You are on page 1of 332

AFRICANA

SPECIAL ISSUE: THE NIGER DELTA


Volume 5, No. 1
Editor-in-Chief
Managing Editor
IT Consultant

A. Curtis Burton
Christopher LaMonica
Mariko Hemmingsen

Board Members:
John Akokpari
Lere Amusan
Priya Chacko
Mourtada Deme
Ibaba Samuel Ibaba
Christopher LaMonica
Victoria Mason

Masse Ndiaye
Stanley Naribo Ngoa
J. Shola Omotola
Karen Smith
Kathryn Sturman
Franoise Ugochukwu
Douglas Yates

F R I C A N A

Boston University
African Studies Center
232 Bay State Road
Boston, MA 02210
U.S.A.
Print: ISSN 2155-7829
On-line: ISSN 2155-7837
www.africanajournal.org

Vol. 5, No. 1

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

Africana is printed by Country Press, Inc., Middleboro, MA USA


www.countrypressinc.com
COVER PHOTO: Paulhenk | Dreamstime.com
Boy on a boat on the Niger river
Photo taken on: November 17th, 2008

Africana. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced


in any form without permission in writing from the publisher.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the articles contained in this publication
do not necessarily represent the views of anyone affiliated with Africana or of
anyone at the African Studies Center at Boston University.

Vol. 5, No. 1

ii

CONTENTS
v

To Our Readers and Supporters

vi

From the Editors

Oil and Cultural Crisis: The Case of the Niger Delta,


Nigeria
S.O. Aghalino, PhD

22

Environmental Justice, Democracy and the Inevitability


of Cultural Change in Nigeria: A Critical Analysis of the
Niger Delta Dilemma
Kelly Bryan Ovie Ejumudo, PhD

49

Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) Proliferation


and Instability in the Niger Delta: An Analysis of the
Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR)
Process
George I.J Obuoforibo, PhD

74

The Minorities and Resource Allocation in a Transitional


State. The Nigeria Experience 1960-1999
Ekanade Olumide, PhD

108

Agony in the Garden: Incongruity of Governance and


the Travails of Port Harcourt City, Niger Delta, Nigeria,
1912-2010
Akachi Odoemene, PhD

Vol. 5, No. 1

iii

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

140

The Nigerian Press, The Public Sphere And Sustainable


Development: Engaging the Post Amnesty Deal in the
Niger Delta
Uzoechi Nwagbara

164

Charting Pathways to Development in the Riverine Areas


of the Niger Delta Region
O.J. Offiong and Jude Cocodia

189

Armed Militancy in the Niger Delta: Quintessential PlayOff of Sub-Regional Economic Disparities
Franklins A. Sanubi, PhD

216

Amnesty Programme and the Niger Delta: Overview of


Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration (DDR)
Strategy for Sustainable Peace
Atare Otite, PhD and Nathaniel Umukoro

238

Amnesty and Peace-Building in the Niger Delta:


Addressing the Frustration-Aggression Trap
Ibaba Samuel Ibaba, PhD

272

External Challenges to Moving Toward Sustainability in


the Niger Delta Region: Why a Critical Assessment of the
Classical Epistemologies and Developmental
Assumptions of External Actors Matters
Christopher LaMonica, PhD

Vol. 5, No. 1

iv

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

To Our Readers and Supporters


During the month of February 2011 the Editorial Board of Africana
was reconstituted. A number of former Board Members graciously
stepped-down to welcome a new group and, beyond the full list of
their names provided above, an overview of their professional
affiliations
and
research
interests
is
now
posted
at
http://www.africanajournal.org, our new and improved web-page.
As part of this process, the former Editorial Coordinator, Yilma Tafere
Tasew, was formally replaced by A. Curtis Burton, who has a lifetime
of experience and interest in literature, writing and editing. Suffice it
to say here that the backgrounds, credentials and talents of our new
Editorial Board are impressive by any standard.
To all of those who supported Africana in the past, a sincere thank
you, and to all of the new members of our team, a warm welcome.
With this Special Issue we inaugurate a new and exciting era for
Africana. We have the support of an incredibly talented group of
dedicated scholars, who are involved in the peer review process and
many other supportive roles that help to make an exciting journal like
this one possible. In addition, we are greatly aided by the capable
support of our IT Consultant, Mariko Hemmingsen. Together with A.
Curtis Burton and Franoise Ugochukwu, Ms. Hemmingsen has
developed a new web-page design (effective March 2011), which will
undoubtedly provide even greater appeal and exposure to all future
Africana publications. I am truly excited about the continued success
of the journal and very much look forward to working with all of you.
Christopher LaMonica
Managing Editor, Africana
Boston, MA U.S.A.

