Urhobo Historical Society


Quo Vadis (Oil) Resource Control in the Niger Delta?


By Emmanuel Ojameruaye, Ph.D.




As we approach the October 4, 2009 deadline for all militants in the Niger Delta to surrender to the Federal Government (FG), the question facing the apostles of (oil) resource control by oil producing states and communities is: quo vadis?, i.e. "Where do you go from here ?" or simply "What next?". Will the October 4, 2009 mark the end of the resource control struggle or will it mark a pause? If it is the latter, when will it resurrect again and in what form?


The Amnesty Deal

It is now an open secret that the Federal Government believes that October 4, 2009 will mark the end of at least the military wing of the struggle. In fact, the Federal Government is already sounding triumphant and waving the “Mission Accomplished” banner. On September 29, 2009, the presidential review meeting on the implementation of the Amnesty program concluded that the October 4 deadline for all repentant militants to surrender their arms remains unchanged. The meeting chaired by President Yar’Adua was attended by the Vice-President, Chief of Defense Staff, Inspector-General of Police, Governors of Cross Rivers, Akwa Ibom, and Bayelsa States, the Deputy Governors of Rivers and Delta States, Ministers of the Niger Delta Ministry and the Presidential Honorary Adviser on Niger Delta Matters.





The meeting completely ignored the conditions given by two leaders of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), Government Ekpemukpolo, aka Tompolo, and Ateke Tom for accepting the amnesty program. Tompolo had asked for an extension of the deadline by three months while Ateke had called for the withdrawal of the Joint Task Force (JTF) from the region.  In fact, after the meeting the Federal Government categorically stated that it does not recognize MEND.  Briefing State House Correspondents on the outcome of the meeting, the Defense Minister and Chairman of the Presidential Amnesty Committee, Major-General Godwin Abbey (rtd), warned MEND that it could not threaten the very existence of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. He noted that the government is prepared to defend the sovereignty of the country in all its ramifications. He said: “After the 4th of October the amnesty terminates, there will be no extension. Government is firm, is resolute and government will continue with subsequent aspect of the rehabilitation and reintegration of all those who have embraced amnesty…MEND is not recognized by the Federal Government as the spokesperson for the militants that is if they exist at all physically…MEND cannot choose for the Nigeria nation, if MEND decides to test the will of government and choose to threaten the very existence of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, government is prepared to defend the sovereignty of Nigeria in all its ramifications.”


On the next step by the Federal Government (FG) after the deadline of the amnesty offer, the minister said: “Government is going to pay attention to all the militants who have embraced amnesty; they are going to be put together in various camps that have been designated and in this camps they will be categorized and personal contacts will be established with each of them after thorough documentation and their choice of training and settlement will also be identified….Government is willing to train them and to join them in any rehabilitation effort that will bring about their going into life as normal citizens without resorting to militancy.”

The meeting did not address the issue of resource control which has long been recognized as the root cause of the militancy. In fact, despite calls on the FG to address the resource control issue as part of a holistic and sustainable approach to addressing the Niger Delta crisis, it has remained silent on the issue before and since the declaration of the Amnesty program. In fact, a day before the above-mentioned meeting, MEND announced that Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, and Vice Admiral Mike Akhigbe (rtd) had agreed to join its four-man “Aaron team” of mediators with the FG.  MEND stated that “Some eminent Nigerians have graciously accepted to dialogue on behalf of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, MEND, with the Federal Government of Nigeria whenever the government realizes the need to adopt serious, meaningful dialogue as a means to halting the violent agitation in the Niger Delta”. MEND  further stated that the mediators “have our mandate to oversee a transparent and proper MEND disarmament process that conforms with international standards as the current disarmament process is flawed and lacks integrity…The MEND disarmament process will only come after the root causes of militancy and agitation in the Niger Delta have been addressed by the Nigerian government”. MEND went further to accuse the FG of not showing “willingness to dialogue, preferring instead to make wild unrealistic threats, purchase more useless military hardware, and dole out bribes to traitors to our noble cause."1

