Friday, March 16, 2012

Oil Economy and the Revenue Allocation Debacle in Nigeria

An International Journal of Arts and Humanities
Bahir Dar, Ethiopia
Vol. 1 (1), February, 2012:1-13
ISSN: 2225-8590
AFRREV IJAH, Vol.1 (1) February, 2012
2 Copyright ©IAARR 2012:
Indexed African Researches Reviews Online:

Ebienfa, Kimiebi Imomotimi Department of Political Science, University of Ibadan, Nigeria +2348063822449 & Kumokou, Isaac Department of Political Science, Niger Delta University, P.M.B. 071, Wilberforce Island, 560001, Amassoma, Bayelsa State
This paper delves into one of the most controversial issues in the political economy of Nigeria. Equitable revenue allocation in Nigeria is one perennial problem which has not only defied all past attempts at permanent solution, but has equally evoked high emotions on the part of all stakeholders. The paper argue that the displacement of agricultural products by oil as the focal point of national revenue, and the attendant relegation of the principle of derivation in revenue allocation, is the root cause of the revenue allocation debacle in Nigerian federalism. The focus on revenue sharing rather than revenue generation is the root cause of political, economic and social decay in the country and has equally led to the proliferation of unviable state and local governments. The paper conclude that, the drive for financial autonomy and sustainable development cannot be realized if the derivation percentage is not reversed and increased to eradicate the over dependent posture of the federating units on the over bearing centre.
Keywords: Revenue Allocation, Derivation Principle, Oil, Federalism.

Nigeria is Africa’s leading producer of oil and the seventh largest producer of crude oil in the world, and equally endowed with other numerous natural resources. But rather than utilizing its resources for maximum development, the country is unfortunately bedeviled with how to efficiently and effectively distribute oil revenues in an equitable manner. The revenue allocation phenomenon in Nigeria is basically the issue of distribution of national (resources) revenue, mobilized by the central federal government. And as far as the revenue allocation debacle is concerned, the haggling is between those who bake the national cake (major contributors to national revenue) and those at the helm of affairs to allocate it. There exist two fundamental dimensions of revenue allocation or sharing in Nigeria. The first dimension is based on the institutions and tiers of government which the federal government is at the helm of affairs. While the second dimension is the issue of individuals and groups appropriating national revenue for themselves by corrupt and unjust means. It is important to note that, revenue allocation in Nigeria is defined by an inordinately strong political content, as evidenced in the tendency for major constitutional developments and political transactions to be accompanied by political pressures for revenue sharing reforms and fiscal adjustments (Oyediran and Olagunju, 1979). Therefore the questions that beg for answers are: What is the character of revenue allocation in Nigerian federalism. What is the rationale behind vehement agitations for increased revenue allocations in some parts of the country, e.t.c. This paper seeks to unravel the politics of revenue allocation in Nigeria, identify the major players, losers and gainers, and how national revenue is personalized in Nigeria body polity.

Federalism and revenue allocation
Federalism simply refers to a system of government where there is constitutional division of powers between two or more levels of government.
Revenue allocation in federal systems of government involves two basic schemes. The first implies the vertical sharing between the federal or inclusive government and other tiers of government. The subject of this sharing scheme is the federally generated revenue, such as royalties, export duties, import duties, mining rents etc.
The second principle of revenue sharing which is horizontal revenue sharing arises out of variations from the revenue generation capacities of component units. The logic is that, in areas where the revenue generation capacity is high, a relative higher tax is imposed vice versa to ensure stability. This transfer is called “equalization transfer”. The implication is that high taxation in relatively low revenue generated areas will drive away business investments and also cause further depression of the economy of such areas. To avoid this, the federal government has to inject more funds to such areas to create stability (Ojo, 2010). Nigeria is a federal state. Whereas federalism guaranteed the existence of two or more levels of government, the health of the federal state is seen in the character of the relationship between the various layers of government. One critical aspect of such relationship is the crucial issue of finance which defines the politics of revenue sharing in a multi ethnic society like Nigeria. Finance, no doubt is very critical in Federalism, especially in federal state formed via the devolution method. The idea is that, it determines the extent of autonomy allowed to sub-national governmental units and the citizens in a federation in particular. Key aspects of fiscal federalism include: the nature of mobilization and collection of revenues, the manner of allocation and distribution, and the level of autonomy enjoyed by each level in dispensing with its resources. There are arguably no universal nostrums or axioms of federal financial relations. Rather, a great variety of national systems of fiscal federalism exist, with each system evolving incrementally in an autonomous manner in response to the unique historical circumstances of each federation (Suberu, 2004:30).
However, there is a high level of financial imbalance in the Nigerian federalism. With the present 36 States and 774 local government structures, where as the federal central government has huge revenue at its disposal to execute its functions much less is available at the level of the other tiers of government. The simple logic of this misfortune is that, the federating or
Oil Economy and the Revenue Allocation Debacle in Nigeria component units are not allowed to control the resources produced in their territories, as was practiced before the advent of the oil regime. The laws that govern the Nigerian Oil industry equally gives the federal Government dominion over oil proceeds. For instance, under the Petroleum Act of 1969, the entire ownership and control of all petroleum in, under or upon any land in Nigeria is vested in the state (Omorogbe, 2001:20). This and other obnoxious laws like the Land Use Act of 1976 etc, denies the ethnic minorities populated Niger Delta from benefiting from the resources whose burden of production they bear. That is, the Nigerian State has become the manager of Nigerians national income and has maintained a tight grip on the purse strings (Lubeck, 1977). Federalism is a project. It can be linked to a tool for performing specific tasks in a contributed society. The tool being human invention, always needs to be improved upon in order to make it more effective and efficient to carry out the specific tasks. In the process of work, problems are encountered. These problems provide ideas for improving on the design of the tool in order to improve performance in achieving set goals (Aiyede, 2004:25). Though it has been identified that the tool of revenue sharing (revenue allocation) in Nigeria is bad, faulty and bias, as shown in the obnoxious laws that govern the oil industry, the powers that be have simply refused to improve the design of the tools to make it effective, acceptable cum results oriented. It is interesting to note that, due to the controversial nature of revenue allocation in most third world federalisms, since the late 1940’s, nine fiscal commissions have been set up, to examine the important issue of multi level finance in Nigeria. This is indicative of the dynamic nature of Nigeria’s fiscal federation (Egwaikhide, 2005).

