President Jonathan has called a national conference to discuss important issues that are connected to the interests of all ethnic nationalities that make up Nigeria. Those interests are many and variegated. I am a Tiv man with a Nigerian nationality. In this essay, I shall attempt to articulate an issue of utmost importance to my people with respect to the national conference. I also seek to shed some little light on the issues of Resource Control, Derivation and Land Ownership.
The Tiv people are said to be ranked 4th, 5th, or 6th among ethnic groups in Nigeria in terms of population; there is no incontrovertible census data though. During the civil war, many Tiv soldiers fought to “keep Nigeria one”. We also are a major source of food supply in Nigeria. Furthermore, with our level of education, our voice in Nigeria deserves some attention and respect. Within the Middle Belt region of Nigeria, we are the most populous and have provided leadership in the days of resistance to the dominance of the Fulanis in the first republic.
In the presentation of the “Tiv people” to the Okurounmu Conference Committee in Jos in October last year, the “Tiv people” stated this with respect to Resource Control: “States should be allowed to mobilize and exploit the natural resources within their territories, outside oil, and pay taxes to the federal government. This will allow states a robust budget to implement projects for the development of their areas. The revenue allocation formula should be removed and the onshore-offshore dichotomy should be abolished.”
There are many other Tiv people that do not support this position. It is also strange to support resource control on the one hand and then exclude oil among such resources that should be controlled by the states on the other hand. This essay seeks to resolve certain ambiguities and shine the light on what is in the interest of the Tiv with regard to fiscal federalism and management of the economy.
Our forefathers got us the land on which we live today when there was no “Nigeria”. We were neither conquered by either the Fulani jihadists or British colonial overlords. We have not been slaves to any group of people, and have always resisted oppression. The most important resource of the Tiv person outside of their people is the land. It is a general principle in law that he that has absolute ownership of land has absolute ownership of the resources both on the surface of the land and within it. Accordingly, the issue of land ownership is a sensitive one to the Tiv people. By implication, if the Tiv people are against resource control, then they have officially surrendered their land to outsiders to take it from them and use it as they want. But is this what the Tiv people want; is this in the present or long term interest of the Tiv people and their offspring? With regard to the recent intractable clashes between cattle herdsmen and the Tiv farmers and people, culminating in the attack on the country home of the Tortiv few days ago, would the Tiv people oppose resource control?
When we talk of resources, we do not restrict that to oil resources.
Item 39 on the Exclusive legislative list includes, “Mines and minerals, including oil fields, oil mining, geological surveys and natural gas.”
In other words, no state government has control over mines and minerals or oil fields, oil mining, geological surveys and natural gas within its territory; only the federal government has the control.
The Gboko-Makurdi federal road is under threat because of the mindless excavation for limestone by Dangote Cement factory. The Dangote group has taken over both federal and state shares of the company, leaving the Benue people empty-handed! The people of Benue state did not through their representatives in the state House of Assembly sell the company to Dangote. The take-over of the company has thrown many Tiv sons and daughters out of job and crippled the economy of the Tiv capital, Gboko.
I should think that the Tiv people should thereby appreciate what the oil-producing communities in Nigeria are suffering. But unlike them, we do not enjoy even the 13 per cent derivation as required in section 162 (2).
The 1910 Perry Girourd committee on land ownership in the Northern Protectorate recommended as follows: “A declaratory Proclamation should be passed to the effect that the land of the Protectorate should be under the control and dominion of the Government, and that no title to the occupation, use, or enjoyment of any land is valid without the assent of the Government… The control and dominion of Government should be exercised in any particular case with due regard to lawful customs proved to exist at present in the province or district where the land is situated…”
The Tiv people, by this time, were part of the Northern Protectorate by coercion. Fifty-two years later, the Land Tenure Law of 1962 was based in part on the Perry Girourd Committee report. The subsisting Land Use Act of 1978 derives from the 1962 Land Tenure Law. The question that must be answered at the national conference in Abuja is: Who owns the land and all resources therein? In USA, the federal government owns only about 30 per cent of the land and controls, for instance, exploration for oil on the land it has control over. This question should be of tremendous interest to the Tiv people. The national conference should resolve which land falls to the federal government and which land falls to the states or regions. Once this is resolved, the question of who owns the resources will become a no brainer.
By virtue of section 315 of the 1999 constitution, which provides recognition for such decrees as the Land Use Decree of 1978, the Tiv people must promote the concept of resource control otherwise it is a matter of time before we lose our land completely through devious contraptions such as the Grazing Reserves Bill being contemplated in the National Assembly. As I have publicly affirmed in some previous essay and public speech, I am first a Tiv man before I am a Nigerian, and I will not accept any public policy or law that is injurious to the interest of my Tiv nation.
The concept of Derivation should be understood only as a compromise on the principle of Resource Control. It is not for any outsider to determine what percentage of my resources should come to me. Rather, in recognition of a common nationhood, federal taxes on exploitation of such resources could be required in order to provide national services for the security and welfare of the commonwealth. Accordingly, having resolved the issue of land ownership, the matter of either Derivation or Resource Control could take natural course as a function of the determination of land ownership.
The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
(2007) provides, among other things, that:
“Recognizing the urgent need to respect and promote the inherent rights of indigenous peoples which derive from their political, economic and social structures and from their cultures, spiritual traditions, histories and philosophies, especially their rights to their lands, territories and resources,…solemnly proclaims the following United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a standard of achievement to be pursued in a spirit of partnership and mutual respect:
Indigenous peoples have the right to self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.
Indigenous peoples, in exercising their right to self-determination, have the right to autonomy or self-government in matters relating to their internal and local affairs, as well as ways and means for financing their autonomous functions.
Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain and strengthen their distinct political, legal, economic, social and cultural institutions, while retaining their right to participate fully, if they so choose, in the political, economic, social and cultural life of the State.
Every indigenous individual has the right to a nationality.”
This declaration was approved by an overwhelming vote of 144 countries with a few abstentions (including Nigeria), while a few countries such as USA, Canada and Australia voted against. The import is that all countries of the world are now bound by it.
The Tiv people will not attend the national conference to promote the interests of any other ethnic groups. Rather, if the interests of any ethnic groups concur with ours we shall collaborate with such groups. We are mindful that we can stand alone as a nation, build our own economy as the hub or bridge for the peoples of West and Central Africa. The processing, packaging, branding and marketing of our farm produce will be so promoted as to make us earn the maximum gain possible. We will not be tools in the hands of the Hausa/Fulanis or blind collaborators of peoples of the Lower Niger or South West.
We recognize that we own our land and shall not release one inch to anyone, either by force or willingly. We have suffered massacre in the hands of the Obasanjo government, and our wounds are yet to be healed.
Our investment in the Benue Cement Company (BCC) has been ruined (We demand redress). We fought to keep Nigeria one, but we have got only insults and no gain thereby. The North blames us for stopping the jihadists. Our Igbo colleagues blame us for killing them during the civil war. But we blame ourselves for projecting a weak mien in most recent times. We have arisen and must get what is just and right for us and children. We want a nation that recognizes the rights of the federating units and promotes and respects their regional constitutions.
Where our fathers made mistakes, we shall make corrections. Whatever gains they made, we shall sustain; and what they did not see, we must identify for our common safety and development.
Leonard Karshima Shilgba is a Visiting Professor of Mathematics in a private University in Nigeria.
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