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JOURNAL OF RESEARCH IN NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT VOLUME 8 NO 2, DECEMBER, 2010


 

INTERNAL COLONIALISM AND REGIONAL RESISTANCE TO OIL EXPLOITATION IN THE NIGER DELTA

 

 

Offiong John Offiong and Emmanuel I. Okonmah

Department of Political Science & Public Administration, University of Benin

E-mail: eokonmah@yahoo.com

Abstract

The Niger Delta states have a history of non-performing government institutions. Efforts of the Federal government to address the problems of the region date back to the formation of the Niger Delta Development Board in 1958 through NDDC of 2000 to Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs in 2008. The given mandates were to develop the region to be funded with 13% derivation revenue as a special fund contributed from the federation account. Unfortunately, the oil producing communities, the expected beneficiaries of the oil derivation revenue allocations back to the region, have had little or no influence in the allocation and management of these funds.The political elites utilized awards of oil blocks as patronage to their political friends to elicit their cooperation and consolidate power at the federal government level at the expense of those who suffer the effect of oil exploration. To this end,  this study aimed at finding out whether the abuse of public office through gross deprivations leading to poor governance and lack of accountability by few elite at the regional and federal levels who divert the resources meant for the development of the region (with impunity for personal interest), is a prerequisite for both regional and national developments.

 

Keywords: Colonialism, resistance, exploitation, Niger Delta

 


Introduction:

Nigeria petroleum is classified as "light" or "sweet" crude oil considered largely free of sulphur. Nigeria is the largest producer of sweet oil in OPEC (ERA, 2005). This sweet oil also known as "Bonny light" is similar in composition to petroleum extracted from North Sea. Essentially, Nigerian crude oils are named according to export terminal which include Qua Iboe, Escravos blend, Brass river, Forcados, and Pennington Anfan operated by six companies to wit: Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited (British/Dutsh); Chevron Nigeria Limited (American); Exxon-Mobil Producing Nigeria Limited (American); Nigerian Agip Oil Company (Italian); Total Petroleum Nigeria Limited (French); and Texaco (now merged with Chevron) (Energy Information Administration, 2007) with a total of 159 oil fields with 1481 wells in operation according to the Ministry of Petroleum Resources (ERA, 2005). All these are within the productive region of the coastal Niger Delta Basin in the South-south region. Most of Nigeria's oil fields are small and scattered. No doubt Dublin Green etal (1998) had observed that as at 1990, the small unproductive oil fields accounted for 62.1% of all Nigerian production while only the sixteen (16) major fields produced 37.9% of Nigeria's petroleum at that time (Dublin-Green etal, 1998:40). Notably, all petroleum production and exploration is taken under the aegis of joint venture between foreign multi-national corporations and the Nigerian federal government.

The anger of the oil producing communities

The problems besetting the Niger Delta are indeed formidable. These problems include among others.

The politics of oil exploitation and resource domination The Federal government has domineering power over all sections of the Nigerian people and resources. That of the Niger Delta is not an exception. The Federal government holds sovereignty on behalf of the people and will have to hold the country together when a section misbehaves (Danjuma, 1995). But to the Niger Delta people, oil has provided the excuse in which the Federal government has subjected the region to colonial slavery through continued exploitation of their resources. This politics of domination of the resources in the Niger Delta or its internal colonialism according to Omotoso Gbenga (2003), started during the civil war years of 1967-70. During the era of British colonial rule, income from minerals and other export products from 1946 to 1966 attracted 50% of derivation to regions in which minerals were mined. The Federal government received about 20% on the average. This was considered a fair principle of derivation which favoured the Niger Delta regions and encouraged healthy competition with adequate funds for implementing ambitious development projects. The rapid advancement which the government of the old western region made in the area of education and social welfare was due to this factor.

Environmental degradation: This implies the lowering or worsening of the biological and physical components of the soil, of the oil producing communities in the Niger-Delta through the exploration of crude oil by the activities of the multi-national oil companies. These environmental damage results in soil erosions, low fertility of agricultural products, gas flaring and pollution, contaminations of water through oil spillages (Dibie, 2000), among others.