Pre-oil economy and competitive development in federal Nigeria

Nigeria became a federation with the introduction of the Lyttleton Constitution of 1954. And the Nigerian federation was then constituted by three regions: Northern, Eastern and Western regions and agriculture was the major source of revenue. A peep into the annals of history shows that, the politics of revenue sharing was very limited when agriculture was the mainstay of the Nigerian economy. This was because; the regions were accorded the constitutional right to control the resources they produce. The regions were rich in agricultural resources with Cocoa in the West, Groundnut and cotton in the North and Palm Oil in the East, and it promoted
developmental competition among the regions. That is, there was a strong competition between the regions to become the most developed part of Nigeria.
While Obafemi Awolowo of the Action Group, with its philosophy of “democratic socialism”, spear-headed development drive in the Western region, Nnamdi Azikiwe of the National Council of Nigeria Citizens, led the Eastern region with the philosophy of “pragmatic socialism”. More so, using the Northern People Congress, and the bulwark of conservatism and primitive capitalism as a vehicle, Ahmadu Bello, the Sarduna of Sokoto, drove development in the North. The then revolutionary free education programme in the western region was funded entirely from cocoa and rubber proceeds. So also were the University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University, Liberty Stadium Ibadan, Cocoa House, Western Nigeria Broadcasting and Television services (the first television station in Africa). Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria and the University of Nigeria, Nssuka, were not built with foreign grants or loans, but from proceeds from cotton, groundnuts and palm oil (Tell, 2008). The pre-independent revenue allocation principles/formula as shown in the Philipson (1946), Hick-Philipson (1951), Chick (1953), and Raisman (1958), revenue allocation reports clearly indicates that the regions enjoy 100% derivation principle, which they utilized to promote development. However, with the attainment of independent in 1960, the derivation principle was reduced to 50%, as provided in section 134(1) and section 140(1) of the 1960 and 1963 constitutions of Nigeria. And this remains until 1970, when it was gradually reduced to 1.5%. It is significant to observe that the derivation principle which allows the federating units to benefit maximally from resources produced in their domain was the dominant criteria of revenue sharing in Nigeria during the dominance of agriculture as the focal point of national revenue.

