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It was last week that Usman Bugaje made the claims about the oil in the Niger Delta belonging to the North. From the buzz of conversation online and offline on the matter, it is clear that we the people still allow these men to get away with such statements without asking them the necessary questions that should shut them up. Elders like Bugaje have done nothing to drive development of the vast non-oil minerals in the north. No, they lazily eye the oil wealth available from the delta and scramble for their share.
But the Niger Delta leaders are not exempt from blame. In spite of the advantages that receiving 40% of all the disbursements to states from the center and their lower population should give them, most have nothing to show for it in terms of infrastructure and development. Rather, they keep playing the victim card and feeding the same sentiments in their people, playing on the very real poverty and environmental devastation in the area. What they bank on is that the people of the Niger Delta will be so wrapped up in this that they will not ask their own leaders the questions – where is all the money you are getting from the center going to? I wrote this piece titled Bigger Entity Myopia last year and I think it aptly captures my thoughts on the matter with figures from disbursement to states to buttress the points made. (Article Below)
There’s what I call the Bigger Entity Myopia that many Nigerians seem to suffer from. This form of myopia impairs the perception and sensitivity such that we ignore the leadership that is responsible for our immediate well being and focus on the bigger one. So we ignore our councilors and focus on the state governors. We ignore the profligacy and lackluster performance of our governors and rile the federal government as if everything rises and falls there. I did an interesting table recently juxtaposing the monies that come to states from the center, their Internally Generated Revenue and their populations. The data threw up some interesting facts. The first, which should be quite obvious is that many states are pretty much not viable if the feeding bottle from the center is disconnected. But that isn’t the crux of this piece.
The second point is a sensitive one. Population does not really influence the share of the proverbial national cake that states get. When one thinks of this with the checks and balances put in the electoral laws in perspective, one begins to wonder why we are yet to have a census that reflects obvious things since both the politics and the economics do not necessarily ascribe greater share or powers to you when your population is greater. Bayelsa is number 4 on the allotment of funds from the center but is the least populous of the 36 states, only more populous than the FCT. True, population still has impact, but it is no longer the greatest. I use population figures in this article, but adjusted Lagos to reflect the position of both the state government and many internationally reputable agencies.
The third is the crux of this piece. I feel for the ordinary people of the Niger Delta who have suffered the devastation of oil exploration without development. I once spoke to a woman who told me that all she knows is fishing and then told me now that she had to marry away her daughter to some big man so they would not starve since the oil spills had killed all their fish. The sad part was that she then clenched her fist and said “those stupid people who came to our land to take our oil, destroy our land and use it to develop only Abuja and Lagos”.
I paused at this point and asked her “which stupid people?”
She responded as if I had asked the stupidest question possible and said “the government now. All of them in Abuja.”
So I asked her “your state governor, what has he done to develop this place?”
At that point, she was almost losing her temper “Is it his job? Is he the one taking our oil? It is the Abuja people!”
At that point, I backed down (before she organized a lynching) and decided to check these figures. The figures I could find were the 2011 figures. The startling thing was that about forty percent of the monies shared from the center to the states went to the oil producing states. Yet there is little to show for it in many of these states. Even if many got 50% of 100% derivative, the monies would simply disappear into the same pockets the 13% is going to now. This is the sad reality.
When one takes the figure for the total revenue each state generates and gets from the center per annum and divides it by the population of the state, we have what is theoretically available to spend on each citizen of the state. States like Bayelsa have N115,517, Akwa Ibom N65,658, Rivers N60,534, Delta N57,314 topped the list. The FCT was 2nd with N73,868. After Delta, the next state is Abia and it has only N29,557 to spend per citizen. That is a huge drop. Lagos has only N13,395 to spend on each citizen and is 34th on this list. Kano is last on the list with only N10,318 to spend per person. The question therefore is this – what have the Niger Delta governors been doing with what is clearly an advantage, with all this money which they have been shared without the population pressures of places like Lagos and Kano? Let me say it this way – Bayelsa has ten times more money to spend per person than Lagos or Kano. But of course, the realities on ground do not reflect this. To that woman, I would say – your governor is just as much a culprit as the people in Abuja.
If more monies are allotted to the states, will it end up developing anything. We will be writing articles years after asking these same questions. The people within the oil-producing states need to wake up and ask questions closer to home. Those whose states are feeding bottle states, totally dependent on the federal government allocations will begin to ask questions as to why their states are unable to generate IGR. The figures are below. I hope we will all look at them and begin to ask questions.
*Sources of Data – CBN Website, National Population Commission (except for Lagos State Population Figures).
Tunde Leye @tundeleye is a fiction writer. He believes that the stories written form a priceless resource that is the basis of society, all the other arts (film, music, theatre, visual arts) and hence he is committed to telling stories out of Africa that show it as it was, is, and is going to be.
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