Gas flaring: Historically, gas flaring began simultaneously with oil extraction in the 1960s by Shell-BP now PDC (Powell etal 1985:168). Gas flaring in Nigeria is inefficiently managed and releases large amount of methane, which has very high global warming potential. The methane is accompanied by the other major greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, of which Nigeria was estimated to have emitted more than 34.38million tons in 2002, accounting for about 50% of all industrial emissions in the country and 30% of the total CO2 emissions (NDES, 2006). Often, gas flares are located close to residents of local communities and regularly lack adequate fencing or protection for villagers, who risks nearing the tremendous heat of the flare in order to carry out their daily activities.

 

Gas flares have harmful effects too on human health and livelihood of the communities in their vicinity releasing a variety of poisonous chemicals. Some of the combustion by-products include nitrogen dioxides, sulphur dioxide, volatile organic compounds like benzene, toluene, xylene and hydrogen sulfide and carcinogens like benzapyrene and dioxin. According to Etekpe, (2007), human-beings exposed to these substances can suffer from a variety of respiratory problems commonly found amongst children in the Niger Delta areas but have apparently gone scientifically uninvestigated. These chemicals exposures can aggravate asthma, therein causing breathing difficulties and pain, and chronic bronchitis. Chemical benzene that is emitted from gas flares is a causative agent for leukemia and other blood-related diseases (Ekundaye etal, 2000). With all these risk potentials arising from oil exploration in the Niger Delta since 1958, to what extent has the federal government cared about her subjects in the region who are faced with these death threatening diseases?

 

Oil spills: Oil spillage as an environmental problem in the Niger Delta has a major impact on the ecosystem into which it is released. Immense tracts of the mangrove forests susceptible to oil spillage are often destroyed. This is mainly because it is stored in the soil and released later with inundation. Oil Spills in Nigeria occur due to a number of causes which include: corrosion of pipelines and tankers (accounts for 50% of all spills), sabotage (28%), and oil production operations (21%) with 1% of the spills being accounted for by inadequate or non-functional production equipment (Atlas, 1995:180-1). Much of the agricultural efforts on food supply can be destroyed by minor leaks, debilitating the farmers and their families who depend on the land for their livelihood. Drinking water is also frequently contaminated showing gloss of oil in many compounds of water (Olagoke, 1996). The effects of these on the lives of the local people (close and around their areas of operations) are not adequately compensated for their damaged crops, animals and aquatic lives which the peasantry lives on. It is therefore not surprising that, the people are frustrated and occasionally or frequently rises up in protest against these oil companies for adequate compensation.

 

To Ledum Mitee (2006:2) the activities of the oil companies in the region has fifty years of misery and neglect which the people of the oil producing communities could no longer be contented to be bystanders in the exploitation of their resources. The Niger Delta people only see the immense wealth that oil exploration represent but not touched. Mitee’s contention is that, fifty years of oil exploitations in the Niger Delta has been fifty years of hell, fifty years of oil has been fifty years of turmoil, fifty years of exploration has been fifty years of tears and deprivation and destruction, and fifty years of oil wealth has meant fifty years of oil and death for the Niger Delta people. The general consequent being that, the Niger Delta people have lost their livelihood, their natural environment with nothing back in return from either the Federal government or oil explorating companies, thus culminating into what is today known as Nigeria’s Niger Delta question (Ahiuma, 2006: 7).


 

Table 3: Availability of basic socio-economic facilities in the oil producing areas of

     the Niger Delta region.

Opi

Nion

       SEX

                   AGE

STATE OF ORIGIN

        OCCUPATION

Cum

 

 

  M          F

15-25:  26-35: 36-45:46-x

Baye   Delta   Rivs

P.Em    Emp   Stu     Pol

  %

Yes

2015

52.8

1003

26.3

813

21.3

946

24.8

891

23.4

368

9.7

903

23.7

981

25.7

1134

29.8

1330

34.9

436

11.4

609

15.9

643

16.9

79.0

No

669

17.6

123

3.2

223

5.9

317

8.3

209

5.5

43

1.12

264

6.9

177

4.6

351

9.2

214

5.6

222

5.8

204

5.4

152

3.9

21 .0

Total

2684

1126

1036

1263

1100

411

1167

1158

1485

1544

658

813

795

100

Okonmah Emmanuel (2009) Youth Restiveness and Federal Government Policy in the Niger Delta Areas.

