To say that every state in Nigeria is viable is to state the obvious which can’t be faulted by any theory. This is due to the fact that every state in this country has numerous natural resources that can be explored, exploited or mined to provide the needed revenues with which to run the states effectively. Though the states are endowed with varied natural resources, they are incapacitated by certain barriers and inhibitions. The precarious situation prevalent in the country is due mainly to the military incursion into the political scene on January 15, 1966 and the subsequent suspension of the 1963 Republican Constitution which brought the country under a unitary system through Decree 34.Decree 34 thus placed all natural resources within the country under the sole control of the Federal Government. For instance, the Petroleum Act of 1990 with this excerpt: “An Act to provide for the exploration of petroleum from the territorial waters and the continental shelf of Nigeria and vest the ownership of, and all on-shore and off-shore revenue from petroleum resources derivable therefrom in the Federal Government and for all other matter incidental thereto.” This Act empowers only the federal government to explore and exploit crude oil in Nigeria. So, with this law, no state has the right or power to explore and exploit its crude oil, sell and generate revenue!
Likewise, the Nigerian Minerals and Mining Act 2007 says: “The entire property in and control of all mineral resources in, under or upon any land in Nigeria, its contiguous continental shelf and all rivers, streams and watercourses throughout Nigeria, any area covered by its territorial waters or constituency and the Exclusive Economic Zone is and shall be vested in the Government of the Federation for and on behalf of the people of Nigeria.” These extant laws have reduced the states to beggars; debarring them from exploring, exploiting and processing the various solid minerals and crude oil in their domains for the common good of their citizens. The states are now paupers; going to Abuja every month to beg for the crumbs that fall from the table of the master (federal government). This will not encourage growth and viability of the states. Therefore, the Petroleum Act 1990 and the Nigerian Minerals and Mining Act 2007 must be repealed to empower the states to explore, exploit and sell these products in order to general their revenues!
However, apart from the laws restraining the states from exploring and exploiting their natural resources, the states are not creative as there are other numerous means by which they can generate revenues; the agricultural sector is one of them. States like Niger, Kogi and Ebonyi have the capacity to produce mammoth quantities of rice that can adequately feed the whole of the West African sub-region. In spite of the fact that some states in Nigeria have the potentials to produce rice that can surpass the demand in the whole of the West African sub-region, yet Nigeria still imports rice from other countries that cost about N800b annually! It is instructive to note that cocoa which the six states in the South-West can produce in large quantities but has been abandoned for crude oil, is the major revenue earner that sustains the entire country of Ivory Coast. Also, other states in Nigeria have fertile lands where cotton, palm oil and rubber can be produced in large quantities. These are cash trees that yield huge revenues to the nation that have them.
Another impediment to the viability of the states is the provision of the Nigerian 1999 Constitution. Section 162 (2) of the constitution says: “The President, upon the receipt of advice from the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission, shall table before the National Assembly, proposals for revenue allocation from the Federation Account, and determining the formula, the National Assembly 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 provided that the principle of derivation shall be constantly reflected in any approved formula as being not less than thirteen percent of the Federation Account directly from any natural resources.” With this provision in the constitution that promotes revenue sharing without compelling the states to contribute to the generation of revenue, discourages healthy competition among the states. Now, how can the states be creative and generate their revenue when they get allocation from the federal government monthly without contributing anything to the system? The reason why there was healthy competition among the three regions during the first republic was the provision of the 1963 Republic Constitution which empowered them to control 50 percent of whatever revenue they generated. This enabled the regions to develop at their individual pace.
It is inconvertible that every state in Nigeria has the potentials to be viable but some provisions in the 1999 Constitution pose as obstacles to the actualisation of the states. To make the states viable, the Petroleum Act 1990 and the Nigerian Minerals and Mining Act 2007 should be repealed or moved to the Concurrent List; a case in which both the states and federal government can explore and exploit crude oil and mine the minerals in their various domains. This will promote healthy competition among the federating states in this country.