Oil economy and the revenue allocation debacle in Nigeria

As an observable dynamics, the politics of revenue sharing was brought to limelight when oil became the main source of national revenue and oils the wheels of the Nigerian economy. The revenue allocation commissions that were constituted when oil gradually displaced agriculture as the bane of the nation’s economy trickled down the derivation percentage, and eventually displaced cum ignored it, as shown in Table 1 below. The commissions were
the Binns (1964), Dina (1968), Aboyade (1977), and the Okigbo (1980) Revenue Allocation Commissions. The interest of minorities does not count if they do not have a significant representation in the ruling class. Therefore, instead of derivation that hitherto benefits the regions, the commissions lay emphasis on Need, Population, Landmass, Balance Development, Equality of states, National minimal standard etc, to the detriment of the goose that lays the golden egg. Without mincing words, the implication is the deliberate and criminal transfer of the oil wealth out of the3 Niger Delta to develop other regions. It is evidently clear from the tables 1 and 2 that, with the ascendance of oil (found mainly in the homelands of the ethnic minorities) as the pivot of the nation’s economy, the interest of derivation on the part of those who wields state power faded, given that it will now promote the interest of the minorities who do not control state power (Ibaba, 2005). The abundant crude oil in the minority territories of the Niger Delta region became a subject of envy, and the majority groups adopted every means to ensure that the owners receives very little benefit from it (Etekpe, 2007). Due to the difficult terrain of the Niger Delta, and the effect of oil exploration and production, the region obviously needs more funds to promote development, hence agitations to reverse to at least 50% derivation fund for the region. Some may argue that, the Niger Delta, which is agitating for increment in the derivation percentage equally benefits from the era the principle held sway in the pre-oil economy era. However, the undeniable truth is that, the region was Balkanized into the Eastern and Western regions, where they constitute minorities. For example, the western Ijaws in present Delta State were minorities in the Yoruba’s dominated western region, and as such were even excluded from the famous free education legacy that the Yoruba’s enjoy. More so, the glaring need of development and absence of basic social infrastructures, excruciating property and generation backwardness in the region corroborates the fact, the Niger Delta was neglected parts of the Regions. Yenagoa which was a provincial head quarters since the pre independence era was connected to the national grid in terms of electricity only in 2007.
New conditions produce new negotiations, consensus, balancing and new problem-solving responses. As a resolve to make federalism more relevant to development and governance increases, so do consultations dialogue, negotiation and consensus over emerging issues grow (Ola, 1995:5). But
since 1995, efforts to revise the revenue allocation formula have been bogged down by intrigues.
State and local government creation is a tactics of revenue sharing in Nigeria. Since, the states are not viable economically, but totally dependent on the monthly allocation from the federal government, ethnic groups and region balkanized into more states, receives more from the federation account (Mbanefoh and Egwaikhide 2004), and that does not benefit the Niger Delta. According to Aiyede (2005) once a state is spilt in to two, each of the parts become equal with those that remain intact with respect to the size of allocation to be received automatically from the federal government. The equality principle, for instance, has been the major incentive for the proliferation of non viable sub-federal administrations in Nigeria since it ensures that each constituent unit (no matter how demographically small and administratively and financially weak) is guaranteed an equal share with other units of nearly half of federal revenue in the horizontal distributable pool. In this way, the existence in Nigeria of too many sub-national governments which simply exist to receive and consume their own equal shares of central financial handouts, has undermined the very essence of governance (Olashore, 2003:19). More so, the issue of using local government as criteria for revenue allocation short changes the Niger Delta region. Bayelsa state (which accounts for about 40% of oil production in Nigeria), for instance has only 8 local government areas, as against Kano state with 44 local government areas. Pitiably, it is the oil wealth that is used to fund the economically non-viable political enclaves created to enrich elites and their cliental cohorts.
What is good for the goose is good for the gender. But as a ploy to deliberately puncture the argument of derivation, scholars and politicians alike from zones outside the Niger Delta are even ignorantly laying claim to oil in the region. For instance, Usman (2002) advances an “organic theory of the state” in which groups with recognized identity cannot now use such to lay claim to national resources that are found in their homeland. Consequently, he argued that: if everybody should take exclusive membership and control of the natural resources in their area, as those attacking the corporate existence of Nigeria are demanding, then those states of Nigeria upstream from the Niger delta, in the Niger-Benue basin, should take exclusive ownership and control of the river water and its sediments drained away from them to form the delta and its hinterland, and demand their share from the returns from the export of crude oil and gas in proportion to what their vegetation, dead bodies, animals and fertile soil, generally contributed to the making of these minerals for hundreds of thousands, and even million, of years. Be that as it may, the claim to oil resources, advanced by Usman (a northerner), for the states of the north on the basis of their geographical location, has extended application. First, those countries from which and through which the Nile river flows would lay claim to Egypt and its wealth. That is, Uganda, Sudan and Ethiopia would lay historic claims to the resources of the Nile Delta in Egypt. Secondly, if the argument is correct, then the farmlands in Benue-Niger valleys that benefits from the flow of the Niger and Benue through Guinea, Senegal, Mali, Cameroun and Niger, should be claimed by those other countries from which their fertility is derived (Ekeh, 2001:9). More so, apostles of non-derivation often argue that the continued use of derivation will accelerate uneven progress and development in the country, which is unacceptable. By the very nature of fiscal decentralization, disproportionate growth and development is inevitable. Again, reference can hardly be made to a developing country with a decentralized fiscal system that has achieved balanced development (Myrdal, 1967). We must reiterate the fact that, the argument of the apostles of increased derivation (the people of the Niger Delta) is that, they are victims of environmental degradation, destruction of the ecosystem and their source of livelihood. The cost of infrastructural development is very high due to the marshy terrain of the region with the myriad of rivers and creeks that characterize the region. The Niger Delta question is the creation of the unsatisfactory fiscal relations between the regions and the federal government, and it equally explains the haggling and agitations to increase the derivation principle to at least 50% as was applicable in the sixties. It is pertinent to buttress the fact that, corruption which has eaten deep into the Nigerian body polity is not an exception in the Niger Delta, Therefore, with the present 13% derivation principle as enshrined in the 1991 Nigerian Constitution, there are claims that the Niger Delta states should first account for the 13% fund accrued to them for the past decade before demanding for more.
Objective as it seems, calling on the oil producing states to account for past allocations from the federation account has a hegemonic intent. It is actually intended to have a sobering and weakening effect on the argument for derivation principle because, it is selective. Otherwise, this call torches on accountability, an issue that affects all the states of the federation, oil and non-oil bearing states, as well as the federal government, because, more can be shown to have made prudent use of its share of the federation account significantly for the benefit of its constituency (Gboyega,2003). Put differently, corruption is not the exclusive preserve of the Niger Delta. Corruption cannot be the defining variable in the determination of two gets what, when and how; it cannot be (Okoko, 2008). Therefore corruption cannot be used as a criterion to judge whether to increase or reduce derivation percentage that accrues to oil producing states. Conclusion Revenue sharing or cake as the case may be, is very crucial in heterogeneous political entities like Nigeria, and especially when there is uneven distribution of political power and natural resources. And that those who wields political power, use it to appropriate more resource to themselves and ethnic groups, and leave those who not control state power with peanuts and mere tokens. The revenue sharing formula in Nigeria is undoubtedly skewed in favour of the major ethnic groups to the detriment of the minority ethnic groups in the Nigerian federal system. The revenue sharing mentality has also breaded laziness and eroded hard work as a virtue. The reason been that, it has introduced corrupt, unjustified, and bias criteria of appropriating and allocating national resources, which has caused dissatisfaction, disconnect and agitations for redress in the Nigeria state. Most states in the federation have nothing to show for the huge financial allocations they receive from the federal government. And until the trend is revised to make them productive, the drive for competitive development will be elusive.

