Nigeria and oil

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With its 120 million inhabitants, Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa. Independent since 1960, this Federal Republic gathers 36 States of the Territory and close to 200 ethnic groups.

L’économie du pays était autrefois basée sur une agriculture excédentaire qui permettait l’exportation de denrées et une relative prospérité. Mais dans les années 80, le revenu moyen par habitant est tombé de plus de 1000$­­­­­­­­­­­­ à moins de 300$­­­­­­­­­­­­. Dans le delta du Niger, la pollution est telle qu’elle est devenue dangereuse pour la vie des habitants, les rebellions, les violences policières, les meurtres, les exécutions et les « accidents » industriels ne se comptent plus. Pourquoi ? Parce que la région est assise sur une des plus fabuleuse réserve de pétrole au monde….

Nigeria is indeed the 7e world producer for 2 million barrels produced every day. Oil is of course exploited by Western companies, as a joint venture or on the basis of other agreements with the state. Even though Nigeria is a member of OPEC, there is no obligation on the money returned to the country and most importantly, there is no control over the destination of this money. This is (to a great extent) the source of the political instability in this country, where getting power means getting your hands on a colossal source of income!

Production is mainly concentrated in the Niger Delta in the south of the country. This marshy area is populated by several ethnic groups that exploit the mangrove and some fields. But pollution caused by oil spills is such that dirty soil and water become unsuitable for agriculture, fishing and consumption. The air is saturated by the burning of gases and the acid rain finishes to denature the soil and the forest. This state of affairs poses both public health problems and social problems, as unemployment is hard on 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 or hospitals worthy of the name ... and repeated shortages of gas! The population is trying to take advantage of manna in its own way ... by siphoning pipe-lines. 800 was vandalized between January and October 2000, a loss equivalent to 4 billion dollars for the 2000 year. This gives an idea of ​​the magnitude of the traffic, but the price is heavy: in October 1998, 1000 people were killed in the explosion of a line, 250 people in July 2000, 60 in December 2000 ....

The actions of protest multiplied, sometimes very violent and repressed with an equivalent violence. In October 1995, the hanging of environmentalist writer Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight of his companions moves the international community. His rigged trial earned Nigeria his expulsion from the Commonwealth. However, the situation continued to deteriorate to the point where companies were sometimes forced to lower their production and repatriate their employees.

Since 1999 (and the eviction of military regimes), the situation has improved a bit. The oil companies and the government buy a little social peace by participating in the development of the region. Ecological solutions would even be studied. It is legitimate to think that this pacification is not foreign to the interest that the United States succumbs to the discovery of gigantic reserves in the Gulf of Guinea. The United States is seeking to distance itself from its traditional ally, Saudi Arabia. They must therefore find new and more accessible resources (Iraq) (Africa). By March 2000, American tankers had announced their intention to invest in the region. The visits to Africa by C. Powell and G. Bush in 2002 had no other purpose than to approach potential heads of state-partners. In Nigeria, oil is in the south. An independent state in the south, riddled with a central government that levies huge royalties and whose negligence has led to declines in production would be ideal for oil companies. This prospect may have weighed in the easing of central government policy, as well as probably other US proposals.
We can therefore fear that this appeasement will last only the time to meet the needs of tankers. With the problems of an agriculture struggling to feed a growing population, the radicalization of Islamists in the north and the battles for oil that are getting ready, the room for maneuver for a final peace is very slim.

Sources et liens :
- Article très complet mais en anglais
- Les multiples fractures du Nigéria par Joëlle Stolz, Le Monde diplômatique, février 99
– La colère des communautés du delta, Afrique Relance (Nations Unies), juin 99
– Le pétrole : atout économique à double tranchant, Afrique Relance (Nations Unies), juin 99
- Offensive sur l’or noir africain par Jean-Christophe Servant, Le monde diplomatique, janvier 2003


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