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Published On: Thu, Jun 19th, 2014

National Dialogue: A Panacea for Growth and Development

By Prof. Godini G. Darah
The National Conference convened in Abuja on March 17, 2014, is the 17th of such exercises in Nigeria since 1914 when Nigeria was amalgamated into a single country by the British colonial imperialists. From the Richard’s Constitution in the 1940s, national confabs were convoked specifically to draw up new constitutions in response to socio-political changes in the country. The 1957/58 conference that took place in Lagos and London was the longest; the outcome formed the basis of the 1960 Independence Constitution. The 1963 Republican Constitution was a slight modification of that of 1960. The two provided the foundation of a federal system of government, with wide powers of autonomy for the federating units which were the Regional Governments established in 1954. With effect from the January 1966 coup d’etat, the military regimes abolished and liquidated the federal system and its associated advantages of regional autonomy, derivation and resource control.

The Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) whose work culminated in 1978-79 constitution was under Generals Murtala Mohammed and Olusegun Obasanjo. When General Mohammed inaugurated the CDC in Lagos in 1975, he gave it a fait accompli by pronouncing that Nigeria would switch from the parliamentary system practised in the First Republic to the presidential alternative, a la United States of America. Any inquiry into the form of government was a “no-go area” for the CDC. After General Mohammed’s death in 1976, Obasanjo presided over the military processing of the new constitution. He exploited the opportunity to smuggle the Land Use Decree into the draft constitution without the knowledge of the “wise men and women” that produced the document. Lest we forget, the eminent jurist, Chief Rotimi Williams, was the chairman of the CDC.

The 1989 constitutional conference was initiated by General Ibrahim Babangida as a smokescreen for his “hidden agenda” of an “evil genius” to be president for life. The 1989 exercise was preceded by the report of the Political Bureau that proposed a socialist form of government for the country on the strength of the overwhelming clamour for an anti-capitalist economy the Bureau got from its country-wide consultations. General Babangida never bothered to implement the outcome of the 1989 Constitution; he was content to take any aspect that suited his whims and fancy in furthering his life ambition to be transfigured from an army general into a civilian emperor of oil-rich Nigeria. This became evident when he arbitrarily annulled the presidential election of June 12, 1993, adjudged as the freest and fairest in Nigeria’s history.

General Sani Abacha was actively influenced the proceedings of the 1994-95 conference that drafted the 1999 Constitution now in use. Like his mentor, Babangida, Abacha had his sights on changing his military uniform into that of a civilian president. Without proclaiming the draft constitution into law, Abacha went ahead to inaugurate a transition programme anchored on the political parties chosen and funded by him and his cronies. Preparations for elections were on when Abacha died mysteriously in 1998. His successor, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, superintended over the final draft of the draft constitution in 1999. With his military army of occupation facing imminent disgrace from power, Abubakar outlined a hurried transition arrangement with three weak political parties in contention.
These were the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), All Peoples Party (APP), and Alliance for Democracy (AD). So desperate was General Abubakar to disengage from governance that he permitted the aberration of two Yoruba candidates contesting for the post of president, namely, General Obasanjo and Chief Olu Falae. The outcome was predictable; Obasanjo triumphed. In compliance with advice from Nigeria’s imperialist counsellors, the result of the polls was intended to assuage the injured national pride of the Yoruba people whose Chief M.K.O. Abiola clearly won the 1993 election that was annulled by Babangida. Like Babangida and Abacha before him, General Abubakar did not promulgate the 1999 draft constitution into law; this had to wait until the swearing in of elected governments on May 29, 1999.

As the intimidating titles of their “military mentors” indicate, all the constitutions referred to above were made under the terror of the barrel of the gun. It is true that civilian professionals and distinguished politicians worked at the documents, but it was the wish of the military command that prevailed. The 2005 aborted National Political Reforms Conference under President Obasanjo’s watch was aborted midway due to the factor of his ill-omened plot to cajole the delegates to endorse his third term dream. This strange subject was introduced into the conference debates early in the confab; it was vehemently opposed and President Obasanjo read the signals rightly. Shortly afterwards, the conference collapsed when Niger Delta delegates staged a walkout over the refusal of the conference to support an increase in derivation clause from 13%.

As the 2014 National Conference opened in Abuja in March, relevant themes, ideas, and proposals in most of the documents referred to above were made available to the delegates. The materials have been useful as source data and guide for the general debate at plenary sessions as well as the work of the committees.

How is the 2014 Conference Different?:

The 2014 National Conference is different from previous ones, not just in nomenclature but in other vital respects. The timing and objectives are a case in point. The crisis of governance and institutional failure in Nigeria has assumed frightening dimensions. The general populace and the bewildered electorate are alienated from the work of government. The basic egalitarian and welfare objectives of the 1999 Constitution are flagrantly violated by the legislative and executive arms of government. It has been impossible to conduct free and fair elections at all levels in spite of huge funds expended in the exercises. Disillusionment grows thicker amongst the elite and the masses of the people.

It is now clear to beneficiaries of Nigeria’s dysfunctional systems that even if saints and angels were invited from outer space to be in charge of the country, it cannot make sustainable progress unless the structure and basic ideology of government are radically upgraded and improved upon. The brevity of time (three to four months) allotted for the confab is another potentially positive attribute. The mode of selection and composition of the delegates are other auspicious features. Besides equal representation of three delegates per State, there are about 20 other categories of representation reflecting the diversity of regional, ethno-national, organisational, professional, generation, gender, and religious/ideological affinities. The largest single group is that of “Elder Statesmen/Women” made up of 37 delegates. This is followed by that of “Civil Society Organisations” comprising 24 persons and 20 Federal Government nominees. Each of the six geo-political zones in the country has 15 delegates, the “Traditional Rulers” category has 13, “Women Groups” and “People Living with Disability” have 12 and six envoys respectively. On the part of the President Goodluck Jonathan government, there appeared to be a determination to apply the criterion of inclusiveness and “unity in diversity” in the composition of the delegations.

