Resource Control


Dedicated to Nigeria's socio-political issues




October 3, 2007 - December 2, 2007



LUNARPAGES.COM and IPOWERWEB.COM - Despicable WebHosts - Read My Story





Resource Control: Separating Reality From Rhetoric




Babangida Dangora




April 28, 2005


Judging by the amount of attention it is generating in the public domain, “Resource Control” must rank as the dominant agitative issue in the country today ever since the issue of June 12 was laid to rest with the ascension to power by President Obasanjo to compensate the Southwest for the annulment of June 12 elections by the military administration of President Babangida.

Considering the way the issue of Resource Control has been canvassed and pursued, we are likely to inflict upon ourselves yet another political misadventure as with similar other issues like “zoning”, “power shift” etc, from which we are yet to recover. Like most issues in this country, the campaign on Resource Control has been conducted more on the emotive, sentimental plane than on the factual, practicable and most importantly, realistic plane. The campaign has been for the most part conducted without taking the realities of the Nigerian situation into consideration. It is intriguing that with the array of legal luminaries and men of letters lining up behind the Resource Control bandwagon, we have not been availed of any scintilla of legal light that can stand up to critical scrutiny, on the issue. What is more, none of the figures pushing the issue has been able to provide us with political antecedents anywhere in the world of the type of Resource Control concept they are canvassing. Ask any of them where such principle exists in the world and what you are likely to get is a jumble of ill-defined and digested definitions, concepts and ideas. Yes we are often told that Resource control exists in the United States of America, which is touted as the best example of constitutional government and from where most of our constitutional statutes are borrowed. But is that right? Do the states of Texas, Oklahoma or California or any publicly owned institution in those states directly control oil leases and exploration rights? Is that not the preserve of private sector capitalist entrepreneurs not just limited to those states?

For the purpose of our argument on Resource Control should it not be more appropriate rather to cast our gaze towards OPEC countries or other oil producing developing countries whose circumstances are more suited to us? In which of the OPEC countries or oil producing developing countries is Resource control practised? What are the antecedents and lessons available to us on the relationship between the foreign multinational oil companies and the various oil producing developing countries? Is it also lost on the proponents of Resource Control that the control of any resource especially one that requires heavy capital investment as oil, is a function of who invests in the venture? Which of the states where oil is found in Nigeria has the capacity to make the massive capital investment either jointly or individually to prospect and extract the oil therein? As a concept, where and how can we fit Resource Control within the context of both our constitutional statutes and international law? As constituents of the Federal Republic of Nigeria who were created by that same entity, on what locus can the resource control states seek to control something which neither the constitutional statutes of the country, nor those of International law accords them? On what legal platform will they derive the power to enter into joint venture agreements with foreign multinational oil entities? For example, which multinational oil giant will want to enter into concessionary agreements on oil issues with a state or group of states that do not have any iota of sovereign power over what is to be agreed upon? What guarantees can such an oil company have from such states for the protection of its operations and investments? Hypothetically, what will a Federal Government that is divested of its powers on such issues be expected to do when legal, security and other problems arise between the resource controlling states and the multinational company or companies? Can’t we take a lesson from how the Bakassi issue has turned out? What will happen to the legal status and structure of the Nigeria National Petroleum Company, NNPC as the sole entity recognised to enter into agreements with foreign oil concerns for the purpose of exploiting the nation’s oil and gas reserves? Will Resource Control oust the powers of NNPC in this respect? Will this lead to formation of state oil concerns and fresh JV agreements between the resource controlling states and multinational oil companies? If so what legal recognition will be available to such agreements locally and internationally? How can we extricate ourselves from the tangle web of legal and constitutional issues that will result from this?

But then why the emphasis on oil only? What about the countless other and no less important mineral resources that abound in this country? Are we to assume that the Resource Control formula if granted will also cover the other mineral resources that can be found in the country?
 Lest we get carried away by the largely emotive effusions of the Resource Control seekers, let us pause and examine critically, the place of oil in the world political economy. The world of oil producing countries can be broadly divided into two; those who produce the oil, but do not export it as a commodity, and those who produce and export it as a commodity on the world oil market. The distinction between the two lies in the fact that while the former prefer to retain the bulk of oil they produce to principally power their industrial production, (in effect regarding oil essentially as a source of energy and power) the former being relatively and less industrially developed, see oil as a source of revenue. For the oil producing industrial countries, oil is valued more for the energy it provides for powering industrial machines that churn out goods for export (value added inclusive), than whatever the resource can attract in the world market which in comparative terms is nothing to shout about. In relating this to the Resource Control argument, not only is Nigeria currently short-changing itself by laying emphasis on bulk exporting the one resource that should serve as a resource base for its industrial take-off, think about what could happen if that same resource is controlled not by business concerns but by states. The question is, how would our future industries and industrialists fare in their quest for energy and power, if the oil they need is under the control of state governments and their bureaucracies. Would a Lagos-based industrial conglomerate of steel and chemicals for instance be required to negotiate with the oil holding company of a particular state in this regard? Are we not actually styming the necessary quest for Nigeria’s industrial future by handing over control of this vital energy resource to the control of state bureaucracies?

