Who says the North is feeding fat on Nigeria?
It is not my style to respond to an opinion piece, but when data or statistics is incorrectly presented, one finds it difficult to remain silent especially if the issue strikes at the heart of one’s professional practice. Although, I learnt about the comments by the South-South activist Annkio Briggs through Eugene Enahoro’s thought piece (Daily Trust, 29 November 2016), I felt a deep sense of duty to correct a misconception that the North is feeding fat on the Nigerian federation.
There are hardly any empirically established correlations between what our states bring into the Nigerian federation coffers and what they receive in Federal Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC) allocations. The fact is that the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) data, on its own, is sometimes incomplete, and almost impossible to do any robust analytics on – analytics that should provide insights on or help us to established empirically patterns of relationship between the states’ contribution to the Nigeria federation coffers and the FAAC allocations. To use the NBS data on its own, therefore, it is important to understand the methodological approach of the particular set of statistics before commenting on them. Without such understanding, we really cannot say our comments are informed or even evidence-based.
So here is what we know. In 2013, at the height of the recent oil boom, four states of the Nigerian federation – Akwa Ibom (N296.1 billion), Rivers (N247.4 billion), Delta (N219.2 billion) and Bayelsa (N188.9 billion) between them received N0.95 trillion or 33% of the N2900.4 trillion net FAAC allocations for the year. If we use the 2010 population figures as metrics (discounting the estimated 2.5% annual population growth), these four states minus Rivers had the same population as Kano state.
Kano state received N97.2 billion from the federal account in 2013; it occupied 6th position on the FAAC Allocations list. Kano’s huge population meant that the state received N10,000 per resident-citizen, compared to N111,000 per resident-citizen for Beyelsa; N76,000 per resident-citizen for Akwa Ibom, N54,000 per resident-citizen for Delta, and N48,000 per resident-citizen for Rivers.
Interestingly, there are hardly any empirically established correlations between what our states received in FAAC allocations and how well they perform. For example, Ogun state was number 26th on the FAAC Allocations list in 2013; it received N57.1 billion or N15,000 per every Ogun resident-citizen (man, woman, young or old), but the state had the lowest level of poverty in the country if we use per-dollar or less-per -day as a metric. Jigawa state was number 15th on the FAAC Allocations list; it received N64.4 or N15,000 per every Jigawa citizen-resident. Yet, Jigawa had the 6th lowest rate of poverty in Nigeria (50.7%) – significantly lower than Rivers state (74.7%), where each resident-citizen received N48,000 in FAAC allocations; or Delta (63.6% poverty rate), where each resident-citizen received N54,000; or Akwa Ibom (53.8% poverty rate) where each resident-citizen received N76,000 in FAAC allocations.
Take another comparable metric – average number of students to a teacher otherwise known as teacher-pupil ratio in 2013. Nassarawa state received N47 billion, occupied 33rd place on the FAAC Allocations list, but has one of the lowest average class-sizes in public primary schools in Nigeria. Nassarawa’s 22 students-to-a teacher was far below the Nigerian national average of 42, and significantly below Akwa Ibom’s73 students-to-a teacher in 2013.
Now, let’s take the 13% Derivation as a further illustration. Recently, Dr Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu, the minister of state for petroleum said that despite the $40 billion that the federal government has spent in the Niger Delta region between 2004 and 2015, there seemed to be little or nothing to show for it. Apart from being a federal minister, Dr Kachikwu is an indigene of the Niger Delta region and it is unlikely that he did not know the implication of his revelation.
The fact is that Dr Kachikwu’s figures include everything from the 13% Derivation to the cost of prosecuting the Umaru Musa Yar’Adua administration’s amnesty to the cost of running the Ministry of Niger Delta, the Niger Delta Development Commission, etc. So, if we take Dr Kachikwu’s $40 billion figure face value, we really do not know how much was spent on what and when.
But this is what we know: between 1st January 2011 and 31st December 2015, the eight oil-producing states of Imo, Ondo, Abia, Akwa Ibom, Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers and Cross Rivers received N2.73 trillion – or 13% Derivation – from the federation account. Out of this amount, the core states in the Niger Delta region – Akwa Ibom (N761.4 billion), Bayelsa (N509.0 billion), Delta, where Dr Kachikwu hails from (N583.0 billion) and Rivers (N582.9 billion) between them received N2.44 trillion specifically to develop the local governments and communities where the natural gas and crude oil were lifted. This amount, N2.44 trillion, is approximately 40% of the entire 2016 budget of the federal government (N6.06 trillion).
It should be noted that the 13% Derivation is the Nigerian federation’s way of saying ‘thank you’ to the Niger Delta region and indeed to all the oil-producing states – their local governments, communities and citizens – for their contributions to the commonwealth of the Nigerian federation.
So, if the federal government’s ‘thank you’ SMS message – and the N2.44 trillion Ghana-must-go bag – had been delivered directly to the oil producing communities in the Niger Delta Region between 1st January 2011 and 31st December 2015, every local government in Bayelsa state would have received N63.7 billion in community-development and poverty alleviation funding; N32.2 billion per local government in Akwa Ibom state, N25.3 billion per local government in Rivers state, and N23.4 billion per local government in Delta state.
Similarly, if the federal government’s ‘thank you’ SMS message – and the N2.44 trillion Ghana-must-go bag – had been given as ‘pocket money’ to the people of the Niger Delta Region between 1st January 2011 and 31st December 2015, every resident-citizen (man or woman, young or old) in Bayelsa would have received N212,457 per person; N158,542 per person in Akwa Ibom state, N70,349 per person in Delta state, and N63,359 per person in Rivers state. In a country where some states in the federation are struggling to pay the N18,000 minimum wage, and going by the FAAC allocations in the five years to December 2015, it wouldn’t have been too long before Nigeria begins to replicate ‘little’ Aliko Dangotes all over the Niger Delta Region!
It seems to me that the critical issue is not so much about how much each state contributes to or receives from the federation, but how well the FAAC allocations are spent. As Nigerians, we would gain nothing when we make ill-informed comments that are capable of inciting our people against our leaders and the Nigerian state. As indigenes of the South South, South East, South West, North East, North West and North Central, we are experiencing a common, but dual challenge of poverty and development. But I’m an optimist. I’m incredibly confident and super-secured in my judgment that together we can do it; together we can make our country better. We just need to roll up our sleeves and begin to walk the talk.
So don’t let anybody tell you that one region in Nigeria is feeding fat on the other. Everybody needs somebody – and we all need one another. God Bless Nigeria, her people and its six geo-political zones.
Professor Ogunleye chairs the Nigeria’s Big Data Analytics and Innovation Conference, which was hosted last week by the National Defence College Abuja. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.