In all there are 492 delegates on the register. Opinion has differed on the mode of selection; most delegates were chosen by their organisations and state governments. Even if elections were used to determine attendance as was the case in the 1994-95 exercise, there is no guarantee that superior results would have been achieved. As in all things political in Nigeria, there is the probability that people whose fortunes are fattened by illicit means such as drug barons, fuel import billionaires, and surrogates of anti-Nigerian designs could have won “landslide” victory to be delegates. Since the Nigerian legal profession seems to thrive well in disputation and intra-elite squabbles, there could have been court cases to challenge the outcome of some elections. The economy of the litigations could have encouraged some disputants to stretch their luck to the Supreme Court where some cases take about ten years to get resolved!

The no-holds-barred attitude of President Jonathan is no less significant. In his inaugural address he did the necessary trouble-shooting by listing all the controversial issues that tend to tear Nigerians apart. At pages 16 and 17 of the address he challenged the delegates to inquire into just about anything that is troubling Nigeria: federalism and resource control, forms of government, devolution of power, political marginalisation, creation of new states, state/regional policing systems, ethnicity, economy and unemployment, insecurity, insurgency, elections, youth, women, children and their endangered future, diaspora constituencies, religion and environment. From this motley of issues, it is difficult to detect a peculiarly satanic, “Jonathanic” gambit or self-serving project. The Confab called went ahead to solicit the submission of views from the general public by way of Memoranda were also submitted by the general public. The Conference Secretariat was inundated with proposals within two weeks of the advertorial.

After some weeks of general debate the Conference broke up into the following committees: (1) Devolution of Power (2) Political Structuring and Forms of Government (3) National Security (4) Environment (5) Politics and Governance (6) Law, Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Reform (7) Social Sector (8) Transportation (9) Science, Technology and Development (10) Agriculture (11) Civil Society, Labour and Sports (12) Public Service (13) Political Parties and Electoral Matters (14) Foreign Policy and Diaspora Matters (15) Land Tenure and National Boundaries (16) Economy, Trade, and Investment (17) Energy (18) Religion (19) Public Finance and Revenue (20) Migration and Related Matters .

Delta delegates worked hard in the committees to push ideas and recommendations that affect the State. As was expected, Chief E.K. Clark was the political father of all Niger Delta delegates. He, Chief Olu Falae, and General Ike Nwachukwu are co-leaders of the Southern Peoples Assembly which coordinates liaison with all segments of the Confab. I served in the devolution committee with five other Niger Delta delegates. Chief B.S. Elue fought bravely in the political restructuring and forms of government committee, especially over the recommendation for the creation of new states and the designation of states as the federating units, not local government areas. The committee made good progress by recommending the creation of eight new states, among them are Anioma and, at least, one for the Southeast geo-political zone.

General Paul Omu was engaged in the national security committee; they lost the battle for decentralisation of policing system to enable states and local councils establish their own systems. The matter will engender robust debate at the plenary sessions. Justice F. Tabai needed all his jurisprudential skills in the law, judiciary, and human rights committee. That committee, for instance, fought gallantly to recommend the federalisation of the judicial institutions such that every federating unit (State) shall have its own magistrate, high court, appeal court and Supreme Court. The report by the environment committee is of vital interest to Delta State. Our multi-pronged approach is to convince the Federal Government to undertake a UN-coordinated inventory of degraded and oil spill sites in order to calculate the quantum of monetary compensation to demand from the Nigerian government and the oil companies for their ecocide activities.

Chief Isaac Jemide had rough but fruitful experience in the Migration committee where the issue of indigeneship and citizenship caused a stir; Chief Joshua Fomudo was embroiled in the politics of land tenure and national boundaries; Engr Vincent Maduka and Isaac Ighure served on the Science, Technology, and Development committee inside which education was squeezed by the Secretariat reluctantly. Mrs. Ngozi Olejeme was on the Economy committee, and Barr. I. Ebinum and Mrs. Felicia Sanni in Transportation. Civil rights, labour, and sports had Illa-born Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin, a terrain in which she has earned global fame. Amb. Vincent Okobi who represented Diaspora community was on familiar turf in the committee on Foreign Policy and Diaspora affairs.

For the rest of the lecture, I propose to summarise the key issues being canvassed by Delta State delegates and comment on their significance for the democratisation and demilitarisation of the Nigerian political space to foster a just, equitable, and responsible federal system of government.
Digest of Memoranda from Delta State:

1. Memorandum of Delta State Delegates:
In response to calls for the submission of memoranda, all the principal delegates from Delta State met several times to identify common themes and approaches. The deliberations were guided by the structure of the Delta State Memorandum to the 2005 National Political Reforms Conference with the title: FEDERALISM & RESOURCE CONTROL. That document set the agenda for the South-South delegates in 2005 and President Obasanjo never forgave Delta State for offering audacious leadership to the Niger Delta region. The preparation of the 2014 Memorandum complied with the guidelines provided by the National Conference secretariat. The highlights of the Memorandum are described below:
(a) Contribution to the Oil & Gas Economy: This was illustrated with oil production figures of 1999-2004 when Delta State was the leading State in terms of volume. Also included for effect is the information on the “sweet crude” oil in the Kokori-Orogun fields of Erhoike, classified as the highest in quality in the world. The oil companies active in Delta State are listed together with oil-related facilities such as Ughelli Quality Control Centre at Eruemukohwarien near Ughelli, the Shell facilities in other oil fields, the Trans-Niger Trunk Line, the Escravos Tank Farm, the Export Terminal at Forcados, and the Warri Refining and Petrochemical Company at Ekpan.

The data on natural gas are more comprehensive, including the Utorogu Gas Plant in Ughelli South/Udu LGA that accounts for 25% of electricity generated in Nigeria daily; the Nigerian Gas Company at Ekpan; the Delta Steel Company, Ovwian-Aladja; the Escravos Gas-to-Liquid complex, the largest in Africa; the Delta Power Station at Ibalegbe/Ughelli; the Ogorode (Sapele) Power Station, and the Okpai Electricity Turbine Station in Ndokwa area.