 


On the issue of available schools (primary and secondary) in the studied areas/communities, the table above reveal that, in the oil producing communities 79% [cumulatively] of the respondents affirmed that, schools are available in their areas. This finding is sharp in contrast to the wide reports of scanty educational institutions (21%) in the region or areas.

 

Resource control agitation by Niger Delta people

 It is not contestable that, resource control could mean different things to its advocates. Stakeholders from the Niger Delta region in common accord see it as any adjustment of the derivation principle from 13 percent to “at least” 25 percent while others will campaign for 100 percent (Ikelegbe 2001). Resource control agitation from the time of late Isaac Adaka Boro to contemporary heroes and environmentalists is purposive to emancipate the Niger Delta region from marginalization and neglect. This common ideology influenced the youths of the region to declare ownership and resource control known as the “Kaiama Declaration” of December 11, 1998.  The youth’s inspiration manifested from the proverbial postulation of “the goose that lay the golden eggs but have nothing to show for it”. For the restive youths in the Niger Delta, the discovery of the black gold in Oloibiri town in the present Bayelsa State in the Mid-1950s by the Shell PDC and subsequent production of the oil in commercial quantities, according to Ajaero & Azubuike (2006:17) has worsened their conditions.


 

Table 4: The support for youth restiveness against oil companies in the Niger

    Delta region

Opi

nion

       Sex

                   Age

State of origin

        Occupation

Cum

 

 

  M          F

15-25: 26-35: 36-45:46-x

Baye   Delta   Rivs

P.Em    Emp Stu    Pol

  %

Yes

1422

37.3

657

17.2

629

16.5

911

23.9

415

11.0

124

3.3

802

21.0

799

21.0

478

12.5

1016

26.7

198

5.2

579

15.2

286

7.5

54.6

No

1262

33.1

469

12.3

407

10.7

352

9.2

685

18.0

287

7.5

365

9.6

359

9.4

1007

26.4

528

13.9

460

12.1

234

6.1

509

13.4

45.4

Total

2684

1126

1036

1263

1100

411

1167

1158

1485

1544

658

813

795

100

Okonmah Emmanuel (2009) Youth Restiveness and Federal Government Policy in the Niger Delta Areas.

 


The table above reflects the views of respondents in relation to supporting youth restiveness against oil companies’ activities in the Niger Delta areas. Herein, 54.6% (cumulatively) of the respondents opinions aligned that, they are in support of youth restiveness as against 45.4% respondents, who will prefer dialogue, negotiation and bargaining as a  peaceful means of achieving results in the regional struggle or emancipation. Youth restiveness here include: arm confrontations, oil pipeline vandalizations, outright destruction of oil facilities, kidnapping, hostage taking, sea piracy, oil bunkering and thievery, among others. Instrumentally, a greater proportion of the respondents which supports the sampled views, are mainly males within the ages 15-36 years. These age brackets essentially constitute the youth militant groups in the Niger Delta areas and crisis.

 

Conclusion:

Various groups play active roles in the struggle for Niger Delta regional development, constructing the road networks/ infrastructures, provision of all necessary social amenities like water, electricity, and support schools with learning material among others as key factors to promoting peace in the oil producing areas. The mistrust of state functions and responsibilities on the concerns of the oil producing populace, whose living conditions have been displaced by poor governance behaviour. These without doubt, influenced the feeling of gross deprivation by the youth of the Niger Delta region who adopted confrontation against the Nigerian state, hostage taking as the means of negotiation, and kidnapping for ransom the relations of politicians who used them to climb, but dumped them after their victory. Also, the new wave of resistance in the region represent that the youths are only demanding a fair deal from both the oil companies and the Nigerian state on behalf of their environments. It is the same sentiment that the Niger Delta elites are expressing their agitation for ‘Resources Control’ or increased derivation revenue to 25% as one of the emerging concepts in the Nigerian Federal question. To cushion the pace of development in the region, the agitation for increased revenue to 25% is tolerable, but the question that remained unanswered is: Where are the trillions of naira that was allocated for developing the region and received by the oil producing state governors from 1999 to 2009?  Or do we accept that the 13% derivation fund to the oil producing states from the federation account is not real? If the allocations were distributed correctly and the purpose denied the targeted beneficiaries, then, the elites in the region in conspiracy with the presidency are the internal oppressors.

 

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