Friday, June 3, 2016

Niger Delta And The National Question

By Dan Amor
To all intents and purpos­es, the raging war in the South South geopoliti­cal zone between irate militants and the security forces is needless and avoidable. Unfor­tunately, Niger Delta youths have once again played their much-abused region which, ironically, produces the wealth of the na­tion, into the willing hands of the establishment under the watch of a central government with an un­stated or hidden agenda to totally exterminate the goose that lays the golden egg from the face of the earth. Even while the region was yet relatively peaceful, when the reawakened restiveness had not reached fever-pitch, President Muhammadu Buhari, even in his inaugural speech alluded to how he would combat and defeat Boko Haram and Niger Delta militants. One can then safely assume that the current war is directly or in­directly orchestrated by the pow­ers that be just to create room for them to execute their plan against the region.
(pix: amnesty)
Yet, a fact too potent to be dis­puted, is that the deepening grouse of the people of the oil rich Niger Delta has largely gravitated to the growing consciousness that what the Nigerian state and the international monopoly oil com­panies take from their soil is not commensurate with what they give in terms of provision of social amenities, quality of life and the maintenance of a delicate balance between the human being and the natural environment. While not supporting the wanton destruc­tion of major oil installations in the Niger Delta and its concomi­tant degradation of the national economy, reason, no doubt, re­sides in this claim of neglect, which has further been justified and accentuated by the preda­tory disposition of some of the oil companies with the collabora­tive instincts of successive Nige­rian governments over the years. Most of these governments were military dictatorships lacking the requisite legitimacy, sufficient political will and constitutional mandate to protect the people and their environment.

As at Tuesday this week (May 31, 2016), the Senate and House of Representatives joint commit­tee on Niger Delta Development Commission, (NDDC), had is­sued bench warrant on seven oil companies operating in the Niger Delta region for failing to appear before a public hearing to defend themselves over allegation of non-remittance of statutory funds to the commission for the develop­ment of the region. That is how the multinational oil companies have been treating with levity is­sues relating to the development of the region due to their disdain for the laws of the land. Attitudes of successive Nigerian govern­ments actually created a dan­gerous class-a totally frustrated population- who now see the multinational oil companies and government as conspirators in the unholy and rapacious plot to drive them permanently out of their an­cestral homes in order to have free reign out the oil. Former president Olusegun Obasanjo was spend­ing N200million daily to maintain the Joint Task Force in the region whereas the people were dying from hunger and want. The per­sistent Niger Delta crisis is there­fore an economic process caught in a political web.

At this critical stage of our na­tional effort at moving away from a repressive and provocative mili­tary hangover to a more humane and democratic civil order, it is exceedingly disturbing that the nation is yet to be blessed with leaders with democratic tempera­ment and resolute political will to appreciate the principles of coop­erative federalism as a way for­ward. Again, while not endorsing the use of violence and vandaliza­tion of facilities to press for the de­mands of the people of the Niger Delta, it is instructive to note that the crisis in the oil rich region is now a reality the Nigerian leader­ship most resolve most decisively on the side of equity and Justice. I say this because the present unrest in the region is a culmination of their clamour for social justice and equitable distribution of the na­tional wealth coming from oil. It was this singular reason that gave rise to the Isaac Adaka Boro saga of the mid-1960s. It cannot also be ruled out as the remote cause of the agitation of the Oginis in the mid 1990s that led to the state murder of Ken Saro-Wiwa and his eight Ogoni compatriots.

The agitation by people of the Niger Delta for resource control and the concomitant support of other zones in the country sym­bolizes a demand for true feder­alism in Nigeria. They are asking for equitable derivation principle of the national revenue emanating from crude oil which is exploited from their land and there is no justification for denying them this inalienable right. Not even the obnoxious Land Use Decree of 1978 can be evoked to deny an owner of a piece of land whatever is in or above the land. The legal maxim of: “quid quid plantatur solo solo cedet”, still holds sway as an integral part of the common law system all over the world. To subvert that rule is to tamper with natural justice. What is more, our legal system recognises adequate compensation for trespass. What this boils down to is that the clam­our for resource control or for eq­uitable derivation formula of the national revenue is synonymous with a demand for adequate com­pensation which must be heeded to.

Nigeria, being a latter-day de­velopment which was decreed into existence by military fiat by British exploiters of our resources, efforts must be made to give vent to the altruistic statement by the great English philosopher, Ed­mund Burke, who asserted that federalism is a contrivance merely designed to reconcile national unity and power with regards to state rights. Here, the key issue is the nature of Nigerian federalism, the fact that this is an overcentral­ised federation in which groups and nationalities are experiencing wicked internal recolonization. Indeed, the core issues to be tack­led here are: self determination, devolution of powers and subsidi­arity. But the most sensitive and crucial issue now is revenue shar­ing, and we must add, revenue generation. In the first place, how much does the North contribute to the national treasury in terms of revenue generation? The answer is capital ZERO!

You will recall that in the 2005 National Constitutional Confer­ence hosted by the government of former president Olusegun Obasanjo in which South South delegates made a strong case for an acceptable fifty per cent deri­vation formula for the oil produc­ing states, a tiny, parasitic frac­tion of Northern elders quipped that even 17 per cent derivation to the Niger Delta was “excessive generosity”. What magnitude of insult, provocation and virulence! It is unfortunate that rather than proceed to some penitence, those who have held this country hos­tage for too long, those who are openly associated with this or­chestrated process of domination and exploitation, are still making provocative statements even in what they term “a democratic dis­pensation”. Ironically, these same pleasure-seeking leaders know that before the discovery of oil in the Niger Delta, Kano alone pro­duced groundnuts that adequately bankrolled the cost of developing the entire Northern region in the First Republic. Yet, the country has been overtly focused on oil without caring any hoot about what becomes of the oil produc­ing areas if the oil wells eventually dry up.

Nor do these Northern leaders bother about the fact that wide­spread gas flaring and oil spillage have inflicted incalculable havoc on human, plant and animal life in the Niger Delta. The position of the North is unfortunately borne out of its long tradition of presid­ing over the free for all looting of the oil wealth on account of its producing all the military rulers who have misled Nigeria these past miserable years. But they must note that the country is cur­rently under a democratic dispen­sation and thus must divest itself of the gun power exuberance and arrogance that characterized mili­tary rule in the past. There is am­ple need for the nation to dialogue with the aggrieved and afflicted people of the Niger Delta for peace to reign. Nigerians must continue to insist on justice and fairness be­cause no one knows whose turn it might be tomorrow. President Buhari should be advised to per­ish any thought of stopping the Maritime University idea and the amnesty programme in the Niger Delta. And the country must be returned to the derivation prin­ciple collectively arrived at in the 1960s which was based on 50 per cent formula. In our collective in­terest, this issue must be resolved amicably. And justifiably so!
*Dan Amor is an Abuja-based public affairs analyst (danamor98@gmail.com)


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