The Willink And Ogomudia Reports In Retrospect—A Gentle Reminder That We Are Still Lagging By J.D. Koikoibo

By J.D. Koikoibo

Vetted by Chris Micah


ON THE 24th September 2020, I had the privilege of being invited by Professor Solomon Ebobrah for a meeting at his office in the Faculty of Law, Niger Delta University. In attendance, both virtually and physically, were several lawyers. I considered myself the least of them, being the only pre-call lawyer in attendance. I will not go into the why or details of the meeting, but something happened that led to my putting pen to paper to produce this piece: Professor Ebobrah gifted each of us, a copy of The Willink and The Ogomudia Reports respectively!

I had heard and read, much more than thrice, about both documents in my course of becoming, but never had I read the actual documents—the actual words. So you can understand how happy I was to finally have copies of them as mine, to read and study them. For the benefit of those who have never heard of these documents before, or have no idea what they are about, I will shed some light on them.

THE WILLINK REPORT—The Report of the Commission Appointed to Enquire into The Fears of the Minorities and the Means of Allaying Them—was the document presented by the Secretary of State for the Colonies by command of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II in July 1958. The colonial government ordered the inquiry in 1957 following nationwide agitation and doubts about Nigeria’s quest for political independence. Sir Henry Willink, a Queen’s Council, headed the Commission that produced the Report, and it sat in more than six centres covering the eastern, western, and northern parts of the colony.

The Report, in Chapter 6 and 7, highlighted the fears of the Eastern minorities, especially the Ijaws, with respect to domination and autocracy by majority groups, economic and social discrimination, etc—fears in relation to the “outside” majority tribes, Igbos specifically.” We will come to why this is relevant today.

On the other hand, THE OGOMUDIA REPORT—The Report of the Special Security Committee on Oil Producing Areas—was the document submitted to then President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, in February 2002. The Committee that produced the report constituted in 2001 and mandated to assess the negative impact of the Niger Delta crisis—vandalism of oil pipelines, disruptions, kidnappings, extortion, and a perceived general state of insecurity—on the oil and gas industry. Then Chief of Army Staff, Lt-Gen. A.O. Ogomudia, chaired the committee with state and federal government officials and representatives of oil companies operating in the area, as members.

While I will not delve into the terms of reference and constitution of the Ogomudia Committee, it is noteworthy that the issue of justice and equity was not the primary concern in the mind of then President Olusegun in setting up the committee (which is characteristic with most governmental initiatives—and I dare say that it is for this reason that Nigeria’s problems rather than reducing, have become a seemingly insurmountable bricolage of problems).

The key thing is that, the findings in both the Willink and Ogomudia Reports were a reflection of things as they were at the time—back in 1958 and 2002 respectively, yet nothing significant has changed since. The fears of the then Eastern minorities were not only founded—they played out and continue to play out. I dare say that the economic and political marginalization of the oil-producing areas did not start with a Federal Republic of Nigeria. Note that before the Civil War and before the creation of States, the Principle of Derivation was 100% before it dropped to 50% during the Civil War. So where are the structures in Ijawland that can account for the monies that came under the control of the Eastern Region and later, under an Aguyi Ironsi-led unitary government? Maybe there are and I don’t know. Please show me. Under whose regime do you think Boro carried out his Twelve-Day Revolution?

The point is, what happened upon the abolition of the Regional system, was merely a transfer of the mantle of marginalization in an oil economy that boomed more than it did under the former masters—the Igbo-dominated Eastern Region. This was the fear that the minorities foresaw even before the discovery of oil—domination. Aren’t we even lucky that we produced a President?

This is why, at the risk of being called a promoter of tribalism, I dare say it is strange to me how some sons of Ijaw, who pledge their ever-wavering allegiance to a so-called Customary Government of Biafra, could make such a thoughtless move. But then, people have always mostly obeyed their stupid cupidity rather than good reason. Or perhaps, like in the days of the Willink Report, what these bacchanalian sons of Ijaw are exhibiting has more to do with a “dissatisfaction with the present [Nigeria] rather than any enthusiasm for any considered or constructive proposal for the [supposed] future [Biafra].”

The truth is that many of the issues plaguing the oil-producing region are issues that can be solved without necessarily seceding from the Federal Republic of Nigeria. In fact, presently, much of the problem remains because we as a people are complicit—we have been feeding on ourselves. This is not going to miraculously change even in a new “Niger Delta Republic” or by joining a “Biafran Republic,” unless you secede and leave the corrupt elements behind in the “old country” (Nigeria) as it were; nor will the problems go away when we have a 100% control of resources.

We are complicit. Just look at it: how much of the 13% revenue allocation, which is based on derivation from natural resources, given to the states is actually expended on projects in the oil-producing communities as envisaged under section 162 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic, 1999 (as amended)? Only for these States to set up a special body for these areas as was recommended in paragraph 86(iv) of the Ogomudia Report, is a problem. Do we honestly think having a separate Republic will cure the greedy-guts of their disease? Of course no.

So what? “What are you suggesting we do, Mister”? Actually, I only came to remind us that, looking at things now and in retrospect, it is clear that we (and by 'we' I mean government at all levels, communities, and oil companies) are still failing—not because we do not have solutions to our problems, but because we have refused to sincerely apply resources to the available viable solutions.

The Ogomudia Reports contain extremely beautiful recommendations for the Federal, State and local governments, the oil-producing communities, as well as the oil companies—recommendations that a not too grand to be achieved. But, well, we have a problem of insincerity of purpose and so, here we are—20 years after the Ogomudia Report—still lagging, struggling with same old basic demands. 

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