Vol. 5, No. 1

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

From the Editors


It is with great pleasure that we present to you this Special Issue of
Africana.
This compilation of scholarship on the Niger Delta Region (NDR) has
been over a year in the making; it is very unique and very special. For
starters, the contributors are almost exclusively from Nigeria and
from the Niger Delta region, specifically. These are not the words of
dispassionate scholars who work under a pretense of objectivity; each
one of the contributors writes about this subject because they care
deeply about the ongoing and seemingly endless plight of the NDR.
Tragically, far too many in African/Africana studies scholarship are
required to operate under a veil of objectivity, something that
continues to dominate all of mainstream approaches to the social
sciences. We fully understand and appreciate the push, some would
say need, for scientific approaches to the study of all social woes
and those very methodologies are employed here. All of the
contributors to this Special Issue have included careful consideration
of ideas and data from, for example, academia, governments, NGOs,
international organizations, and others. But there is no pretense of
having been offered a proverbial hat with random social science
questions scribbled on little pieces of paper from which each
contributor has chosen from. The very social science issues that all
social scientists research and write about, and become experts in,
are due to quite random and personal life circumstances. Most often
we are touched by one or another aspect of human struggle often
our own and delve into all forms of study with an innate human
sense for what is right and what is wrong.
The Call for scientific rationality and methodologies will sometimes
downplay the aforementioned, somehow assuming and promoting

Vol. 5, No. 1

vi

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

the view that those human senses are inherently dangerous and
therefore should not be a part of social science inquiry. We firmly
believe that human sensitivity toward and empathy for our fellow
man is tragically undervalued in the social sciences. Following in the
logic of philosopher George Santayana, the late Edward Said, and
Canadian critic John Ralston Saul, we believe that the lessons of the
Enlightenment have been hijacked by a world of thinkers and
practitioners who are, in their pursuit of rational scientific inquiry,
neglecting that other important lesson of the Enlightenment:
reasonable-ness, i.e. that each of us by virtue of being human has
inalienable rights and, as such, must be included as a critical factor in
all discussions of policy. Modes of rational scientific inquiry, now and
in history, have all too often neglected that basic fact: each of us
matters.
It is perfectly understandable that many feel empowered by scientific
methods and productive outcomes to include those of the oil
industries; indeed the entire world is being transformed as a result!
But we cannot forget our common human-ness along the way; we
cannot set aside enormous populations on this Earth and simply write
them off as a cost of our rationalist scientific enterprise. Let us put
this even more bluntly: Hitler and Stalin were similarly justified in
their scientific pursuits of Nazism and Communism, respectively. We
all know all of us that breaking a few eggs to make an omelet, as
Stalin infamously put it, is wrong. Yet this is fundamentally the
logic of far too many who are now engaged in African affairs. And
so we remind our readers that that approach, so evident in a place like
the Niger Delta Region, is wrong, inappropriate, and in the words of
so many who inspired the Spirit of the Enlightenment: unreasonable.
The test of reasonable-ness makes us think of things that are often
listed as costs in an otherwise more practical or pragmatic mode:
human lives, the quality of life, the environment, arts, cultures,