The strand of the Resource Control argument which seeks justification under the reasoning that when the regional structure was in place, the various regions were allowed control of revenues from commodities produced in their domains, sounds and looks like comparing oranges with apples. Cocoa, groundnuts, palm oil and other primary commodities cannot be equated nor compared to oil in terms of mode and process of production as well as the capital and technological investment involved. While one is the result of human capital and production relations largely involving organized indigenous efforts by peasant farmers in collaboration and support of the state, the other is a venture primarily at the behest and ultimate benefit of foreign concerns. While the legal cover and support for the one is statutory in nature, the other is necessarily sovereign in recognition of the multinational background of the other party involved. Following from this, it is therefore logical for a local government, state or region as the case may be, to retain revenues from commodity production being a factor of statutory collaboration and involvement with individual or organized groups of indigenous farmers. In the case of oil production because the production relations is largely under the control of the multinationals, and the arrangement being akin to one between two states, the principle of sovereign responsibility is what applies here. From this it follows therefore that the states where oil is found cannot as constituent parts, seek to exercise direct control over the revenues of oil production. That power rests with the Federal Government which is the sovereign authority and whose powers under such matters cannot be ousted by its constituents whether as regions, states or local governments.
Aside from these legal posers, we need to examine critically the political, social and security situation within the states demanding for Resource Control to determine the sustainability of the issue.

From a social perspective, the various societies in the areas where the call for Resource Control is emanating are arguably the most fractious within the Nigerian milieu. In his classic study of the social and political history of the area titled Trade and Politics in the Niger Delta, the late Professor Kenneth Dike attributed this to the impact of foreign negative influences over the centuries, which cumulatively helped to destroy the social fabric of social networks and structures in the various societies making up the area, resulting in a state of perpetual social and political ferment. Both in pre-colonial and postcolonial times the area has been a cauldron of ceaseless intra and inter societal conflict with powerful individuals, city-states either singly or in alliance with others waging perpetual wars against one another over trading rights for such items as liquor, slaves, mirrors, palm oil and second hand clothes from Europe. From Jaja of Opobo to the King of Akassa, to Nana of Itsekiri to Ovonramen of Benin, to Ibanichuka of Okrika and Igbanibo Will Braide of Bakana, the potentates of the various states of this area had run one gauntlet or another against representatives of foreign commercial interests that have sought to establish and sustain trading links here. More often as Dike pointed out, the potentates of the various communities here were not enamoured on seizing the opportunities that foreign connection brought to strengthen the social structure and building viable self-sustaining states. They were more interested in acquiring the false trappings and instruments of coercion and subjugations that the foreigners brought to strengthen their hold over their people in a bid to hold tenaciously to their status as middlemen to the European adventurers. This of course more than any other factor helped to destabilise the structure of social relations in the entire Niger Delta states and it is no wonder that the history of the area is replete with dethronements, banishing and sackings than any other area in Nigeria’s history.

Today the situation is no different. Oil bearing communities and those where plat forms, flow stations and pipelines of oil companies run through are perpetually at war over who gets what from the oil multinationals and their service companies. Communities routinely fight over who owns what land and who should control lucrative contracts, employment and empowerment opportunities that come from oil companies. Only recently two neighbouring kindred communities in one of the states at the forefront of the Resource control issues laid waste to one another killing local government officials and a pregnant woman on account of which of the communities own the land earmarked for oil drilling by a prominent multinational company operating in the area. In yet one of the states it has become routine event for orgies of violence to be staged between the three prominent ethnic groups in the heart of the oil producing district in the state. Routinely, state officials and powerful individuals both in government and in the communities retain well-armed militias to attack opponents, and steal crude from oil pipelines. Just as in the days of old when potentates fought over who should control trading routes and commodities, present day powerful elites and individuals jostle over who should corner compensation revenues over land acquisition and other such benefits. The revenues accruing from such arrangements instead of being used to lay a sound social infrastructure for the people of the area, is expended on ostentatious living by such individuals. It has gotten so bad that some of the multinational oil companies have been forced to seriously consider scaling down or in some cases totally shutting down their operations in some of the more intractable oil producing areas.

In this deadly cocktail of intra and intra group crises that cover the whole of the Niger Delta, Resource Control would fittingly be the oil that will fuel more crises turning the area into one vast killing field worse than anywhere else in Africa. Would the Federal Government of Nigeria which had had to intervene in a number of countries where tragedies of this nature occurred allow itself to be goaded into setting the stage for this to occur in its own backyard on account of the greedy and selfish interests of a few disconnected elites of the Niger Delta?

Having examined the issue critically, one would admit that Resource control is not without its merits. The level of poverty and environmental degradation suffered by the vast majority of the inhabitants of the area is perhaps unprecedented in Nigeria. Furthermore it is incongruous with the law of social justice that an area from where such wealth is being generated should remain paradoxically without the basic necessities for decent, meaningful existence. The state of the Niger Delta with all its contradictions of stupendous wealth existing side-by-side abject poverty is a metaphor for present day Nigeria. For being not just the area from which the bulk of state revenue is sourced, but also for the strategic reason of being the area from which our country is most vulnerable to foreign attack there is a strong and compelling case for decisive intervention by the Federal and state governments of the area to massively improve the living conditions of the area. I firmly believe that improving the conditions of the Niger Delta will have a positive ripple effect on the rest of Nigeria in quantum terms. Such intervention should however be balanced side-by-side the larger interest of not creating conditions for unhealthy regional dichotomies in terms of wealth and development in the country. Oil is a national patrimony which collectively as Nigerians own, for which defence many have fought and died. 



Babangida Dangora is based in Kano



horizontal rule

© 1999 - 2006 Segun Toyin Dawodu. All rights reserved. All unauthorized copying or adaptation of any content of this site will be liable to  legal recourse.


Segun Toyin Dawodu, P. O. BOX 710080, HERNDON, VA  20171-0080, USA.

This page was last updated on 10/27/07.