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NIGER DELTA CRISIS IN NIGERIA; ROOT, CAUSES OF PEACELESNESS IN THE REGION
The oil rich Niger-Delta region of Nigeria has been embroiled in crisis between the government forces and some militants elements that are aggrieved over certain fundamental issues affecting the region which has lead to peacelessness. Since the last two decades, militants have fought with government forces, sabotaged oil installation taken foreign oil workers hostage and carried out lethal car bombing. At the root of the problem is a crisis of underdevelopment. The crisis has been exacerbated by emergent issues as gross distortion of Nigeria federalism in respect to resources control, citizenship rights and environmental degradation. Unfortunately, the external manifestation has been mainly that of violent agitation and criminal activities of some elements, taking advantage of the bad situation.
Background of the study
The presence of oil resources in developing countries presents a huge paradox on the one hand, oil and gas discoveries make the eradication of poverty and development of strong economies a possibilities. This is what happened, for example, in Texas and Alaska in the mid-twentieth century’s. More recently, in 2004, then Prime Minister Mar. Alkafiri of East Timor declared the oil discoveries in the Timor Gap could provide “the money to immunize and educate every child” in his country, one of the world’s newest and poorest states (Jill Shakleman, “oil profits and peace: Does business have a role in peace-making? United States Institute of Peace, 2007 p.3). On the other hand, the “curse of oil” is evident in many oil-rich countries worldwide, with oil-producing states showing a high incidence of corruption and violent conflict, and low scores in education and health services and economic strength of the seventy-four countries to be in situations of current or potential conflict by the International Crisis Group in February 2007, 35 percent have known oil and gas resources (International Crisis Group, “crisis watch”). One of such countries is Nigeria in the oil rich Niger Delta region. The crisis portends a very grave danger for the Niger-Delta Region in particular and the Nigerian state in general. The truth of the matter is that militants are not only confronting the Nigerian State, they are also at war with an extension of global capitalism represented in the region by the multinational oil companies. The situation, if not curtailed, could lead to a serious war between the armed militants and the Federal Government of Nigeria. The seriousness of the problem and its effect on the country made former president Shehu Shagari during his visit to Port Harcourt in the Niger Delta to declare that “the biggest problem Nigeria faces today in my humble opinion is with the militants in the Niger Delta area” (Shehu Shagari, BBC News, Wednesday 30 May, 2007).
NIGERIA IN BRIEF
Nigeria is a West African country. The country pride itself as the Giant of Africa. The geographic coordinates are: 1000N, 800E. It is bordered on the north by Niger and Chad, Cameroon on the east, the Atlantic Ocean on the south, and Benin Republic in West. It is the most populous country in Africa with a population of about N150 million people and covers an area of 923,770 square kilometers or 356,200 square miles ( https:geography.about.com, accessed June 26, 2010). The existence of Nigeria dates back from January 1, 1914 when the protectorates of Northern and Southern Nigeria and the colony of Lagos were amalgamated by Sir. Frederick Lord Lugard. (R.O.F Ola and D.A. Tonwe, “local administration and local government in Nigeria”, p.44). The reason for the amalgamation was purely economic. The southern protectorate was more viable and had resources than the less endowed northern protectorate. Nigeria is made up of 36 states with Abuja the federal capital for political and administrative expediency. In the sharing of offices, Nigeria is divided into six geo-political zones, namely: South West, South East, South-South, North West, North East and North Central.
NIGER DELTA AREA IN PERSPECTIVE
The Niger-Delta area is located in the South-South and South West/East geo-political zone. South-South states include; Edo, Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers, Cross River and Akwa Ibom but with the seeding of Bakassi Peninsular to the Cameroon in 2007 by the international court of justice, Cross Rivers ceased to be oil producing state to south west it is include Ondo State and to the South East it is made up of Abia and Imo State, the Niger-Delta covers an area of well over 70,000 square kilometers and it is made up of over 40 ethnic groups with a population of about 15million people (Crisis Group Africa Report No.118, 28 September, 2006, p.28). The Niger-Delta is the largest wetland in Africa, it is rich in both renewable and non renewable natural resources such as oil, gas, bitumen, non timber forest products and timber forest product, wildlife, etc. 95 percent of the total revenue for the Nigerian government is generated from oil and gas exploration. (Brisibe A.A. African tradition “the identity of a people: with special focus on globalization and its impact in the Niger Delta” C.O.O.L Conference, Boston, USA, March 18, 2001, p.1) in the Niger –Delta region.
STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
It is no secret that Nigeria is the sixth largest producer of oil and petroleum in the world and that is the mainstay of the economy, accounting for well over 90 percent of the exports. The low sulfur content of much of Nigeria’s petroleum makes it especially desirable in a pollution conscious world. There are other minerals available in Nigeria and some of them are Barite, Coal, Columbite, Flourite, Gold, Iron Ore, Kyanite, Uranium, Natural Gas, Phosphate, Tin, etc. Before oil was discovered in 1957 in commercial quantity at Oloibiri, in present day Bayelsa State, Nigeria basically survived on agriculture for its economy and for local consumption. As at today, oil had replaced cocoa, groundnut, and palm products as the country’s largest foreign exchange earner. Oil has been an important part of the Nigerian economy. Since vast reserve of petroleum were discovered. According to available records, Nigeria has earned over 400 billion us dollar as oil revenue since the early 70s (International Crisis Group, Nigeria: want in the midst of plenty Africa Report No.113, 19 July, 2006, p1). Despite this huge foreign exchange earnings, the economy under performs, and the great majority of the people have not been able to derive much benefits. Poverty, unemployment, decay infrastructure, corruption at high levels, misery, lack of basic human needs, etc. seems to be the lot of the people. Oil rather being a blessing to the people is now being regarded as a curse. This is because it has brought with it, negative things rather than positive things. This has lead to resentment against the federal government of Nigeria and the activities of the oil companies by the states in the region, the sense of the relentless crisis has deepened since the last decade, when a secretive group of armed, hooded rebels operating under the name Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger-Delta (MEND) intensified attacks on oil platforms and pumping stations operated by multi-national oil companies in the region. Militants from MEND and other groups have killed soldiers and security guards, kidnapped both local and foreign oil workers, set off car bombs which has lead to oil spillage, degradation, underdevelopment and suffering of the people in the region which has lead to escalating violence in the reporteening with angry, frustrated people is creating a militant time bomb in the region. (Nigeria oil, curse of the Black Gold).
OBJECTIVE OF THE STUDY
The following are the objectives of this research project:
1. To examine Nigeria’s Niger-Delta crisis
To find out the root causes of the peacelessness and restiveness. To know the impact of the crisis on Nigeria and the Niger-Delta region. To evaluate and know the way forward out of the crisis. To recommend solution towards resolving the crisis in the region and to bring peace to the region.
1.4 RESEARCH HYPOTHESES
For the successful completion of the study, the following research hypotheses were formulated by the researcher;
H0 there are no root causes of the peacelessness and restiveness.
H1: there are root causes of the peacelessness and restiveness
H02: there is no impact of the crisis on Nigeria and the Niger-Delta region.
H2: there is impact of the crisis on Nigeria and the Niger-Delta region.
SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
This project is of great significance to all those who read it, the youth, the government policy makers on the Niger-Delta region and the population at large. The research will also proffer solution to the Nigeria’s Niger Delta crisis, there is also no doubt that this research work will help reveal the root causes of the peacelessness in the region and also help to restrain the social and economic ills caused by the crisis in the region.