There is no doubt that true federalism is the only stimulus the country needs in order to make the federating states competitive and self-sustaining. There is no denying the fact that the reason why the country is undeveloped is simply because the states are not authorised to explore and exploit the natural resources in their lands. For instance, the inhibiting Petroleum Act of 1990 says thus: “An Act to provide for the exploration of petroleum from the territorial waters and the continental shelf of Nigeria and vest the ownership of, and all on-shore and off-shore revenue from petroleum resources derivable therefrom in the Federal Government and for all other matter incidental thereto.” Likewise, the Nigerian Minerals and Mining Act 2007 says: “The entire property in and control of all mineral resources in, under or upon any land in Nigeria, its contiguous continental shelf and all rivers, streams and watercourses throughout Nigeria, any area covered by its territorial waters or constituency and the Exclusive Economic Zone is and shall be vested in the Government of the Federation for and on behalf of the people of Nigeria.”
With these two prohibiting laws in place, the country is being run as a unitary state under the guise of a federation. Thus, the states go to Abuja monthly to receive their beggarly allocations from the Super central controlled Unitary Government! Another albatross to development in the country is the suppressive Land Use Decree No 6 of 1978 (Now Land Use Act) which empowers only the government to control all lands in the country. This has transformed the citizenry to mere tenant in their ancestral lands! This is the reason why Nigerians do not have land titles with which they can obtain loans from banks to set up cottage industries!
Considering the fact that the states can’t explore and exploit their natural resources due to these extant laws, the country therefore needs true federalism or resources control. However, whenever some undiscerning Nigerians hear the demand for true federalism or resource control, they hurriedly conclude that the people in the oil producing states are greedy and want to enjoy the money derivable from crude oil all alone! This is a misjudgment because resource control is not about crude oil money alone. Resource control covers all resources: natural resources, agricultural resources, tourism resources and internally generated revenues. So, resource control is not about oil money. It goes beyond that; it is about the states mining, exploring and exploiting their natural resources such as solid minerals domicile in their lands. Resource control is about the states harnessing their agricultural resources. Resource control is about the states tapping the enormous potentials in the tourism sector and paying taxes to the federal government as it is practiced in other federations across the world.
Good enough, every state has numerous natural resources, agricultural resources and tourism resources to control. How great will the country be if the states are empowered to tap and harnessed their numerous natural resources? Can anyone imagine the industrial upspring the country will witness if the states are authorized to explore and exploit their natural resources? Just imagine the number of industries that will spring up to mine nickel, bauxite, lead, ore, uranium, kaolin, gold, limestone, gemstone etc. that are in large deposits across the country if the states are allowed to mine them. This will also lead to employment opportunities across the land.
Nevertheless, since the federal government controls everything and gives monthly stipends to the states, the states have also become indolent and lethargic hence they have failed to harness the immense potentials in agriculture and tourism. States like Sokoto, Kebbi, Kano, Katsina, Niger, Kogi, Ogun Ebonyi States have the potentials to produce rice in large quantities yet Nigeria spends about N365 billion annually on the importation of rice! It is sad! Many states are also endowed with tourism potentials but they are not utilizing them for their advantage.
It is evident that few Nigerians who benefit abnormally from the unitary system, do not want to hear talks about true federalism. Such Nigerians resist talks about true federalism with such irrational zeal as if they love the country more than other Nigerians! They assume the posture of those who love the country because of the unquantifiable illegal wealth they make from the warp and uncoordinated country. For the country to move forward, there is urgent need to abolish the unitary system and embrace true federalism.
Anya, a public affairs analyst, wrote from Ikeja, Lagos