Resource Control and Accountability in a Federating State: The Evidence-Based Perspective

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Being A Paper Presentation At The 10th National Environment Congress Of The Environmental Rights Action (Friends Of The Earth Nigeria)

In order to appreciate this topic, the context and paradigm within which my paper is situated, the antecedent and emergence of Nigeria as a country must be placed side by side. This paper is not scholarly presented. However, it is shrouded in native intelligence and grassroots activism. Some of the germane premise and overview on which conclusion can be made are

  • The question whether Nigeria truly represent a good example of a federating state.
  • The nature and characteristics of the multi-ethnic, multi-religious and neo-imperialist state
  • The balance of power; and the costs of power
  • The determination of the people for true federalism

Problem definition

The ills of resource control and accountability in a skewed federating state like Nigeria since the 1914 amalgamation and handover of power by the colonial warlords are: state oppression, manipulated census figures, weak and stage managed judicial system, electoral uncertainty, lopsided revenue allocation, disproportionateness in the creation of states and local governments, high level of corruption, nepotism, religious intolerance, ethnic crisis, promotion of mediocrity over standards, environmental degradation, land grab and primitive looting of common resources by the organized ruling class. The federal government is taking the chunk of revenue generated from the natural resources; the sharing formula is 52.68, 26.72 and 20.60 for federal, state and local government respectively. Sub-national transfers are at the desires of an all-powerful president as was the case when General Obasanjo seized federal allocations for Lagos for several months.

Of importance for highlight are:

Resource Control.

The word “resource” can simply be said to mean the wealth, reserve, source, supplies of goods, raw materials, minerals e.t.c, which a person or a country has or can use for development or production (Advanced Learner’s Dictionary of Current English, 1962: 838). But in the context of our discuss, it includes the control and determination of natural resources; that is, the way and method state authorities allocate and distribute government revenue among the various tiers of its administration.


This is a process when the head/administrator gives feedback to the governed periodically as at when due. For accountability to be complete and effective there must be the demand side of it. The people must ask their representatives to give account of their stewardships. The facets of accountability can be viewed in the form of decentralization, political accountability, economic accountability, electoral accountability and the deployment of security apparatuses.

Accountability can be defined as the obligation of power-holders to account for or take responsibility for their actions. “Power-holders” refers to those who hold political, financial or other forms of power and include officials in government, private corporations, international financial institutions and civil society organizations.

This paper focuses specifically on the accountability of government actors toward citizens and, in particular, toward poor people.  This accountability is a consequence of the inherent ‘social compact’ between citizens and their delegated representatives and agents in a democracy.  A fundamental principle of democracy is that citizens have the right to demand accountability and public actors have an obligation to account.  As Mulgan (2000) has stated, “those calling for an account are asserting rights of superior authority over those who are accountable”.

Government officials and bureaucrats are accountable for their (i) conduct and (ii) performance. In other words, they can and should be held accountable to (i) obey the law and not abuse their powers, and (ii) serve the public interest in an efficient, effective and fair manner.

All states have some form of mechanisms in place to promote or ensure accountability of public servants.  Systems of accountability that are internal to the state are often referred to as “horizontal” mechanisms of accountability (Schedler et al. 1999).  These include:  (i) political mechanisms (e.g., constitutional constraints, separation of powers, the legislature and legislative investigative commissions); (ii) fiscal mechanisms (e.g., formal systems of auditing and financial accounting); (iii) administrative mechanisms (e.g., hierarchical reporting, norms of public sector probity, public service codes of conduct, rules and procedures regarding transparency and public oversight), and; (iv) legal mechanisms (e.g., corruption control agencies, ombudsmen and the judiciary) (Goetz and Gaventa, 2001).

Demand Side of Accountability

In a public sector context, demand accountability refers to a broad range of actions and mechanisms that citizens, communities, independent media and civil society organizations can use to hold public officials and public servants accountable. These include, among others, participatory budgeting, public expenditure tracking, monitoring of public service delivery, investigative journalism, public commissions and citizen advisory boards, etc. mass actions like protests, picketing, naming and shaming. These citizen-driven accountability measures complement and reinforce conventional mechanisms of accountability such as political checks and balances, accounting and auditing systems, administrative rules and legal procedures.

Fiscal Federalism

The Willink’s Report of 1958 succinctly affirmed that we are a group of independent and autonomous kingdoms and peoples, with separate languages, culture and religion, equal in status and in no way subordinate to one another but united as a corporate body to form the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

The question is, to whom should the benefits of resource control accrue especially in a federating state?

The 1958, 1960 and 1963 Constitution allowed for competition among the various segments of the society.  The 1963 Republican Constitution provided a better framework and structure on issues of devolution of powers, fiscal regime central to true federalism. It directed that revenue derived from imports be paid 100 percent to the state in proportion to the consumption of the product.  The same goes for Excise Duty: 100% payment to the state according to the proportion of the duty collected.  For minerals, the constitution shares the revenue in the proportion of 50: 20: 30; i.e. 50 percent for derivation, 20 percent to the Federal Government and the remaining 30% paid into the distributable pool to be shared among the states, including the Donor State.  It was not flawless arrangement, but it reduced exploitation of owners of the resources and past mistakes.