The premier attention the Memorandum places on economic resources is to underline the strategic position of Delta State in the nation’s development process. The focus was intended to arm our delegates with adequate material to support their positions on federalism, resource control by federating units,, increased derivation, devolution of power, restructuring of government, and necessary constitutional review/reforms.

b. Loss of Revenue: The next section of the Memorandum focuses on loss of revenue to Delta State arising from the regime of unjust laws and policies. Ten of such laws and policies are enumerated, including the Petroleum Decree 51 of 1969, now the Petroleum Act, Cap. 351, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 1990. The Memorandum then zeroes in on specific anti-federal laws that are injurious to Delta State and the Niger Delta. First of these is Section 44 (3) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended). The vexatious section provides in part as follows: “…the entire property in and the control of all minerals, mineral oils, and natural gas, under or upon the territorial waters and exclusive economic zone of Nigeria shall vest in the Government of the Federation and shall be managed in such a manner as may be prescribed by the National Assembly”.

The origin of the law goes back to the colonial Mines and Minerals Ordinance of 1908/1918 which placed all minerals under the control of the British Crown. However, in their debates and agitations for independence Nigerian nationalists compelled the British colonialists to apply the principle of derivation to moderate the negative effect of the ordinance. From 1946 derivation was used to share revenue between central and regional governments. Thus the 1960 and 1963 Constitutions stipulated payment of at least 50% revenue derived from minerals produced in a particular Region. More significantly, the clauses on derivation in the 1960 and 1963 constitutions specified that the continental shelf of a Region was deemed to be part of that Region. The Eastern Region, the Western Region and later the Midwestern Region created in 1963 benefitted maximally from the derivation provisions as littoral Regions of the country.

But in 1969, during the Civil War, the military government of the then Lt. Co. Yakubu Gowon, enacted the Petroleum Decree 51 for the take-over of all oil revenue by the government at the centre. The excuse was that Nigeria needed to deny break-way Biafra access to oil wealth to prosecute its rebellion. The civil war ended in 1970, that is, 44 years ago, yet all governments, military and elected, have retained the law in our statute books. Nigerian governments ignore complaints against the law because its provisions are injurious to minority oil states in the country. If the obnoxious law had affected the regions or states with populous ethnic groups, the law would have been expunged long ago. As the 2014 Delta State Memorandum puts it, “…this law is tantamount to a slave mandate with which the Federal Government of Nigeria expropriates the wealth of the oil- and natural gas-endowed States of the country. The injustice in the law is made manifest in that it is only oil and gas minerals that are targeted for expropriation and alienation. The offensive section should be expunged from the Constitution,”

c. Inequity in the Derivation Clause in Section 162 (2) of the 1999 Constitution is the next issue addressed in the Memorandum. The relevant portion reads thus:
“The President, upon receipt of advice from the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission, shall table before the National Assembly proposals for revenue allocation from the Federation Account. In determining the formula, the National
Assembly shall take into account, allocation principles especially those of population, equality of States, internal revenue generation, land mass, terrain as well as population density; provided that the principle of derivation shall be consistently reflected in any approved formula as being not less than thirteen per cent of the revenue accruing to the Federation Account directly from any natural resources” (emphasis added). In the light of our experience in the Resource Control movement spearheaded by Governor James Onanefe Ibori (1999-2007), the Delta State Memorandum unequivocally demands that “this Section should be removed and replaced with a clause on 100% ownership and management of resources by federating units”.

However, at the Committee on Devolution of Power there were proposals from Niger Delta and some South West delegates to expunge Section 44 (3) for the federating units (states) to have 100% ownership and control of their natural resources. The Committee did not succeed in this regard largely due to the intransigent and hostile opposition of all delegates from the 19 Northern States. In their voracious greed to abet and expropriate the oil and gas revenue from the Niger Delta, the Northern delegates introduced vexatious and provocative demands such as the scrapping of the Niger Delta Development Commission, the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, and the Presidential Amnesty Programme, arguing that these agencies funnel too much revenue to the Niger Delta at the expense of the North. In their imperial ambition, the Northern delegates (socialists, Muslims, and Christians) never acknowledge that over 90% of public revenue in the country is contributed by the Niger Delta States. The Northern States contribute next to nothing to the Federation Account but they have 419 local councils which together with the States share in the Federation Account monthly. No less provocative was the demand by all the Northern delegates in our committee that the 13% derivation be reduced to 5%, adding that if an increase in derivation is to be contemplated at all, revenue from offshore oil and gas should be excluded from the calculation. We the Niger Delta delegates saw through this sinister motive and consequently changed strategy to safeguard the offshore resources from Northern “invasion”. This was how we opted to allow the 13% status quo to remain because we know that about 80% of the oil and gas deposits are now in the offshore territory.

Notwithstanding this historic compromise, the federalist groups in the Conference are marshalling opinions and networking for the open debate at the plenary sessions scheduled for the last week of June. The position of the federalist groups is very clear, namely, that Section 44 (3) of the 1999 Constitution is a violation of the spirit and letter of the federal system of government being practised in Nigeria. There is no federal system where the government at the centre monopolises authority over all essential economic assets such as oil and natural gas. Oil-rich nations like Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and others where the central government owns all mineral resources are totalitarian and despotic regimes, not democracies. The federalists in the Confab want the aberration in Section 44 (3) corrected so that our country can truly earn the name: Federal Republic of Nigeria.

