With 120 milion inhabitants, Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa. Independent since 1960, the Federal Republic includes 36 States Territory and almost 200 ethnicities.
The country's economy was once based on farming surplus that allowed the export of commodities and relative prosperity. But in 80 years, the average per capita income fell from over $ 1000 for under $ 300. In the Niger Delta, the pollution is such that it has become dangerous for the lives of people, rebellions, police violence, murders, executions and "accidents" are innumerable industrial. Why ? Because the region is sitting on one of the fabulous oil reserves in the world ....
Nigeria is indeed the largest producer 7e to 2 million barrels produced daily. Oil is of course exploited by Western companies, joint venture or based on other agreements with the state. Although Nigeria is an OPEC member, there is no obligation on the amounts paid back to the country and especially, there is no control over the destination of the money. This is (largely) responsible for political instability in a country where obtaining the means to get their hands on a colossal source of income!
The production is mainly concentrated in the Niger Delta in the south. This marshy area is populated by several ethnic groups who exploit the mangroves and some fields. But pollution from oil leakage is such that the contaminated land and water become unsuitable for agriculture, fisheries, consumer. The air is saturated by burning gases and acid rain complete misrepresent soil and forest. This fact poses public health problems but also social problems as unemployment hits hardest those regions where men can no longer work in the fields or fishing.
Oil revenues represent 65% of the state budget but only 5% goes to the producing regions. In addition to all the inconveniences described above, they are left in a state of underdevelopment by the central government. No drinking water, roads, electricity, schools and hospitals worthy of the name ... and gasoline shortages repeatedly! The population thus trying to take advantage of the windfall in his way ... siphonant in the Pipeline. There were 800 vandalism between January and October 2000, or a loss equivalent to 4 dollars miliards for 2000 year. This gives an idea of the magnitude of traffic, but the price was heavy: in October 1998, 1000 people were killed in the explosion of a line, 250 people in July 2000, 60 2000 in December ....
The protest actions have increased, sometimes very violent and punished with equal violence. In October 1995, the hanging of environmentalist Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight of his companions moved the international community. His trial rigged to Nigeria earned his expulsion from the Commonwealth. However, the situation continued to deteriorate to the point that companies have sometimes been forced to lower their production and repatriate their employees.
Since 1999 (and the eviction of military regimes), the situation has slightly improved. The oil companies and the government buy some social peace by participating in the development of the region. Ecological solutions are even being considered. It is legitimate to think that this peace is not alien to the interest succite the USA discovered huge reserves in the Gulf of Guinea. The US is seeking in fact to take a distance with their traditional ally, Saudi Arabia. So they have to find new resources (Iraq) more accessible (Africa). In March 2000, US oil had indicated their intention to invest in the region. Visits in africa Colin Powell and George Bush in 2002 had no other purpose than to approach the heads of state potential partners. In Nigeria, the oil is in the south. An independent state in the south, débarrasé of a central government that levies huge royalties and whose negligence led to production cuts would be ideal for the oil companies. This prospect has probably weighed in the relaxation of central government policy, and probably other US proposals.
We can therefore fear that this calm will last only time to meet the needs of oil. With the problems of agriculture which is struggling to feed a rapidly growing population, the radicalization of the Islamist north and battles for oil that are preparing the room for mannoeuvre for a definitive peace is thin.
Sources and links:
- Article comprehensive but in English
- Multiple fractures of Nigeria by Joëlle Stolz, Le Monde Diplomatique, February 99
- Wrath of Delta communities, Africa Recovery (UN), Jun 99
- Oil: double-edged economic asset, Africa Recovery (UN), Jun 99
- Offensive on oil states by Jean-Christophe Servant, Le monde diplomatique, January 2003