Thursday, October 19, 2017
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Prisoners’ Dilemma – of Lagos Oil Discovery

It is an open secret that Lagos State is now officially an oil producing state. Equally very soon, Lagos state will start to receive 13% derivation fund. Now as Lagos state officially joined the league of states that produce crude oil in Nigeria, it is imperative to begin to theorize, postulate and envision a situation where current in the Niger-Delta does not replicate itself in Lagos and by extension South West.

Garrett Hardin challenging article in Science (1968) capture accurately the present scenario of Niger-Delta regarding the curse of crude oil.  In the article, Hardin asks the reader to envision a pasture “Open to all”. He then examines the structure of this situation from the perspective of a rational herder. Each herder receives a direct benefit from his own animals and suffers delayed cost from the deterioration of the commons when his and others’ cattle overgraze. Each herder is motivated to add more and more animals because he receives the direct benefit of his own animals and bears only a share of the costs resulting from overgrazing. Hardin concludes:

Therein is the tragedy. Each man is locked into a system that compels him to increase his herd without limit – in a world that is limited. Ruin is the destination toward which all men rush, each pursing his own best interest in a society that believe in the freedom of common

The crisis currently being  experience in the Niger-Delta areas of Nigeria share in many ways the symbolism of Hardin postulation of herders’ theory. Right from 1959, the Nigeria oil industry has been overtaken by sheer personal at the expense of people and resources itself. Everybody thought it free, so there was a continuous drawing out without due consideration for the people, environment and nature. To say Niger-Delta is in ruin is an under statement. Legislation were suspended, policy neglected while greed run high on the street. Using Hardin analogy, the reality of Niger-Delta is a prisoners’ dilemma. It is because from government machinery to the industry operators (oils firms, multinationals, market forces etc.) to the local people, everyone was and is using defect strategy. Defect strategy in the sense that crude oil in this context is a victim of the “tragedy of the common”.   The environment, infrastructure and peoples empowerment that should be of concern has been a by-product. The consequences of defect strategy is now pipeline vandalization, terrorism, kidnapping among many other social vices. In the process, environment is destroyed, farmland gone and the gods of fish are angry. The nation herself bleeds and economic sabotage is evident everywhere.

Above scenario bring us to our beloved Lagos state. It is prudence to make use of experience especially when it is not your own.  While it should be acknowledged that relevant laws governing the exploration and mining of natural resources is vested with federal government, state government on the other hand are not entirely helpless. Lagos state must use judiciously the funds received from the crude oil. Adequate attention must be paid to the environment. We have a duty to ensure preservation of maritime lives. Farm land must not disappear. The oil exploration must not become a burden for the generation yet unborn. Infrastructural development must be a top priority. Above all, knowledge data bank must be created. This means more investment in education particularly in the area of research and development.

Finally, at all cost Lagos must learn from Niger-Delta experience. We must avoid the pitfall. Lagos is too strategic to into the hand of pipeline vandals, terrorist and kidnappers.  Our future must be safe and prosperous. However, it is not a wishing thinking that will do it. It can only be done when adequate attention are paid to the essentials.

2: Governing the Commons by Elinor Ostrom


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