Skip to main content

Fiscal Federalism, Tiv Interest And Ethnicity By Leonard Karshima Shilgba, PhD

A Lead Paper Presentation At The International Conference On Ethnic Minority Agitations And Nigerian Politics: Reflections On The Tiv “Revolts” Of 1964: 50 Years After

A Lead Paper Presentation At The International Conference On Ethnic Minority Agitations And Nigerian Politics: Reflections On The Tiv “Revolts” Of 1964: 50 Years After

Benue State University, Makurdi, Nigeria.
April, 2014.

googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display('content1'); });


The main reason for the Tiv “revolts” of the 1960s was the demand for, insistence on, and actionable decision of Tiv elite to have autonomy for their people in the then Northern Region. This fact must not be forgotten by historians, scholars and the people of the Tiv nation. Every time an oppressed and subjugated people summon courage to ask for autonomy, they must be prepared to summon courage of equal measure to fight off the anger and brutal instigations of the oppressor. The attempt for autonomy by the Tiv elite of the 1960s was given expression in two major ways, namely, the formation of a political vehicle, the United Middle Belt Congress (UMBC) to provide both political mobility and cohesion for the peoples of the Middle Belt, who were considered by the unpretentious disposition of the royal rulers of the Northern Region as minorities and tools to be deployed for the interest of the aristocratic north. The second expression was the building of new alliances with Nigerians of the Western Region.

The oppression of Tiv people in the old Northern Region happened, not before the British colonialists held the people down, but after they had woven a bespoke political mosaic that placed the northern aristocrats in a position of advantage before their ceremonial departure. It must not be forgotten that the northern aristocrats, through their religious crusaders, could not penetrate Tivland as they were repelled by the fiercely conscious people of Tiv nation. Much later, the intervention of the colonialists gave them a proxy advantage which they have held unto with glee; and so, when shortly after the exit of the colonialists the conscious people of Tiv nation refused to be second class citizens on their land, the northern oppressive machine was cranked up and deployed against them. The political savvy of the northern aristocrats, which is most potent through subterfuge, red herrings, and remote and innocuous manipulations, goaded the Tiv people into an exercise in self-immolation. Shortly after, the Tiv people were deceived into a needless war, falsely christened the Civil War, and did the bidding of an interest that has now turned against them with brutal ferocity and mindless killings and dislodgment from their ancestral land. And in a deft move to forbid future uprisings, the same interest is working toward establishing grazing reserves for the vicious Fulani cattle herders right in Tivland, and this with the slavish collaboration of a so-called Federal Government of Nigeria. And should this be allowed by the Tiv elite of today to stand, let it be known that for the first time the Tiv people shall be conquered by a race within Africa.

googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display('content2'); });


The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999) states in section 25 (1) (a) as follows:
The following persons are citizens of Nigeria by birth, namely—

every person born in Nigeria before the date of independence, either of whose parents or any of whose grandparents belongs or belonged to a community indigenous to Nigeria:

Provided that a person shall not become a citizen of Nigeria by virtue of this section if neither of his parents nor any of his grandparents was born in Nigeria.

Ethnic groups that form contiguous communities in the geographical location called Nigeria today existed before the artificial creation of Nigeria by the British colonialists and for British interest. Historical accounts indicate that the name Nigeria was proposed by Flora Shaw,  a former Colonial Editor of the London Times, who wrote in the newspaper on January 8, 1897: "The name Nigeria, applying to no other part of Africa, may without offence to any neighbors be accepted as co-extensive with the territories over which the Royal Niger Company has extended British influence, and may serve to differentiate them equally from the colonies of Lagos and the Niger Protectorate on the coast and from the French territories of the Upper Niger.”

The Lagos colony and Niger Protectorate, all in the south, were not included in the territories to be called Nigeria. The Igbo lands were very much later forced by Walter Egerton, the first Governor of the Southern Protectorate from 1906-1912, who before then took over from the ailing Ralph Moore in 1904 as Governor of Lagos colony, and at the same time was High Commissioner of the Southern Protectorate (which was formed in 1900 to include the Niger Protectorate and areas south of River Niger below Lokoja, which were charters of the Royal Niger Company, and which Protectorate was eventually joined by Lagos colony in 1906) to join the Southern Protectorate after 1906. The Northern Protectorate was called “Royal Niger Company Territories,” and so Ms Shaw’s proposal was for a shorter name for the “agglomeration of pagan and Mohamedan States.”  