On March 27, 2001, the 17 southern states Governors rose from its third summit in Benin City, the Edo State Capital, and declared its penchant for fiscal Federalism based on the principles of national interest, need and derivation.  The communiqué at the end outlined resource control as “the practice of true federalism and natural law in which the federating units express their rights to primarily control the natural resources within their borders and make agreed contribution towards the maintenance of common services of the government at the Centre”

According to Chief Obafemi Awolowo, resource control should accrue to the individuals and not the state laying his argument on the principles elucidated upon by Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations in 1776.

The body polity

Nigeria is not a nation, it is not even a nation-state but several diverse ethnic nationalities coerced into unholy union by the British warlords in the ill-fated 1914 amalgamation of the Southern and Northern Protectorates against universal process of nation formation

Genuine proponents of restructuring are not calling for the break-up of the country, but that the existence of Nigeria should take her bearing on devolution of powers and fiscal federalism. The form, the structure, and the practice must be discussed, agreed upon and dictated by the various nationalities and social entities relevant for building a true nation.

There are gross irregularities in the way and manner which local governments and states have been created in Nigeria. I hasten to used Lagos and Kano as evidenced-Based. Lagos state still retain her old twenty (20) local governments while Kano state has been divided into two states and more LGAs. Kano has (44) LGAs; Jigawa (27)-making 71 LGAs. Each of these LGAs, share in the federal allocations. This is a clear evidence of the use of primitive state power disproportionately; and the subjugation of the doctrines of justice and fair-play in nation building process. Political and economic accountability is seriously questioned in this scenario.

Lessons from other land

Ab initio, the union of the united States of America after which Nigeria presently disproportionately patterned her system of government had only thirteen members that willingly joined the union; others followed suit at their own pace, time and understanding. The United Kingdom also structured her democracy along parliamentary system where the constituent units Irish, Wales, British and Scottish have their separate parliament. This unhallowed union called Nigeria has not worked; it is not working and can never work until we do the needful of re-building a nation as agreed by all. Wales, Scottish, Ireland and the British make up Great Britain as a nation; all of them have their different parliaments-operating as nations within a nation. Switzerland, Brazil are also good examples of federating states.

Power-holders as obstacle to resource control, accountability and restructuring: An Overview

How can there be genuine restructuring when the masses most especially, are inter-twined in debate about 2019, narrowing the presidency to only Buhari and Atiku? Are all Nigerians bereaved of ideas to govern the country?We have for over five decades paraded the same old, soiled, recycled hands in our body polity. Buhari was the Minister for petroleum in 1978 under the Obasanjo military dictatorship when N2.8 billion disappeared to Uganda, he was the governor of old Borno state and rule the country in 1983-85as a military dictator. He was equally recycled as the Chairperson of the Petroleum Task Fund (PTF) under Abacha and now recycled as a civilian President. 1976 when Obasanjo took over after the death of General Muritala Mohammed to 2017 is forty-one years. The inglorious exit and re-instatement of Atiku to the custom service by IBB is an open secret. As the Vice-president under Obasanjo, he was the Chairman of the Bureau of Public Enterprise, that is, privatization of public enterprises. He used that office to enrich himself. And today he has highest share in some of the leading companies and financial institutions; Bank PHB, Intel, American University in Nigeria e.t.c. The question is where did Atikuas a retired civil servant made his money from?

Another example of failure in the area of public accountability is the continuous silence of President Muhammadu Buhari on the incessant destruction of farmlands, rape, armed robbery, kidnapping, cruel killings and destruction of communities by Fulani herdsmen. President Buhari is the president of Miyetti Allah, the umbrella body of the herdsmen; I am not aware he has made statement or taken practical steps to end their nefarious activities being perpetrated all over the country including the core north. Political, economic and socio-cultural accountability is at stake here.

The turning around of these old, soiled, recycled hands is not a good sign and portent for moving a country forward towards nation building and development; rather is suffice to say that as a country, Nigeria is not working;and it cannot work on the present framework. Power must devolve. Not according to the whims and caprices of the ruling elites but as decided in a free referendum enthroning devolution of powers and fiscal federalism

The Future is Bleak

Any nation, that neglects her youth on a political sick-bed, has nothing but a bleak future.

To further show the level of political retrogression, the youth have been subjugated and they have capitulated. They have resigned their fate to the dictates of the slave-masters; fantasized by the euphoria and madness for European league debacles, unproductive exigencies with the social media, avarice for quick money (yahoo yahoo), monetized electoral participation, and thuggery. The youth are largely, on a political comatose. This is productive group of any balanced nation, to have her youth on a pedestrian of uncertainty portends a fragile destiny for many generations to come.

