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The Politics Of Resource Control: The Bane Of Nigeria Federalism And A Conspiracy Against The Oil-Producing Minorities 


Elemanya, A. Vincent Ph.D Ignatius Ajuru University Of Education Department Of Political Science Rumuolumeni -Port Harcourt Phone: 08037453158 


Resource control has remained a contentious issue in Nigeria’s federal experience. It has been so contentious that it has informed most of the fiscal and constitutional changes in Nigeria’s political system. This contention emanates in large measure, from the perception that policy and formula for revenue sharing in Nigeria has been far from equitable. It is against this background that this paper seeks to examine the politics of resource control in Nigeria which is the bane of the Nigeria federalism. In a true federalism resources are not concentrated at the centre, as the constitution empowers each of the component parts that make up the federation to control its resources. By so doing, the tension at the centre over revenue sharing would be minimized and the burden of the federating units reduced. The paper therefore posits that until the issue of resource control is addressed, the issue of the Nigeria federalism will continue to remain a herculean task. Reywods; politics, Resource control, federalism, oil-producing, minorities. 

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Introduction One of the burning issues in the country’s federal system is how to fairly and adequately distribute the powers to generate and administer resources derived from the various communities within states and local councils in the country. According to Ighodalo (2000), “these powers which are presently vested in the federal government by the constitution, have created restiveness among mineral producing areas, particularly oil, in what is presently reffered to as resource control agitation”. The major flaw with the Nigerian federal experience has to do with the increasing tendency towards Unitarianism and with that of the centralization of resources at the centre. This deprives the component units of access to the means for meaningful development. This flaw started with the evolution of the Nigerian state which began basically as a unitary system, with oil resources being concentrated in an all-powerful and interventionist central administration. When it became expedient to dissolve responsibilities to sub-units, the colonial administration created regions, which first of all started as outpost of the central administration, but were later given responsibility over certain issues. The dominant resources however remained the responsibility of the central government. This position is a negation which is associated with the politics of resource control. According to Omoruyi (1999), this preponderant position of the federal government in revenue matters is a conspiracy by the representatives of the dominant groups against the oil-producing minorities. He asserted further that “it was not the inherited ordinances that gave the total control of oil to the mythical entity called federal military government. Zik and Awo and Saduana would have fought the colonially inherited ordinance on oil, if oil were found in their ethnic domain in the East, West and North respectively.” This position simply points to the fact that these three leaders of the three major ethnic groups were united in their exploitation of the relative powerlessness of the people of the oil producing areas. There was a conspiracy on the part of the leaders of the majority ethnic nationalities that 

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oil should remain a federal property. This is the basis for the politics of resource control which is the bane of Nigeria federalism. 

Conceptual Clarifications Politics: Politics is seen here from the perspective of resource distribution. As Lasswell (1930), puts it, it is the determination of “who gets what, when and how”. The nature of politics in terms of the resource control is usually determined or influenced by the character and nature of the state it operates. According to Laski (1961: 251), “the state is the crowing point of the modern social edifice…, its character reveals it as a method of imposing principles of behavior which regulates the lives of men”. The Nigerian state is controlled by an ethnic section of the national bourgeoisie who determine the resource distribution system. Politics is, therefore, the process of making and execution of governmental decisions or policies (Lasswell and Kaplan, 1950) and the authoritative allocation of values (Easton, 1971). Politics is said to be the activity (negotiation, argument, discussion, application of force, persuasion etc) by which an issue is agitated or settled (Baker, 1962). The politics of resource control in Nigeria is caused by the peculiar nature of the Nigerian federalism. 

Resource Control: Resource control has been a contentious issue in the Nigerian federalism. The 1999 constitution violates the principles of federalism as applied to revenue allocation which is in line with resource control. According to Segun (2000), resource control is acquiring direct political power over resource production, management and utilization area of location to ensure regeneration of the environment and over all sustainable human development of the people (Guardian, April 9,2000:17). James Ibori sees resource control as involving three major components: first, the power and right of a community or state to raise funds by way of tax on persons, matters, services and materials within its territory; secondly, the exclusive 

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right to the ownership and control of resources within its territory, and thirdly, the right to customs duties on goods destined for its territory and excess duties as goods manufactured in its territory (Guardian May 23, 2000). 