Vol. 5, No. 1

vii

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

identities, aesthetics, purpose and meaning. These need not be mere


impediments to development, as they are so often portrayed; they
must be carefully considered, particularly by those who currently
hold the reins of power. Looking at tragedies in regions like the Niger
Delta some simply throw their hands in the air and conclude that
those industrial and governmental leaders, those policy-makers, will
have to some day answer to a higher power for what they have
done. To that we would add that there should always be a test of
reasonable-ness on their minds and, if there continues to be
evidence to the contrary, an increasingly aware Nigerian and
international public will endeavor to hold them accountable for their
wrongful actions.
With that objective in mind, we firmly believe that this Special Issue
could be one of the best sources currently available on the subject of
the Niger Delta. The submissions that were ultimately selected by
Africanas Editorial Board address a range of timely themes related to
the dramatic pace of change and challenge within the NDR. The first,
entitled Oil and Cultural Crisis: The Case of the Niger Delta, by
S.O. Aghalino, of the Department of History, University of Ilorin,
Ilorin, Nigeria, is a heart-wrenching discussion of the ongoing
challenges that the petro-business has wrought on the regions
indigenous norms and cultures. Aghalino draws on the extant
literature and local news sources to describe the horrors that have
accompanied the oil industrys impacts throughout the region:
displacement of people, a rise in crime and prostitution, a rise of
ethnic conflicts, and the steady decline of local chief authority.
Understandably, Aghalino refers to this as a cultural crisis; all of it
needs to be documented and heard.
The next piece, entitled Environmental Justice, Democracy and the
Inevitability of Cultural Change in Nigeria: A Critical Analysis of the

Vol. 5, No. 1

viii

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

Niger Delta Dilemma, by Kelly Bryan Ovie Ejumudo of the


Department of Political Science, Delta State University, Abraka,
Nigeria, quickly demonstrates the range of thinking that takes place,
within Nigeria, over these very issues. Here the term cultural
change is portrayed as inevitable but the author is similarly
concerned with how effectively those in power within what she
terms Nigerias pseudo democracy will address the Niger Deltas
many challenges. She applies general principles of democracy and
emerging concepts of environmental justice to these problems and
provides an important snapshot of where the region is right now
what she terms: shallow democratic institutions, weak culture, and
environmental injustice.
We follow this with a reminder of the life-and-death challenge of
small and light arms proliferation in the region by George I.J.
Obuoforibo. His article is entitled Small Arms and Light Weapons
(SALW) Proliferation and Instability in the Niger Delta: An Analysis
of the Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR)
Process. Obuoforibo is an academic that specializes in International
Relations and Political and Administrative Studies in the Department
of Social Sciences at the University of Port Harcourt in Rivers State,
Nigeria. We are infinitely grateful to him for his contribution. As he
rightly points out, the problem has been recognized internationally.
Yet far too little has been done to address the problem: researchers
note!
This is followed by yet another aspect of the problem: the politics of
revenue sharing. Ekanade Olumide, of the Department of History
and International Relations at Redeemers University, Nigeria, has
submitted an article entitled Minorities and Resource Allocation in a
Transitional State: The Nigeria Experience 1960-1999, that highlights
the politics of fiscal federalism in Nigeria and how it has adversely

Vol. 5, No. 1

ix

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

impacted the Niger Delta region. Providing key data on revenues


from an historical perspective, he argues that the politics of revenue
sharing has marginalized the interests of minorities in the region.
Akachi Odoemenes piece, entitled Agony in the Garden:
Incongruity of Governance and the Travails of Port Harcourt City,
Niger Delta, Nigeria, 1912-2010, reminds us that Port Harcourt,
Nigerias Garden City, was a desirable home for all. In recent times,
he argues, it has been transformed into a city with a rough and
tumble character. He looks at the problem from an historians
perspective, documents a range of comments made during the
aforementioned transition and concludes, as so many others have,
that oil is at the root of so many of the regions problems. Readers
beware: like Aghalinos piece, Odoemenes discussion of social
violence and other problems in the region might well leave you, as it
did us, wringing your hands in frustration.
Uzoechi Nwagbara introduces yet another way of thinking of the
region and that is from the perspective of the effectiveness and/or
ineffectiveness of the Nigerian press. With the undoubted power of
todays media, in Nigeria as elsewhere, Nwagbaras message is an
important one: In order to achieve peace and good governance in the
region, serious grassroots and national information dissemination so
as to guarantee objectivity and fairness in news reporting thereby
impacting on the regimes governance is required. In his discussion,
Nwagbara masterfully takes us to the ideas of Habermas on the
crucial importance of having a rational-critical debate in the public
sphere. Nwagbaras ultimate concern and hope is for having
Nigerias media support peace in the wake of the Amnesty deal
brokered by President YarAdua.