When we take together the constitutional provision of citizenship by birth and the original geographical inclusivity of the territory code-named Nigeria, and the consideration that the constitution is vague about “communities indigenous to Nigeria”, the most certain community claim by any African living in what is loosely defined as Nigeria is their ethnic affiliation. Accordingly, a Fulani man in Adamawa State, for instance, would accept another Fulani man in Garoua, Cameroon as a brother more than he would so regard a Tiv man or an Igbo man. This is the tragedy of Nigeria, which belongs to none but is claimed by all. Accordingly, there is an urgent need to define:

i.    What Nigeria is and means;
ii.    When Nigeria was;
iii.    How Nigeria has become;
iv.    Why Nigeria is and must be; and
v.    Who Nigerians are.

The claim by anyone to be a Nigerian by birth constitutionally can only find expression in an ethnic group “indigenous to Nigeria.” And because this phrase is a blank check, all kinds of amounts are being filled thereon, thus creating a situation whereby the resultant insolvency of the bank of citizenship threatens inevitable consequence of a dud check.

It is a bit of colonial hang-over that often creates in the minds of Africans that aversion to “ethnic” issues. In fact, there is a derogatory intention meant when the word “tribalistic” is used instead to describe patriotism to one’s ethnic causes. A claim to Nigerian-ness must only be a consequence of a strong patriotic passion for one’s ethnic group that is inclusive in Nigeria by some sensible definition. The word “tribe” is an offensive word that is often used to identify ethnic nationalities or nations in Africa. For instance, it is more appropriate to use the phrase “Tiv nation” than “Tiv tribe.” When someone says you are “tribalistic”, unknown to them, they are commending your patriotism even though the intention is to belittle your disposition.

Ethnic dynamics in Nigeria play out within the context of community-preservation. Smaller (by population) nations in Nigeria may find that their future is assured if they must form bigger ethnic groupings with other physically contiguous nations that are often also socially contiguous. This is the principle behind the strong emergence of the Middle Belt group, of which Tiv nation is a strong part, and that is now assertive and shall never ever be rightly or consequentially referred to as part of the North. Indeed, it is know in intelligence circles that the future of Nigeria depends on the collaboration between the Middle Belt and South-South regions. These two regions combined constitute a huge majority; and it is in their interest to insist on their rights over their land and the resources therein and thereon.

Tiv Interest

Forefathers of the Tiv people got them the land on which they live today in the 18th century AD when there was no “Nigeria”. They 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 should stand 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, would the Tiv people oppose resource control? The most sensible answer is that Tiv people, being fiercely conscious of their interests and autonomy, stand behind resource control. The Tiv forebears had established an agenda—to get sizeable land for their offspring to carry out their farming activities on. And no sensible Tiv son or daughter should support any arrangement, however apparently innocuous, that would result in ceding any part of their land to outsiders for their exclusive use and settlement. Tiv people can manage their resources better than anyone can do so for them.

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 a job and crippled the economy of the Tiv capital, Gboko. We should think that the Tiv people should thereby appreciate what the oil-producing communities in Nigeria are suffering. But unlike them, they 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 2014 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 they lose their land completely through devious contraptions such as the Grazing Reserves Bill being contemplated in the National Assembly.

Fiscal Federalism

A Federation is a union of Constitutions. Therefore, fiscal federalism is an agreement between the federating units on how to share or allocate resources, responsibilities and liabilities among them and the central government which exists, not as an oppressive and domineering “Prefect”, but a facilitator of the dreams, fundamental objectives and principles contained in the common Constitution that is designed as a contract between the units to foster nationhood, security and welfare of the people. As an independent country, Nigerians gave themselves, for the first and only time, the 1963 Constitution, which still serves as the only reference to a truly people-oriented Constitution.

Chapter 1 of the 1963 Constitution opens thus:

1.    This Constitution shall have the force of law throughout Nigeria, and subject to the provisions of section 4 of this Constitution, if any other law (including the Constitution of a Region) is inconsistent with this Constitution, this Constitution shall prevail and the other law shall, to the extent of the inconsistency, be void.

