Oil Boom, Oil Boomerang

Christopher Achuenu, ELP 2013, Nigeria

Nigeria is a country blessed with abundant human and natural resources. Her early years of independence clearly show she was a pride of the African continent due to the abundance of agriculture produced. Agriculture was the country’s foundation and means of livelihood for the Nigerian people with the groundnut pyramids of the north, abundance of yam from the Benue basin, rich cocoa from the west, giant cassava tubers from the east and palm oil in the south. Nigeria’s exports skyrocketed with the overflow of these crops and many others. Little did the people of Nigeria know that a “dark nectar” (oil) found in the Delta was soon going to become her economic mainstay and snuff the other agricultural exports out of business.

Oil, Nigeria’s main source of revenue today, is predominantly found in the rich Niger Delta. This small, oil rich section of the country is responsible for the sustenance of the entire country and economy. Ideally, it would be assumed that a country so blessed to generate large revenues from its expansive crude oil and natural gas reserves should be able to translate this revenue into policies and programs for the betterment of all her citizens. Alas, the reverse is the case in Nigeria. A series of repressive and outright corrupt governments that are supported and maintained by western governments and oil corporations keen on benefiting from the large amounts of exploitational fossil fuel in Nigeria has resulted in four main unwavering problems. First, the Delta region has being stricken by immense poverty contributed to difficulty in farming and fishing in oil affected areas, among other causes. Second, environmental destruction has been observed due to oil generated environmental pollution. Third, western oil corporations cause economic malnutrition. The financial and developmental commitments of the big oil companies is a knock on the head to those they claim to be helping, because the level and extent of damage they are doing far outweighs the little stipends they give. These companies employ inadequate environmental standards, health standards, human rights, etc. with the haphazard dumping of industrial waste and neglected promises of development programs. Fourth, youth restiveness and conflict has become a way of life for the people of the Niger Delta. Violence and militancy is quickly compensated while those who practice a peaceful form of protest are relegated to the background. Kidnapping and ransom taking took center stage when the youth became fed up with their lack of empowerment. In 2009, the Nigerian government introduced the amnesty offer, granting amnesty and doling out cash to armed militants who surrendered their weapons to the government. I believe, if done properly, this would have made some positive changes. However, the amnesty program is not a model strategy because it encourages people to militancy to get easy cash outs from the government, making the peace in the region suspect and highly dependent on payments (subsidizing the peace in the region).

The basic problems that the Niger Delta has always faced still remain and this “dark nectar” that boomed and became a blessing for Nigeria has boomeranged, leaving her with far worse issues than before its discovery. In conclusion, Nigeria needs to re-engineer herself and get back to her glory days of when she produced an abundance of agricultural produce. The world can do without the oil but the world cannot do without food.