bviously, from the statement of Gen. Abbe after the presidential meeting, it is clear that the FG is not interested in negotiating with the MEND’s team. The FG appears confident that the Amnesty program has crippled MEND. The FG is also appears set for a major offensive against those militants who refuse to surrender by the October 4 deadline. It has been reported that as soon as the FG announced the Amnesty program it began preparation for a new offensive in the creeks.  According to the reports, Israeli and Russian instructors have been "providing specialized training to Nigerian Navy and Air Force sailors and pilots on how to operate the ships and helicopters over the past few months, and some of these instructors may help operate them during the offensive."

It is instructive to note that ever since the Amnesty debate started, the FG has not clearly stated how it plans to address the “root causes”of the violence in the region other than repeating the usual refrain : “we will develop the region.” It appears that the FG and MEND have different views on the “root causes” of the crisis. To the FG, it appears that once the “repentant” militants can be settled by cash payments, training and rehabilitation all will be well. To MEND, the root cause is the refusal of the FG to acquiesce to the demand for resource control. However, MEND leaders have not been using the term “resource control” lately and it is becoming doubtful if most of the militants and some of their leaders know what resource control is all about or have a coherent goal for their struggle. Now that the militancy now appears to be in its “last throes”, at least for some time, what will happen to “resource control” struggle?


Let me observe that the term “resource control” seems to have fallen into disuse in recent times. The FG as well as political leaders from the Niger Delta region and even the militants hardly use the expression these days. To the FG, it has almost become an anathema because it is synonymous with rebellion. Many political leaders from the Niger Delta seem to have also decided to keep away from the expression after claims by some governors from the region that their “travails” (and “punishment”) under President Obasanjo was due to their leadership of the resource control struggle.  Since most politicians are more interested in “personal preservation and interest” they seem to have decided to stay away from being associated the struggle.


Evolution of the Resource Control Struggle


To predict the future of the resource control struggle, it is important to first define the concept and do some “backcasting”. Although the struggle for resource control in the Niger Delta can be traced to colonial times, the term was not used then. In fact, the term was first used by the “South-South” governors in 2002 during “offshore/onshore dichotomy” case between the FG and the littoral states at the Supreme Court.  It was during the heat of the offshore/onshore court case, that the SS governors met in Benin City and defined their struggle as ultimately one of “resource control” which, they defined 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 maintenance of common services of sovereign nation state to which they belong. In the case of Nigeria, the federating units are the 36 states and the Sovereign nation is the Federal Republic of Nigeria”.


The Governors were simply recanting statements contained in previous Bills of Right, Declarations and Charters of Demand by some ethnic nationalities in the region such as the Ogoni Bill of Rights, The Kaiama Declaration, etc. For instance, the “Ogoni Bill of Rights” presented to the federal military government and peoples of Nigeria in November 1990 included the following:  i) That oil was struck and produced in commercial quantities on our land in 1958 at K. Dere (Bomu oilfield); ii)  That in over 30 years of oil mining, the Ogoni nationality have provided the Nigerian nation with a total revenue estimated at over 40 billion Naira (N40 billion) or 30 billion dollars; iii)  That in return for the above contribution, the Ogoni people have received NOTHING; iv) That the Ogoni people wish to manage their own affairs; v) That the Ogoni people be granted…The right to the control and use of a fair proportion of OGONI economic resources for Ogoni development; …The right to protect the OGONI environment and ecology from further degradation.


The Ogoni Bill of Rights brought some of Ogoni leaders into direct confrontation with the federal military government which led to a “military occupation” of Ogoni territory. Following internal feud within the ranks of Ogoni leadership which lead to the brutal murder of some Ogoni leaders, nine activists of the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP) including its leader, Mr. Ken Saro-Wiwa, were hanged by the Abacha military regime on November 10, 1995 despite pleas for clemency by several world leaders and oil company executives.


On the other hand, the 1998 "Kaiama Declaration" by the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) states inter alia that: “all land and natural resources within the Ijaw territory as belonging to the Ijaw communities… because they are the basis of our survival… peoples and communities right to ownership and control of our lives and resources".


