#RestructureNigeriaNow: Ndokwa land and the Tragedy of Nigeria’s Federalism, By Tony Osborg

Nigeria is not working and will never work in the way that it is presently configured. The unitary system that we practice is evil and takes everybody backward. It does not just underdevelop us but also generates tension and crises. The earlier we restructure Nigeria and entrench true federalism, the better.

The Ndokwa nationality is supposed to be one the richest ethnic groups in Nigeria by virtue of their natural wealth. They have abundant natural resources beneath their soil. Yet, they have become one of the poorest due to the skewed nature of Nigeria’s unitary system that exploits the minorities and their resources and leaves them impoverished.

Ndokwa has one of the highest reserves of natural gas in Africa. It has in abundance crude oil and natural gas, and has contributed more more than $2billion in revenue to the Federal Government of Nigeria from the sales of gas and crude. Ndokwa contributes more than three million dollars monthly in revenue to the government – more money than three Nigerian states put together; yet what the three local governments of Ndokwa get monthly as federal allocation is peanuts, compared to their contributions.

These little peanuts also gets into the hands of local politicians who, due to the defects of Nigeria’s present feeding bottle unitary system, are unable to carry out any meaningful project in the land. Ndokwa politicians, by default, are the local beneficiaries of our skewed system and are as corrupt as every other politician in Nigeria is.

Over 90 percent of Ndokwa people are farmers and have lost hope in ever benefiting from their natural wealth, which the Federal Government has taken away from them. Their rivers are polluted by the multinationals, their soil degraded and their health threatened. Yet they have moved on as a peaceful people believing in the Nigerian Project.

Ndokwa hosts the first and one of the biggest gas powered plants ever built in Nigeria, and supplies over 15 percent of Nigeria’s electricity, yet, Ndokwa is in darkness. In 2005, the Federal Government led by Olusegun Obasanjo commissioned the 480MW gas power plant (with expansion capacity of up to 960MW) in Ndokwa land and promised the Ndokwa people that a fair share of the electricity will be distributed to the Ndokwa people and communities. Eleven years after, the government is yet to fulfil that promise. Ndokwa nation is still in darkness at this moment.

The gas which naturally belongs to Ndokwa people is used to generate electricity for use in Abuja, Lagos, Kano, Anambra and many Nigerian states, yet the Ndokwa barely have electricity in their homes. Only a few communities in Ndokwa now have electricity, courtesy of a multinational firm’s CSR effort from its operational gas plant, and not through the Nigerian government’s effort.

Several communities in Ndokwa are currently endangered by coastal landslides caused by the annual Niger River flood. A particular community called Onyah has lost more than 10 percent of its residential area to the landslides. The communities have no funds to embark on shore protection projects and the government has grown deaf to their pleas.

One of the supposedly richest local governments of Ndokwa and of Nigeria as a whole, Ndokwa East, is actually one of the most underdeveloped local governments in Delta State today.

Many communities in Ndokwa have not had public electricity since this was invented. Many communities do not have access roads leading to their villages. Some communities do not yet have secondary schools and have to send their children to neighbouring communities to get basic education. Some communities in Ndokwa have no access to telecommunication networks. 99.9 percent of Ndokwa people depend on their individual hard work (mostly farming and trade) to survive. There are no jobs in Ndokwa land. There is little or no government presence in several Ndokwa communities and that available are either unsustainable or abandoned projects, or those designed to fail from the outset. Despite being an ethnic group situated along the Niger River, there is no clean water in Ndokwa land. Several communities in Ndokwa are currently endangered by coastal landslides caused by the annual Niger River flood. A particular community called Onyah has lost more than 10 percent of its residential area to the landslides. The communities have no funds to embark on shore protection projects and the government has grown deaf to their pleas. The dredging of the Niger River by some oil companies without proper EIAs is also contributing to this disaster that is eating up riverine communities in Ndokwa land.

In early 2014, Ndokwa youths launched a campaign tagged #StepItDownOrShutItDown, demanding from the Federal Government that they deserve a fair share of the electricity generated with their natural resources. They were only demanding that the government keeps to its initial agreement upon commissioning of the IPP project, a promise the Obasanjo administration reiterated in 2005. The Federal Government responded to the campaign by sending more troops to secure the gas plant environment and threatened to deal with any youth that attempts to shut down the gas plant for whatever reason. The youths have remained civil and diplomatic in their campaign.

Ndokwa continues to generate millions of dollars in oil and gas revenue to Nigeria monthly and yet remains in abject poverty. Ndokwa is not the only minority group being oppressed and exploited by the government of Nigeria. Isoko, Urhobo, Ijaw, Ishekiris, and many more minority groups of the Niger Delta are constantly being cheated and exploited.

If the youths of Ndokwa land go violent by becoming militants tomorrow and decide to blow up the 480MW gas plant and every pipeline in their land, many Nigerians will rise up to call them names without understanding their grievances and what they have gone through in the hands of the Federal Government.

It is morally, if not also legally, wrong for the natural gas of the Ndokwa people to be continuously used to generate electricity for the rest of Nigerians, while the Ndokwa people people live in darkness.

Whatever is happening in Ndokwa land is equally happening in many other places blessed with natural resources in Nigeria today. The government is not only exploiting them but also suppressing their voices through divide and rule tactics.

Every ethnic group and community (no matter how many or small) must be allowed to have a certain control of their destiny by having a community based democratic and autonomous government that would manage the basic needs of their people and also benefit from their natural resources (if any). This is the foundation upon which federalism is genuinely built and why Nigeria should embrace true federalism.

Ndokwa land cannot be generating the wealth upon which Nigerian oligarchs survive and yet its people continue to live in misery and poverty. It is morally, if not also legally, wrong for the natural gas of the Ndokwa people to be continuously used to generate electricity for the rest of Nigerians, while the Ndokwa people people live in darkness.

Nigeria is not working and will never work in the way that it is presently configured. The unitary system that we practice is evil and takes everybody backward. It does not just underdevelop us but also generates tension and crises. The earlier we restructure Nigeria and entrench true federalism, the better.

May we not be overwhelmed when the revolution begins. The real change will come at any cost, and we must all be prepared to survive through it. There is no other way out of this mess without altering the skewed, corrupt, feeding bottle unitary system that we practice.

The real change will come not by the ballot but through our collective will to restructure the system. Its a matter of time.

May those who oppose restructuring not be overwhelmed when the real change comes.

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