its federal autonomy to create more for its water-logged and neglected territories. As Section 7 of the 1999 Constitution stands, it is mandatory for every State to ensure the existence of elected local councils at intervals of three years; there is no room whatsoever for interim councils.
- Fiscal Federalism and Revenue Sharing:
The thorniest aspects of the military-imposed 1999 Constitution pertain to the provisions for revenue sharing between the central government and the federating units. In the three decades of military rule, policies were introduced for distributing public revenue in favour of the revenue-poor States and local governments in the 19 States in the North. There is also the unfair allocation arrangement that gives 52% of public revenue to the central government in Abuja, with the States and local governments having 26% and 22% respectively. The Confab made marginal gain by reducing that of the centre from 52% to 42%. With removal of the local governments as tiers of the federation, States shall now be entitled to 58% of the share of the Federation Account. This is a substantial improvement as it can insulate States from the financial epidemic of insolvency that causes their inability to pay workers and fund provision of basic facilities and welfare schemes.
Even marginal as it appears, the Confab’s position on this matter could bring immense relief to Lagos and oil-rich states in the Niger Delta that are now saddled with the awesome burden of funding the existence and economy of country. Since the end of the Civil War in 1970, only ten of the 36 states have been contributing the revenues for running the country. These exploited States are, in alphabetical order: Abia, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Imo, Lagos, Ondo, and Rivers. All the other States, including the Federal Capital Territory of Abuja, contribute next to zero to the Federation Account, yet they partake in the monthly sharing of public revenue. With the increase of the share of States to 58% and the removal of local governments as a tier of the federation, the overburdened States can retain a substantial portion of the revenues generated in their areas. In the First Republic, the Regions, now States, received 50% of revenues through derivation.
Another noteworthy change in support of fiscal federalism was the decision taken on Item 39 of the Exclusive Legislative List on which only the federal government can legislate. Item 39 deals with “Mines and minerals, including oil fields, oil mining, geological surveys and natural gas.” Debates on this item were so fractious and bellicose that they nearly aborted the conference. Characteristically, manyl “northern” delegates opposed to any amendment of the item, but the “North” had accomplices from some southern States. In the end it was resolved to amend Item39 in a manner that left it technically in the Exclusive Legislative List as follows:
“Mines and all minerals, including oil fields, oil mining, geological surveys and natural gas, provided that (a) the governments of states where mining activities take place shall be involved in matters relating thereto, (b) the government of the federation shall make special grants to develop mines and minerals in states where such resources are underdeveloped”.
To assuage the fears of States about a sudden drop in revenue, the Conference approved the setting up of a Solid Minerals Development Fund of five per cent (5%) of federal annual budget to jump-start the exploitation of currently undeveloped mineral resources.
To further break down the resistance against fiscal federalism, delegates from the South-East, South-South, and South-West devised strategies to convince the opponents of federalism that they had more mineral resources in their states than are in the entire southern Nigeria. We obtained from the Ministry of Solid Minerals Development the list of all 42 solid minerals in the country. The list was circulated to all delegates. It revealed that Taraba and Plateau States had about 25 solid minerals each. Besides diamond and gold, the two States have reserves of uranium, a strategic mineral for atomic energy. Further, the number of solid minerals in Taraba and Plateau is higher than that in the whole of the continent of Asia that includes the Arab nations of the Middle East, China, India, Japan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, and Bangladesh. From the list we identified ten of the most abundant and ubiquitous solid minerals and they are indiccated hereunder according to the number of states in which each mineral is found:
|No.||MINERAL||NUMBER OF STATES|
It should be noted that the bitumen deposit in the States of Ondo, Edo, and Lagos discovered since 1913 is second volume to that of Venezuela in South America. Yet Nigeria continues to import bitumen products for road construction. It was clear to all delegates that with the lavish endowment in mineral resources, coupled with 84 million hectares of arable land, Nigeria had no excuse to concentrate only on the exploitation of crude oil and natural gas that destroys humans and the environment.
There is another element having to do with the Exclusive Legislative List in the Second Schedule, Part 1 of the 1999 Constitution. There are 68 items in all and only the central government has exclusive power to legislate on them. Ten of them are fundamental for the practice of a functional federal system. Among them are taxation, ports, railways, insurance, and incorporation and registration of corporate bodies. The Confab was able to reduce the items for exclusive federal legislation to 10, leaving 58 for concurrent law making by the central and state governments.
- Derivation Clause in the 1999 Constitution:
The conference was unable to resolve the vexed issue of the urgent need to increase the derivation quota as stated in Section 162 (2) of the 1999 Constitution. The demand of the oil-rich states and Lagos with two ports and huge revenues from Value Added Tax (VAT) was for 50% benchmark as it was in the 1960 and 1963 Constitutions. Debates at committee and plenary levels were always stalemated. It resolved finally to ask the President to empanel experts to handle the matter for consideration and deliberation by the National Assembly by way of an executive bill.
It is regrettable that the conference was unable to recommend amendment of Section 44 (3) of the Constitution that vests ownership and management of oil and gas resources in the Federal Government. Surely, the struggle will continue on that pivotal instrument of federalism in due course.