In essence, resource control, natural resource control within the Nigerian context is the desire of a state government and/or local government and/or local community to control any natural resource found within its defined boundaries. The degree of “control” is negotiable with the federal government. Resource control is different from derivation which is simply “a form of compensation and/or reparation for an expropriated interest….a recognition of a prior beneficial right that was subsequently expropriated” (Akpo Mudiaga-Odge). In other words, under derivation, the federal government retains control of natural resources but compensates the state and local governments where such resources are exploited in accordance with an agreed formula. On the other hand, under resource control, the state and local governments are not recompensed for anything; they collect the revenues (in terms of rents, royalties, taxes and other payments) and pay agreed taxes (or contributions) to the central or federal government for its common protection and administration of the federation. The Nigerian constitution from colonial times to date provided for the principle of derivation and not resource control. However, some form of resource control has been in practice in mining of marble in Igbeti Community in the old Western Region (now Oyo State)2

Given the political economy of Nigeria and the practical difficulties of implementing resource control of natural resources by regional or state governments, the country had settled for the principle of derivation since colonial times. This does not mean that it is the ideal system for a true federation and that other options cannot be adopted with the passage of time. For instance, it is possible to adopt “joint ownership” or control of natural resources by both the federal government and the mineral producing state and local governments and communities through the allocation of shares or equity holding in mineral producing ventures to the latter group similar to the Igbeti Marble Formula. This way, state and local government as well communities can participate in the management, control and “dividends” of the mineral activities within their territories.


To be sure, the issue of revenue sharing or allocation (and hence degree of cross-subsidization) has been a thorny one since the foundation of Nigeria. According to the 2006 UNDP Human Development Report for the Niger Delta, “At the root of the amalgamation of the Southern and Northern Protectorates by Lord Luggard in 1914 was the issue of cross-subsidization – the richer South would subsidize development endeavors in the poorer North. The level of cross-subsidization was not specified…in 1946…the Phillipson Fiscal Commission …proposed the derivation principle as a basis for fiscal federalism. The idea was that revenue should be shared, among other things, in proportion to the contribution each region made to the common purse or central government. Derivation became the only criterion used to allocate revenues among the regions in the 1948-1949 and 1951-1952 fiscal years. In the period shortly after independence in 1960, the disparity in allocation largely reflected the degrees of enterprise and levels of production in the regions. This means that, by merely looking at the levels of allocations, one could easily discern the regions with high levels of economic activities in areas such as cash crop production…earnings from exports and excise duties, etc. The incentives embedded in the revenue allocation inevitably encouraged competition among the regions, with each striving to contribute more in order to get more from the centrally allocated revenues. Between 1946 and 1960, the derivation principle was maintained at 50%. After independence, it continued at the same level until 1967, when the Nigerian civil war started…After the civil war led to the political and fiscal centralization of the federal system, the military administration of General Gowon promulgated the Petroleum Decree No. 51 in 1969. This put the ownership and control of all petroleum resources in, under or upon any land in Nigeria under the control of the Federal Government. It means that individuals, communities, local governments and even states with land containing minerals were denied their rights to the minerals”. Consequently, derivation plummeted progressively from 50% in 1967 to 20% (minus offshore proceeds) in 1975-79, then to 0% in 1979 -1981, 1.5% in 1982-1992, 3% in 1992-1999 and the 13% (minimum) under the 1999 Constitution that the military regime handed over to the new civilian administration of President Obasanjo. However, President Obasanjo initially refused to apply the 13% derivation he inherited to offshore proceeds thereby effectively reducing it to less than 8%.  Do we need to look any further for the underlying cause of the twelve-day (Niger Delta Republic) revolt led by Major Isaac Adaka Boro in 1966 and the clamor for increased derivation since the early 1980s which has boiled over into clamor for resource control and unrest in the Niger Delta region?


