Grasping Northerners: Show of Shame

The Nigerian polity is beginning to boil or heat up again. At the centre of it is the national question; and it has been hammer and tongs over sharing of revenue that accrues to the nation state. Notably, it is between the Northern and Southern parts of the country .And it is especially about a clamor for a review of the revenue allocation sharing formula.

This largely started with a renewed agitation from the Northern Governors based on complaints that they are no longer able to meet up their financial responsibilities in their respective states. A member of the House of Representatives even said it is long overdue. They say that the Southern people, precisely that an oil producing state collects as much as N24 billion per month per month from the Federation  account while a non-oil producing state collects about N4billion or even less per month, and they question :does offshore exploration also degrade the farming environment in the Niger Delta?

They are also of the view that the Southern part is getting more than its fair due, altparticularly those from the oil producing states, referring to the 13 per cent derivation that accrues to them above the normal allocation. Moreover, that this provision is illegal and unconstitutional. In this regard, they have been talking tough, blustering, raving and ranting, and as it were, spiting fire or even threatening fire and brimstone over the matter; all from the standpoint that they are being shortchanged in the national scheme of things.

The Southerners on the other hand are giving it a fight- fighting their corner as it were, feeling that they are being kicked around .They have replied that the Northern leaders call for a review of the revenue formula smacks of insensitivity to the plight of the zone, evident in its over 50 years of marginalization and environmental degradation and have advised the Northern governors to develop their revenue base as each state has a resource to develop. Sadly, the implication of this state of affairs-a tug of war- is that the country simply does not pull together; and the situation is almost getting to become a dog fight over the proverbial bone- the national cake.

Clearly, the fundamentals of this country are being called to question; or the fabric of our society is being shaken with the questions or issues being raised. But rather bizarrely, the Northern camp is of the view that the revenue allocation is too much for the Southern part; they say the South can’t manage that amount .Indeed, this was part the communiqué of the Northern leaders forum: to abridge item (1)…The revenue accruing to the states on the basis of the obnoxious derivation over-weighted formula is far beyond their executive capacity to manage. This in my view is silly; absolutely preposterous even!-What’s their concern about the South’s capacity to manage resources as it concerns revenue sharing .I mean, how people spend their resources should not be a consideration with regard to how much people should derive or how people utilize their resources should not determine how much they should get. This position of theirs is simply arrogant meddling and vintage North. And really, it is puerile, shallow, primordial, insensible and provocative. Also, this is a case of inverted sour grapes, to coin a phrase -shows or smacks of jealousy, envy, and so on.

This overbearing attitude of the North is really unfortunate.Rather than hold such a position, I would expect that the Northerners get to the root of the revenue sharing formula to determine whether it’s in accordance to our extant laws. But then, they have put forward the argument that this 13 per cent derivation is not in accordance with the constitution, and that it should rather be scrapped. They say ‘the law exists as a violation of subsisting judgment by the Supreme court of Nigeria, passed in 2002’.Well then, all that talk about the 13 per cent derivation recipients being unable to manage revenue should cease forthwith. It is all noise! And it makes ones gorges rise.

Also, they say: item (2) The revenue allocation law stands in violation of the International law with particular reference to the international law of Sea of Convention. The LOSC treaty which has since come into force (1982), is the principal governing law for all maritime resource issues. The LOSC is one of the most comprehensive treaties in international law and clearly stipulates  in various parts and annexes that oil and all forms of wealth found on the continental shelf or the international sea bed must belong to the countries and not just to administration/political units(littoral states)adjoining the physical sea (3)The revenue allocation laws as it stands is a violation of a subsisting supreme court judgment viz: A-G of the Federation Vs A.G Abia state and 36 others (2002) reported in 6 NWLR part 765 on pages 542-905.

In response, the South has stated that the North should equally take 13 percent from the solid minerals that accrue to them. But they have refused. They say this is nonsense. In fact, they say it’s an abuse of the constitution and an insult to the North-The convener of the Coalition of Northern Leaders, Academics, Professionals and Businessmen, Dr. Junaid Mohammed. They curiously say that it is not proper for government to approve 13 percent derivation on solid minerals when actual mining and revenue generation had not started. This is delusional and insincerity on their part. Also, they even call its proponents  ‘‘fools’’ as well as say ‘’ think we are fools’’. But, the Chairman, Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal commission, reportedly said that 13 per cent derivation on solid minerals which will commence next month is constitutional.

But then I wonder if the law’s on which the 13 per cent is based are not from a body that is constitutionally approved to make laws. Let this then be the beginning of the issue , our the  point of departure: To consider that the constitution is a definitive document is doctrinaire, rigid, non-pragmatic, dogmatic, indeed retrogressive and effectively puts us in a stasis. I mean, law is made for man and not man for the law. The law is made so that there is law and order .So if certain provisions of the constitution were not properly set down and which are now inadequate or unrealistic, then they should be amended accordingly. We can’t be running dogs to a constitution. However, whatever is subsisting should be held sacrosanct until the time of change. So for them to bring this up for consideration is in order. Let us then go through the normal processes to determine whether or not this provision is in order. But then, this is not the solution because if it is reversed, then we are back to the reasons why we went the way of 13% derivation. There was a basis for this and this was simply that the South deserve more in terms of the revenue that accrues to them, because oil producing states have peculiarities that other states do not have with regard their lands and so on. But if that is considered not a good point, then we must then go back to the question of revenue allocation formula: what is the correct formula for this country.

Reasonably, the determination of the correct revenue formula must be fundamentally about the nature of the origin of this country. We must indeed go back to that. It is true that the people that make up this country were people that existed independently  before the British came .We all had right to our individual resources, but when they came things changed  and we adopted a system that bound all together to operate in a manner that enables us to work as one but existing as different tribes. In such circumstances we need to agree on certain terms. This is the basis of the 1999 constitution that we are currently operating. But doe’s it reflect the wishes of the different tribes that make up this country?

