NIGERIA’S RESOURCE WARS probes history, dangers and solution to seething property rights conflicts

Posted by News Express | 8 February 2021 | 1,429 times

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Book Review

Title: Nigeria’s Resource Wars

Editor: Egodi Uchendu

Publisher: Vernon Press, Delaware, United States (2020)   

Number of pages: 900+

Reviewer: Chima Nwafo 

The major snag truncating progress of the Nigerian project is government ineptitude and contempt for scholarship, besides the pervasive and cancerous issue of corruption. If a Nigerian scholar who was shocked by the response of the academic community to an interrogation of the devious but real world of witchcraft, said: “I saw a nation that has little interest in scholarship; people that see one thing and call it another;” how would this historian, who believes that “the task to keep Nigeria one remains a collective responsibility,” react to the Federal Government’s inability to implement any of the 34 recommendations from a conference on the smouldering Resource Wars, including the rampaging Fulani herdsmen’s clashes with farmers and Boko Haram terrorism, more than 12 months after?

Barely one year after receiving the sound articulations and recommendations of experts from across the globe that birthed the book, Nigeria’s Resource Wars, edited by Prof Egodi Uchendu, current developments in the polity confirm that the Federal Government has neither studied nor learned any lessons from the conference papers, despite the wealth of ideas and submissions therein. As a result, the conflict is now degenerating into an inter-ethnic war while the government is reluctant to adjust its unconstitutional fatherly backing for the Fulani herdsmen. Unfortunately, this has been consistent since President Muhammadu Buhari came to power in 2015. 

The menace of Fulani herders and plight of farmers featured prominently in the 33 chapters as well as the Introduction to the book that interrogated Nigeria’s resource-related conflicts, from the humiliating dethronement of King Jaja of Opobo (1887) and King Nana of Itsekiri (1894) to the rise of militancy in the Niger Delta in the 1990s over resource control. President Umar Yar’ Adua’s strategic response to the demands of the militants that almost crippled the oil-dependent economy was equally appreciated. 

Several seminars have been held and books written after which experts made recommendations in diverse areas of governance and public administration. But given our inherent unwillingness to explore ideas; neither the political leadership nor public service elite cares to read such intellectual 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 now gathering dust in their shelves. But thank God for the convener who ensured that it is produced in book form. And 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 do you advise a political leadership and public service that has no regard for thoughts, ideas and integrity? How can you solve developmental problems in a nation whose leadership demonstrates total disregard for scientifically proven and enlightened methods of conflict resolution? How can the economy rebound or grow under a political leadership that does not allow itself to feel the pains and effects of policies on the body politic?

This, precisely, is why Nigeria is stinking and stagnating. Or what else do you expect from the socio-economic and political elite of a nation that has no interest in scholarship?

Notwithstanding, the authors of Nigeria’s Resource Wars, in 33 chapters, chronicled a well-researched compendium on how the government could confront this seemingly intractable conundrum. Diverse resource issues were examined from various lenses, such as historical, political, economic, social, geographical, and security perspectives, providing a smorgasbord of submissions, suggestions, and recommendations for the benefit of both the political leadership and the polity. 

But to draw from this deep well of intellectual distillation, one must first read the book. For clarity, a resource was defined as “the totality of the assets - supply, riches, funds, wealth and reserve a person, an organization, or a country can draw on in order to function effectively.” Resource wars, as used in the book, therefore, refer to those internal conflicts that attend the allocation, management and use of Nigeria’s national wealth, whether as minerals, land resources, human resources, reserves and monies, etc., nationally, or privately and communally, owned.” But the Constitution vests the management of all natural resources in Nigeria in the Federal Government. According to section 44(3) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended, “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.” 

In contrast with the definition of resources above, the constitutional provision is only partially applied. For example, whereas the crude oil from the Niger Delta is treated as exclusive federal resource, same is not yet applied to the solid mineral resources in parts of North-central and South-western states. Besides, the escalating herder-farmer clashes in which lives and property in the Middle Belt and southern states have been destroyed by armed Fulani herdsmen since the advent of the Buhari administration negates the provisions of the Land Use Act. 

In a recent interview, the editor recalled: “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. The resource struggles have now degenerated into kidnaps, banditry, armed robbery, and incessant targeted and random killings across the country; compounding the already complex problem of insecurity. 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.” 

Ironically, the strong support All Progressives Congress candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, received in 2015 was based on his promise to end insurgency and insecurity in the country within weeks of assuming power, if elected. Sad, he failed woefully to deliver that promise. Instead, security worries escalated with the rise of murderous Fulani herdsmen whom their kinsmen in government, for example, the President and 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 the developing countries is the absence of well-defined property rights regimes.” In addition, the book added that failure of leadership contributes enormously to Nigeria’s. 