As a result of the struggle for resource control by the governors and political leaders of the Niger Delta, the FG under President Obasanjo decided to abolish the offshore/onshore oil dichotomy in 2004 thus paving the way for the allocation of the 13% of oil revenue to the oil-producing states in accordance with the 1999 constitution. Not satisfied, the leaders carried the struggle to National Political Reform Conference (NPRC) convened by President Obasanjo in early 2005. However, because of the limited mandate of the NPRC, the Niger Delta delegates apparently decided to focus on increasing the percentage derivation instead of pressing for resource control. As a starting point, the Niger Delta delegates to the NPRC demanded for 60% derivation but they eventually settled for “25% now and 50% within 5 years”, i.e. a return to the 1963 position within five years. However, the majority delegates from other part of the country, particularly from the North, insisted on 17% derivation which was eventually adopted by the NPRC. At the end of its deliberations in July 2005, the NPRC made the following recommendations amongst others:


i)    "an expert commission should be appointed by the Federal Government to study all the ramifications of the industry including revenue allocation with a view to reporting within a period of not more than six months, how the mineral resources concerned can best be controlled and managed to the benefit of the people of both the states where the resources are located and of the country as a whole”.


ii)    "A clear affirmation of the inherent right of the people of the oil producing areas of the country not to remain mere spectators but to be actively involved in the management and control of the resources in their place by having assured places in the Federal Government mechanisms for the management of the oil and gas exploration and marketing.


iii)    increase in the level of derivation from the present 13% to 17%, in the interim pending the report of the expert commission. Delegates from the South-South and other oil producing states insisted on 50% as the irreducible minimum. Having regard to national unity, peace and stability, they agreed to accept, in the interim, 25% derivation with a gradual increase to attain the 50% over a period of five years.


Following the NPRC, there was a lull in restiveness the region as the militants and proponents of resource control waited for President Obasanjo to implement the above recommendations. However, when it became clear that the President was not in a hurry to implement the recommendations, the militants resumed the struggle. This time around the “struggle” became more violent because of: (a) the arrest and detention of Alhaji Mujahid Dokubo-Asari, the “Supreme Leader” of the NDPVF and Chairman of the Niger Delta People’s Salvation Front (NDPSF) in October 2005 on charges of treason; and (b) the impeachment of the Governor of Bayelsa State, Chief D. S. P Alamieyeseigha, in early December 2005. He was detained in London in November on charges of money laundering but he jumped bail and escaped to Nigeria and was subsequently expelled from the PDP and impeached by the State Assembly, an action that was believed to have been orchestrated by President Obasanjo, as payback for championing “resource control” and supporting the militants.


The rank and profile of the militants increased significantly as a result of the two factors mentioned above. They demanded for the release of both Alhaji Dokubo-Asari and Chief Alamieyeseigha but President Obasanjo refused to yield to their demands. In addition, he also refused to implement the recommendations of NPRC on the Niger Delta. Thus, the oil-producing areas continued to receive 13% of oil revenue as against the 17% recommended by the NPRC till he left office in May 2007 and up till today.


In an attempt to reduce tension in the region, President Obasanjo inaugurated the Council on the Socioeconomic Development of Coastal States of the Niger Delta on April 18, 2006 with himself as the Chairman. In his address to the Council, he outlined a 9-point agenda for the region, including the creation 20,000 new jobs in the Armed Forces, Police, NNPC and Teaching for indigenes of the region within three months, commitment of N230 billion for the construction of the long-abandoned East–West (Warri-Mbiama- Port Harcourt-Eket-Oron) road, commencement of the dredging of the river Niger, upgrading of the Petroleum Training Institute (PTI), Effurun in Delta State to a degree-awarding institution, establishment a federal polytechnic in Bayelsa State by September, rural electrification for 396 communities, water supply for over 600 communities, and the appointment of an officer in the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation to coordinate the various intervention programs by all the tiers government as well as those of oil companies and development partners. The Council turned out to be another ruse as most of the promises were not delivered before he left office. However, he established a new Federal University of Petroleum Resources in Effurun on the eve of his departure from office and appointed Prof. Alabi from his home state (Ogun) as Vice Chancellor, Mrs. Onwuka from the South East as the Registrar, and the Emir of Gwandu from the North as the Chancellor, and Engr. Makoju, also from the South West, to head the Governing Council. The President did not deem it fit to appoint a Niger Deltan as one of the principal officers of the new university located in Delta state.


