Regional security, mining in some states signpost gradual return to federalism

On March 17, 2014, when Goodluck Jonathan, a former president of Nigeria, inaugurated the 2014 National Conference, many feared that the country would break afterwards, going by lots of baggage the delegates brought to the conference.

To their credit, the delegates passed more than 600 resolutions and produced a 10,335-page report, which was submitted to the ex-president for implementation.

Till date, many concerned Nigerians are still calling for the implementation of the recommendations of the 2014 National Conference, which they insisted represented all interests in the country.

In lieu of the implementation, calls for restructuring are increasing every day across the country as many fear that the country is already disintegrating under the current situations, while the citizens are waiting for a trigger to formalise the feared anticipation if the government does not heed to the restructuring calls.

They point to mining going on in some states of the federation without the revenues going to the centre. This they termed resource control, a key aspect of restructuring.

Others have pointed to the recent emergence of regional outfits and community outfits (vigilantes) as another major unguided activity in the restructuring bouquet.

Behind both developments (mining and regional outfits) is a burgeoning incidence of procurement of illegal arms in Nigeria. Analysts fear this may lead to disintegration of the nation if arms continue to be in the hands of persons not under the control of the government.

Surveys have indicated that as at 2016, over 500million small arms are in circulation in West Africa and that Nigeria alone accounts for over 350million of this stock.

This number must have increased by at least 50 percent by 2021. With regional security outfits, terrorist and terror groups, bandits, herdsmen, political thugs, armed robbers, kidnappers, and other freelance arms bearers, it becomes difficult to regulate how guns are acquired and used in Nigeria.


Minerals are said to be either in liquid form (such as crude oil) gas or solid form. Thus, whereas the Federal Government alone gives oil (and gas) prospecting licenses (oil mining leases, OML), it is not clear who issues licences to those who mine solid minerals in most places such as Ebonyi, Enugu, Nasarawa, Zamfara, etc. Nigeria has about 41 minerals being mined in over 500 locations. This accounts for over 70 percent of non-oil export. Most of this are in the hands of private persons and their states whereas oil is controlled by the FG.

Limestone is an industrial mineral required to produce cement. Nigeria has large deposits of limestone in Gombe, Benue, Kogi, Sokoto Edo, Oyo, Ebonyi, Ogun and Cross River States.

The annual national demand for limestone is estimated to be around 27 Mt with companies like Dangote, BUA and Lafarge dominating the cement industry.

Coal, also called metallurgical coal, is used in the form of coke and serves as fuel in the conventional steel processing as it provides the heat energy needed to melt down the raw materials. It also acts as a reducing agent in the blast furnace.

Gold is one of the most valuable resources in Nigeria. It also accounts for an extensive amount of artisanal mining activities.

Iron ore is one of the critical minerals used to produce steel. There are over 3 Bt of iron ore found in Kogi, Enugu, Niger, Zamfara, and Kaduna States. Earlier in May, the Federal Government inaugurated the Ajaokuta Presidential Project Implementation Team.

In 2017, the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) reported that three of the 26 minerals exported accounted for 73.81percent of total exports. The commodities are zinc ores and concentrate, lead ores and concentrate, and silica sands and quartz.

Barite is a mineral that occurs extensively in Nigeria. Its usage ranges from oil and gas exploration to other industrial uses.

Nigeria has very large deposits of bitumen, however, the mineral has been largely untapped, and bitumen is still imported to meet domestic demand and consumption.

In 2015, the Federal Government, through the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development identified ‘Seven Strategic Minerals’ namely; coal, bitumen, limestone, iron ore, barites, gold and lead and zinc – for priority development in a bid to revive the mining sector, unlock its potential and diversify the economy away from crude oil.

These minerals are deposited across the country and have not been fully explored due to a myriad of factors. The reasons why these minerals would not be treated equally with crude oil have not been made public.

Habeeb Jaiyeola, an associate director for PwC Nigeria, in a study submitted in October 2020, however made some recommendations and urged the FG to block revenue leakages and align scarce human and financial resources to priority projects; align mining ecosystem with all stakeholders; that is government and private sector. Furthermore, the government should foster transparency and frequent engagement between relevant bodies to improve organisational efficiency and prevent waste of resource resulting from duplicity of roles; initiate virtual mining council meetings to sustain collaboration with State governments; support and upskill the Mineral Resources and Environmental Management Committee (MIREMCO) to provide real time on ground support for actualisation of FG initiatives; and engage in more active monitoring of mining activities to outlaw illegal levies on miners.