Aaron, K. (2005) “Perspective: Big Oil, Rural poverty and Environmental Degradation in the Niger Delta of Nigeria”, Journal of Agriculture Safety and Health 11(2) pp.127-134 Aiyede, R (2005) “Intergovernmental Relations: the Strengthening of the Nigerian Federation”, in Onwudiwe, E. and Suberu, R. (eds) Nigerian Federation in Crisis: Critical Perspective and Political Opinions. Programme of Federal and Ethnic Studies, Department of Political Science, University of Ibadan, 221-230. Amuwo, Kunle et al (eds) (2004) Federalism and Political Restructuring in Nigeria, Spectrum Books Limited, Ibadan. Danjuma, T. (1994) “Revenue Sharing and Political Economy of Nigerian Federalism” Journal of Federalism, 1, 43-48. Egwaikhide, F. Aiyede, R, et al (2004) Intergovernmental Relationships in Nigeria. Programme on Ethnic and Federal Studies (PEFS) Department of Political Science, University of Ibadan, Ibadan. Ekeh, P. (2001) “The Misrepresentation of History: Bala Usman’s Unmaking of Nigerian History” The Guardian, 7 May, Lagos, pp. 8-9 Etekpe, A. (2007) Politics of Resources Allocation and Control in Nigeria; The Niger Delta Experience, Department of Political Science Monograph, Niger Delta University, No 1 Gboyega, Alex (2003) Democracy and development: the imperative of local Good government. An inaugural lecture, university of Ibadan, (Faculty of Social Sciences) Ibaba, I. (2005) Understanding the Niger Delta Crisis, Amethyst and Colleagues Publishers, Port Harcourt Idahosa, S. & Okotie (2005) “Why Government is Opposed to Resource control in Nigeria, in Orababor, et al (eds) Federal-State and Resources Control in Nigeria, Parker publishing company. Ikein, A. (1990) The Impact of Oil on a Developing Country: The Case of Nigeria. Evans Brothers limited, Ibadan.
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Oyediran, Oyeleye & Olatunji, Olagunju (1979) “The Military and the politics of revenue Allocation in Nigeria”. In Oyeleye Oyediran (eds) Nigerian Government and politics under Military Rule, 1966-67, Macmillan, London pp. 192-211 Reno, W. (1993) “Old Brigades, Money Bags, New Breeds, and the Ironies of Reform in Nigerian. Canadian Journal of African studies, Vol. 27 no 1, pp. 95-87 Suberu, R. (2004) “Pseudo-Federalism and the political Crisis of Revenue Allocation” in Aghaje, A. et al (eds) Nigeria’s Struggle for Democracy and Good Governance: A festschrift for Oyeleye Oyediran, University Press, Ibadan. Tell (2008) Fifty years, of Oil in Nigeria. February 18. The Constitution of Federal Republic Nigeria (1960). The Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria (1963)
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Table 1: Federal-States Shares of Proceeds from Distributable Pool
Producing State (Region) Percent (%)
Distributable Pool/Federation Account Percent (%)
45(Minus offshore proceeds)
55(plus offshore proceeds)
20(Minus offshore proceeds)
80(plus offshore proceeds)
Source: Text of a World Press Conference organized by Delegates from the South-South Geopolitical Zone to the National Political Reform Conference (2005:23). Table 2: Horizontal Revenue Sharing Formula for States and Local Governments
Indices Percentage Weight Assigned
Initial RMAFC proposal (August 2001)
Revised RMAFC Proposal (January,2003)
Equality of units
Social Development factor
Internal Revenue Effort
Source: Danjuma (1994)
Oil Economy and the Revenue Allocation Debacle in Nigeria

Militancy in the Niger Delta and the Emergent Categories

To cite this article: Kimiebi Imomotimi Ebienfa (2011): Militancy in the Niger Delta and the
emergent categories, Review of African Political Economy, 38:130, 637-643