Vol. 5, No. 1

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

Still others, like O.J. Offiong (University of Benin, Benin City,


Nigeria) and Jude Cocodia (Niger Delta University, Wilberforce
Island, Bayelsa State, Nigeria), look to the problem of development
in their piece entitled, Charting Pathways to Development in the
Riverine Areas of the Niger Delta Region. They point to Ken Saro
Wiwas comments that suggest the Niger Delta Region of Nigeria is a
paradox. Indeed, the region has not fared well in terms of local
development, while the holders of power (they focus mostly on the oil
MNCs, whom they term as the worse culprit of the quick money
syndrome) have assuredly benefited handsomely. Their point is to
emphasize the importance of improving local human resource
development, something which has thus far eluded the leaders of oil
MNCs, the Ministry of the Niger Delta, and the Niger Delta
Development Commission. Our reading of this well-written piece
leaves us with the impression that oil MNCs could really do more to
make sure that, somehow, this is made to happen.
Franklins A. Sanubi, of the Department of Political Science, Delta
State University, Abraka, Nigeria, has submitted a piece entitled
Armed Militancy in the Niger Delta: Quintessential Play-Off of SubRegional Economic Disparities. In it he reiterates some of the
messages mentioned earlier in this issue: sub-national marginalization
of the region and the problem of growing economic disparities. But
Sanubi suggests that the problem of armed militancy should not be
over-simplified as being due to economic disparity alone; the problem
is much more complex and leaves many within the region feeling
fundamentally marginalized. He reminds us of this simple fact:
Three dominant ethnic groups the Hausa/Fulani, Yoruba and Ibo
call the shots in Nigerias political determinism since independence
and none of the major ethnic groups in the Niger Delta fall into these
three. Moreover, Sanubi carefully demonstrates that the federal
government continues to enjoy the lions share of oil revenues.

Vol. 5, No. 1

xi

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

Sanubi concludes that Abujas meaningful inclusion of heretofore


marginalized groups, and not cynical moves motivated by a
continuation of the same, is the path to peace.
Atare Otite and Nathaniel Umukoro, also of the Department of
Political Science at Delta State University, Abraka, Nigeria, return to
the issue of Amnesty in a piece entitled Amnesty Programme and
the Niger Delta: Overview of Disarmament, Demobilization, and
Reintegration (DDR) Strategy for Sustainable Peace. In a careful
presentation of the DDR and secondary data, Otite and Umukoro
suggest that sustainable peace can only be ensured if the root causes
of violence in the Niger Delta are identified and ameliorated. They
rightly remind us of the simple if tragic fact that the people of the
Niger Delta are deeply concerned about the problems of rising
poverty, unemployment, social strife, and environmental decay and
want to see these issues somehow, some way, improved. On this
same subject we have included a piece by Ibaba Samuel Ibaba, who
specializes in the Niger Delta conflict. Ibaba frames the issue in what
he terms the frustration-aggression trap and highlights the
challenges it poses to peace-building. Similar yet different, these two
papers provide important insights into local academic thinking on the
prospects for peace in the Niger Delta.
The last contribution, entitled External Challenges to Moving

Toward Sustainability in the Niger Delta Region: Why a Critical


Assessment of the Classical Epistemologies and Developmental
Assumptions of External Actors Matters, comes to us from
Africanas Managing Editor, Christopher LaMonica, of the
Department of Humanities, Government Section, United States Coast
Guard Academy. LaMonica argues that most external actors are
solely focused on changing the internal dynamics of Nigeria (e.g.

Vol. 5, No. 1

xii

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

internal corruption, the dominance of particular ethnic groups) and


tend to ignore the broader, global picture. He argues that more
emphasis should be placed on the lack of international responsibility
for the current crisis in the NDR. External actors working for oil
companies, international watchdogs like the International Energy
Agency, and donor states, have only helped to create the crisis by
focusing solely on their own respective interests. LaMonica argues
that mutually beneficial results can be achieved if a longer-term and
ultimately more sustainable perspective is employed. Achieving that
aim will require a critical assessment, by all, of the classic
assumptions that external actors make about commerce and
development. In other words, the developmental problems of the
NDR are largely rooted in the waste land assumptions that many
external actors make when engaging stakeholders in an oil-rich state
like Nigeria.
As outside observers we are certain of one thing: the world needs to
know more about the plight of the people of the Niger Delta.
Hopefully this Special Issue will help to make that happen.
As always, we thank you for your continued interest in Africana.
A. Curtis Burton
Editor-in-Chief, Africana
Washington, D.C. U.SA

Vol. 5, No. 1

xiii

Africana: The Niger Delta

Vol. 5, No. 1

Special Issue 2011

xiv

Oil and Cultural Crisis: The Case of the Niger Delta


Dr. S.O. Aghalino1
Key Terms: Nigeria, Niger Delta, oil industry, migration, petroleum,
prostitution, spillage.

