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North and Niger Delta’s oil wealth

By Ochereome Nnanna
MALAM Sanusi Lamido Sanusi fired the prompter. In an interview with Financial Times of London, he linked the Boko Haram Islamic terrorism to federal revenue allocation.

“There is clearly a direct link”, he said, “between the very uneven nature of distribution of resources and the rising level of violence…when you look at the figures and the size of the population of the north you can see structural imbalances of enormous proportions. Those states simply do not have enough money to meet basic needs while some states have too much money”.

That, surely, is a new, insidious, dangerous and shocking dimension to the rationalisation of the Boko Haram jihads and campaigns of terror in the north. Before now, northern “intellectuals” prattled that since Boko Haram is fighting just like Niger Delta militants did, there should be dialogue with them followed by a declaration of amnesty and initiation of post-amnesty goodies. Whoever explodes bombs and kills Nigerians should be given more of the National Cake!

And now, Malam Sanusi (who suddenly turned a philanthropist with the donation of Central Bank of Nigeria’s one hundred million naira to victims when Boko Haram attacked his home town, Kano) is insinuating that this “rising violence” is a result of “low” federal allocations to northern states! Now that Malam Sanusi has unilaterally tied this Islamic jihad to Niger Delta’s oil money, do not be surprised if a faction of Boko Haram begins to post online messages demanding for the increase of north’s share of the oil money as their condition to stop the cowardly killing of innocent citizens.

Already, northern political leaders have taken up the refrain. Governors of the defunct region met and demanded that any oil found beyond 200 kilometres offshore should be shared equally as “commonwealth” among the states. As if acting on cue in a well-choreographed play, the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), which only recently told southerners in the north that they were “free to leave”, rose in support of the call for more oil money. I wonder where Sanusi, the northern governors and ACF will be getting any oil money from if southerners decide to leave the north and form a country of their own, taking their oil and ports along with them?

Beauty of  democracy

Now, I begin to appreciate the more that lovely expression: “beauty of democracy”. Given the level of apparent consensus (contrived or otherwise) that the northern elite have generated on this issue, it should not be so hard to imagine what would have happened were the army still in the pocket of northern power brokers. In the 1970s and 1980s, they would not even bother to canvass the issue in the public.

The Kaduna Mafia would simply hold their conclave and after getting the consent of the emirs they would instigate a coup. The military would proceed to write a couple of decrees and pronto, the oil money they are looking for is theirs. Any activist who raises his voice will be hanged by a well-briefed sectional-minded tribunal judge.

Now that Obasanjo has put the military beyond the reach of any ethnic or sectional power brokers, the north will have to work hard to generate national consensus around this need of theirs before the laws can be tampered with. And that will not be easy because the oil producing states will not be sleeping.

Going down the history of Nigeria since independence, the interest of the north in the oil wealth of the Niger Delta Region is not a new thing. In fact, it would seem only two things have made Nigeria attractive to the north: the oil wealth of Niger Delta and the ports in the east and west of southern Nigeria. They bring in about ninety per cent of revenue to the federation account. During the long period of northern domination of Nigeria, these two were among the strategic national resources that were put in the hands of the highly centralised federal government.

Capitalising on the contrived population “majority”, northern leaders split the country into states and local councils giving their region an unjust and unfair lion’s share of federating units. Federal allocation was shared among these units thus giving the north that contributes very little to federal purse the commanding share of the nation’s commonwealth. This also ensured that they had more senatorial and federal constituencies thus putting the north in a position to preclude changes in the structure of the federation which they did not support.

Majority of the problems groups in the south had in the Nigerian federation were traceable to the north’s desire to control the oil resources of the Niger Delta. After the first coup of 1966 during which the north wanted to pull out of Nigeria, it was the oil which the British neo-colonialists used to persuade General Yakubu Gowon not to allow his region to secede. It was this factor that persuaded Gowon to dishonour the Aburi Accord he willingly signed and create states in a provocative manner that forced the East to settle for secession.

Coups and counter-coups against self

The coups and counter-coups the north staged against itself between 1976 and 1993 were all efforts to control the federal government and therefore the oil wealth. The Abandoned Property saga in Port Harcourt was actually meant to drive Igbo people out of the nation’s foremost oil city so that the north would have unrivalled access to the oil wealth of the zone. The mysterious assassination of Adaka Boro while fighting for the federal side was a ploy to ensure he would not come back after the war and resume his struggle for self determination.

The arrest, trial, conviction and hanging of Ken Saro-Wiwa and the rest Ogoni Nine on November 10th 1995 was to get the troublesome agitator out of the way and to deter any further such agitation. In fact, the late President Umar Yar’Adua’s ultimatum for the Niger Delta militants to surrender and accept amnesty was a threat that would have resulted in an all-out assault to retake the region by force and reassert the stranglehold of the north on the oil wealth of the Niger Delta.

That northern businessmen are still firmly in control of the oilfields was affirmed by an article recently authored by Samuel Diminas and circulated all over the internet. It showed clearly how the oil blocks were shared among northern businessmen and by Generals Olusegun Obasanjo, Ibrahim Babangida, Sani Abacha and Abdulsalami Abubakar between the 1970s and 1990s. There is abundant evidence that none of the other three defunct regions coveted and secured access to the oil wealth of the Niger Delta as much as the north has done over time.

Oil as a commonwealth

Northern intellectuals have often staked their rightful ownership of the oil deposits in the Niger Delta. An eminent professor once claimed that the oil is derived from “bones of northerners”, which leached through troughs of the Benue and Niger Rivers! Another northerner on a radio phone-in programme, came up with earth-shattering claim that it was ground nut money that was used to dig the oil!

But those who realise how untenable such talk is settle for the claim that the oil is a commonwealth. Obasanjo, in his moment of candour, would tell you that the federal side and their international supporters went to war against Biafra because of the oil wells. Having fought and won “the war of unity” the oil becomes a commonwealth which those who led the war reserve the right to decide what they want to do with it.

There are also those, especially Niger Deltans, who firmly believe that after over forty years, the buffet is over. The oil is no longer war booty. It is now time for the owners of the oil to take control of their resources. All over the world, it is those who own the land on which a natural resource is found that lay claim to it unless, of course, they were vanquished in war and driven out or restricted.

On Thursday, I will focus more on the claim that “low derivation” payouts to the north are responsible for rising violence. Perhaps the oil has done more to deepen the poverty of the north and spread it to other parts of the country.

Re: hurricane Lagos

IT is probably not wise to leave the cleaning of the city in the hands of the residents. If they refuse to carry out this task, there is not much government can do about it. I do not think government can carry out prosecution proceedings against them either.

What government can do would be to collect tax (if not doing so already) for this purpose. I live in the United Kingdom and residents here are not asked to come on certain day (s) of the week to clean the streets. Yet, the streets are cleaned virtually everyday and refuses are disposed of weekly.

These tasks are performed by people employed by the local councils and paid for through the local council taxes. Every resident renting or owing a house pays council tax, which are utilised mainly for the provision of theses services. I think it is economically costly to ask every resident to stay at home for hours every week, doing sanitation! It is also ineffective, given all the associated implementation challenges.
“Richand wealthy”



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