 It was hurriedly drafted by the military before they were about to hand over power to the Obansanjo government. But it was not the wishes of the people-‘we the people of Nigeria’-where every Nigerian above the age of 18 was given the opportunity to be part of the constitution drafting body .I mean it was supposed to be the different tribes who ought to have been responsible for whoever represents them at such a conference. But unfortunately this never held. Rather it was a select few from the peoples. This process was again attempted by the Obansanjo administration but then again it was about selectees. This is never the right way to do it.

However, the National Assembly say that amendments are the way forward. But if we are to do anything about the constitution,that is, change it,it cannot be by amendments either. After all, the false process that lacked legitimacy is what we want to use to bring about legitimacy. I mean the players of the system are based on a system that does not reflect the wishes of the ethnicities. However, the National Assembly say that they are the ones to bring about amendment or are constitutionally responsible for the process. This then raises the question: is the process that brought them in or the principles that underlie the system based on legitimacy or the ethnic preference. I mean the military foisted this thing –the 1999 constitution- on us. They gave us a structure on which we have elected people to the House of Assembly. This is what we then use to determine votes via the numbers of people based on the structure they created, not a structure by the ethnicities. Moreover, it is on this structure that all the other things subsist. Yet, we know that the structure is not legitimate (not the will of the people of Nigeria). Therefore, anything that is based on this structure-constituencies, Senate and House of Representatives, etc.- is false. They are operating illegitimately against the wishes of the Nigerian people. So when the peoples ask that they should step aside for a real national dialogue to take place and they (National Assembly) object, they are in opposition to the wishes of the peoples of this country, and are indeed there to represent their personal interest not that of their peoples .This is the situation in present day Nigeria.

So the National Assembly would do themselves proud by stepping aside to allow this proper process to take place. We can’t afford to manage things. We need to go down to the root of the matter as regard the revenue sharing formula and other matters that border on structure -no of constituencies, system of government, and so on. This is only when there can be said to be legitimacy in the system.

Further, what they are expected to agree about will be based on that which is equitable, just and fair for everybody. This will lead to peace in the polity, good disposition toward government and so on. Furthermore, that which is equal and fair will certainly be such that nobody in the union will expect to benefit unduly from the rest because they will see themselves as different tribes or different nations willing or interested in forming a larger nation. So, the idea about collectivism - that we will share resources generally - will be out of order. We should see each other as separate but coming to work together for the common good. We are different peoples and our claims to our territories are the lands that we have inherited from our fathers and of course the resources therein. To illustrate this issue, supposing we decide to band together and some peoples benefit from the proverbial pot without putting anything into it. But later say they do not want to be involved anymore when other peoples resources are have been used up and theirs are now relevant. Moreover, this system does not work because we have our different cultural practices that impose a certain sense of division among us: we still know those who own lands. We can’t go somewhere and then claim equality with their people:we can’t disrespect other peoples traditional hereditary systems. Also, culture can determine the degree to the claim of resources: a certain resource is regarded as sacred and therefore no exploitation of that resource, yet we benefit from others.

Rather, let people be responsible for their own lands, and then there would be no misgivings about things. See the North today, for some reason the people are not developing their areas, they are busy being dependent on the oil of the south. Isn’t because of the existing policies and principles of the Nigerian state: they receive allocation at the end of every month, and this that prevents them from developing their areas. The North is a place that is home to or domiciles minerals such as Silver, Gold, uranium, marl, Tantalite and so on. But the solid minerals in the North are yet to be seriously exploited. Obviously, this is a system that makes people lndolent. It does not impose one with a sense of responsibility as long that you can get the monetary allocation and be all right. So what we must do is review the laws so as to suit each area in a way that makes them responsible for their own place. However, whatever comes from this we then use to develop a Federal structure that binds us, and not that resources from the Niger delta, for example, or elsewhere for that matter are used freely to develop another area. There must of course be a something that must all put into the Federal purse. This is what the National dialogue should be about.

However, it should be based on a possible and realistic way of doing things -look at what will work based on the nature of the dynamics or circumstances of our origin and that which will make for a sense of ownership, belonging, responsibility and accountability, which leads to patriotism .So all the talk by Sanusi about Boko haram is nonsense, the Northern elders or Governors should begin to develop their areas and stop this nonsense of sharing of revenue. They should be creative and look to other areas of productivity. The sooner they begin to do this the better because before long, they will soon realize that it cannot be business as usual. Things have changed and the days of cheap or easy money are over. Nobody should be working while others are sleeping. You must work for what you eat. This is a just formula and it is safe and airtight. I mean nobody will claim to be cheated and it would make for real security. After all, today some feel that the North is preserving their lands and wealth till when the Southern oil is exhausted and therefore the revenue allocation formula is uncalled for. Indeed, we need to go back to determine first who has a right to what, based on a dialogue of the peoples, rather than a structure that is illegitimate. Also, that such a process must come from the ethnicities guided by the government in place.

The sooner this happens in our polity the better for everyone, as it would lead to a situation where the system operates efficiently and effectively. No longer will there be a situation where people will feel shortchanged; and there will be no free lunches anymore. The peoples will then demand greater accountability from their leaders as their resources will be used for the things that concern themselves as well as the Federal obligations. This will certainly make peoples hardworking and prevent misgivings about ethnic intentions. In conclusion, Let’s therefore brace up to this challenge of taking this bull  of constitutional change by the horns and thus decide to meet as well as ensure that the process comes to pass successfully.

Author: Osahon Uwagboe

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