The Faltering of the Resource Control Struggle


By the time President Obasanjo left office in amy 2007 he had almost neutralized the “political wing” of the resource control struggle through intimidation of the governors, legislators and other politicians aspiring to “elective” and appointed political offices, especially under the ruling PDP party. After the travails of some governors, many politicians from the area decided to either avoid using the term “resource control” or soft-pedal on the issue of resource control for fear of being “EFCC’ed”. Ironically, as the political leaders made a tactical withdrawal from the struggle, the “military wing” grew stronger and attracted a larger number of unemployed youths, some of whom were used to rig the 2007 elections by the politicians. At the same time, the militants started making money through illegal oil bunkering (stealing of crude oil), hostage taking, harassment of oil companies and forced protection payments from oil companies. With the money coming in from these sources, the leaders of the militants were able to procure more arms and recruit more militants.        

As soon as President Yar’Adua was sworn into office in May 2009 he correctly identified the resolution of Niger Delta crisis as one of his cardinal objectives. However, rather than move quickly to implement the recommendations of previous commissions on the Niger Delta, he opted to hold his own form of Niger Delta Summit under the leadership of Prof. Ibrahim Gambari. The people of the Niger Delta saw the move as a deceptive tactic to resolving the resource control issue, and unanimously rejected the idea of the Summit under the chairmanship of a Northerner. President Yar’Adua thus retreated and after some prevarications established the 44-member Niger Delta Technical Committee (NDTC) in September 2008 under the chairmanship of Dr. Ledum Mittee, the leader of MOSOP, with members drawn from all the Niger Delta states. The Committee was charged to: a) collate, review and distill the various reports, suggestions and recommendations on the Niger Delta from the Willinks Commission Report (1958) to the present and give a summary of recommendations necessary for government action; b) appraise the summary recommendations and present a detailed short, medium and long term suggestions to the challenges in the Niger Delta; and c) make and present to government any other recommendations that will help the Federal Government achieve sustainable development, peace, human development and environmental security in the Niger Delta region”.

The NDTC completed its assignment in November 2008 and submitted its report to the Federal Government in December 2008. The report contained far-reaching recommendations aimed at the “sustainable development, peace, human development and environmental security” if they are all implemented as a “package”, i.e. holistically.  The Committee noted that “the very first action by the government towards implementing these recommendations is even more important than any other subsequent intervention…Consequently, the recommendations are set out as two inter-related parts; the first part being those actions that set the right tone for the implementation of all subsisting and further actions. The tone-setting agenda appears …in the form of a Compact with the Niger Delta… The short-term Compact will deliver on a visible, measurable outputs which produce material gains within an 18 months period…guided by a principle in which the Federal Government….report publicly on progress in implementation every three months”.  Among other things the Compact aims to deliver the following within an 18 month period: a) Immediately increase allocation accruing from oil and gas revenues to the Niger Delta to 25% (i.e. additional 12%)…b)Within 6 months, complete initial steps that will support a disarming process for youth involved in militancy. This process would have to begin with some confidence building measures on all sides. These measures include cease fire on both sides, pull back of forces, open trail of Henry Okah. Also credible conditions for amnesty, setting up a Decommissioning, Disarmament and Rehabilitation (DDR) Commission and a negotiated undertaking by militant groups to stop all kidnappings, hostage taking and attacks on oil installations; c) Establish by the middle of 2009, a direct Youth Employment Scheme (YES) in conjunction with  states and local governments that will employ at least 2,000 youths in community works in each local government of the 9 states of the Niger Delta; and d) Complete the East-West road dualization from Calabar to Lagos by June 2010…