A vital branch of the resource control iroko tree concerns the quantum of derivation as per Section 162 (2) of the 1999 Constitution. The legal logic as I have adumbrated above is that if the federating units (states) enjoy the unfettered right of 100% ownership of their natural and other resources, the middle ground of derivation becomes unnecessary or redundant. In 1969 Yakubu Gowon’s totalitarian military junta nationalised all the revenue from oil and gas. The elected government of President Shehu Shagari (1979-1983) returned to derivation with a paltry figure of 1.5%. Dictator General Muhammadu Buhari cancelled even this percentage from 1983-1985. His successor, fascist Ibrahim Babangida, raised the figure to 3% in 1992 and set up the Oil Minerals Producing Areas Development Commission (OMPADEC). He underfunded the Commission to fail. In 1994, General Sani Abacha, in the promotion of his president-for-life plot, established the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF) to administer the revenue from increased pump price of products. Once again, General Buhari, the first Nigerian Minister of Petroleum Resource, was found suitable to chair the body. He unveiled his anti-South agenda when audit reports of PTF showed that it allocated over 80% of its funds to the three zones in “Northern Nigeria”. The least funded of all the six zones was the South-South headed by Emeritus Professor J.P. Clark. General Abacha was marking his time.

At the 1994-1995 Constitution Conference he convoked, the politics of derivation almost ruined the process. Niger Delta delegates stuck to the demand for a minimum of 50% and this stalemated the conference for days. Wily Abacha asked his arch Fulani rival to the presidential throne, Major-General Musa Yar’Adua, to head a mediatory committee. The report it submitted resulted in the partial resolution expressed in the phrase “not less than thirteen per cent” in Section 162 (2) of the 1999 Constitution. But Abacha did not implement the new derivation order before his mysterious death in 1998. Enter “born-again democrat” General Olusegun Obasanjo as the elected president in 1999. His contempt for the Niger Delta people was displayed early as he violated the 1999 Constitution he swore to defend and uphold by deliberately refusing to implement the 13% derivation clause. The struggle to compel President Obasanjo to obey the constitutional provision is now known in history as “Resource Control” Campaign. It was spearheaded by Governors James Onanefe Ibori (Delta) D.S.P. Alamieyeseigha (Bayelsa), and Victor Obong Attah (Akwa Ibom). Of all the three resource control governors, only Attah has survived corruption trial so far. Ibori is in jail in the United Kingdom, Alamieyeseigha miraculously gained amnesty for his “sins according to Obasanjo”.

In the year 2000, Obasanjo reluctantly established the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) as an ameliorative measure for the exploited and oppressed oil states. The consultants who designed the NDDC master plan were Germans who had no knowledge of the region; they produced vague and vacuous propositions on infrastructure, environment, and social sectors. Over 50% of the funding of the NDDC is borne by the NDDC states. The other segments of the funding are contributed by multinational oil majors. Other parts of Nigeria do not make contribution to the fund.

The long background I have provided is to explain the importance of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua’s statesman action in setting up the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs and in the amnesty armistice with freedom fighters in the oil states, both in 2009. All the Northern delegates in the conference who are determined to abrogate the palliative schemes are joyfully dancing on the graves of General Abacha and Musa Yar’Adua. The dancers should know the spiritual implication of their political rascality.

Derivation: to increase or not to increase was a divisive issue in the Devolution of Power Committee. The Niger Delta delegates and some eminent ones from the Southwest submitted cases for raising derivation from 13% to 50% in the first instance and eventually to 100% when full-fledged federalism with states having their own constitutions would have been attained. On this economic principle of federalism, all delegates from north of the Rivers Niger and Benue Rivers stoutly opposed us.

When we knew we could not win the vote count on the matter, we agreed to retain the 13% status quo and save the offshore wells from encroachment by avaricious landlocked states. We are determined to carry the 50% derivation battle to the plenary sessions starting in the final week of June. Let me repeat the point that the oceans hold about 75% of the wealth of Planet Earth. The 1982 United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea clearly states that the area, region, state, or province of a country whose land mass abuts the sea is the bona fide owner of 360 km outward extension of the land into the waters. According to Article 76 of the 1982 Convention of the Sea:

The continental shelf of a coastal State comprises the seabed
And subsoil of the submarine areas that extend beyond its
territorial area throughout the natural prolongation of its land
territory to the outer edge of the continental margin, or to
a distance of 200 nautical miles (360 km) from its baselines from
which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured where the
outer edge of the continental margin does not extend to that distance.

Eminent legal scholar, Professor Itse Sagay, has clarified the above legal instrument thus:

“… the law of the continental shelf simply follows the physical fact of coastal State adjacency to the sea and continuity of its land mass and resources under the water. If land territory is submerged by rain water it does not stop being part of the territory of the relevant state for the duration of the submersion. As the Atlantic Ocean gradually advances into Lagos State coastal areas, particularly in the Victoria Island area, those areas being submerged by the sea do not lose their character and status as part of Lagos State to become part of the Federal Government territory simply because they have become covered by water”.

Professor Sagay goes on to elucidate the concept of a “coastal state” as follows:
“What distinguishes a coastal State with continental shelf rights from a landlocked State which has none, is certainly not the landmass, which both possess, but the existence of a maritime front (coast) in one State and its absence in the other. The judicial link between the State’s territorial sovereignty and its rights to certain adjacent maritime expanses is established by means of its coast. The concept of adjacency measured by distance is based entirely on that of the coastline, and not on that of the landmass”.

Sagay explains further that “within the context of Nigeria, made up of a Federal State (Government) and 36 States, each of these 37 entities has its territorial space over which it has sovereignty and jurisdiction. Some of these territories have coasts and other do not. The States that have coasts are Cross River, Akwa Ibom, Rivers, Bayelsa, Delta, Ondo, Ogun, and Lagos…Again, within the context of Nigeria, these are the only States with continental shelves and margins. Specifically, and especially, the Federal Government and the remaining 28 States are landlocked. Again, within the domestic context of Nigeria, the other 28 States and the Federal Government have no continental shelf”.