- State and Multiple Policing Systems:
One index that qualifies Nigeria to be grouped by political scientists among “failed states” is inability of the government to provide security for the citizens as enshrined in Section 14 (2b) of the 1999 Constitution as follows: “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government”. All Nigerian governments from 1960 have breached this constitutional mandate. The current state of insecurity and anarchy represented by insurgent movements, violent crimes, felonies, and wanton abuse of fundamental human rights is symptomatic of the dysfunctional political system being operated. The military cabals that ruined and liquidated the federal system gave monopoly control of police and security responsibilities to the federal government. For example,
Nigeria with a population of over 170 million should have a police force of no less than five million personnel; currently, there are about 400,000 police for the entire country, less than the number required to secure a single state such as Lagos or Kano. To alleviate the crisis gross inadequacy and resultant expression of subversive acts such as Boko Haram, armed robbery, kidnapping, murder, and uncontrollable damage to public utilities, the conference approved the existence of multiple police establishments by States, Local Governments, and Municipalities/urban centres. This is the practice in all major federations such as the United Kingdom, United States of America, Canada, India, Germany, Switzerland, and Australia. For example, in the City of London alone, there are about six police formations in operation. The safety and security we admire in those countries is due to this democratised security system.
- Restructuring Through Creation of New States:
The conference resolved to decentralise and devolve power as widely as possible to bring responsible governance to the grassroots levels. The removal of local government areas as a tier of government was the initial step taken in support of this imperative. The Conference overcame diversionary and irrelevant arguments such as economic viability, inability of current 36 states to meet their routine obligations, and the fear of having too many administrative units that could compound fiscal insolvency. The genuine anxiety about higher number of states was allayed squarely with the superior view that Nigeria’s cultural and linguistic complexity and diversity warrants the expansion of democratic space to enable every territorial unit and population cluster to be as self-governing as possible.
In the light of these preambles the Conference recommended the creation of additional 18 (eighteen states) to bring the total to 54, a figure comparable to the 51 in the United States of America with similar feature of diversity. The primary criterion used to determine the number and location of the new states was that of equity and equality among the six geo-political zones of the country. The prevailing unbalanced arrangement shows that the North-western zone has seven (7) states while the others have six (6) each, with the exception of the South-East zone with five (5). It was also agreed that there was no scientific basis for making all states equal in size and population. In the United States there are states such as Alaska, Honolulu, and Rhodes Island that are micro when compared with California or Texas. Similarly, there some mega states in India with population larger than Nigeria’s of 170 million. It was further agreed that there was urgent need to create new states from the ones with multiple ethnic groups and languages. The glaring examples are Adamawa with 80 languages, the highest number of tongues in spoken in a single administrative Nigeria unit in Nigeria, nay Africa. Other multi-lingual States are Plateau, Taraba, Kogi, Benue, Bauchi, Borno, Kaduna, Niger, Kebbi, and Cross River.
For zonal equity and balance, it was decided to create one additional state for the South-East which has just five now. In the North-West zone, only two new states shall be added. When this is done, all the six zones of the country shall have nine (9) states each. The zone-by-zone distribution of the recommended 18 new states is as follows:
- Apa State from the present Benue State
- Edu State from the present Niger State; the area envisaged for the Edu State is made up of about 25 ethnic groups who are currently marginalised and under-represented
- Gurara State from present Kaduna State; Gurara is to cover all of Southern Kaduna that has experienced cultural and religious intolerance leading to cycles of violence and deaths
- Katagun State from the present Bauchi State; Bauchi is a another polyglot of ethnic groups. In the capital city of Bauchi alone, there are close to 10 ethnic groups and languages
- Amana State from the present Adamawa State (Amana State is to expand democratic and cultural space for the long-oppressed areas such as Chibok, a Christian stronghold where schoolchildren were abducted in 2014. In the present Adamawa State, people of Fulani stock constitutes no more than five per cent (5%) of the population but they have virtually monopolised public office holding for over 30 years without let
- Savannah State from the present Borno State (Savannah State territory comprises mostly minority ethnic groups different from the Kanuri, the majority ethnic group that will remain in the old Borno State after the creation exercise
- Kainji State from the present Kebbi State
- Ghari State from the present Kano State
- Etiti State from the present South-East Zone; the territory is to be mutually decided by the entire Zone
- Aba State from the present Abia State
- Adada State from the present Enugu State
- Njaba-Anim State from the present Anambra and Imo States
- Anioma State from the present Delta State
- Ogoja State from the present Cross River State
- Oil Rivers State from the present Rivers State
- Ijebu State from the present Ogun State
- Ose State from the present Ondo State
- New Oyo State from the present Oyo State
The processes to be followed in creating a new state are spelt out in Section 8 of the 1999 Constitution. The processes culminate in a referendum to determine the opinion of the people of the area that needs a new state. All the steps listed in Section 8 can be concluded in a few months. The only difficult one is Section 8 (1c) which stipulates that “the result of the referendum is then approved by a simple majority of the Houses of Assembly”. This legal hurdle can be surmounted though amendment by the National Assembly in order to facilitate the creation of the new states to enhance restructuring and federalism in Nigeria.
In his handover process, President Jonathan specifically enjoined his successor, President Muhammadu Buhari to diligently implement the approved report of the National Conference in order to promote good governance, rapid economic development, security and stability in Nigeria. I would like to add by affirming that the President Buhari administration can only ignore the report of the Conference at its own peril. In any case, judging from the current mood in the country, there is hope that even if President Buhari demurs in the implementation of the Confab report, the Nigerian people will restructure the country by whatever means necessary.
Professor Godini G. Darah of the Delta State University, Abraka delivered the lecture at the 2016 Independent Newspaper Man of the Year Award Ceremony, Oriental Hotel, Lagos, February 11, 2017
— Feb 23, 2017 @ 18:40 GMT