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Why is the North Against True Fiscal Federalism?
February 20, 2016

Why is the North Against True Fiscal Federalism?

There are three opposing arguments on why Nigeria should NOT be restructured into a true fiscal federalism.
Two of these arguments are from people of Northern Nigeria and the third one is from people of Southern Nigeria. Let’s take a look at these arguments and their validity and soundness.
The first argument is that true fiscal federalism entails resource control, which would be unfavourable to the poor states, as such Nigeria must maintain the status quo so as to carry every state along in perpetuity.
People of this school of thought argue that to restructure Nigeria means that every state would have to manage its own human and natural resources without sharing their proceeds with the ‘less privileged’ states. This, to them, could certainly lead to the collapse of the poor states. Therefore the best way to avoid such catastrophe is to maintain the status quo – hence we must continue with the present ‘feeding bottle’ system.
People of this line of thinking insist that Nigeria must continue to maintain a ‘be-your-brothers-keeper’ federalism, even if it means that everyone might collapse and die one day.
There is an ‘acclaimed’ justification to this first argument. This is that before the discovery of crude oil in the Niger Delta, the states which are ‘poor’ today were once rich in the past, and it was the proceeds of their previous riches that the federal government used in developing crude oil exploration in the South. As such, these poor states are purported to have a stake in crude oil exploration and, therefore, the status quo must be maintained! The North is claimed to have funded oil exploration with proceeds from its once-upon-a-time groundnut pyramids, hence their stake in the oil for eternity. Consequently, they are saying ‘NO to restructuring!’
 
The second argument claims that by virtue of landmass and population, the North controls over 70 percent of Nigeria’s land and population, as such it deserves to control over 70 percent of the resources, wealth and proceeds of Nigeria, irrespective of where these resources, wealth and proceeds are located or coming from.
People who belong to this school of thought argue that a man with ten children is entitled to more benefits from the federal government than a man with two children, even though the proceeds (which the FG shares) are coming from the productivity of the man with two children.
The two arguments above are the major reasons why the North has refused to support a restructured Nigeria. The two arguments are upheld by Northern intellectuals, politicians, statesmen, Facebookers, etc.
Implicit to this thinking is that there is a possible way out; or two ways actually. It is either the crude oil in the South runs dry or crude oil is found in the North. If either of these does not happen soon, Nigeria will not be restructured. 
The last argument, from the South, is that true fiscal federalism will give more money to the corrupt politicians of the rich states and therefore the status quo should be maintained. I will address this issue in a separate article subsequently.
Do we agree with any of the above arguments as a basis for the non-restructuring of Nigeria, even in this face of austerity?
Tony Osborg writes from Kano

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