Introduction
The Niger Delta is one of the ten most important wetland and
coastal marine ecosystems in the world. It is home to some 31 million
people. (Report of the Niger Delta Technical Committee, November
2008:102). The Niger Delta is also the location of massive oil and gas
deposits, which have been exploited since 1956. Oil has generated an
estimated $600 billion since the commercial exploitation of oil in
Nigeria. Despite this, the majority of the people in the oil bearing
enclave of the Niger Delta are conspicuously poor. The United
Nations Development Programme (UNDP) describes the region as
suffering
from
administrative
neglect,
crumbling
social
infrastructure, and services, high unemployment, social deprivation,
abject poverty, filth and squalor and endemic conflict (UNDP, 2006).
What the UNDP failed to add is that the region is also embroiled in
cultural crisis engendered by the activities of the oil majors.
The Niger Delta remains one of the critical fault lines of Nigerian
politics. Not only is it the region that holds Nigerias predominantly
oil reserves and therefore, the national wealth, it has assumed a new
geopolitical importance in the context of global oil politics. Like many
oil producing countries, the region has not been spared the agony of
recurring violent conflicts associated with the management of oil
resources (Oyefusi, 2007).

S.O. Aghalino, PhD, is with the Department of History, University of Ilorin,


Ilorin, Nigeria. His e-mail is aghalinosamuel@yahoo.com
1

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

Since the mid 1990s, there has been on-going violence and uprising in
the Niger Delta region with a renewed call for self-determination and
/or local control of oil resources. These conflicts, often attended by
kidnapping of foreign oil workers for ransom, vandalization and
sometimes blow-up of oil installations, have taken on a frightening
dimension over the years. According to a report by Hamilton and
others (2004), violence in the Niger Delta alone is estimated to have
killed about 1000 persons a year between 1999 and 2004. This chapter
focuses on one dimension of the crisis in the Niger Delta: the cultural
crisis. Attempt is made to dissect and explicate the nature of the
cultural crisis in the region. Conventional analysis of the crisis in the
ND seems to down play the ancillary impact of the oil industry with a
focus on the flora and the fauna. This, as it were must have blurred
the intricacy of the issues in contention. Thus, a holistic assessment of
the crisis must also take cognizance of the culture of the people that is
constantly violated and has subsequently engendered a strange subculture detrimental to every life in the region. Our analysis charts the
common ground of oil induced behavioral modification that seems to
be impairing a hitherto tranquil and harmonious society. In this light,
a concise discourse of the oil industry in the region is undertaken to
lay a background to the cultural crisis in the area. This is done against
the backdrop of an analysis of the precise causes of the social
disequilibrium and the resultant break down of culture in the region.
Petro-Business in the Niger Delta
The Niger Delta region has been defined in terms of geology,
geography and ethnography (Onokerhoraye, 2000). There is hardly
any controversy over the geological, geographical and ethnographical
description of the Niger Delta Region (NDR). With the ascendancy of
crude oil, the NDR is synonymous, in the perception of many
Nigerians, with oil provinces of the delta. The NDDC Act, 2000, and
the OMPADEC Act of 1992 would seem to have accentuated this