2.    Nigeria shall be a federation comprising Regions and a Federal territory, and shall be a Republic by the name of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

3.    –(1) There shall be four Regions, that is to say, Northern Region, Eastern Region, Western Region and Mid-Western Region.

(2) The Regions and the Federal territory shall consist of the areas comprised in those territories respectively on the thirtieth day of September, 1963.

Sections 136-145 of the 1963 Constitution made detailed provisions with regard to public finances of the federation—how revenues from regional mineral resources, import duties, sundry taxes and the amounts in the “Distributable Pool Account” should be shared among the Regions. There was a clear sense of justice in the arrangement, where fifty per cent of proceeds from minerals, including mineral oil extracted from a Region was given to the Region, thirty per cent of the proceeds was paid into the Distributable Pool Account and ninety-five per cent of the accruals was shared among the four Regions according to the ratios established in section 141:

Northern Region—forty of ninety-five; Western Region—eighteen of ninety-five; Easter Region—thirty-one of ninety-five; and the Mid-Western Region—six of ninety-five (This ensured that at any time there were some savings in the account since five per cent of accruals in each quarter was always reserved in the Distributable Pool Account). Regions contributed in offsetting administrative costs in revenue collection in their territories (See Section 142 of the 1963 Constitution).

Why is Nigeria seeking to re-invent the constitutional wheel when independent Nigeria already has a worthy constitutional precedent to work on? Why, for instance, would limestone be extracted from the Tivland of Benue State and the people do not receive even one per cent revenue benefits on the principle of derivation from the activity, and the victims are rather being killed when they protest this injustice? Even the 1999 Constitution, in section 162 (2), recognizes and provides for the principle of derivation on “any natural resource”, which must be reflected in any revenue sharing formula to be proposed by the Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), which “shall take into account, the allocation principles especially those of population, equality of States, internal revenue generation, land mass, terrain as well as population density.”  I am yet to be shown how the revenue sharing formulae that the RMAFC has ever come up with have reflected the principle of “internal revenue generation”.

When local and international oil companies are given an Oil Mining Lease (OML) on a limited and specified oil field, they pay royalty on the crude oil they extract from the ground, and respective host states and communities get their respective shares on the thirteen per cent derivation they are paid. But within Tivland of Benue State, the Dangote Cement Company keeps excavating for limestone without any perceived limits, and the host communities and Benue State receive no derivation. The former Benue Cement Company that was sold to Dangote Cement, in which the state had more than twenty per cent shares, was a limestone processing company, which must acquire the raw material, limestone, at a price (the shares that Benue State held in the company). Purchase of an oil refinery by a private investor, for instance, does not ipso facto mean that the investor would be given crude oil free of charge interminably. The company infrastructure was acquired by Dangote Cement Company, but the limestone within the soil cannot be exploited outside a specified agreed perimeter limit and without some commensurate royalty paid to the host community and, by extension, the Benue State government based on the constitutional principle of derivation. This injustice must be corrected, and the Benue people and host communities must be paid all revenues due from the time of the acquisition of the company by Dangote Cement. Similar injustices across Nigeria must be corrected, and the national government must be forced to respect and enforce the country’s constitution.  

Leonard Karshima Shilgba, PhD
Visiting Professor of Mathematics, Nigeria.
Email: [email protected]; TEL: 08055024356.

1.    Omo Omoruyi. The origin of Nigeria: God of justice not associated with an unjust political order. (2002).
2.     Leonard K. Shilgba, From My Heart—The Black Race: Myths, Realities and Complexes. Strategic Books, USA. ISBN: 978-1-60911-049-9 (2011).
3.    Leonard K. Shilgba, Nigeria and Her Seven Secrets: Sovereign National Conference and Building a Perfect Union (In press).
4.    E.H.C.M. Bell, Flora Shaw – Lady Lugard.  DBE, London (1947).
5.    Falola, Toyin; Heaton, Matthew, A History of Nigeria. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0521681575 (2008).
6.    Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999).
7.    Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1963).


The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters

googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display('comments'); });