The oil-rich Niger Delta has been engulfed
in militant activities in recent years.
Militancy in the Niger Delta is undeniably
an issue of local resistance to repressive
state institutions. The Niger Delta is the
theatre where these repressive state institutions,
using taxes from the multinational
oil corporations, inflict their obscene
brutalities on the helpless inhabitants of
the oil-bearing communities (Owolabi and
Okwechime 2007).
From a transnational perspective, resistance
polities have become the refuge for
those who are alienated by capitalist
social relations and the hegemonic power
of the federal government/corporate
alliance over oil, and seek to oppose their
exploitative agenda. Depending on the specificities
of each moment, the balance of
social forces and the organisational
capacity of local social movements, these
movements seek forcefully to rectify the
inequities embedded in the imperatives of
global accumulation. To be candid, the
cocktail of political marginalisation, repression,
conditions of poverty, abject deprivation
and social exclusion in the Niger
Delta represent legitimate grievances for
violent group mobilisation. The reason
has been that oil production in the Niger
Delta has not generated wealth for the
majority of the people, but simply the
outflow of wealth. For instance, the centralist
nation-building project of the military in
post-civil war Nigeria, bankrolled by petrodollars,
manifested as a virtual transfer of
oil wealth from the Niger Delta to other
regions of the country. It is owing to the
failure to win concessions through peaceful
means that the youths in the Niger Delta
have been inexorably driven to militantly
protest, marginalisation, unemployment,
development deficit and inequality.

The origins of militancy in the Niger

The origins of militancy in the Niger Delta
can be divided into remote and immediate
causes. The remote causes include inter
alia: environmental degradation, marginalisation
and underdevelopment in the region,
the existence of obnoxious laws such as the
Petroleum Act of 1969 and the Land Use
Act of 1978, and the killing of Ken Saro-
Wiwa. The immediate causes of militancy
on the other hand include the militarisation
of the Niger Delta by the Nigerian state, the
‘Youths Earnestly Ask for Abacha’ programme,
the Kaiama Declaration, bunkering
by Niger Delta youths and the
mobilisation of youths as political thugs
during the 1999 election. Though youth
involvement in the Niger Delta struggle
took a decisive turn (characterised by militancy)
with the repression suffered at the
hands of the Abacha regime that turned

Niger Delta communities into garrison
enclaves patrolled by the Nigerian militants,
the eye opener that propelled the
youths to change tactics was the Youths
Earnestly Ask for Abacha programme,
while the motivational force was the
Kaiama Declaration.
In his bid to transform himself into a
civilian president, the late military dictator
General Sani Abacha invited youths from
all the local government areas of the federation
to participate in the Two Million Man
March in Abuja, an event which resulted
in a serious number of backlashes,
especially in the Niger Delta. Hundreds of
youths were mobilised to attend the Abuja
programme from the poverty-ridden and
development-elusive interior enclaves of
the Niger Delta. While in Abuja, the
youths from the Niger Delta saw, for the
first time in their lives, express roads with
four lanes, roads that were free of potholes,
bridges built over dry land (flyovers) that
contrasted with the absence of bridges
across creeks and rivers back home, and
beautiful streets and high-rise buildings.
The youths at first thought that they were
in a foreign land, but after several inquiries
they were told that they were in Abuja, the
federal capital of Nigeria, a new city built
by oil revenue sourced from the Niger
Delta. The perception of relative deprivation
among Niger Delta youths amplified
by exposure to the magnificent new Federal
Capital Territory awakened the people of
the region to the surreptitious and persistent
transfer of wealth from the Niger Delta to
other regions (Ukiwo 2009). Therefore,
after seeing Abuja in its impressive splendour,
the youths returned home to fight
for the development of their land and to
secure resource control. After the Abuja
trip, protests against the activities of the
oil industry increased in geometric progression
and culminated in the birth of the
famous Kaiama Declaration.
The Kaiama Declaration was named
after the historic town of Kaiama (the
home town of Isaac Adaka Boro and the
revolutionary headquarters of the Ijaw
nation) where the All Ijaw Youths Conference
was held on the 11 December 1998.
On that fateful day (the day the Niger Delta
changed), over 5000 Ijaw youths, drawn
from over 5000 communities of about 40
clans that make up the Ijaw nation, met in
Kaiama to deliberate on ways of finding
solutions to the problems associated with
‘the enslavement in the fraudulent contraption
called Nigeria’ (Ikelegbe 2005). The
Kaiama Declaration that was announced at
the close of deliberations recognised that oil
and gas are exhaustible resources and
declared that the complete lack of concern
for ecological rehabilitation in the light of
the Oloibiri experience was a signal of
impending doom for the Ijaw race (Ikelegbe
2005). The document was signed and
published with the intention of changing
the terms of the relationships between the
oil companies and the national government.
The first four articles of the Kaiama
Declaration stated that:
All lands and natural resources (including
mineral resources) within Ijaw territory
belong to Ijaw communities and are the
basis of our survival.
We cease to recognize all undemocratic
decrees that rob our people / communities
of the right to ownership and
control of our lives and resources,
which were enacted without our participation
and consent. These include the
land use Decree and the Petroleum
Decree etc.
We demand the immediate withdrawal
from Ijaw land of all military forces of
occupation and repression by the
Nigeria State. Any oil company that
employs the services of the Armed
Forces of the Nigeria State to ‘protect’
its operations will be viewed as an
enemy of the Ijaw people.
Ijaw youths in all the communities in Ijaw
clan in the Niger Delta will take steps to
implement these resolutions beginning
from December 30th 1998 as a step
towards reclaiming the control of our
lives. (Ijaw Youths Council 1998)

