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Toward a more productive Nigerian federation

Being a written response by Prof. Kimse Okolo, former Ijaw National Congress President to Alhaji Tanko Yakassai’s submission to ongoing debates at the National Conference

OUR colleague, Alhaji Tanko Yakasai, OFR; had earlier circulated his contribution to the debate on Mr, President’s Inaugural Address to this august assembly. I wish to seize this opportunity to thank him for his contribution but would also take the liberty to address some issues raised in his paper. These issues are:

•The National Population Figures;

•Revenue Allocation; and

•Good Governance.

I shall respond to them in the same order.

The national population census figures: Our compatriot, Alhaji Tanko Yakasai, expressed worry that the continuous controversy over census figures which he thinks were at different times scientifically determined and ought to have been laid to rest is inimical to the pursuit of unity and peaceful co-existence amongst Nigerians. He tried to justify the numerical superiority of the North over the South and its utilisation for political representation and revenue allocation. His words:

Although, this issue ought to have been scientifically put to rest by virtue of the results of various head counts conducted at different times and under different administrations in the country – with active participation of United Nations’s experts on demography and statistics – all of which have lend (sic) credence that northern Nigeria has the majority in terms of population of the country, however, the controversy has refused to abate.

Citing I.I.Ikanem, whose book 1963 Population Census. Critical Appraisal as his sole authority to justify his position, Alhaji Yakasai purported that even before the 1914 amalgamation of Nigeria, the first population census held in 1911 showed that the Northern protectorate outnumbered the South and Lagos. The estimate as it was gave a total population of the two protectorates and the colony of Lagos at 16,054,000 and out of that number the north had 81,120,000 (51 per cent). The East had 4,500,000 (28 per cent) while the West and Lagos had 3,360,000 (20.9 per cent) and 74,000 (0.5 per cent), respectively. This meant the South had 49 percent while the north had 51 per cent.

National census

The 1921 census… recorded the population of the country at 18,720,000 out of which the north had 10,560,000, representing 54.4 percent of the country while the south had 43.6 percent. The breakdown of the south was given thus: East, 5,110,000 (27.3 percent); West, 2,950,000 (15.8 percent) and Lagos 100,000 (0.5 percent).

The 1931 census recorded the total population of the country at 20,056,000 and the north had 57percent of that representing 11,440,000. The figure for the East was 4,550,000 (27.7) while that of the West was 3,940,000 (19.6 per cent) and Lagos had 126,000 (0.7 percent).

In addressing the issues surrounding the National Population Census, I have relied strictly on the figures quote in his paper, because I believe that he is an honourable man. According to Alhaji Yakasi, the north had a population of 8,120,000 in 1911, which increased to 11,440,000 in 1931. This is an increase of 40.9 per cent in twenty years.

Comparatively, the South had a population of 7,934,000 in 1911, and by 1931, it increased to 8,566,000. An increase of 7.9 per cent in twenty years. In fact, in the case of the East the population dropped by 560,000 between 1921 an 1931. I will not question the reproductive capacity of the men in the north, as compared to their southern counterparts, but it is obvious that the percentage increase recorded for the north against the south look clearly ridiculous and absurd.

Alhaji Yakasai made an implausible case attempting to rest his arguments on fact – population census figures – over which the authorities have publicly expressed doubts.

•A few months ago, the immediate past national chairman of the National Population Commission, Eze Festus Odimegwu, told the nation: ‘No census has been credible in Nigeria since 1863. Even the one conducted in 2006 is not credible. I have the records and evidence produced by scholars and professors or repute. This is not my report’

British census officer

•Mr. R.K. Foyer, the British census officer for the Eastern Provinces between 1952 and 1953, reported that only Calabar, Bonny, Opobo, Degema and Brass were covered in the census of 1911 in the Southern flank of the East.

•In respect of the 1921 census, which Alhaji Yakasai presented as scientific ‘not an estimate’ – the colonial officer who conducted the exercise in the North, Mr. Meek, said: ‘Whilst is not pretended that the counts made for the natives in the provinces was anything more than approximately accurate, the statistics nevertheless furnish a great amount of valuable information.’ (Everybody’s Guide, 1990).

Alhaji Yakasai’s statement that the 1921 census was based on an actual count is factually misleading, as the National Population Commission, (NPC 1998), stated that the 1921 figures were estimated. The questionable nature of all census figures is evidenced by the fact that they have been repeatedly rejected by successive governments. Indeed, if the census figures were scientifically derived, Alhaji Yakasai should explain why the Supreme Court nullified the results of the 1963 census.

Still on the issue of “scientifically established population figures” which Alhaji Yakasai claimed, I would like to point out that, if you look at the map of West Africa, starting from Mauritania to Cameroun, and take the population of each country as you move from the Coast to the Savannah, the population decreases. Or conversely, as you come from the desert to the coast, right from Mauritania to the Cameroun, the population increases. The only exception throughout that zone is Nigeria. Nigeria is the only zone whereby you go from the coast to the North that one finds the population increasing while from the North to the coast, the population decreases (Richard Akinjide, 2000). Alhaji Yakasai should tell us the geographers, antagonists and population experts who provided him the basis for the counter argument.