In “Nigerian Resource Wars and Economic Development in Historical Perspective” (chapter 1) Dmitri van den Bersselaar, an expert on African Studies in the University of Leipzig, Germany, began by questioning the appropriateness, or lack of it, of the term ‘resource war’, which he contends applies more to conflicts between nations. He only considered the concept appropriate because it draws attention to the loss of lives during such conflicts. A case in point being the death of more than 5500 people killed between 1999 and 2015 in a conflict over grazing rights in Oyo town and Saki, both in Oyo State.

He averred: “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. The renowned author argues that it is time for a new debate about 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”

Naturally, deliberations of this nature would have been incomplete without probing the role of youths; either historically from the Arab Spring that changed the political scene in parts of North Africa, the Niger Delta militants or the October 2020 nationwide #EndSARS protests.

In chapters 30 and 31, the authors focused on the youth population, “aged 18 to 30, estimated at 42.8 million; representing 20.88 per cent of Nigeria’s estimated 204,

934,714 million population as of April 2020.” They cited instances where youths were at the vanguard of many resource conflicts, adding: “Poor leadership, corruption, unemployment, poverty, inefficiency in policy implementation and poor management of crises were among factors driving youth participation in resource-based conflicts, even when both the average youth’s opinion on the conflict in question, and overall knowledge of the issues at stake in a given conflict were generally shallow.”

They recommended that any future attempt at resolving the myriads of internal conflicts in Nigeria must deal constructively with the specific problems confronting this class in the society.  

Writing on “A ‘Security’ Component in Nigeria’s Resource Wars (Chapter 33), Adoyi Onoja of Nasarawa State University, Keffi, scrutinized the word security, and how it is profiled and used in Nigeria. He treated security as a resource on its own in Nigeria, particularly its provisioning, which acts as a tonic fuelling conflicts in the country, arguing that the managers of ‘security’—the political and military elites that incidentally constitute the beneficiaries of the funds meant for security—have vested interest in the continuation of crisis that leads to conflicts through which they illegally enrich themselves.

This chapter challenges the National Assembly to take a critical look at why insecurity has remained a recurring decimal, threatening both the unity and survival of the nation. 

The Editor of this intellectual assemblage of scholars that authored the 33 “books” that morphed into Nigeria’s Resource Wars, is an epitome of hard work, Prof Egodi Uchendu, Researcher, Gender Scholar, and Professor of History at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. Currently, she is also the Director of the Centre for Policy Studies and Research and the leader of African Humanities Research and Development Circle (AHRDC), a UNN-based research group. At present, she is one of four editors of History in Africa: A Journal of Debates, Methods and Source Analysis. She has in her docket three sole-authored books, six edited books, and 22 journal articles, among others. 

Besides her own 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.” 

As would be expected of such a scholarly work, the book pulled contributions from universities from home and abroad, including University of Nigeria, Nsukka; University of Ibadan, University of Benin; Niger Delta University, Yenagoa; Admiralty University of Nigeria, Delta State; University of Uyo, Akwa Ibom State; University of Calabar, Federal University of Lafia, Nasarawa State; University of Maiduguri, Borno State, Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida University, Lapai; Federal University Lokoja; The University of Texas at Austin, USA; University of Zurich, Switzerland, Nasarawa State University, Keffi, and the Nigeria Police Force, among others.

They also articulated issues on the following among other topics: Nigerian Resource Wars and Economic Development in Historical Perspective; Between Slaves and Slave Owners:

The Abolition and Resource Wars in Colonial Eastern Nigeria; The Domains of Resource Wars in Nigeria; Herder-Farmer Conflicts in Plateau State:

Colonial Origins and Current Trends; Disharmony in Nigeria: Towards a Deconstruction

of its Ideological Foundations; Resource, Ethnic Politics and Conflicts in Nigeria; From Mutuality to Hostility: A Historical Analysis of the Changing Patterns of Herdsmen-Farmers Relations in Nigeria; A Historical Review and the Implications of Herdsmen-Farmers Conflict in the Middle Belt Region; Contested Space: Farmers-Herdsmen Wars and Trending Food Insecurity; Intra-Nomadic Disputes and Pastoralists-Farmers Conflicts in Ibarapa, Oyo State, Nigeria, 2001-2018. 

•Chima Nwafo, Consulting Editor, News Express and Public Affairs/Environmental Analyst, can be reached on: chidafo@yahoo.com; +2348029334745.


Source: News Express

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