‘Operation Climate Change’ was then
launched as the preliminary step to bringing
about the vision. The Kaiama Declaration
also gave birth to the Ijaw Youth Council,
with the motto ‘Resource control by any
means possible’. Thus, the Kaiama
Declaration was the harbinger of the contemporary
form of violence by the militants
who abandoned the non-violent stance of
the Ken Saro-Wiwa era and adopted
violent measures as their modus operandi.
It also shaped and popularised the term
‘resource control’.
It is important to note that the repressive
character of the Nigerian state, coupled
with military brutalities in the Niger Delta
necessitated the acquisition or possession
of alternative sources of power to oppose
the activities of the Nigeria military. This
led to the reinvocation of the Egbesu deity
(the Ijaw god of war) as a means of protection
against military attacks. There is a
belief in Ijawland that if you are fighting a
just cause, the Egbesu will make you
impervious to bullets if certain rituals are
observed, and even make you invincible.
To Best and Kemedi (2005, p. 31),
‘Egbesu seems to be an ancient cult that
was revived in the 1990s with the aim of
recruiting young Ijaw men to be inculcated
with the Egbesu rites and beliefs so as to act
as a cohesive group in the forceful protection
of the Ijaw people.’
Inspired by the triumphant release of
Timi Kaiser Ogoriba, president of the
Movement for the Survival of the Ijaw
Ethnic Nationality in the Niger Delta
(MOSIEND), from detention in Government
House, Yenagoa on 29 June 1998,
following the suppression of the military
security apparatus at Creek Haven, the
demonstrations that followed the Kaiama
Declaration recorded unimaginable results.
(Ogoriba was believed by his followers to
be wielding Egbesu power.) The
Ogoriba–Government House incident was
the first public test of the Egbesu power
as the protesting youths became impervious
to gunshots fired at them by security
operatives in broad daylight in Yenagoa.
The resultant effect spread like wildfire
and was accompanied by widespread Egbesubirination
(the ritual of obtaining Egbesu
power) by youths in the region. The practical
experience of the researcher is that the
Egbesu power is a very potent force that
compels its believers and devotees to be
aggressive towards military personnel.
Thus, the military men deployed to quell
the early post-Kaiama Declaration demonstrations
across the Niger Delta were
boldly attacked by barehanded youths,
basking in the supernatural bulletproof
euphoria of the Egbesu power. A notable
example is the killing of many soldiers by
youths from Kolokuma/Opokuma Local
Government Area in Bayelsa State who
were seeking to liberate Kaiama from military
occupation following the All Ijaw
Youths conference.
Moreover, it is a fact of history that the
first set of militants that emerged in the
Niger Delta did not consist of gun-carrying
insurgents, but violent resource agitators
that depended solely on the protection of
the Egbesu power in their exploits. The
first sets of guns used for the struggle were
those captured from security operatives.
However, due to the strict regulations
which are prerequisites of success in the
use of Egbesu for protection, and the attendant
violations and deaths recorded on the part
of the Niger Delta youths, the need to acquire
arms and ammunition became inevitable.
I wish to emphatically argue that the
deviation from anchoring the struggle in
the protection of the Egbesu power which
emphasised purity, equity, justice and truth,
ushered in greed, self-centeredness and fractionalisation
among the leadership of the
struggle. With the walls of the status quo
breached, every form of ‘outsider’ came
streaming through the gates: cult leaders,
political thugs, criminals, and self-centred
individuals hiding under the cloak of
resource agitators. Therefore, instead of
focusing on how the needs and aspirations
of the region would be actualised through
violent agitations to press home the demands
of the local people, some militant agitators
became preoccupied with how to satisfy
their parochial interests, deviating from the
tenets of the struggle.
The unholy mix of insurgency and criminality
evidenced by the involvement of
armed groups in hostage-taking, illegal oil
bunkering, illegal oil refining and trading,
as well as the proliferation of criminal
groups disguised as militants, has promoted
the view in some circles that militancy in
the Niger Delta is driven by the greed of
the dramatis personae (Ukiwo 2009) which
necessitates critical analysis of the process
by which militants were created.

Typologies of militant groups in the
Niger Delta

I must emphasise the fact that the militant
creation process in the Niger Delta is differentiated:
there are different types of militants
in the region. This is attributed to
the divergent factors or reasons that motivated
or compelled such youth to become
militants. Members of militant groups
expressed a variety of reasons for joining.
This included: desire to protect their land,
communities and ethnic groups; to protest
against government and oil companies’ political
and economic marginalisation of their
communities; fear for their personal safety
following threats by members of other
armed groups or government security
agencies; being hired by politicians to
help rig elections, intimidate voters, and
attack opponents; to make money through
criminal activities, and so on. We shall
therefore proceed to identify and discuss
the typologies of militants in the Niger
Delta which will help decipher the issues
of criminality and fighting for justice.