From my experience as an intellectual militant of the Resource Control movement, I am sure that the waves of the debate on this matter will spill over beyond the Conference into the multiple theatres of the struggle for economic and environmental justice. I therefore urge the Delta State House of Assembly to take proactive legislative action to fortify the pro-derivation interest groups as our democracy grows steadily from season to season. Delta State is a major stakeholder in the coastal/continental shelf politics. The House of Assembly can initiate legislative action to affirm the fact of the 1982 United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea. The House has Professor Sagay and others to consult on the matter.

d. Anti-Federal Powers in the Exclusive Legislative List in the Second Schedule of the 1999 Constitution with 68 items reserved for Federal Government legislation. The Delta State Memorandum stipulates that the list “disempowers the other federating units, namely, the States from being involved in making laws for the items. The Exclusive Legislative List was intended for a unitary and autocratic government, not a federal system where the central and other federating units are co-equals or coordinate partners. The Legislative List shall be reviewed to devolve power and responsibility to the federating units.”

A microcosm of the Nigerian civil war was witnessed when we debated Item 39 of the Exclusive Legislative List dealing with minerals, mineral oils, geological surveys, and natural gas. In point of fact, this item had always been in the Exclusive Legislative List from amalgamation in 1914, through the Regional system from 1954, the Independence Constitution of 1960, and the Republican Constitution of 1963. As I alluded to in a previous section of this lecture, the British colonial regime and the elected governments of 1954-1966, took measures to moderate the negative effects of the law by introducing the factor of derivation. The Committee on the Devolution of Power attempted to break that 100-year-old law by making legislation on it concurrent, that is, the federal and state governments shall be involved in the exploration and development of liquid and solid minerals. The recommendation we have made to plenary says the federal government shall be in charge of licences and related policy matters, but the states shall be involved in all matters relating thereto.

Besides Niger Delta States, potential beneficiary states of the changes proposed will be Edo, Ondo, Osun, and Lagos which have large deposits of bitumen awaiting exploitation. It is pertinent to say that the bitumen deposits in Okitipupa area of Ondo State were discovered in about 1913 when the German Bitumen Company started exploration for oil in Nigeria. It is now 100 years hence, but the bitumen wealth lies fallow and untapped because only the federal government has power to do so; for political reasons, no federal government has had the inclination to exploit the bitumen for commercial purposes. Yet the governments import bitumen products for the construction of roads and highways in Nigeria. This self-inflicted idiocy is primarily because the governments at the centre do not want states to make rapid economic progress. This is a peculiarly Nigerian disease of power.

e. Fiscal Federalism which is related to the issue above was another item that generated heat in our Committee. The phrase simply means the principles guiding public revenue and how it is distributed amongst constituent parts of government. The Delta Memo submitted that “Nigeria shall operate a federal system of government with its concomitant component of fiscal federalism” comprising the following elements:
(i) There shall be federating units…which shall have the power to own, develop and manage their resources, including minerals, within their territories (ii) The percentage to be set aside for the central government shall be determined by the powers and responsibilities devolved to it (iii) The principle of derivation shall apply and each federating unit shall receive a percentage of the proceeds from resources derived from the unit while the balance due to the federal government shall be distributed between the Federal Government and the federating units on the basis of agreed proportions. (iv) The principles of resource ownership and derivation recommended shall be as reflected in Section 140 (1) of the 1963 Republican Constitution.

f. Creation of States: In the political calculation of the Delta Delegates, this is the most important issue in the conference. This view is based on the pragmatic strategy that the gains to be made the restoration of federalism, resource democracy, derivation, and related matters are of general interest to all sections of Nigeria. But for Delta State, the creation of new states is the political equivalent of a hunter who comes home laden with a big animal. Such a hunter receives joyous welcome and encomiums from family and peers. Consequently, the Memorandum states that “there are demands for the creation of two states, viz. (i) Anioma State comprising the nine (9) local government areas in the Delta North Senatorial District, and (ii) New Delta State made up of the sixteen (16) local government areas in Delta Central and South Senatorial Districts. The request for each of the proposed States has been made and submitted to the National Assembly for consideration”. There is a constitutional hurdle in the creation of states in a democratic dispensation as entrenched in Section 8 (1 a – d) of the 1999 Constitution as follows:

“8 (1): An Act of the National Assembly for the purpose of creating a new State shall only be passed if –
(a) a request, supported by at least two-thirds majority of members (representing the area demanding the creation of the new (State) in each of the following, namely –
(i) the Senate and the House of Representatives,
(ii) the House of Assembly in respect of the area, and
(iii) the local government councils in respect of the area, is received by the National Assembly;
(b) a proposal for the creation of the State is thereafter approved in a referendum by at least two-thirds majority of the people of the area where the demand for creation of the State originated;
(c) the result of the referendum is then approved by a simple majority of members of the Houses of Assembly; and
(d) the proposal is approved by a resolution passed by two-thirds majority of members of each House of the National Assembly”.

Section 8 (1c) underlined above is the major impediment to the creation of a new State under an elected, democratic dispensation. In its present form, it is impossible for any area to get a new state created. Furthermore, the forbidding intent of the sub-section is a violation of the democratic principles of federalism and the freedom of association celebrated in the same 1999 Constitution. Consequently, the Delta State Memorandum calls for the abrogation of Section 8 (1c) “to facilitate the creation of the two states” (Anioma and New Delta State).

Other Relevant Matters: In keeping with the democratic heritage of the people and nations of the Niger Delta, the Memorandum demands (i) the repeal of the Land Use Act from the Constitution (ii) decentralisation of policing and security agencies such that federating units, local councils, and municipalities “shall have power to organise and run their respective policing institutions to enable them maintain law and order, combat crime, and contain forms of insecurity, and violent disturbances”; (iii) Federalism, Environmental Justice and Reparation. The cause of environmental justice is a peculiar Delta State problem and the Memorandum elaborates on it in the following words:

“Delta State is a major victim of environmental and climactic disasters associated with the extractive industry of oil and gas exploration. The systematic degradation of lands and waterways has been going on for five decades and more. For example, an average of one oil spill occurs in the Niger Delta each day. Damaged/burst pipes and equipment discharge hazardous wastes and chemicals on the lands, water, and atmosphere. Farmlands and fishing grounds are polluted, thus leading to poor yields, high living standards, poverty, and social dislocation and unrest. One of the most horrendous ecological disasters experienced in Delta State was the pipeline fire that occurred in Jesse (Idjerhe) community, near Sapele, in October 1998. The resultant inferno caused the death of over 1,000 persons, most of them women and children.