Vol. 5, No. 1

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

perception (Ekuerhare, 2006). The Niger Delta region has a population


of 27 million, covering an area of 70,000 square kilometers, with 5,000
communities, 50 ethnic groups and 250 dialects. The region is not only
rich in oil and gas but in other natural resources like timber and wild
life. The significant feature of the Niger Delta is the general state of
underdevelopment, not only by world standard but also in relation to
many parts of the country. Currently, Nigeria is the eighth largest oilexporting country in the world with oil revenue accounting for about
80 % of total government revenue, 95 % of foreign exchange earnings,
40% contribution to GDP and about 4 % of employment. Nigeria is the
largest oil producer in sub-Saharan Africa, with about 32 per cent and
34.2 per cent of Africas oil and gas reserves respectively, the fifth
largest exporting country in the OPEC and the fifth largest oil
exporting country to the US (eia.doe.gov). Nigerias proven reserve
are estimated to be 36 billion barrels while the countrys natural gas
reserves are even bigger, estimated at well over 100 trillion cubic feet
(Tell, February 18, 2008:33 ).What to note is that the Niger Delta
region of Nigeria is the goose that lays the golden egg as oil
exploitation is concentrated in the region.
So much wealth is derived from the bowel of the region yet, the
scourge of poverty in the region is grim with people lacking basic
human needs and the environment willfully and constantly degraded
by oil companies (Dafinone David, 2008).When the World Bank
carried a comprehensive study of the region in 1995, it arrived at the
following conclusions: The Niger Delta is the least developed area of
Nigeria. Per capital income was less than $280 per annum, with a
high-rising population. Indices of development such as education,
health, sanitation, job creation, water and other physical
infrastructures, were far below acceptable standards. Environmental
resources were gradually being degraded, and there was an extremely
poor human capacity and basic skills. In the same vein the 2006 Niger

Vol. 5, No. 1

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

Delta Human Development Report by the United Nations


Development Programme (UNDP, 2006) arrived at the same bleak
conclusion. This contrasts sharply with Qatar, a country of one million
people, has the highest per capital income in the world, put at $80,000.
(Tell, July 14, 2008:30). By the 1990s, these long years of neglect and
deprivation, as well as failures of addressing the development
challenges prevalent in the region, had created a volatile atmosphere
where youths disrupted oil production activities at will and
communities frequently engaged, with little provocation, in
destructive inter and intra- community strife (Aghalino, 2010). In
tandem with this social disequilibrium is a concomitant cultural crisis
in the region which has denuded the societal umbilical cord and has
also engendered a cash-and carry subculture.

Oil and Cultural Crisis in the Niger Delta


Section 1 of the Cultural Policy for Nigeria (1998) defines
culture as the totality of the technical products, philosophers world
view, institutions and creative/artistic practices which a people
fashion to cope with the challenges of living in their environment. It
is these elements which distinguish one people from another (Darah,
1995). According to Taylor (1871), culture taken in its widest
ethnographic sense, is that complex whole which included
knowledge, art, morals, laws, customs, and any other capabilities and
habits acquired by man as a member of society (Fayeye, 2009).
UNESCO, 2002) presents culture as distinctive spiritual, material,
intellectual and emotional features of society or social group, and that
it encompasses, in addition to art and literature, lifestyles, ways of
living together, value systems, traditions and beliefs. Indeed, culture
refers to a configuration of learned and shared patterns of behavior
and of understanding concerning the meaning and value of things,
ideas, emotions and actions. As noted by Darah (1995), the technical

Vol. 5, No. 1

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

dimension of culture comprises the instruments and tools designed


and produced to enable a people exploit the resources of their
environment to satisfy their basic needs.
There is a considerable corpus of literature on culture of the Niger
Delta (Darah, 1995; Azaiki, 2003). It is to be noted that colonial rule
and later Christianity had put tremendous pressure on all layers of
society, leading to diminution of cultural identity and self esteem.
Cash crop agriculture and the capitalist economy had introduced a
modicum of social organization and behavior that relatively altered
the traditional indigenous system. Yet it must be noted that at this
stage, industrialization was low so rural solidarity, moral purity and
social values were still intact. Before the incursion of the oil industry,
there was relative stability in the demography and social relations of
the communities. Most people had access to the basic things of life
because oil-induced inflation had not set in. Communities in the
region organized communal festivals whose program featured
religious ceremonies, purification rites, the launch of new dance steps,
masquerades and other artistic activities. These artistic institutions, as
observed by Darah, helped to mobilize energy to reinforce social
solidarity and to identify, train and promote talents in song
composition, performance, and organization of events and the hosting
of visitors. The idyllic society where culture moderated daily activities
was to be completely shaken and devastated by the incursion of the
oil industry.
The link between unsustainable petroleum exploitation in the Niger
Delta and the destruction of the indigenous homeland and culture of
the people is undeniable. Traditional lands have been sacrificed on the
altar of irresponsible oil policies. The point of interest is that the
environmental degradation occasioned by oil pollution and gas
flaring is instrumental to the cultural crisis in the region. It would

