Nigeria’s Resource Wars Probes History, Dangers And Solutions To Seething Property Rights Conflicts
Title: Nigeria’s Resource Wars
Number of pages: 900+
Editor: Egodi Uchendu
Publisher: Vernon Press, Delaware, USA (2020)
Reviewer: Chima Nwafo
The major snag truncating progress of the Nigerian project is government ineptitude, contempt for scholarship and the cancerous issue of corruption. Over one year of receiving the sound recommendations of experts from across the globe, after a conference that birthed the book, Nigeria’s Resource Wars, edited by Prof Egodi Uchendu, there is enough evidence to believe that the Federal Government has neither studied nor learned any lessons from the ideas-rich conference papers.
As a result, the conflict is now degenerating into an inter-ethnic war while the government is reluctant to adjust its backing for the Fulani herdsmen since 2015.
The menace of herders and plight of farmers featured prominently in the 33 chapters/Introduction to the book that interrogated Nigeria’s resource-related conflicts, from the dethronement of Kings Jaja of Opobo and Nana of Itsekiri to the rise of militancy in the Niger Delta in the 1990s.
Several seminars have been held and books written with expert recommendations in diverse areas of governance. But, given our lethargy to ideas and strategies, neither the leadership nor public service elite cares to study such articulations, with a view to implementing them.
Therefore, it is not surprising that one year after, submissions from the confab on Nigeria’s Resource Wars is still gathering dust in the shelves. Thank God for the convener’s foresight, now, we have an e-edition of Nigeria’s Resource Wars in print and in hard copy for the benefit of the reading public Against the foregoing backdrop, how can you solve developmental problems in a nation whose leadership disregards proven methods of conflict resolution? How can the economy grow under a political leadership that does not empathise with the polity?
This is why Nigeria stinks and stagnates. Notwithstanding, the authors chronicled a well-researched compendium on how the government could confront this intractable conundrum. The diverse resource issues were examined from various lenses, providing a smorgasbord of submissions. To draw from this deep well of intellectual distillation, one must first read the book.
Resource was defined as “the totality of the assets – supply, riches, funds, wealth and reserve a person, an organisation, or a country can draw on in order to function effectively.” Resource wars, therefore, refer to those internal conflicts that attend the allocation, management and use of Nigeria’s national wealth.
While section 44(3) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, vests “the entire property in and control of all minerals, mineral oils and natural gas in, under or upon any land in Nigeria or in, under or upon the territorial waters and the exclusive economic zone shall vest in the Government of the Federation and shall be managed in such manner as may be prescribed by the National Assembly;” this provision is only partially applied. Hence, while the crude oil from Niger Delta is treated as exclusive federal resource, same does not apply to solid minerals in parts of North-central and South-western states. Besides, the escalating bloody herder-farmer clashes seem to negate provisions of the Land Use Act.
In a recent interview, the editor said: “It shows how Fulani cattle breeders’ onslaught has altered the histories of many Nigerian families through deaths, loss of homes and investments, as well as permanent physical incapacity. These issues have led to an almost total breakdown of inter-ethnic relations in the county. Nigeria’s Resource Wars’ authors engaged with these issues, presenting the different arguments and perspectives on our resource conflicts, even the role of the youth population.”
Sad, security worries escalated with the rise of Fulani herdsmen whom the President, Inspector-General of Police and Attorney-General of the Federation, could neither allow to be arrested nor prosecuted in a court of law.
The book “gave priority to rural conflicts, largely, between Fulani herders and non-Fulani farmers,” the editor noted in the Preface. Property rights was equally examined in the light of a new research revealing that the “main determinant of over-exploitation of environmental resources and ecological degradation in developing countries is absence of well-defined property rights regimes,” authors rightly added that failure of leadership is responsible for Nigeria’s.
In “Nigerian Resource Wars and Economic Development in Historical Perspective,” Dmitri van den Bersselaar of the University of Leipzig, Germany, questioned the appropriateness, or lack of it, of ‘resource war’, contending it applies more to conflicts between nations. He considered the concept appropriate because it draws attention to loss of lives during such conflicts as in the death of over 5,500 people between 1999 and 2015 in conflicts over grazing rights in Oyo and Saki, both in Oyo State.
“Explanations for Nigeria’s ‘resource wars’ should take into account the actions and inactions of the state to a greater extent than has hitherto been done. These conflicts cannot be attributed to religious or ethnic differences, but are the consequence of the country’s inadequate and uneven pattern of economic development that has failed to keep up with Nigeria’s increasing population.”
He suggested that it’s time for a new debate on development and the state in Nigeria that pays attention to hitherto marginalised local traditions of development.
In Chapter 29, a University of Maiduguri don x-rayed “Boko Haram as a Struggle for Socio-Economic Control of Human and Material Resources in North-eastern Nigeria”
In chapters 30 and 31, the authors focused on the youth population. They cited instances where youths were at the vanguard of many resource conflicts, adding: “Poor leadership, corruption, unemployment, poverty, etc, were among factors driving youth participation in resource-based conflicts. They recommended that future attempts at resolving internal conflicts in Nigeria must deal constructively with the specific problems confronting youths.”
In “A ‘Security’ Component in Nigeria’s Resource Wars, Adoyi Onoja of Nasarawa State University, Keffi, scrutinized the word security, and how it is profiled in Nigeria. He treated security as a resource, particularly its provisioning, “which acts as a tonic fuelling conflicts in the country,” arguing that the managers of ‘security’ – the political and military elites, beneficiaries of funds meant for security – have vested interest in the continuation of crises through which they enrich themselves. He challenged the National Assembly to take a critical look at why insecurity has remained a recurring decimal, threatening the unity and survival of Nigeria.
The resourceful Editor, Egodi Uchendu, Professor of History, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, has in her docket three sole-authored books, six edited books, among others.
Besides her contribution, she also wrote the Preface while John Mukum Mbaku of Weber State University, Utah, also an Attorney and Counsellor-at-Law (Licensed in Utah), USA, wrote the Introduction themed “The Struggle for Equitable and Efficient Natural Resource Allocation in Nigeria.”
The book pulled contributions from several universities, including University of Nigeria, Nsukka; University of Ibadan, University of Benin; Niger Delta University; University of Calabar, Federal University of Lafia; The University of Texas at Austin, USA, and University of Zurich, Switzerland, and articulated issues on various topics that formed the 33 chapters of the book.
*Nwafo, Consulting Editor, News Express and Public Affairs/Environmental Analyst, can be reached on: firstname.lastname@example.org; +2348029334745.