In the light of the unquantifiable damage to the environment and people of Delta State in five decades, we demand the institution of a United Nations-sponsored commission to investigate and document all instances of damage to facilities, impacted and degraded sites, as well as human victims of the oil-related disasters for the purpose of remediation. In addition, Delta State shall compile its dossier of the ecological disasters and submit a demand for the payment of financial reparation by the Federal Government and its joint venture partners, namely, the oil companies”.
This apparently simple clause has opened a vast window of opportunity for all states and local councils in Nigeria. For example, Delta State can combine with other investors to float a mining company to engage in exploration of minerals of all types without the fear of the hammer of totalitarian powers of the federal government. Delta State can now show more business interest in its vast endowment in sharp sand which construction firms are stealing, and thereby endangering the geological framework of the waterlogged sites. Also, the government of Delta State can now make plans to open up the bowels of the Okpanam-Obomkpa coal deposits to process the coal for generating electricity.

Memorandum of the Urhobo Progress Union:
In the main the UPU Memorandum accommodated all the essential points in the Delta State one treated above. Issues of importance to the Urhobo people and the entire Delta Central Senatorial District are emphasised. These are (i) a full-fledged federal system of government in which each “federating unit/state shall exercise 100% right of ownership and management of its resources and revenue and pay an agreed/negotiated tax to the central government”. This demand is in tandem with the well-known egalitarian and republican spirit of the Urhobo people. (ii) creation of New Delta State (iii) abrogation of Section 44 (3) of the 1999 Constitution relating to the ownership and management of natural resources, including oil, natural gas, and other minerals (iv) the return to the Uvwie Kingdom of “all unused portions of the 2,063 hectares of community land acquired by Nigerian Army in 1975. This is necessary in order to save the Uvwie people from the terror of becoming a landless Kingdom, with all the socio-economic dangers attaching thereto”. (v) the National Population Commission to execute the order of the Population Tribunal to carry out a re-count of Uvwie Local Government Area of Delta State” (vi) review of electoral constituencies in Delta State with a view to restoring the “Sapele House of Representative Constituency that was in existence as far back as 1964 and that the “present Ughelli-Udu House of Representatives Constituency be split into two, and the restoration of two seats for the Ughelli South constituency in the Delta House of Assembly. (vii) the creation of a Warri Urban Federal Constituency out of the present Warri South Federal Constituency to open “the democratic space to enable persons of the Urhobo Kingdoms of Agbarha-Warri and Okere-Urhobo to represent the area”. (viii) In support of a United Nations-coordinated clean-up of Urhobo lands damaged by oil exploration, the UPU memo demands the setting up of a special Trust Fund for the mapping, documentation, and remediation of “impacted sites, communities, and services”

The Anioma Memorandum:
Perhaps the best way to summarise the memorandum by the Anioma Congress is to describe it as “Anioma State or Nothing”. The colourful dossier on the subject was one of the first to be made available to delegates. Its aesthetic appeal apart, the booklet contains very vital information on the western Igbo area of Delta State, including its history of nationalists and martyrs of the cause of freedom and self-determination. The manifesto provides hitherto unknown facts on this dynamic crossroads of civilizations east and west of the Lower Niger, the untapped resources of oil, natural gas, coal, waterways, verdant valleys, and communication networks that connect the east, north, south, and west of Nigeria. The riches of natural endowments are complemented with those of ingenuity and human capital. For example, one of Africa’s geniuses of literature, Olaudah Equiano, is from Ashaka in Ukwuani district. His autobiography, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, The African, Written by Himself was published in 1789, the year of the French Revolution. The first Igbo university graduate, Rev. Dr. Samuel Wandiei Martin of Issele-Uku earned his degree in Technical Education from the Topeka Industrial Institute, Kansas, in the United States of America in 1917. He set the trail for Alvan Ikoku (1925) and Benjamin Nnamdi Azikiwe (1930). Dennis Chukwudi Osadebay, a notable poet and lawyer, and former President of the Nigerian Senate and first Premier of the Midwestern Region (1963-66) is the biggest icon of Anioma politics. In all of Delta State, the Anioma parade the most eminent elite in the Abuja corridors of power, with nearly all the indomitable game players in the Presidency being Anioma indigenes. The appointment of the Ika-born Godwin Emefiele as Central Bank Governor in June 2014 is an added ace. No less significant is the fact that the Anioma Congress is powered by the leadership of Chief Benjamin Elue, former Delta State Deputy Governor and a quiet strategist adored by all and sundry.

All these facts are packed into the story of the Anioma agitation for a State of their own, an odyssey that began 60 years ago in 1953. The testimonies in support of Anioma autonomy are fortified with documents endorsed by all socio-cultural institutions in the area, their juggernauts in partisan politics, barons of industry and commerce, as well as a memorandum of understanding between them and the New Delta Movement comprising the Central and South Senatorial Districts of Delta State. The strategy of the Anioma Congress is two-legged: they invoke the familiar refrain that the North Senatorial District of the State has never produced a governor and that 2015 is their chance. Concurrently, they pursue the case for the creation of Anioma State during the President Goodluck Jonathan administration. Whichever way the political wind blows, it is likely to be a win-win situation for the Anioma.

