Regional Autonomy And Resource Control – The Way Forward For Nigeria

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“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” ~ Nelson Mandela

When President Goodluck Jonathan announced to the nation,that he would convene a national conference, I belonged to the group of persons who believed such a conference was very important considering that the amalgamation treaty of 1913 had expired on 31st December 2013. I viewed the conference as an opportunity for various groups and ethnic nationalities who were forced to come together by the British, to renegotiate their future, and avoid the mistakes of the past.

As a nation already dangerously polarized, President Jonathan had given the people a chance to liberate themselves and possibly create a ‘people’s constitution’, but we all watched as some of ‘yesterdays men’ tried to scuttle the whole arrangement; whether they succeeded or not depends on the perspective an individual decides to consider. Personally, I do not think the  conference failed totally, at least the government made it possible for the people to voice their grievances without agitation. The conference made huge progress in certain areas,although the most important issue that ought to have been addressed was left ‘uncompleted’ and thrown back to the President. Whether we accept it or not, the most important committee in the national conference was the DESOLUTION OF POWER committee – which had a duty(amongst other things) to set a new revenue derivation formula for ALL natural resources found in ANY state of Nigeria. That the committee/conference could not arrive at any conclusion on this, is a pointer to how important the issue is and an indicator to how dangerous trying to sweep it under the rug could be.

The map of Nigeria shows that the whole nation sits on the niger-delta region and by coincidence the niger-delta has beared the burden of the entire nation pre and post independence. This has led to agitation in various forms by the niger-delta people for a better deal from the Nigerian state, a demand that has been vehemently and selfishly resisted by the other regions that contribute NOTHING to the national cake. An injustice the national conference was expected to address but failed to. Nigeria has 36 states, only 6 states(Akwa-Ibom,Rivers,Cross-River,Delta,Edo,Bayelsa) contribute almost the entire wealth of the nation,with another 4(Lagos,Imo,Abia,Ondo) contributing a ‘negligible’ percentage and yet the others feel, they should dictate to the contributors to the national cake what to get and when to get it. How this has continued till now is unfathomable.

These group have failed to realize,  that those who make equity impossible,make the desolution of Nigeria seemingly inevitable. The current state of unitary Nigeria is a fraud,aimed at perpetually putting in bondage the very same set of persons who feed the nation and who have suffered and will continue to suffer in event of any natural disaster coming through the atlantic; a situation totally unacceptable. Every state of this country is blessed with natural resources; therefore there is no reason why a state should not contribute to the national cake yet takes(in some instances ‘lion share’) from what it did not contribute. Revenue sharing and derivation are alien to federalism. You don’t take from a group of people to pay another group of persons.

Regional autonomy/100 percent resource control seems like the only way forward for Nigeria. Regions should be allowed to develop at their own speed, contributing a certain percentage to the centre. Dubai would not be as developed as it is today but for the autonomy it enjoys to harness it resources,just like other states of the UAE. The ‘death’ of the current type of Nigeria is what should matter most to every discerning mind. We have failed so far and will continue to fail until we begin to do something different.

It is rather ironic that states are deriving benefits from things they are opposed to; Zamfara state for instance operates a law that bans the sale of alcohol,yet shares part of the money coming from a state like Lagos(that accepts the sale of alcohol and cigarettes and taxes the retailers/producers/importers of such products) in the form of federal allocation. Bayelsa state contributes a large percentage of the money shared to local government areas in Nigeria, yet it receives the least share because it has only 8 local government areas, while Kano state which contributes nothing takes more because it has 44 local government areas. This to me is the height of injustice to the contributors.

What Nigeria needs now is outright reconstruction. An already collapsing structure cannot not be restructured. In my opinion regional autonomy/total resource control is the way forward. That way every state/region will know they have to work hard so as to generate money to take care of themselves rather than lazying around simply because they are sure of getting something and feeding fat at the end of the month.

Since the amalgamation treaty has expired, to move forward, the Nigerian state must do the needful, to avoid the people doing the necessary. We have to start rebuilding – and a key part of the process, is allowing people use what they have to develop themselves. The present arrangement is meant to favour a few and will always lead to chaos.

“It always seems impossible until its done.” ~ Nelson Mandela

Enenim Ubon is on twitter @enenimubon

The Herald NG is a leading newspaper in Nigeria at the forefront of the digital revolution.

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