So, one major expectation of restructuring is the hope to return to the pre-independence constitution which allowed the regions (now states) to keep their revenues and pay a percentage to the centre. Most of the southern states (especially those in the Niger Delta) strive for resource control as a key aspect of restructuring in the hope that they would keep their oil and gas revenues and pay tax to the FG. Other states in Western Nigeria seem to have since developed robust economies with high levels of industrialisation backed by access to coastal economy such as ports and shipping as well as the corporate and professional services. They seem comfortable with resource control and restructuring; what with high manpower levels.

Regional security outfits

Western Nigeria has clamoured for state police for decades without any sympathetic ear from the centre. At a point, the Western Nigeria formed Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) as a activist platform to agitate for Oduduwa Republic. They showed bias against what they considered excesses of some settler groups that often clashed with the Yoruba. Later, OPC settled to a contract security services such as guarding streets and areas. They also tended to dabble into conflict resolutions and interventions.

In the heat of suspected invasion of southern Nigeria by suspected armed herdsmen and several cases of attacks and abductions ( plus rape), the people of Western Nigeria reacted in mass and demanded for the formation of a regional security force. They met in January 2020 and “Amotekun” emerged.

The FG through the Minister of Justice reacted, saying it was illegal and unconstitutional and therefore, totally unacceptable. This seemed to provoke the leadership of the region and set the West and the FG on war path. Caution seemed to prevail and the FG soft-pedalled and Amotekun won its non-combat battle. Ever since, some respite seems to have dawned on Western Nigeria.

The South East, Middle Belt and the North all proclaimed some form of regional security outfit or the other but after meetings between the presidency and governors of each of these other regions; such zeal seemed to die down.

By middle of 2021, the Eastern Security Network (ESN) suspected to be floated by the proscribed Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB), emerged. Their focus, according to Emma Powerful, is to wage defence against herdsmen menace in the forests and elsewhere in the south-east. This seemed to gain instant and wide acclaim by the masses in the region that seemed to have suffered hugely in the hands of unknown herdsmen with little or no FG response.

Recently, some unknown gunmen attacked police stations and other security installations. Immediately, the governors of the south-east mounted a security summit and came up with a security outfit codenamed Ebube-Agu. Though this received mixed reactions with strong rejection coming from both IPOB and ESN, the FG has remained silent on this, unlike their unsuccessful reaction to Amotekun, apparently fearing another debacle.

With the seeming indifference or acquiescence of the FG, the nation seems to accept that Ebube-Agu has come to stay and that regional security outfits have come to stay.

This automatically seemed to make the case for state police a foregone conclusion. Experts say if community vigilantes can operate, if community policing can stay, if regional security can stay, why would state police not be a formality?

Has restructuring started without Nigeria knowing it?

This seems to arouse suspicion on whether restructuring has since taken off without Nigerians knowing it. If resource control has started in some states through mining, if regions begin to take the security of their areas in their hands, with the FG washing its hands off any further refund money spent to repair federal roads by state governments (giving the states right to handle such roads), many wonder if it would not be a matter of time before other components of true federalism or restructuring dawn on the nation without any procedures?

According to Akani Anjorin, an Ekiti State-born lawyer and entrepreneur, if Nigeria had been practising true federalism, particularly the Germany model, there would not have been calls for restructuring as the constitution is supreme and protects everyone.

Reviewing Amotekun, the South West region security outfit, Anjorin noted that the formation has led to the agitation and formation of other regional security outfits, but feared that effectiveness of the outfits is a major challenge as plans are already hatched by detractors of regional security to ‘sabotage’ their efforts.

“The truth is that some vested interests are not happy with the formation of regional security outfits, especially in the southern part of the country, but the people are responding to the inaction of the federal government and its failure in safeguarding their lives and properties. Yes, the development is one leg into restructuring, but people are looking for solutions to the killings and destruction, and not playing politics with it will boot agitations for total restructuring in the country”, he said.

As Anjorin rightly observed, the South West Amotekun has opened way for others. Now the South East geopolitical zone has floated its security outfit, the South-South and North Central are also expected to unveil their own soon.

But Paul Unanka, a retired naval captain, noted that going by the security architecture of the country, the regional security outfits will make less impact if they are targeted at restructuring than safeguarding lives and properties in their respective regions.

“If the regional security outfits are successful, they will boost the call for state police, and it is until you get state police, where the governors are truly in charge of their state security that you can talk about restructuring and power devaluation gradually happening”, Unanka explained.