Memorandum of the Itsekiri Ethnic Nationality:
The full title is “Memorandum of the Itsekiri Ethnic Nationality of Warri, Delta State of Nigeria, Submitted to the National Dialogue/Conference by the Itsekiri Leaders of Thought”. Chapter 3 of the document deals with “Issues Confronting Nigeria” and they are subdivided into nine items. These are (i) Minority Protection: Need for Protection Clause (ii) Structure of Government: Federalism (iii) System of Government: Parliamentary System (iv) Creation of Geo-political Zones (v) State Creation: Warri State (vi) Local Government (vii) The Unified Local Government System (viii) State Joint Local Government Account (ix) Citizenship/Residency and Indigeneship.

In advocating protection for demographic minorities the memo observes that the “minority ethnic nationalities in Nigeria like the Itsekiri are perpetually oppressed even in their homelands by their majority (big) ethnic neighbours” adding that “like the Urhobo in Delta State, the Ijaw in the South-South or even in Delta State, for example, do more havoc to the micro groups in their states and torment them much more harshly than the three major national groups would even think of doing to others”. For the protection of the Itsekiri ethnic nationality, the memo says thus: “We therefore demand that Itsekiri homeland of Warri – Warri North, Warri South and Warri South West Local Government Areas be designated as “Special Area” as contained in the provisions of the Midwestern Nigeria Act, 1964, to be made an “AUTONOMOUS PROVINCE” with exclusive right to legislate on such matters as Forestry, Social Welfare, Education, Land, Town and Country Planning, etc”. The memo supports the creation of eight geo-political zones, including Midwest Zone “to be carved out of South-South Zone and to comprise Edo and Delta States” On State creation, the memo says that the “Itsekiri demand the creation of a Warri State as a solution to their minority problem. The area of the proposed state should be coterminous with the old Warri Division. Itsekiri homeland (now Warri North, Warri South, and Warri South West Local Government Area of Delta State”.

Delta State: Always Ahead:
The slogan “Delta no de carry last” echoes in all that the 18 Delta State delegates do and say at the confab. An early manifestation of this spirit came from the Host Communities of Nigeria (Producing Oil and Gas) under the leadership of Chief Wellington Okirika, former Chairman of the Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (DESOPADEC). Chapters of the group from Delta, Rivers, Edo, and Ondo submitted memoranda urging the confab to safeguard the 13% derivation revenue from misapplication by State Governors. The host community agitators argue that their “collective vision for the oil and gas producing communities of Nigeria is premised on wealth redistribution through direct allocation and management of the 13% derivation for massive job creation for our children who are today left in avoidable poverty worsened by mass unemployment in the various communities”. Phrased in this atavistic manner, the issue gets befogged by the weakness of institutional structures at the grassroots level. Section 162 (2) of the 1999 Constitution is somewhat ambiguous as to whether the states or local councils are the direct beneficiaries of the 13% revenue. The current implementation gives the revenue to the State Governments; some of them have set up oil commissions to administer the funds. In Delta State, 50% of the derivation revenue goes to DESOPADEC. Chief Okirika and his associates argue that State governors do not release all the funds to their commissions. There is certainly room for more internal democracy and negotiation on the issue as the Conference appears ready to help the process. Chief Okirika led a delegation of proponents of the demand to have an audience with President Jonathan whilst the conference was in session.

Weeks after the deadline for the submission of memoranda, the seven-member Think-Tank set up by the Delta State Government “sprayed” the venue with a beautifully printed Memorandum. The Think-Tank is headed by the erudite and amiable Professor Samuel Egite Oyovbaire, a former Federal Minister of Information and an “insider” in the intrigues behind the creation of Delta State in 1991. The 24-page pamphlet is an update of the memo of Delta State to the 2005 National Political Reforms Conference with the title, Federalism & Resource Control. The thematic thrust of natural resource democracy and federalism, and enhanced derivation anchors all sections of the document. The issues canvassed are examined against the background of 100 years of the political economy of power, marginalisation of minority nations, and their relentless struggles for autonomy and justice within a federal system. The big heart of the Delta State’s quest at the National Conference is dissected dialectically at page 5 of the document thus:

The pain, anguish and the deep-seated resentment of institutionalised injustice, amongst the grossly neglected communities of Delta State, are heightened by the genuine concern that these wasting assets will be completely depleted in a few decades. This scenario of simultaneous presence of a modern global oil and gas industry, backed by Federal might, which harvest enormous wealth from communities in a manner that dislocates the ecological foundations of their traditional modes of livelihood, yet excludes them from participation in the new wealth. This nexus has created desperate levels of poverty and anger. It is this new social ecology that has created conditions for frequent agitation and restiveness, hence the unrelenting demand for true federalism by the people. They realise that there is an urgent need to invest in the process of environmental rehabilitation, regeneration and protection, as well as in alternative economic activities to ensure the sustainable development of the State” (emphasis are mine).

If solid logic, ebullient articulation, and gravitas were all that was required to win at the conference, Delta State would have nothing to fear about the outcome. Yet the confab is a compendium of oppositional interests, antagonisms, and predatory appropriators. Here, as in the larger Nigerian political cosmos, there are many rivers to cross because, in the economic struggle over scarce resources, the meek minority nations cannot inherit the earth.

Arrayed against the Delta quest are domineering power blocs whose survival and relevance depend on the continuous exploitation and expropriation of the oil and gas wealth of the Niger Delta. These power mongers, concentrated in the Northern States, have been there from Nigeria’s amalgamation year of 1914. They are constellated around the “born-to-rule” covens of the Caliphate North and, from the era of Sir Ahmadu Bello as Premier of the Northern Region, the Caliphate has been using its legendary power of intrigue to woo and groom comprador elements among the minority groups of the Middle Belt. When the British colonial authorities left Nigeria in 1960, the Northern hegemons took over power and manipulated it effectively to dominate the armed forces and security institutions.