Peaceful resource-agitator militancy

This category of militants refers to armed
youths in the Niger Delta that decided to
militarise the struggle due to the inability
of peaceful agitations to yield the desired
goals in the region. It embraces youths
that are committed to the development
and resource control struggle in the Niger
Delta. The first set of militants that
emerged in the Niger Delta after the
Kaiama Declaration, especially those who
depended on the Egbesu power to execute
Operation Climate Change, belongs to this
category. One crucial fact to note is that
the pioneer resource-agitators membership
was devoid of criminality. Criminality
only crept in later as the struggle continued.
The militants were thus sustained by goodwill
donations from wealthy individuals
and communities in their region. What transpired
was that youths with the zeal to fight
for their people were mobilised to carry out
attacks on oil companies and government
security forces that perpetuate exploitation
and marginalisation in the region. A good
example of militants that fall under this category
are Government Ekpemopolo
(General Tompolo), Ebikabowei Victor
Ben (Boyloaf), and Alex Preye.

Political-thug militancy

This second category developed from political
thugs to become militants in the
Niger Delta. Though thuggery in the
Niger Delta is as old as the Nigerian experience,
it was the 1999 general elections that
ushered in the political-thug militancy category.
The move to return Nigeria to civilian
rule raised the curtain for serious
politicking by politicians struggling to be
elected into various leadership positions.
Considering the do-or-die character of
Nigerian politics, which is premised on
winning at all costs, some youths were
engaged to perpetrate electoral crimes
such as election rigging, snatching of
ballot boxes, intimidation of voters, and
kidnapping and attacks on opposition candidates.
These youths were armed with
dangerous weapons and financially
mobilised by the politicians to carry out
their parochial undemocratic plans.
Paradoxically, after they had ensured
victory for their political masters, the
youths were abandoned and nothing tangible
was ever done to retrieve the guns and
ammunitions from them. Therefore, with
instruments of coercion in their possession,
some of the frustrated and neglected youths
decided to set up militant camps and
became involved in the destruction of oil
installations and the kidnapping and
hostage-taking of expatriate oil workers
for ransom.
Thus the political-thug militancy category
was the creation of politicians.
Experience has shown that the aftermath
of every general election in Nigeria since
1999 has led to the emergence of new militant
groups fighting for space and relevance
in the Niger Delta. Youths are always contracted
and armed prior to elections to
perform illegal roles during elections. It
was in this context that Asari Dokubo and
Ateke Tom (in Rivers State) were recruited
to the cause of delivering the 2003 elections
for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Specifically, they were to deliver certain
local government areas that were seen as
crucial to winning Rivers State. For
instance, Ateke Tom (then a community
vigilante leader) was contracted for the
purpose of securing Okrika, Ogu/Bolo
and Port Harcourt local government areas
in the 2003 elections. Asari Dokubo was
also contracted to perform similar functions
in Akuku Toru, Degema and Asari Toru
local government areas. They were both
successful and the Peoples Democratic
Party won the election in those areas (Coventry
Cathedral 2009, p. 64; Best and
Kemedi 2005, Manby 2004), Likewise, in
Bayelsa State, notable militant leaders
such as General Africa, Joshua Maverick,
Young Shall Grow, Egberi Papa, and
Daddy Ken graduated from being political
thugs to become militants. Owing to the
‘abandonment-after-usage’ syndrome, both
Asari and Ateke in Rivers State turned
their attention to the transnational illegal
oil bunkering networks, collecting tolls on
the trade, providing security to bunkering
crews, selling oil or operating illegal oil
refineries whose products were sold below
market prices. In essence, the recruitment
of young men from a widening cesspool
of unemployed youths by politicians
anchored another dimension of militant