Even before the NDTC completed its work, the Federal Government went ahead to announce the establishment of the Ministry of the Niger Delta which was not part of the Compact. Critics regarded the establishment of the Ministry as a cosmetic and sinister move because that was not the issue at stake. It was argued that the creation of the Ministry would increase the bureaucratic red tape in resolving the Niger Delta crisis, weaken (and crowd out) the NDDC and the authority of the state governments. In view of the short deadline given to the NDTC to complete its work and the sense of urgency in resolving the Niger Delta crisis, it was expected the Federal Government would present the NDTC report to the National Assembly and then issue a White Paper on it and commence the implementation of the recommendations immediately. In fact, it appeared that after the establishment of the Ministry of the Niger Delta, President Yar’Adua went to sleep and kept the NDTC report on his shelf to gather dust. By April, 2009 it had become clear that the Federal Government was not interested in implementing the recommendations of the NDTC. Meanwhile, the agitation in the Niger Delta continued unabated as the FG used its Joint Military Task Force (JTF) to intensify its fight against the militants. At the same time, there was growing comingling of militancy with criminality as some militants intensified kidnappings, hostage taking, attack on oil installations, etc. Even many Niger Deltans became worried by the growing insecurity in the region caused by the activities in the militants. There were growing signals that the FG was leaning more towards a “military solution” to the crisis. All that the government needed was a “trigger”.  Whilst waiting for the trigger, the FG decided to set up an 18-member Presidential Panel on Amnesty and Disarmament of Militants in the Niger Delta (PPADM) on May 5, 2009 under the chairmanship of the Minister of Interior, Major-General Godwin O. Abbe (rtd), with the following terms of reference: a) To prepare a step-by-step framework for amnesty and complete Disarmament, Demobilization and Re-integration (DDR) in Niger Delta with appropriate time-lines; b) To ensure that those with criminal records do not take advantage of the amnesty; and c) To work out the cost to Government of disarmament, demobilization and re-integration of the militants.

It should be noted that the NDTC called for the establishment of a DDR Commission within 6 months, but the FG decided to set a “Panel” on “Amnesty and Disarmament” about six months after it received the NDTC report.   Even at that, the Panel did not start work until after the “trigger” came on May 13, 2009 when the JTF launched a full-scale invasion on the Ijaw Gbaramatu Kingdom in Delta State to dislodge “Tompolo”and his fellow MEND militants who had allegedly killed some members of the JTF. As the JTF continued its offensive against the militants, the FG began working on the terms of “amnesty” for the militants under a sense of “mission accomplished”. The Presidential Panel completed its work at about the third week of June and submitted its 63-page report to the FG recommending a N50billion amnesty package for “repentant militants”. President Yar’Adua made the Amnesty Proclamation on June 25, 2009. However, two days before the proclamation, security agents arrested the leader of the Niger Delta Volunteer Force, Asari Dokubo on his return from a medical trip to Germany but he was quickly released on orders of the President to demonstrate his “magnanimity”.  A day before the proclamation of the Amnesty,  MEND  accused the Head of the Presidential Panel on Amnesty for Militants in the Niger Delta, General Godwin Abbe (rtd), of trying to bribe them in order to get their cooperation in sharing the N50 billion budgeted for the amnesty exercise.  MEND spokesman, Jomo Gbomo, was quoted as saying “It is a shame that the interior minister and his cohorts are offering bribes and incentives to militants in a desperate attempt to get our cooperation in sharing the N50 billion budgeted for the amnesty exercise….While it is true that some of us will succumb to the temptation of money as Judas did, there are a majority that will remain steadfast in integrity, honor and a commitment to the people who cannot fight for their rights.”