On the eve of independence in 1960 and during the First Republic (1960-1966), the North was lukewarm about being in Nigeria unless the rest of the country was made its vineyard. People like Chief Obafemi Awolowo who nursed the hope of building an African model of Western capitalist nation were hated and haunted by the triumphant North from the beginning. In 1962, the ruling Northern Peoples Congress conspired with fifth columnists in the Western Region to undo Awolowo by trying him for treason and sentencing him to 10-year jail in Calabar.

The military coup of January 1966 was interpreted by the North as a setback to their domineering agenda. Thus, on July 29 that year, a revenge coup was organised in which General Aguyi-Ironsi was killed along with Col. Adekunle Fajuyi, the then military governor of the Western Region. On the day of the coup military officers of the North prepared to break away their region from the country; the project was code-named ”Araba”, meaning secession. Insider sources explained that the British dissuaded them from the suicidal move, warning that their dream country would be landlocked. The compromise produced Lt. Col. Yakubu Gowon as military head of state. He was of minority, Christian group from Plateau. The Eastern Region broke away on May 30 with the name of Biafra. Gowon led federal Nigeria to war to stop the rebellion. The Western and Midwestern Regions joined the Gowon side and Biafra collapsed after 30 months and one million human casualties.

But the oil-rich Niger Delta areas paid the more supreme price for the war. Oil money from there paid for the war and its reconstruction in the 1970s. But whilst Nigeria recovered from imminent collapse, the Niger Delta was colonised economically by victorious Federal Nigeria. As I have explained in this lecture, the Gowon-Awolowo diarchy enacted the Petroleum Decree 51 of 1969 that empowered the federal government to appropriate all oil and gas revenue. A boom in oil revenue occurred several times in the 1970s and Nigeria plied the wealth to expand national infrastructure and luxury for the elite. In this process, the Northern elite that did not want to be in Nigeria became apostles of a united nation with a strong, imperial central government. From Gowon’s era in the mid- 1960s, the Northern military and technocratic elite became entrenched as the ruling oligarchy of the country. Their domination of the political space has been on for over forty years, even when their surrogates like General Olusegun Obasanjo were in charge of the federal government. Consequently, the Niger Delta that now accounts for 90% of government revenue has degenerated into worsening poverty, under-development, communal crisis, wars, and permanent stationing of federal armies of occupation ostensibly sent to fight militant groups challenging the federal conquest of the region.

Judged from the angles of power structure and ruling ideology, the ascendancy of the President Goodluck Jonathan from the Niger Delta does not change anything fundamentally. The structures of resource expropriation, allocation of revenue, and political offices are intact and they favour the Northern power blocs and their allies in other geo-political zones. It is pertinent to add that none of the so-called opposition parties has an ideology or power formula that is different from what the Peoples Democratic Party is operating. Their grumbles against the PDP and President Jonathan are essentially about their ambition to replace the PDP in Abuja and preside over the looting of Niger Delta oil and gas wealth.

Let me reiterate the argument in the foregoing segment. From the mid-1960s till now, the military wings of the Hausa-Fulani oligarchy have run Nigeria like their vineyard and honey pot. In three decades of totalitarian military rule, the “North” conquered the oil- and revenue-rich states of the Niger Delta and Lagos through cruel decrees and legislations that completely undermined the federal system that Nigerian nationalists established at independence. Through these instrumentalities the ruling classes from the North have been able to funnel wealth from the oil states to finance development projects and their luxurious life styles. Their fortunes have been so oiled by providential wealth that they have abandoned traditional enterprises such as agriculture and craft industries dating back several centuries. If the oil money of Nigeria does not flow to the North via hundreds of federal projects, numerous agencies, the 19 States and 419 local councils, many of the pampered elite would become non-existent in economic terms. This fear is palpable in the desperate moves the conservative Northern elite are making to sabotage President Jonathan’s government with the hope of presidential power returning to the North in 2015. The death that kills the earthworm is inside the earth itself. Those who look closely can detect such sinister plots in insurgent movements like the boko haram in the northeast States of the country. No Northern leader of note has indicated genuine interest in ending the insurgency in the region. Some even arrogantly accuse Jonathan of being the cause of the insurgency.

Every constitutional conference since the 1970s has been dogged by the clash between the omnipotent and revenue-famished North, on the one hand, and the resource-rich but politically feeble South. In the past few decades, stubborn effort by Southern nationalists yielded some gains such as the 13% derivation and the “miracle” of a Southerner, Dr, Goodluck Jonathan, becoming elected President in 2011. Southern blood and martyrdom are part of the bruises of this long walk to freedom, as South Africa’s Nelson Mandela expresses the matter in his autobiography. At the National Conference, Delta State and its Southern Nigerian allies are confronted by the “Zuma Rock” of Northern conquistadors who are determined to maintain the inequitable status quo.

The Northern oligarchs want more than unimpeded access to Niger Delta oil; they insist that the presidency must return to them in 2015, regardless of the meritocratic credentials of President Jonathan. In their thinking Jonathan is a “usurper” who broke into the strong room of the presidency due to the untimely death of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. It is a grim struggle for supremacy and the unfolding drama will certainly be played beyond the ken and span of the National Conference.

Some of us delegates of the Niger Delta and Southern Nigeria are acutely aware of the limited gains the conference can give birth to but the experience we will get is immeasurable. We surge on with the conviction that we have nothing to lose but the chains of political domination that have shackled us from the year of Frederick Lugard’s amalgamation in 1914. One hundred years is long enough a period for the bugles of new freedoms to sound. Yet we are not blinded by any illusions: the formidable obstacle to that freedom is the colonial ideology of the parasitic Northern elite. The Niger Delta and the rest of Southern Nigeria cannot taste of that freedom inside the prison house of Nigeria made by the British in 1914 and donated to the North in 1960 to dominate and exploit. Anger and fury are not adequate responses; we must construct the alternative social order and the territories where it can flower and flourish. As the National Conference comes to an end, I urge every patriot to be prepared to stand up to be counted as the herald of the paradise of liberty and federalism is at hand.

Prof. Godini G. Darah is a member of National Conference

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