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Calabar wins tournament on Nigeria's oil
Submitted by IDEA London Staff on 19 June 2012
The first South-South Universities Debating Championship took place at the University of Calabar in the south-east of Nigeria on June 10-14. The Championship was sponsored by OSIWA and supported by IDEA. The University of Calabar, or Unical, will host the Pan-African Universities Debating Championship (PAUDC) in 2013 and used this tournament as a means to introduce students in its region to the British Parliamentary format, in a bid to boost Nigerian participation at PAUDC and the World Universities Debating Championship. Debaters and judges were given a day's worth of training by Franklin Ubi David, the Chief Adjudicator of the competition and the current Unical coach, while IDEA London's Manos Moschopoulos delivered a judges' briefing to help lecturers from local universities understand the format and use their skills to coach their own students in the future.
The University of Calabar has supported its debating programme as a means to further it's students' education and the school's representative stressed out the importance of debating in creating a proper democracy, citing debate as the element that makes the difference between, what he called, "democratic and backward societies". Peter Ocheikwu from the Open Society Institute for West Africa reiterated the sponsors' support for programmes all over the world through the Global Debates programme that funds debating in undergraduate departments with $20 million over the next three years, while Manos Moschopoulos from IDEA London talked about how debating leads to more open and tolerant societies and presented the ways in which students can benefit from the network's new website at idebate.org.
You can see photos from the event on our Flickr set or in the photostream below.
Highlights from the debates
Round 1: This House will eradicate oil bunkering in the South-South
Many of the debaters in the tournament had their first debate on the issue of oil bunkering. As both sides argued that illegal practices that put money in international bank accounts of corrupt individuals, rather than the state, are harmful for the people, the debate was about whether or not it should be a priority to eradicate oil bunkering rather than trying to work with multinationals that currently have resource extraction rights to refurbish local areas to deter people from aiding bunkering exercises.
Round 2: This House will impose capital punishment on operators of illegal refineries in the South-South
Proposition teams were quick to argue that capital punishment acts as the best and most effective deterrent to practices such as illegal refineries, which cost the state in terms of potential revenue. In one debate the practice was compared to treason against the state which is also punishable by death.
The opposition sides blamed the current state of legal refineries and the lack of services, welfare and resources for the locals as the reason behind illegal refining and called for an overhaul of the current citizen support system instead of such a radical measure. They also claimed that the estimated 150.000 barrels per day refined illegaly doesn't affect development and that there is no point in imposing harsher punishments while the judicial system and the police forces are proving ineffective in dealing with the issue today.
Another interesting point came in one debate where a student asked how capital punishment could possibly deal with the bribery culture and corruption in other areas of the state.
Round 3: This House will offer South-South militants positions in govt in return for peace
"Militants are there because people feel they don't have what's theirs" said one of the Prime Ministers for this round, blaming the rise of violence on the state's inability to spread the wealth accumulated from national resources. Alongside boosting employment and delivering a fairer economic solution, it was argued that offering militants positions in government gives some excluded groups a voice, helps build sustainable peace and brings about leaders that are "closer" to the common people than the current ruling class. Amnesty, it was argued, is not enough as it doesn't change the composition of the governing structures in a way that makes them more inclusive.
Of course, the opposition was quick to list the crimes committed by militants over the past few years that, according to one Opposition Whip, are "too serious to be forgiven" and evidence that they will also be corrupt as politicians if power is given to them. They also pointed out the lack of governance skills necessary to participate in government among the militants and offered employment and dialogue as key alternatives to convince local populations to stop supporting violent movements.
The examples of South Sudan, South Africa and even Northern Ireland were offered during the debate as case studies of the transformation of violent movements into credible political forces.
Round 4: This House shall abolish the Joint Task Force (JTF) in the South-South
The proposition sides pointed out all the inadequacies of the Joint Task Force, including the crimes perpetrated by some of its members during its presence in the South-South and the lack of training. The oppositions argued that the JTF has been very effective at maintaining peace in the area against fierce violence by militant groups and have also aided in destroying the bases of illegal oil bunkerers, protecting the income streams of the Nigerian state.
Semifinals: This House believes that the South-South should not sell mineral (oil & gas) rights to foreign companies
This debate centred around the ability of Nigeria to extract its own resources without foreign companies - the government argued that through not selling rights, foreign companies would have an incentive to provide with know-how on the ground in order to engage with the oil extraction process, while the opposition said that this process would take time and in the meanwhile the region would lose a very valuable income source for its people. "Workforce could be inmported to manage our oil industry" said a Deputy Prime Minister, arguing that greater value can be derived by local ownership as all profits are retained in the local economy.
The role of these foreign companies was questioned, with those in proposition saying that these companies are basically acting like the colonial powers of the past, not delivering any benefit to the locals and "stealing" the profits for their home countries. The opposition was quick to point out that these companies generate jobs for the locals and offer compensation when their practices harm the locals, as Shell did with recent oil spill incidents in the area. "Resource control lead to the Niger Delta insurgency" claimed an Opening Opposition speaker, arguing that local power struggles would harm the security situation in the region if foreign companies are not given rights over their resources.
Final: This House would approve the extradition and re-trial of James Ibori (fmr Govr) in any court in the South-South
James Ibori was the Governor of the oil-producing Delta State in Nigeria that was convicted by the Southwark Crown Court in London for laundering money he got through multiple frauds worth millions of US dollars while he was in power. The debate centred around the 2007 acquittal of Ibori in Nigerian courts on those charges and the likelihood that local courts could once again let him go free, while there was a clash on whether or not the people of the South-South deserve to see Ibori serve justice in their own land rather than the far-away United Kingdom. In the end, the winners were the team from the University of Calabar in Opening Government, which argued that the only way that corruption can be effectively dealt with is if the right message is sent to the people, and that can only happen if Ibori's conviction is delivered by a local, rather than a British, court.