What is to be done?

In the immediate for natural resource control and better accountability, there is need for remedial path of actions, both in the oil and gas, the solid minerals and natural resource in its entirety.

  • Review of outdated/expired MoUs and legal agreements with oil companies
  • Installation of modern metering technology on oil well-heads to know the quantity of oil produced. ERA has launched Publish What You Pump.
  • Repair of the existing refineries, build new ones with proximity to raw materials
  • automation of record keeping
  • do away with the crude politics of acquisition and assignments of oil blocks by discretion; best practices must be enforced
  • Review of existing fiscal regime in the industry
  • The Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB) in the version that put resources at the benefits of the masses, communities; enthrone structures for productive economy.
  • The world is fast drifting from fossil to alternative energy. We must begin to transit towards this direction
  • Establish sustainable mechanisms to promoting environmental health literacy (EHL) and effective natural resource management
  • Beneficial ownership (we must begging to unmask the masked persons behind our natural resource
  • Policy reform to integrate mandatory annual Environmental, Social, Health Impact Assessment and biodiversity audit
  • Communities must participate and own the designing of community development agreement (CDAs) in solid mineral areas.


Our Security System

Our security is a colonial inherited system. In a country like Nigeria where the balance of power is largely in the hand of the executive president, security institutions are weakened because appointments and control of institutions are politicized along ethnic, religious lines and favouritism. Loyalty of personnel is to the president instead of to the state. Our security system should be reformed and structured bearing in mind:

  • (i) national security consciousness
  • (ii) institutional strengthening
  • (iii) personnel (training and behavior change)
  • (iv) National army (with regional governments contributing personnel)
  • Regional police rooted in community policing
  • (v) modern equipment

Political restructuring

Political restructuring is a process, it is not and event. Therefore, the road map should be Sovereign National Conference, referendum, regional parliamentary system of government with a loose federal structure. This federating arrangement will ensure effective and efficient natural resource management and accountability. Equally, healthy competition among the federating units will lessen regional crisis and ethnic dichotomy.

I therefore uphold and affirm the Republican Constitution of 1963 as the framework for revenue allocation in the proportion of 50: 20: 30; i.e. 50 percent for derivation, 20 percent to the Federal Government and the remaining 30% paid into the distributable pool to be shared among the states, including the host State.


It is evidently clear that the emergence of Nigeria did not follow the process of nation formation; the colonial administrators only put in place an arrangement to satisfy the lust of their home government in the quest to expand the frontiers of colonial Empire for economic benefits. Since this imposed structure have continue to cause the loss of human lives and properties, underdevelopment, retarded values, primitive level of corruption, abject poverty, uncertainty in all strata of our society; it is time we face the reality of re-building Nigeria along fiscal federalism.

We must begin to sensitize, mobilize, organize, inform and follow through for a national solidarity movement that must evolve from community cells, units to the village square; driven by clear-cut mass oriented liberation ideology.


On a final note:

Vigilance is the Price for Eternal liberty

By Comrade Taiwo Otitolaye 

Executive Director, Community Outreach For Development And Welfare Advocacy (CODWA)

Otitolaye, Taiwo; “Another Agenda” Vanguard Newspapers April 4, 1996; page iv

Otitolaye, Taiwo;  “The Euphoria of Power” Nigerian Tribune Newspapers, Tues. October 8, 1996; page F IV

Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., a non-profit organization

Otitolaye, Taiwo;  “Nothing has changed” Nigerian Tribune Newspapers, Wed. December 30, 1998; page 9

Otitolaye, Taiwo;  “Coming of the Pillagers” National Interest Newspapers, Sunday March 25, 2001; page 9 etc.

Gaventa, John (2002). “Introduction: Exploring Citizenship, Participation and Accountability”, IDS Bulletin, Vol. 3, No. 2. Brighton: Institute of Development Studies.

Goetz, Anne Marie and John Gaventa (2001). Bringing Citizen Voice and Client Focus into Service Delivery. IDS Working Paper No. 138. Brighton: Institute of Development Studies.

Goetz, Anne Marie and Rob Jenkins (2001). “Hybrid Forms of Accountability: Citizen Engagement in Institutions of Public Sector Oversight in India,” Public Management Review, Vol. 3, Issue 3, pp. 363- 83.

Jenkins, Rob and Anne Marie Goetz (1999). “Accounts And Accountabilit: Theoretical Implication of Right to Information Movement in India.” Third World Quarterly, vol. 20, no. 3 (1999), pp. 603-22.

Mulgan, Richard (2000). ‘Accountability’: An Ever-Expanding Concept?, Discussion Paper No. 72., Graduate Program in Public Policy, Australian National University.

World Bank (2004). World Development Report 2004: Making Services Work for Poor People. Washington: World Bank.

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