Vol. 5, No. 1

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

appear a concise discussion of the cultural crisis in the Niger Delta


cannot be adequately tackled without perfunctory references to land
issues. Oil industry activities are largely predicated on their unrestrained
access to land because they derive their oil from the earth crust. The
oil-bearing enclave on the other hand, depends on land to grow their
food, fish and hunt. Land is central to the social system of the people of
the Niger Delta as well as other parts of Nigeria. In this respect, clashes
between the people and oil firms are inevitable.
The acquisition of land by the oil firms for pipelines rights of ways,
flow lines, flow stations and gas flaring sites normally engender
acrimony between oil firms and host communities. Shell, for example,
has over 6,200 kilometers network of pipelines and flow stations spread
over more than 31,000 square kilometers of the Niger Delta (Shell,
1995). One major feature of land in the Niger Delta is the
predominance of pipelines that transverses footpaths, farmland and
community ponds. These networks of pipelines disrupt foot
communications and farming. They have also altered the pristine land
tenure system of the people. Farmers could no longer engage in bush
burning because of the presence of oil and gas pipelines, which are
highly inflammable. From the face value, it would appear that "land
take" by the oil firms is insignificant. Shell for example claims that it uses
about 400 square kilometer of land, which is about 0.6 per cent of the
entire land of the Niger Delta. Most of the land acquired by Shell is for
long term use, such as well sites, offices, but some for the short term
only, such as seismic lines. As at the end of 1998, there was a total of
1,513 well sites within the company's operations out of which a total of
906 contained producing wells (Shell, 1998). While the total land-take
may appear small in general terms, the effect of the land acquired can
be serious on individual land holding as well as the community in
general depriving them means of subsistence. A tacit manifestation of the
seriousness of the impact of land -take on the people of the Niger Delta is

Vol. 5, No. 1

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

seen in the incessant land disputes and the consequent litigation


between individuals, groups, communities and the oil firms. In
most cases, these disputes are fuelled by the quantum of
compensation paid to land owners as well as payments of
compensations to the wrong families (Fekumo, 1990; Frynas, 1998;
Aghalino, 2005).
Arguably, land disputes may occur due to ethnic conflict, but in some
areas, oil firms aggravate existing land disputes because of their
ignorance of existing feuds. Closely related with the above, is the
wanton degradation of the environment of the region and its
attendant social and cultural impact. For the people of the Niger
Delta, environmental quality and sustainability are fundamental to
their well being and development. According to the United Nations
Development Programme (UNDP), more than 60 per cent of the
people in the region depend on the natural environment for their
livelihood. According to a study carried out by a team of Nigerian
and international environmental experts in 2006, the Niger Delta is
one of the most worlds most severely petroleum impacted
ecosystems. It is reported that the damage from oil operations is
chronic and cumulative, and has acted synergistically with other
sources of environmental stress to result in severely impaired
ecosystem and impoverished the livelihood and health of the
regions impoverished residents (Amnesty International, 2009:14).
As noted by Amnesty International, the people living in the Niger
Delta have to drink, cook with, and wash in polluted water; they eat
fish contaminated with oil and other toxins. The health of the
environment and the lives of the people are intertwined with the
health of the water system. The food, water and cultural identity of
many local people are closely related to the delta ecosystem. More
importantly perhaps is the fact that tens of thousands of families in
the Niger Delta rely on fishing on inland rivers as well as offshore

Vol. 5, No. 1

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

for both income and food. The activities of the oil companies have
engendered land hunger and subsequently distorted the cultural
practices of the people that are tied to their land.
In the traditional Niger Delta setting, such as the Ogoni area, when
a woman gets married, her husband is required to give her a piece
of land to farm. The woman is expected to feed her family and
grow for food for sale in order to buy other staples from the parcel
of land. This tradition allowed the woman to enjoy a measure of
economic independence. However, the constant land-take for oil
activities, and the resultant pollution from the industry, has left
women in the region with little or no means to feed or support
their families in this otherwise symbiotic arrangement. Women
have to go further away from home to find unpolluted land and
water for their domestic chores (Diana).
As is the case in most Nigerian communities, women play
prominent role in the management of health of the household
because as agents of fertility, they have specific knowledge of local
medicines. Their knowledge of herbs, tree barks and other local
cures were acquired during their fattening room period. This
starts after the birth of the first child and lasts for one year. During
this period, she is not allowed out of the family compound.
Besides being a time to rest, it is also a time of informal schooling
when she learns how to look after her child and home. She is
attended to by women from her family and older women in the
community. As pressure grows on young women, forced to deal
with shrinking agricultural resources, very little time is left for
them to acquire the specialized health knowledge traditionally
gained through a fattening room period. For those who still
practice this tradition, it rarely exceeds two months after which
they must return to farming (Diana).