Federalism The term federalism has several connotations as many authorities have defined it in different and divergent ways. However, the point of agreement among them has been the institutional sharing of power between the central government and the component units. But the extent to which each unit of the government enjoys autonomy within its area of jurisdiction is the onus of federalism. According to Ndehfru in Okoko (ed) (2009:42), federalism is usually seen as a form of governmental and institutional structure deliberately designed by political architects to cope with the twin but difficult task of maintaining unity while also preserving diversity. Scholars like Burrows (1978) have identified the equality of the component units and equality in resource distribution as features of federalism, while Asobie (1998:3) contends that federalism refers to the doctrine which advocates and promotes the form of organization of a state in which power is dispersed by contrast as a means of safeguarding local identities or interest and individual liberties. 

Federalism In Nigerian And The Politics Of Resource Control From all indications, the literature on federalism clearly shows that Nigeria operates a perverted federalism. The principle and philosophy of federalism are anchored on the division of governmental powers and functions among different tiers of government within a political organization. This is why Wheare (1953), one of the foremost proponents of federalism did not mince words when he stated that: “I have put forward uncompromisingly, a criterion of federal government the delimited and coordinate 

division of governmental functions and I have 

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implied that to the extent to which my system, of government does not conform to this criterion, 

it has no claim to call itself federal”. He emphasized further that; “…….. the component units that make up the federalism shall be independent each of the other within its sphere; shall be not subordinate one to another but coordinate with each other……, if this principle is to operate… in practice, it follows that both general and regional governments must each have under its own independent control financial resources sufficient to perform its exclusive functions”

Although, the above represents the views of K.C Wheare, but it is generally accepted as the basis of the practice of federalism, the world over. 

Given this reality, federal state have put forward institutional devices to guarantee financial autonomy and by extension the exercise of coordinate authority. A major instrument has been the ownership and control of natural resources by the component units and commensurate share of governmental powers and functions. In furtherance of this principle of non-subordination of one government to another, the powers of the governments are clearly divided, by the constitution, and that of the central government, which is stripped of resource ownership and control is limited to issues which are of common interest to all the component parts of the federation. 

In the United State for instance, the exclusive powers are vested in the central government to collect levy and taxes, duties on export, import and excise, to pay the debts and provide for the common defence and general welfare of the United States etc, while there is a decentralization and concentration of resources and powers at the level of the state government. Also in Canada, section 109 of the Constitutional Act of 1887 (the British North America Act) states that: 

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“All lands, mines and royalties belong to the several provinces of Canada, Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and New 

Brunswick at the union, and all sums then due or payable, for such lands, mines, minerals or royalties shall, belong to 

the several provinces of Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick in which the same situate or arise”. Furthermore, sub-section 92 A (1), a new section which followed the Constitution Act of 1982, which amended section 92 of the British North America Act of 1867 provides that: “In each province, the legislature may make laws in relation to: a) Exploration for non-renewable natural resources in the 

province; b) Development, conservation and management of non-renewable natural resources and forestry resources in the province including laws in relation to the rate of primary production therefrom, and c) Development, conservation and management of sites and facilities in the province for the generation and production of electrical energy”. In these cases cited above, the people are in control of their resources and destiny, and this promotes and sustains their development. The practice of federalism in Nigeria is a sheer contrast to the above, from which federalism in Nigeria takes its roots. The changes in resources ownership and the structure of the federal system are attributable to the manner the federation was created, military rule, the weak and dependency of the state and the effect of ethnic based political competition. The formations of federal states are defines by advantages (political, economic etc), each group expects to derive from the union. Such union is a voluntary association with mutual benefits. It is a “marriage of convenience”. According to Wheare (1953), “this is brought about by circumstances where people are prepared to give up only certain limited powers and wish to retain limited powers”. 

