- BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
Nigeria is know as an end product of scattered nations, amalgamation of ethnic nationalitics and a conglomeration of many tribes with a land covered area of 923,768,005 square kilometers, population of more than 140 million people. (2006 census). Nigeria is a nation of about 375 ethnic groups (Sagay 2005) with three main tribes (Yoruba, Hausa and Igbo), 8,810 political wards, 774 local government areas with 36 states as at present (2010) and a single federal government immensely blessed and rich with every state endowed.
Niger – Delta region in Nigeria happened to be the nerve centre and corner stone of the country’s economy through its natural endowment of oil and gas. The Niger – Delta region comprises the coastal low lands and waters – marshland, creeks, tributaries and lagoons – of the southern most ends of Nigeria that drain the Niger River into the Atlantic at the Bight of Biafra (Ibeanu, 2000). At its core are the littoral states of Bayelsa, Rivers, Delta, Akwa Ibom and Cross Rivers States of the South – South geopolitical zone of the country, and the riverine parts of Imo, Anambra, Edo and Ondo States. This region is home to over fourty minority ethnic groups including the Ijaws, Urobo, Itshekiri, Isokos, Ndokwas etc.
The region (Niger – Delta) is one of the world’s largest wetland, and is certainly the largest in Africa and third largest in the world. It has also been described as the treasure base of the nation, that is, Nigerian economy base.
In terms of population, Niger – Delta is home to more than 17 million people in the major states according to the 2006 population census. In the area of land mass, Niger – Delta happened to cover an area land of about 70,000 square kilometers.
In view of endowment, this region is immensely rich in minerals and this even account for the exploration of 1/6th of the African Association Firm. Therefore, some of the resources naturally deposited in Niger – Delta are petroleum, natural gas, bentonite, glass sand, silica sand, kaolin, clay and so on (Source: Resources cited in map of Nigeria distribution of solid minerals).
Historically, 1956 marked the evolution and discovery of oil in commercial quantities in Oloibiri in the present – day Ogbia Local Government Area of Bayelsa State. As from 1956, Oil production covers other economic status. That is, Nigerian economy status changed and there was non – diversification of the economy in the early 1970s, of which oil boom overshadowed agricultural practice, this resulted in overdependence on oil resources in the economy of the country. This overdependence resulted in serious negative consequences for the host communities. The classical example is Oloibiri, the first community in Nigeria where oil was struck in commercial quantities. The people of the historic community and every other community in this region now look back with regret and anger. The fate of the oil producing communities today rings an alarm in the veins of the Niger – Delta Youths because of government neglect of the place and its people. The people in this region live in uncoloured poverty, infact, Oloibiri, the first source of crude oil in Nigeria has become a crude reference point for environmental degradation and neglect. Instead of being proud and privileged to be the goose that lay the golden eggs of petrobillions, the most thought provoking debate is whether, the discovery of oil is a blessing or a curse. While the federal government counts its blessing in billions of naira from oil resources, the host communities count loss of the livelihood, health and environment. This is arising from the failure of government (federal government) to save the situation via appropriate legal framework for sustenance of the environment and lives of the people of the host communities and creation of institutional framework for regulation and enforcement.
Injustice, political frustration and suffocation best represent the historic wrongs and official insensitivity to the rights and privileges of the oil producing communities as the communities are clenched in tyrannical chains, led through a dark alley of perpetual political and social deprivation. Even the oil companies could not live with their host communities and thus sited their head offices in far away cities. Personnel in the employ of the companies are largely drawn from faraway lands. This is more imperative as majority of the host communities have no representation in state and federal government, public or private institutions, host communities generally had been excluded from active participation in the oil industry. Oil wells in their backyard had been awarded mainly to people from the non oil bearing states who exploit the land without regards to the rights of the owners.
The various laws affecting land and oil resources like the land USE ACT, which vested land ownership in Federal government, petroleum decree No 52 of 1993 National Inland Waterway, Authority Decree and a host of others are unfair to the host communities. There is also the controversial issue of maritime boundaries of coastal states for the purpose of derivation which deprives the oil producing states of their off shore oil wells. Although, the production and exploitation of oil has reframed Nigerials image and dignity amongst the nations of the world.
In view of this, Nigeria was awarded the fifth largest oil producing country (crude oil) within the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). Oil extract from Niger – Delta account for 95.5% of Nigeria’s exports (Ofehe W.W.W. Niger – Delta congress commlnartides/Nigeria mineral resources – a – case ltd).
According to Olowoporoku (2005). “Before the recent phenomenal increase in price of crude oil, Nigeria earned 20 billion dollars per annum in crude oil which forms about 97% of the country’s export earnings…, Also in 2004, Nigeria raked in 25 billion us dollar and a windfall of 86 billion from the sales of oil and gas (Ofehe ibid). This now shows clearly that, the Nigerian economy is absolutely dependent on the production of crude oil being exported in Niger – Delta. With all these positions and relevance of this region (Niger – Delta) to Nigerian economy, there is a conflict and struggle over the issue of resources exploiter, manager, developer and controller.
Meanwhile, whoever controls the natural resources of air, water, land and energy control man’s survivals.
Historically, in slave – owner’s society, the slave master controls political, social and economic life of such society and, this makes slaves to be subject to their owners while in old agrarian societies land lords are the moderators, directors and instructors of human and natural resources. But, now in present day capitalism, Nigeria resources control has become a vital issue and struggle in fiscal federation at this junction, question could be asked that “whose duty to control resources” who is the land lord? Federal government or Regional government or individual communities?
The theory of true federalism as propounded by K.C Wheare stated that “the fundamental and distinguishing characteristic of federal system of government is that neither the central nor the regional governments are subordinate to each other, but rather the two are co-coordinating and independent, in short all government (Federal or Regional) have a horizontal relationship with each other.
In view of the above principle of federalism proved by K.C Wheare, Nwabueze (W.W.W. Vanguard Mechia http) identified three characteristics of federalism as separate entities as thus: The power sharing arrangement should not place such a preponderance of power in the hands of either the central or regional government to make it so powerful; federalism presupposes that the central or regional government should stand to each other in a relation of meaningful independence resting upon a balanced division of powers and resources; and. From the separate and autonomous existence of each government and the plenary. Character of its power within the sphere assigned to it by the constitution follows the doctrine that the exercise of these powers are not to be impeded or obstructed rather act within its own power.
Basically, the struggle for resources control in Niger – Delta is the agitation for control, management and distribution of the proceeds from crude oil by the oil producing communities. In relation to this, Amuta refers to resource control as “the new face of a resurgent … (see http://W.W.W ngvanguard news com).
Ownership and control of the petroleum (oil) industry would have given the communities the ability and power to control the oil sector in their land. According to Sagay (2005) he asserted that “the states and communities from whose territory and land the oil and gas are produced should be acknowledged by all relevant legislation. He concluded that “resource control is not profederalism by any true owner of the resources” (W.W.W ngvanguard news com).
The Niger – Delta people’s agitation for resource control has led to serious conflict and national disagreement between oil producing states and federal government. They asked for addition and correction of the principle of derivation.
In the last political conference, the oil producing states call for 50% control as guaranteed in the 1960/63 Nigerian constitution.