Cult-group militancy

As the name implies, the cult-group militancy
category embraces initial cult leaders
and membership that altered their activities
to militancy. This category of militants basically
emerged from the Rivers State axis of
the Niger Delta. There are two types of
cult groups that feature most often in the
media reports of conflicts in the Niger
Delta. First is the campus cult groups
formed by the original fraternity groups
such as Supreme Vikings Confraternity,
Black Axes, Buccaneers, and Mafia Fighters.
Second are the urban social groupings
that spun off from the university fraternities
and use coercion to recruit, indoctrinate and
retain their members, frequently for violent
purposes. They include Dey Gbam, Dey
Well, Greenlanders, and Germans. The
latter groups, which are also known as
street cult groups, seek to exert control
over defined geographic areas that they
conceive as their territory.
Most of the street cults are the creation
of the university cults in the sense that the
university students who founded the original
confraternities recruited younger and
less-educated teenagers to fight their street
battles, while these youths in turn recruited
still younger populations. By this process a
hierarchy of armed young people was
formed. Life became cheaper the lower
down the pecking order one descended
(Asuni 2009). From initial clashes
between cult groups with sticks and
broken bottles, it soon progressed to the
use of machetes, locally made guns (popularly
known as Akwa-Made) and later
advanced to the use of sophisticated guns
and explosives such as dynamite, as the
battle for supremacy and territorial control
intensified. The fact remains that many of
the politicians in the Niger Delta, especially
in Bayelsa and River State, are known to be
members of confraternities, particularly the
Vikings (which dominates higher institutions
in the two states). These politicians
and other wealthy ex-members act as
patrons to the various cult groups and also
fund their activities.
The cult groups were also contracted to
perform thuggery roles during elections in
return for financial incentives and sophisticated
guns and ammunition. One cult
member described a meeting in Government
House, Port Harcourt just prior to
the 14 April 2007 polls during which he
saw government officials hand out
between N5 million and N10 million to
several different cult groups in return for
their assisting or simply accepting the
PDP plan to rig the polls (Human Rights
Watch 2007). Some of them were also contracted
to protect bunkering networks with
their ever-increasing armoury. Ateke Tom,
Soboma George, Farah Dagogo, and
Occasion Boy belong to this category.
Moreover, in order to sustain their activities,
confraternities frequently change their
loyalty and actions in response to new
sources of money. Most of the confraternities
have been implicated in the
hostage-taking of foreign oil workers in
the Niger Delta. Again, due to the exposure
of cult members to gun battles, numerous
militant groups such as the Movement for
the Emancipation of the Niger Delta
(MEND) employ confraternity members
as combatants. For example, the head of
the cult group the Outlaws, Soboma
George, doubles as an MEND commander
(Wellington, 2007). It is a common practice
in the Niger Delta for cult members contracted
by militant leaders as combatants
in their camps to be paid between
N200,000 and N300,000 every two
weeks, based on the type of activities they
carry out. Other notable cult leaders
simply break away from their parent
bodies, set up their own groups, acquire
arms and ammunition and begin to
operate as militants in the region.
Community/ethnic-warlord militancy
The Niger Delta has witnessed a series of
intra- and inter-communal conflicts. These
conflicts are attributed to the divide-andrule
politics of the Nigerian state and its
alleged collaborators, the multinational oil
companies. Most of the conflicts were
fought over land ownership claims,
payment of compensation due to spillage
and exploration activities, and so on.
Some notable conflicts of these nature
include the Warri crisis, Olugbobiri and
Peremabiri crisis, Odioma and Liama
crisis, Ogbolomabiri and Bassambiri crisis
in Nembe, Biseni-Agbere crisis, Ikwerre
and the Okrika crises.
The zeal to protect one’s community
from external aggression led to the acquisition
of community armouries manned by
able-bodied youths. As seen in the Warri,
Nembe, Olugbobiri and Okrika crises for
instance, the weapons acquired to fight
communal wars were diverted to militancy
when peace returned to the affected communities.
Therefore the ethnic-warlord
category of militants transformed from
initial communal and ethnic warlords to
become militants. Examples of militants
that fall under this category are Government
Ekpemopolo, Prince lgodo, Alex
Preye, and Commander Ajugbe.
Be that as it may, the line separating the
various categories of militants is very fluid.
The reason has been that militants like
Ateke Tom, Tompolo, Soboma George
and Farah Dagogo fall into two or more categories.
Moreover, militants that basically
carry out criminal activities like kidnapping
belong to the cult-group militancy category.

This paper has identified and discussed the
remote and immediate factors that that led
642 K.I. Ebienfa
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to the advent of militancy in the Niger
Delta, such as decades of marginalisation
and state repression, oil-induced environmental
degradation, endemic poverty,
teeming unemployment and a development
deficit. The success of the original militancy,
derived from developmental and
resource-control aspirations and from the
Egbesu military ethic of purity, equity,
justice and truth, stimulated the other
forms of militancy. This process led to the
subsequent variety of motives for and
forms of militant action in the Niger
Delta. The resultant diversity can be conceptualised
using the above typology, but
that should not obscure the nature of militancy
as a dynamic set of actions. Indeed
some militant groups fit into more than
one category in terms of their actions. As
with many struggles, the original goals of
the militancy became somewhat lost in the
course of the struggle because it opened a
space for other forms of violent action.
These new kinds of militancy and violence
had objectives far removed from the
original aspirations for which the Egbesuinspired
militancy had served as a mobilising
cultural form.
The fact remains that militancy in the
Niger Delta is as a result of the abundant
oil wealth derived from the region not
leading to regional prosperity. Consequently,
people-oriented effective and efficient
policies, geared towards addressing
the development deficit and uneven
wealth distribution in the region, must be
implemented to nip militancy in the bud.

Note on contributor
Kimiebi Imomotimi Ebienfa is a postgraduate
student in the Department of Political Science,
University of Ibadan. He holds a bachelor of
science degree from Niger Delta University
and master of science degree from the University
of Ibadan, where he specialised in
comparative politics. His research interests
include oil and environmental politics, public
policy, international security and terrorism.
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