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On this note, it is important to note that the power to own and control resources is not give up, and therefore, resource ownership lies with the people. 

Politics Of Resource Control In Nigeria: A Conspiracy Against The Oil Producing Minorities. The politics of resources control as an appendage of the perverted federalism in Nigeria is a conspiracy against the oil producing minorities of the Niger Delta area. Indeed, nothing epitomizes the skewed nature of Nigeria’s federalism more than the allocation of revenue among the constituent units. This allocation principle, does not take cognizance of the derivation principle, which was very prominent in the pre-independence allocation formula. The recent increase in the deviation component of revenue allocation to 13% by the federal government has not changed the feelings of injustices among the minorities. This situation emanated from the long years of neglect and environmental degradation caused by oil production. Nigeria’s mono-economy is built on oil and over 90% of this oil comes from minority Niger-Delta area (Ndefru in Okoko (ed), 2009:49). The present agitations and unrest in the Niger Delta have been the culmination of restiveness and frustration which emanated from this conspiracy. Resource control is a grand design against the impoverished people of the oil producing minorities by the majority ethnic groups, vis-à-vis the federal government. The resource control agitation is predicated upon the desire of the people to be in control of oil revenue in their area as against the conspiracy of the federal government to appropriate all natural resources and allocate revenues to the states. It is on record that more than 90% of the national revenue derived from sales of oil is produced from the Niger Delta, yet this region is walloping in abject poverty with deplorable environmental degradation. The states of the Niger Delta receive very little revenue allocation due to the unjust adoption and application of such principles as land mass, population, primary schools enrolment and security as opposed 

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to such vital considerations as ecological problem and difficulties associated with infrastructure and physical development in a swampy terrain like the Niger Delta. It would be recalled that the Niger Delta Basin Authority; the Benin Owema Basin and the Cross Rivers Basin Authorities, which were to carter for the needs of the minority oil producing areas, received the lowest allocation between 1979 and 1983, while the highest allocation went to the Sokoto- Rima Basin Anthritiy because Alhaji Shehu Shagari, a Fulani from Sokoto state, was the President in Nigeria at that time. It was perhaps the agitation for a better deal by communities in the Nigeria Delta and the attendant conflict in the region resulting from the feelings of deprivation which pushed the struggle for resource control in the national political discourse (Nna, 2001). 

Before then, the issues of resource control had been polticised beyond measure because, it was a conspiracy against the oil producing minorities of the Niger Delta, by the dominant majority ethnic groups which had far greater population and number of states and local government council areas than the minority oil producing states. (Okoko and Nna, 1997). The implication of this is that the issues of underdevelopment and unemployment have remained critical because the resources of the Niger Delta are being siphoned by the dominant groups for their own development to the detriment of the oil producing minorities. 

Conclusion This issues of resource control has been the bane of the Nigeria’s federalism and a recurring decimal in the national political discourse. Over the years, the oil production minorities of Niger Delta have been marginalized and their environment degraded by the activities of the oil companies. In a true federalism such as we have in America, Canada etc, where the Nigeria federalism derives, constitutional devices are properly put in place to guarantee financial autonomy to the constituent units of the federation. A major instrument of such device is the ownership and control of the 

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national resources by the component units and commensurate share of governmental powers and functions. But contrary to this arrangement, the dominant ethnic groups-vis-a-vis the federal government, have politicized the issue of resource control which is perceived as a conspiracy against the oil-producing minorities. And, therefore, an aberration. 

Recommendations 1. There should be a proper arrangement to guarantee financial 

autonomy to the component units of the federation. 2. The principles of federalism should be upheld as it is obtained in other 

federations like America, Canada etc. 3. The federal government should address the issues of environmental problems and revenue allocation pertaining to the oil-producing minorities. The 13% devivation allocation should be increased to 35%. 4. The federal government should embrace approaches to constitutional review and sovereign conference which place premium on dialogue, debate, consultations and participation. 5. Employment opportunities should be created by both the federal government and the oil companies. This will engage the youths in meaningful activities and prevent them from involving in crimes. 

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