Nige­ria govt faces sep­a­ratist pres­sure over oil wealth shar­ing

Kuwait Times - - BUSINESS -

LA­GOS: When Boko Haram cap­tured ter­ri­tory in Nige­ria’s northeast last year and de­clared a caliphate, there were real fears for the sovereignty of Africa’s most pop­u­lous na­tion.

A dead­line is loom­ing for the mil­i­tary to end the six years of vi­o­lence, with signs that troops have wrested back con­trol of most of the towns and vil­lages lost to the Is­lamists. But now Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari is fac­ing another po­ten­tial headache with the re­vival of sep­a­ratist sen­ti­ment in the coun­try’s south­east and re­newed de­bate over the shar­ing of oil wealth. Re­cent weeks have seen a wave of protests call­ing for an in­de­pen­dent state of Bi­afra, 45 years af­ter the end of the bru­tal civil sparked by a previous dec­la­ra­tion of in­de­pen­dence.

Now, cam­paign­ers in the oil-pro­duc­ing Niger delta are de­mand­ing to­tal con­trol of re­sources to de­velop the re­gion, which re­mains un­der-de­vel­oped de­spite bil­lions of dol­lars earned from crude. Last Fri­day, the Niger Delta Self-De­ter­mi­na­tion Move­ment (NDSDM) lobby group, de­clared the cur­rent agree­ment, whereby oil rev­enue is di­vided among Nige­ria’s 36 states, was un­fair.

“The 13 per­cent (share for the Niger Delta) en­shrined in the 1999 con­sti­tu­tion by the mil­i­tary is de­priv­ing us of our God­given re­sources,” the group’s con­vener Annkio Briggs told re­porters in La­gos. “We want 100 per­cent con­trol and own­er­ship of our oil so that we can con­trol our fu­ture.”

North­ern ‘dom­i­nance’

Nige­ria’s crude-reliant econ­omy has been bat­tered by the fall in global oil prices, ham­per­ing govern­ment spend­ing and even the pay­ment of state-sec­tor salaries. Crude ac­counts for 90 per­cent of Nige­ria’s ex­port earn­ings and 70 per­cent of govern­ment over­all rev­enue. In 2014, the coun­try earned $77 bil­lion from oil ex­ports, ac­cord­ing to the US De­part­ment of En­ergy, down from $84 bil­lion in 2013 and $94 bil­lion in 2012. How much each state in the fed­er­a­tion gets from the sec­tor has long been a thorny is­sue, ex­pos­ing barely con­cealed re­gional and eth­nic ri­val­ries.

De­mands for a greater share of oil rev­enue were a fac­tor in the vi­o­lence that gripped the delta in the 2000s un­til a govern­ment amnesty pro­gram, which ends this year, bought off mil­i­tants.

Briggs’ group ar­gues Nige­ria’s po­lit­i­cal ar­chi­tec­ture, with 19 states classed as north­ern and 17 in the south, un­fairly pe­nal­izes the south­ern states where oil is found. “Of the 774 lo­cal govern­ment ar­eas (ad­min­is­tra­tive di­vi­sions within each state), the north is given al­most 70 per­cent,” she said, call­ing it “ma­nip­u­la­tions for... so­cioe­co­nomic and po­lit­i­cal dom­i­nance”. She blamed a suc­ces­sion of north­ern-dom­i­nated mil­i­tary gov­ern­ments for forc­ing through the rev­enue-shar­ing agree­ment down the bar­rel of a gun “with­out our free, prior and in­formed con­sent”.

Briggs de­nied call­ing for a break away from the fed­er­a­tion but ar­gued ev­ery re­gion in­stead should use its own nat­u­ral re­sources to de­velop it­self. The NDSDM was founded last year dur­ing a na­tional con­fer­ence con­vened by former pres­i­dent Good­luck Jonathan at which del­e­gates rec­om­mended the delta re­gion re­ceived 18 per­cent of oil rev­enue.

The rec­om­men­da­tion was not im­ple­mented be­fore Jonathan left of­fice. ‘Po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated’ Nige­ria is al­most evenly split be­tween a Mus­lim-ma­jor­ity north and largely Chris­tian south and the sharp di­vi­sion in­forms most as­pects of po­lit­i­cal de­bate. But the ar­gu­ment for so-called “fis­cal fed­er­al­ism” is seen by some as un­re­al­is­tic, with sec­tors such as agriculture and man­u­fac­tur­ing not suf­fi­ciently de­vel­oped yet to be sus­tain­able.

Anyak­wee Nsi­r­i­movu, of the Niger Delta Civil So­ci­ety Coali­tion pres­sure group, said de­mands from south­ern pres­sure groups were pre­dictable now Buhari, a north­ern Mus­lim, was in power.

“Why is it af­ter the de­feat of Jonathan you see the likes of Annkio Briggs, MASSOB (Move­ment for the Ac­tu­al­i­sa­tion of the Sov­er­eign State of Bi­afra) and IPOB (In­dige­nous Peo­ples of Bi­afra) ask­ing for re­source con­trol and self-de­ter­mi­na­tion?” he asked. The com­plaints in fact ex­posed the fail­ure of Jonathan, from the oil-pro­duc­ing Bayelsa state, to help his south­ern kins­men dur­ing his six years in power, he ar­gued.

“Those who lost out in the power equa­tion are be­hind the cri­sis,” he claimed. But Tony Nnadi, of the Move­ment for New Nige­ria, said ev­ery eth­nic group had the right to ei­ther be­long to or pull out of Nige­ria, nearly 102 years af­ter the coun­try was formed. “In 1914, the so-called Nige­ria came into be­ing through an amal­ga­ma­tion of south­ern and north­ern pro­tec­torates by the Bri­tish colo­nial power,” he said.

“By the pro­vi­sions of the amal­ga­ma­tion, we have the right since 2014 to rene­go­ti­ate the ba­sis of our con­tin­ued ex­is­tence. The ex­pe­ri­ences of var­i­ous eth­nic groups “in the last 100 years have shown we can­not con­tinue in the mar­riage”, he added.

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