Finally, for the purpose of head count, technology has been able to capture nature’s bio-metric attributes of humans with precision. The finger print, iris and DNA technologies can be used by Nigeria to secure accurate population census. In making this point, the intention is not and should not be to acquire the figures for use in resources allocation, but for productivety and development.

Revenue allocation: Citing an article by the former head of service of the Federation and present chairman, board of trustees of Arewa Consultative Forum, Alhaji Adamu M. Fika, Alhaji Yakasai gave a year by year account of the financial contributions of the two territories that made up Nigeria.” Alhaji Yakasai, whom we discovered had made his publication in support of Alhaji Aminu Dantata on North’s contribution to Nigeria’s development (, 2/5/2010), claimed that “except for just two years, the North virtually bankrolled every year of the first 40 years of Nigeria’s existence.”

He also conceptualised the application of derivation as enunciated in the 1963 constitution as well as the funding of the Niger Delta Development Authority to suit his purpose of buttressing Southern dependence on the North for the former’s development.

To start with, I have observed:

•That the set of facts provided by Yakasai in the three schedules of revenue contribution and expenditure were poorly scrutinised, wrongly interpreted and therefore misleading.

•That over the 25 years period of collected data, facts from annual colonial reports indicate that the south not only made surplus revenue at the level of centrally collected revenue, but this development informed the amalgamation and since then the north had depended on the South for its fiscal survival.

•That up to this day, the South continues to support the north financially in a proportion that shows that the North takes even greater amount of revenue, but contributes less.

•That the North has natural resources endowment that are more sustained which, if harnessed, would evolve a new and balanced federation that a productive, progressive and prosperous. This way, the morbid desire on the part of the predatory class to continue to appropriate and expropriate the resources of the Niger Delta will no longer be as compelling.

Alhaji Yakasai’s statistics were selective configured to convince himself that the North had always been the big brother financially in the Nigerian arrangement. Opinions are free but facts are sacred. Let me start by quoting from Michael Crowder, the great historian, in his article titled “Lugard and Colonial Nigeria – Towards an Identity?” which was taken from his book “History Today”, February 1986, Vol. 36, pp 23 – 29, wherein he stated “the Colonial Office ruled that the rich Southern Protectorate should provide the deficit-ridden Northern Protectorate with the funds to finance its Baro rail line.”

Right from the beginning, the Northern Protectorate was deficit ridden and could not therefore have been a source of financing any developments in the South. On the contrary, evidence abounds that the South had been the source of sustenance of the North long before the amalgamation in 1914, as shown from the records of the colonial office.

The Sir Sydney Philipson, made available by Alhaji Tank Yakasai runs contrary to the irrefutably established fact that the Northern Protectorate and the colony and Southern Protectorate were amalgamated because the Northern Protectorate was an economic liability to the British Colonial Administration. This view was aptly captured by Lord Harcourt, the Colonial Secretary, when the boldly stated:


Unification of Nigeria demanded both ‘method’ and ‘a man’. The man was to be Lord Lugard and the method was to be the ‘marriage’ of the two entitles. We have released Northern Nigeria from the leading strings of the treasury. The promising and well conducted youth is now on an allowance on his own and is about to effect an alliance with a southern lady of means. I have issued the special licencee and Sir Frederick Lugard will perform the ceremony. May the union be fruitful and the couple constant.

Furthermore, in European Scientific Journal, October 2013 edition volume 9 No. 29 ISSN 1857-7881 (print) e-ISSN 1857-1731, Usman Mohammed also stated.

In appointing Lord Lugard to plan and direct the amalgamation of Northern and Southern Nigeria, the Colonial Office was concerned to combine the North’s financial deficit with South’s surplus and to unify competing railway networks.

The poetic use of the terms, ‘Youth’ (man) for the North and ‘Lady’ (woman) for the South was neither an accident nor an exercise in humour. It was a serious matter, with the game plan being to bring the two parties together in order to give the North political power over the South and permanent control over Southern resources.

In the section of his presentation entitled ‘Revenue Allocation’ (pp. 4-8), Alhaji Yakasai provided comparative analyses of revenues and expenditure of Northern Nigeria and Southern Nigeria for the period 1914 to 1925-26. My doubts about the authenticity of the data notwithstanding, I proceed examine them as presented.

Schedule 1 shows that the Actual Revenue and Expenditure (in British Pounds Sterling) for Northern Nigeria (in 1914) were 770,979 and 737,437, respectively. In sharp contrast, revenue and expenditure for southern Nigeria for the same year were 200,778 and 888,651 respectively.

For the years covered in the other two schedules, the northern provinces were consistently awash with surplus while the southern provinces were purportedly in deficit.

Let it be noted, however, that the revenues so reflected were largely from ‘Direct Taxes’ collected by the North’s Native Authority under the tax policies instituted by Lord Lugard. The Warrant Chiefs of the southern provinces were less successful in collection, given the less-than-cooperative attitude of citizens within their jurisdictions. Revenues imposition of tax by the colonial administration is instructively in this regard.

Now, we all know that the direct taxation is only one of several sources of public revenue and that it would be misleading to project an economy as sound or otherwise on the basis of receipts from a limited set of revenue heads. That precisely was the glaring inadequacy of the aforesaid schedules.

For some insight into the relative economic strengths of southern Nigeria and northern Nigeria, we can look at sections of the ‘Colonial Annual Report on Nigeria (No. 878) of 1914.


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