The governor of Niger state, Alhaji Umaru Bago recently expressed his concern over the country’s revenue sharing formula. The state he governs, Niger is called power state. It is no fluke; it hosts hydrocarbons worth 6000 installed capacities from Shiroro, Kainji and Jebba hydro power stations) as contributions to the national grid, yet the state has remained largely undeveloped. For giving much to the nation, and receiving virtually nothing, the governor said his state is being shortchanged and is determined to right the wrong. The governor, who also threatened to go to the Supreme Court over inadequate compensation for his state, is also seeking for 13 % derivation for its supply of water to the Delta region. The states in Niger Delta are entitled to 13 % from federal allocations. What then is the role of the Hydro-Electric Power Producing Areas Development Commission (HYPPADEC?)
“Our people are ravaged and displaced year in, year out because of the water from Niger to the Delta. The federal government will pay Niger state N1 trillion in the next three months for hydrocarbon exchange. They must. We have provided this country with hydropower for a long time; nobody is compensating us for it”, the governor blew hot in a subtle threat to the federal government.
Continuing Governor Bago noted that, “Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC) must pay us, they have consumed from Niger state hydrocarbon exchange, and NNPC must pay us. We have woken up; we can never tolerate being neglected or abandoned again. The only way to ensure the federal government heeds us is to shut down the hydro dams until we are paid. We are serious about this; we will take every kobo that is for Niger state. We are not going to be marginalized again; our waters, our lands and our borders are strengths for us and not weaknesses. We demand compensation for our people.” The force in Governor Baro’s remarks makes you wonder if Niger state exists in isolation.
Talking tough and threatening fire and brimstone are empty if there are no extant laws to support the governor’s claims. However, continued agitations for resource control is a legitimate right in an awkward federation like ours, where most resources are mainly in the exclusive list under the control of the federal government. Within this agitative purview, the people of Niger Delta, fought hard and got 13 percent derivation, NDDC and Ministry of Niger Delta. Whether these MDAs can meet their milestones, achieve their targets and solve the ecological challenges and environmental degradation bedeviling the Niger Delta is a different ball game.
If duplication of MDAs could transform the country overnight, Nigeria would be Eldorado by now, because we have them and states in abundance. Meanwhile, I do not begrudge the Niger state governor for also joining the league of agitators and demanders for compensation from the federal government. Government does not reward civility. If in doubt, ask NLC.
Following in the footsteps of Niger Delta agitation, the power producing states struggled to get HYPPADEC on track for many years. I was also in the vanguard of the agitation, having authored many articles to that effect. In 2010, HYPPADEC was finally reckoned with when it became an Act of the National Assembly.
Like the NDDC, it was geared towards addressing the ecological challenges arising from the exploration and operation of the hydro advantage of states around River Niger and its precincts. Thereafter, HYPPADEC went into hiatus for another 10 years while amendments to the laws establishing it took place. It was not until 2020 that President Muhammadu got HYPPADEC off the shelf, and finally constituted a governing board and management for its take off, operation and functionality.
Thus, the fate of Niger state, and others in HYPPADEC is not all gloom, as painted by the Niger state governor. In fact, HYPPADEC was established to address the issues raised by him, when the governor recently played host to the Federal Commissioner of the National Commission for Refugees, Migration and Internally Displaced Persons, Tijani Aliyu in Minna. Incidentally, HYPPADEC is headquartered in Minna, so he cannot claim he does not know. But like Oliver Twist, having more is no crime. Going forward, I hope Governor Bago will work with HYPPADEC to demand more from the federal government to achieve more for the state.
HYPPADEC should not go the way of other agencies established to improve the lives and operating environment of host communities harbouring mineral resources like the NDDC. The people of Niger Delta continue to wallow in poverty side by side with the degradation of their environment, while money channeled to the area through 13 percent derivation has become slush funds for the light fingered and elite who have access to power.
Other than coming to the rescue of capsized boats and their survivors, I have not seen much of HYPPADEC interventions in hydropower producing states of Niger, Kogi, Kebbi, Plateau, Benue and Kaduna states, except a youth transformation and development programme of the six participating states; distribution and commissioning of operational vehicles, while perennial ecological problems like flooding and environmental degradation remain unchecked.
Though still in infancy, HYPPADEC and the activities carried out so far are quite different from what is expected from the commission. That explained why Governor Bago did not take the organisation into cognizance, in his outbursts and threats to the federal government except the governor just made a political statement; far from accepting the commission’s existence as a federal government agency in the capital of the state he governs.
Ultimately, running the country like a federation that it is claimed on paper can erase the ignorance of state governors in what is under their nose and how it can be explored and exploited for the good of their people. The resources of any state, if allowed to be controlled by that state, should be sources of wealth even as the state pays royalties to the centre. That is what a federation is all about.
According to Wikipedia, “a federation (also known as a federal state) is a political entity characterized by a union of partially self-governing provinces, states, or other regions under a central federal government (federalism). In a federation, the self-governing status, of the component states, as well as the division of power between them and the central government, is constitutionally entrenched and may not be altered by a unilateral decision, neither by the component states nor the federal political body.
“Alternatively, a federation is a form of government in which sovereign power is formally divided between a central authority and a number of constituent regions where each region retains some degree of control over its internal affairs”. In Nigeria, the reverse is the case; the states come to Abuja to beg for what is rightly theirs. This arrangement questions the principles of a federation as stated above.
Let us work towards a Nigeria where political campaign promises will no longer be hinged on federal allocations. The current situation that allows states with unharnessed resources to come to collect allocation is no longer tenable. It is quite easy to fritter away money that is not worked for. That explains governors’ reckless spendings; it is also the reason politics is the only profitable job in town, where people have access to free money they do not work for and why the competition for power is intense. True federalism can curb these excesses.
Zainab Suleiman Okino is a syndicated columnist. She can be reached via: [email protected]