Later, the FG released Henry Okah, one of the militant leaders who had been in federal custody for over a year, to travel abroad for medical attention. At the same time, the FG announced that each militant who came forward to surrender at the will be aid N20,000 monthly plus N1,500 daily for meal, making a total of N65,000 monthly. The “monetary bait” was aimed at incentivizing the militants to give up their arms and surrender to the JTF.  To further shore up confidence for the amnesty plan, President Yar’Adua made a one-day visit to Yenegoa, the capital of Bayesla state. Amidst apprehension and counter-accusations, the amnesty came into effect on August 6 and militants were given 60-days up till October 4, 2009 within which to surrender their arms to the FG and be registered for post-amnesty rehabilitation. After initial hesitation, many of leaders of the militants, starting with “General” Boyloaf”, began accepting the amnesty due mainly to monetary incentives and pressure from some political leaders from the region. The leaders of the militants encouraged and their “boys” to come forward to submit their arms and ammunitions. Despite several hiccups, over 6,000 out of the expected 10,000 militants have surrendered to the FG as of September 29. However some MEND leaders such as Dokubo Asari and Jomo Gbomo are yet to fully embrace the amnesty. It is doubtful if the MEND leaders who have not fully embraced the Amnesty can be as effective after October 4 as they were before the Amnesty. For one thing, the Amnesty seems to have torn the militancy asunder by putting a knife in the fragile bond that held the militants together. In fact, it appears that for the militants “things have fallen apart and the center can no longer hold”.

From all indications, it will be difficult for militants to regroup and constitute a threat to the FG in the immediate future. Since the FG did not make a commitment to resolving the resource control issue after the amnesty, one can safely say the “military wing” of the resource control struggle seems to have lost the battle, but perhaps not the war. The political wing lost the battle much earlier. Since the past two years, most political leaders hardly use the word “resource control”. At best, they talk of addressing the “root causes” of the crisis by calling on the FG to develop the region through infrastructural development and job creation. Neither President Yar’Adua nor the Chairman of the Amnesty Implementation nor the Niger Delta Ministry nor any of the governors has mentioned resource control or the implementation of the NDTC report since the declaration of the Amnesty. Now that both the political and militant wings of the resource control struggle seem to have back-pedalled  on the resource control issue, quo vadis?

The Future of the Resource Control Struggle

It is difficult to predict the future course of the resource control struggle. There are various possibilities. The FG can put a permanent end to the struggle by taking certain actions far beyond the proposed post-amnesty rehabilitation of the repentant militants.

Firstly, if the Amnesty succeeds and a development-enabling environment is created in the region over the next six months, the FG may decide to implement all the recommendations of the NDTC which will address a significant part of the “root causes” of the crisis, and the ultimate goal of the resource control issue. Will this happen? 

Secondly, the FG may decide to implement some of the recommendations of the NDTC plus other recommendations that will fully address the resource control issue. These include: i) incrementally increasing derivation to 50%; or ii) adopting an incremental-differential derivation formula; or iii) adopting the “Igbeti marble formula” by allocating share (equities) in oil companies/ventures to oil producing states, local governments and communities; iv) combining increased derivation (to, say,  25%) with equity holding by oil producing areas in oil ventures (to, say 25%); and  v) establishing a petroleum heritage and dividend fund for oil producing states, etc.3

On the other hand, the FG may assume that the resource control struggle is dead and then decide to ignore the NDTC recommendations, implement the Amnesty program for some time (i.e. resettle the repentant militants) and continue business as usual, i.e. retain the 13% derivation, and withdraw the JTF after sometime. It is unlikely if this scenario will result in sustainable peace and development in the region. For one thing, the projected 10,000 “repentant militants” constitute only about 0.2% of the youths in the region and less than 1% of the number of unemployed youths in the region who constitute ready recruits for a future “military wing” of the resource struggle.

Alternatively, the FG may decide to ignore the NDTC recommendations, implement the Amnesty program for some time, continue business as usual and treat the region as a conquered territory, i.e. expand and retain the JTF sine die. This course of action will not be sustainable under a democratic setting. Under this scenario, the “political wing” of the resource control struggle will wake up from its current slumber, liberate itself from the ruling PDP and align with other parties in the country that are willing to address the resource control issue. If they fail to find allies, they may take the gauntlet and align with a new group of more disciplined militants. The outcome of this can be anybody’s guess.