Painting a scenario, Unanka wondered what would happen when an assistant inspector general of police, the inspector-general himself or an army chief orders the arrest of members of a regional security outfit.

“Whether the reason for the arrest is genuine or not, you expect the boys to carry out their Oga’s order or even release confirmed hoodlums in the custody of the regional security outfit. What we need is true federalism, devaluation of power and supremacy of the constitution to safeguard the interest of all citizens of the country because the president can wake up one morning and ban the security outfits and nothing will happen”, he said.

While security is not the only issue that Nigerians are calling for restructuring, its success, many observers believe, would boost the restructuring of other areas of contention.

Many insist that the political power sharing is hugely imbalanced and needs fairness.

“We are in a situation where a part of the country will continue to be in leadership if you allow the present system to continue and that is why we need restructuring. Power should be shared and rotated at all levels of government. Presidency should rotate among the six geo-political zones of the country. Likewise, the governorship post should rotate among the three senatorial zones in each state”, Okwui Mmaduagwu, senior lecturer, Department of Political Science, Abia State University, said.

According to the political science lecturer, though democracy is a game of numbers, equity and fairness should be the major ingredients to ensure justice for all.

“If we continue with this brand of democracy as it is packaged now, it will be impossible for some people to raise their heads in their own country. Such marginalisation will keep hunting the unity and peace of the country, hence the need for revisiting even the constitution to ensure that the welfare of every Nigerian is protected. No Nigerian is above the other, but the present happenings say otherwise and the people of Nigeria need to correct the anomalies by restructuring their entire entity called Nigeria”, Mmaduagwu decried.

Tor Sughum, a Makurdi-based public analyst, noted that the federal character, which used to ensure equal opportunities and fairness for Nigerians, especially the now marginalized, should be restructured.

“I was sad when my brother told me how he lost DSS job because of the small quota given to Benue State, while states like Kano and Katsina are getting loin share and they are still the ones that have been in government since independence. We need to restructure many things in Nigeria because the imbalance and favouritism is huge”, Sughum said.

Sughum, an economist and ex-banker, noted that from the armed forces, police, other security and paramilitary agencies, revenue allocation, political power, employment quota, system of education, ethnic and religious elements, appointments to many others, Nigeria needs total restructuring away from their present lopsidedness.

Danger: It may lead to disintegration

Some analysts however, seem skeptical about the dawn of unguided restructuring especially emergence of regional security outfits. An Abuja-based Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and versatile public affairs analyst, Sebastine Hon said it looks like restructuring has started but feared that it may be mishandled.

Hon said: “The answer, fortunately or unfortunately, is yes, restructuring may have started. Fortunately, because the formation or existence of the various regional security outfits may lead to constitutionally cognisable regionalism, even though this will be an unlikely consequence of the happenstances of the moment.

“I say so because the government at the centre has so far shown a stoic opposition to the existence of such armies. Unfortunately, because the existence of such security groups represents a threat to the existence of the country as one political entity, I feel sad. I am not speaking from a negative viewpoint; I am just trying to convey my feelings on the likely consequences of the existence and operations of those outfits.

“I honestly feel sad that bad governance and mindless injustice have pushed us to this level. So, restructuring may be one unintended consequence of the present situation; but disintegration may also follow, if our leaders don’t act fast or refuse to act or continue with the policies pushing for the growing agitations for the dissolution of the country.”

Blessing Nwikina, a seasoned communications expert in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, thinks the emergence of these security outfits would spell doom. He also does not believe that clamour for restructuring is genuine. He rather sees it as more of noise than substance.

The former chief press secretary said emergence of regional armies is big threat, saying the outfits are not under any regulation despite the fact that security is purely an exclusive affair of the centre.

He also fears that there seems to be no national definition of what insecurity means to the outfits and what they would regard as security threat because each region seems to have its own definition. “For instance, an oil bunkerer is seen as a thief by a northerner but is seen by a Niger Deltan as a hero getting back lost treasure. South East sees herdsmen as insecurity while the northerner sees herdsmen as economic assets,” he pointed out.

He was emphatic that regional outfits may degenerate into tools in the hands of the governors. He also thinks rich states will equip the outfits far higher than poorer states and this may lead to super armies owned by states, thus reducing the equality concept in federating states.

He also stated that most states cannot survive without the centre, adding that some states in the Niger Delta would hardly protect themselves if the centre pulls out.

X-raying the development, especially with the recent unveiling of Ebubeagu, Ifeadi Enwere, a forensic expert, warned that people should not think that the approval of regional security outfits would midwife restructuring, rather he sees it as a bait by the federal government to frustrate the calls for true restructuring.

