Saturday, November 20, 2010
Nigeria's conflicts regarding oil
The notorious Lagos International Airport
Recent news from Nigeria - the kidnapping of oil workers, and their rescue - made headlines last week and prompts a look at this country. In the West, we often associate Nigeria with little more than a "suspect" airport in one of its major cities, Lagos. Travelers' tales of customs corruption, bribery, and poor security which prompts an on/off presence on the list of troubled air links to Europe and the US, abound, but there is much more to the country than this facility.
Nigeria has Africa's largest population, some 150 million and growing, which accounts for 1 out of every six people on the vast continent. It's president has an unusual name, Goodluck Jonathan, and he governs over a fragile nation full of recurring tensions between Muslim populations to the north and Christians and animists to the south, as well as a powerful military that has assumed control of the country on several occasions, only recently returning power to an elected leader.
President Goodluck Jonathan (middle), meets with a provincial governor Emmanuel Uduaghan, and Chief E. K. Clark - both leaders in an oil-rich southern province.
Granted independence from Great Britain in 1960, Nigeria as with many former colonies is a rather "artificial" entity, with arbitrary borders, boundaries, and people groups. The country suffered a civil war just seven years later when Biafra, a province in the south full of oil resources attempted to secede. The conflict proved horrendous for both sides, lasting three years with the loss of an estimated 3 million lives, and festers still today. The three major people groups are the Igbo, about 60-70% of the population in the southeast where the Biafra conflict occurred; the Muslim Hausa-Fulani which is about 65% of the peoples in the northern part of the territory; and the Yoruba, which form about 75% of the population in the southwestern part
Nigeria with Lagos in the Southwest, the troubled but wealthy oil delta region centered around Port Harcourt in the south, the capital Abuja in the center, and the Islamic oriented region of the north
Today, Nigeria is Africa’s biggest oil producer and the fifth- largest source of U.S. oil imports. Shell, Exxon Mobil, Chevron Corp., Total SA and Eni SpA run joint ventures with the state- owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corp., which pumps most of the West African country’s oil.
Nigeria's oil industry a huge revenue producer for the government
The Niger River delta, home to the country’s oil and gas industry, has been hit by a surge in violence in recent months after a period of relative calm following a government amnesty in 2009 and the disarming of thousands of militant fighters. The military ordered an offensive against rebels early November.
In just the past few days, Nigeria’s army arrested more than 60 militants it said were responsible for kidnapping the 19 hostages - 12 Nigerians, two Americans, two Frenchmen, one Canadian and two Indonesians, freed last week, a military spokesman said. Troops raided militant camps Nov. 17 and freed the hostages taken in attacks on the facilities of Exxon Mobil Corp., Royal Dutch Shell Plc’s local unit and Afren Plc, the army said.
Rescued oil workers
The ongoing tensions in Nigeria's southeast is just one example of many countries restive interests, based on ethnicity, poverty or extreme disparities of wealth, or representation.