Lessons and Recommendations


What then are some of the lessons of the resource control struggle to date?


Firstly, a situation where the exploitation of a natural resource (hydrocarbon) with significant negative externalities (such as pollution, environmental degradation and loss of farmlands) takes place in a certain region of the country and the federal government appropriates over 85% of the revenue coming from that resource is a recipe for instability and insecurity, and a time-bomb at worst.


Secondly, natural justice and common sense dictate that at least 50% (but preferably 100%) of rents and royalties paid by ventures that exploit a natural resources should be made to the people (state, local government, community and individuals) from where the natural resource is exploited. The FG could have a share but not necessarily the loin share.


Thirdly, the people on whose land a natural resource is exploited should not be expected to be mere spectators in the business. They have an inalienable right to participate in the management, ownership, control and dividends of the ventures that exploit the natural resource.


Fourthly, the resource control struggle can be suppressed for some time, but not all of the time. So long as the natural resources of the federation are distributed unevenly and the benefits of the natural resource are not distributed to reflect their geographical locations the ghost of resource control will continue to haunt the federation. A high degree of cross-subsidization of one section of the federation by another section is unsustainable in a federation. The FG should as a minimum return progressively to the pre-1967 revenue allocation system. Alternatively, as a minimum, it should adopt a system that ensures a sense of partial ownership and control of the exploitation of the natural resource by the state and local government areas where such a resource is found.


Fifthly, the political leaders of the region where a natural resource is exploited should not be naïve to think that a leader from the rest of the country will be so altruistic to grant resource control without a persistent struggle. The struggle must however be peaceful and unrelenting. If the political leaders abandon a peaceful struggle they create room for militants to take over the struggle. The “militant wing” is however susceptible to infiltration by criminal elements and opportunists whose activities could lead to alienation and support of some of the very people they are purportedly fighting for.  Thus, the militant wing must be disciplined and must be willing to work cooperatively the political leaders of the region and the nation to achieve the goals of resource control.




In conclusion, unless the “root causes” of the Niger Delta crisis are addressed by the FG, including the resource control issue, whatever peace the ongoing Amnesty program will bring may be ephemeral.  As I concluded in chapter 16 (The Long Road to Resource Control in the Niger Delta) of my book, The Political economy of Oil and other Topical Issues in Nigeria, “Following his triumphant release in 1990 from more than a quarter-century of imprisonment, Mandela published his autobiography in 1994 which he aptly titled Long Walk to Freedom where he “tells the extraordinary story of his life - an epic of struggle, setback, renewed hope, and ultimate triumph”… Although the resource control struggle by the ethnic minorities in the Niger Delta is different (from Mandela’s struggle) in many respects, the few parallels are nonetheless poignant.



Emmanuel Ojameruaye, PhD.

Phoenix, USA.

October 2, 2009










1 In a strange twist, as I was about posting this article on the internet on October 2, the Guardian of the same day reported that Tom Aleke was flown to Abuja the previous day to meet with President Yar’Adua where he promised to surrender.

2 The "Igbeti Marble formula" was first introduced in old Western Region. It stipulated that "the proceeds of all resources in a location should be shared to recognize the right of indigenous communities, the local, government, the operating firms, the state government and the federal government. This formula enables the local community to go into partnership with the technological firms producing wealth in the environment and by participatory decision making in the process entails those concerned share the pride of progress together.  The " Oyo State benefit plan" of 1990 also ensures that the people of the state derive maximum benefit from the exploitation of natural resource of the state by allocating of 10% equity participation to the state government." (see A. A. Ikein, Socio-economic and environmental challenges in the Niger Delta.).


3 Details of these options for addressing the resource control issue are contained in my submission to the NDTC in September 2008 as well as in my presentation on “Preconditions for Sustainable Peace and Development in the Niger Delta region” at the Launching of the Niger Delta Congress in New York on July 12, 2009. Some details can also be found in my book, The Political Economy of Oil and other Topical Issues in Nigeria” (Xlibris, 2006).