“It is sad that we are a federation but do not practice federalism, if not, why call for regional security when state police will do the job. In the United States of America, the states control their security and the federal comes in when it requires FBI, CIA and soldiers at the last resort. Let’s allow state governors to control their security, regions come later and federal last, that is how it should be done, and restructuring takes place without you knowing it,” he said.

No; benefits abound, time is now!

Many observers and lovers of the country welcome the feat achieved with the establishment of regional security outfits. They believe that they are pointers to the major restructuring anticipated in the nearest future, but warned that the inability to sustain the feats would erode all the gains and stifle efforts at restructuring

Some analysts have insisted that restructuring is a project the time of which has come. Port Harcourt-based Bath Nnabuwa and Emeka Amefula said it is inevitable. Nnabuwa said: “It is inevitable”.

Ahamefula supported him thus: “I agree with you. Only a change of attitude by both leaders and followers will help us to avert the coming calamity…if not checked and controlled.”

A group claiming to be foreign diplomatic source has been building up vote of confidence for restructuring, drawing a notion of prosperity to follow, giving names to the proposed regions.

Their memorandum stated thus: “Ten positive things that would happen within five years (primarily due to inter-province competition); the first province to experience economic explosion would obviously be the Western Province. The Oduduwua Master plan will be revealed. There would be trans-regional 4g internet fiber connection/rail/subways/highways/power grids etc. Yoruba will become the second official language.

“They are relatively united. They have oil. They own academia. They have mega corporations. The WP would be the first to have stable 24/7 power supply! Foreign money will flood the province. More Forbes recognised billionaires will arise. Some of them will be internet billionaires. Lagos will be relieved a little from overpopulation as railway lines from other states will make living elsewhere and working in Lagos a breeze.

“The Northern Province will have stronger Islamic laws. Sharia will be entrenched and this will make the NP become the least corrupt province. The Middle East (Arab) nations will move in to partner with them, bringing major development. Jaiz Bank and Unity Bank will become mega banks. Arabic and Hausa will compete with English for dominance in schools. This province will generate more solar power than any other province. After the west, this province will be the second to have 24/7 electricity. They will start exporting food as a major revenue generator.

“The Middle Belt Province will have a development conference. Focus will be given to solid minerals development/exports, tourism development and food production/exports. This will become a food hub in West Africa. They will export more food than any other province. Mega mining and food corporations will arise. This province will have foreign inflows through tourism development greater than any other province. It will host the most beautiful places to live in Nigeria.

“The Eastern Province will transform into the Auto Industry Hub of Africa. Indigenous manufacturing of vehicles that will start competing with foreign vehicles will commence in earnest. This will grow to manufacturing of airplanes, helicopters, tractors, cranes, heavy duty construction equipment etc. Forbes recognised billionaires living in Anambra will arise. The Biafra agitation will fizzle out since formation of the EP will be seen as a Biafra success in another form. There would be so much development that villages (as we currently know them) will quickly cease to exist. This province will be the first to semi-urbanise all their rural areas as all the Igbos living abroad will rush back to take advantage of the changes.

“The Atlantic Province will take the Uyo blueprint and run with it. An abundance of oil wealth and opening up of major sea ports at Rivers and Uyo will enable this region to revamp their infrastructure quickly. There will be more monorails here than anywhere else. This will be the 3rd province to achieve 24/7 electricity generation in Nigeria (mainly from gas turbine technology).

“With provincial indigenous security forces in control, kidnapping, Armed robbery, Boko Haram, Fulani herdsmen and the Niger Delta militancy attacks will all fizzle out. Nigeria will become the most secure and peaceful African nation; thus attracting more foreigners.

“Each Province will have their own airline professionally managed. And with better roads/rail, air and land transport costs will crash.

“With the rapid development occurring all over, Nigeria’s GDP will shoot up. Obtaining visas to travel out will become easy as more people will want to come in than go out. A worldwide immigration into Nigeria will commence, as Nigerians living abroad will be struggling with foreigners to enter the country. ”Nigeria will become the most desirable Nation to live in”.

“The central government at the FCT will become smaller and less powerful. There will be a mini-exodus from Abuja to the provinces as the action is now elsewhere. The outskirts of Abuja will no longer be heavily overpopulated. Abuja will become awesome again. Nigeria will flourish again”.


All groups agree that unguided restructuring will lead to disintegration. It is advisable for the FG to arrest the drift by taking a stand on restructuring and guide its emergence instead of the present slide that may lead to what happened in Libya or Sudan.

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