Vol. 5, No. 1

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

Lergborsi (2007) has shown that there is destruction and possible


extinction of medicinal plants and herbs that are rooted in
traditional medicine and spirituality of the people as a result of the
incursion of the oil industry. The extinction is brought about by the
fact that most of these herbs and plants are found in sacred groves,
shrines and forests, which have fallen under direct destruction in
the course of oil exploitation and the toxicity of oil pollution.
Seismic workers, in the process of cutting lines, trees, shrines and
groves are tampered with these pharmaceutical herbs. As the case
may be, even ancestral ponds are desecrated while detonating
explosives for seismic data acquisition. This is done with outright
impunity as the people are hardly paid farm- gate compensation.
As it were, under Nigerian Petroleum Law, juju shrines, sacred
bushes and other venerated objects are classified under Fructus
Naturale. Special permission is sought from the state authority
before such objects could be destroyed (Etikerentse, 1985;
Atsegbua, Akpotaire and Dimowo, 2003).
Aside from the land question, there is also a moral issue in the
analysis of the oil-induced cultural crisis in the Niger Delta. There
is alarming evidence of a drop in morality in the region, which
hitherto used various taboos to check social misbehaviour. It
would appear there is a scandalous and promiscuous social
concubineage between oil company workers and girls in the host
communities. The influx of comparatively rich and almost "alien"
workers from the affluent oil industry has escalated prostitution
in previously "isolated" and stable communities. Others (Tell
February 23, 1998, Anikpo, 1996; Aghalino, 2009; Ekine (1999) have
confirmed that prostitution is on the increase and that in the Niger
Delta, many towns and villages have seen influx of male workers
from other parts of Nigeria as well as a large expatriate community,
and notes that the situation, together with poverty, illiteracy and

Vol. 5, No. 1

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

lack of any alternatives has led many young girls into prostitution
and are made to engage in bestiality by some expatriates
(Adalikwu, 2007:164; Semenitari, 1998; Brisibi, 2001). More
importantly perhaps is the fact that because men have migrated
away in search of greener pastures, their wives become susceptible
to the seduction of the oil men. When eventually they return to
hear gory tales of the escapade of their wives, the men in return
disown their wives and consequently swell the already large pool
of free women willing to engage in commercial sex. In fact, break
down of marriages is a serious aspect of the cultural crisis in the
Niger Delta. There is also an emerging army of fatherless children
in the region. This is not unconnected with the high wave of
prostitution enunciated above. As the young and impressionistic
girls fall victims to the itinerant oil workers, they are made to bear
the burden of caring for the children who unfortunately are rejected
by the oil men. Indeed, it may not be out of place to stress that the
children today are the arrow heads of the militants in the region.
The argument may be made that the young girls are equally guilty
since it takes two to tangle. But when one discovers the level of
social awareness in the region, one would easily exonerate them.
These are materially impoverished folks living far away from urban
communities and hence ignorant of more dignifying means of
livelihood after their farmland had been degraded by oil
multinationals (Aghalino 1999). The teenage girls are attracted to
the steady flow of cash from their transient lovers and
subsequently ignore going to school as it is seen as time wasting. It
is therefore explicable why the young girls are highly susceptible to
the oil men who can lure them with little sums of money but
which unfortunately appear enormous in the eyes of the girls
(Teilanye, 1997:25).

Vol. 5, No. 1

10

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

A follow up to the wave of prostitution in the region is the


prevalence of HIV and AIDS in the Niger Delta is among the
highest in the country, higher than the average for Nigeria. The
Niger Delta has an average prevalence rate of 5.3 per cent,
compared to the national average of 5 per cent. The impact of
HIV/AIDS has been particularly harsh in the region. It is well
known that the disease wreaks greater havoc where there is
poverty, social inequality and general political marginalization. The
weakening of livelihood and the social fabric in areas prone to oil
exploitation creates additional problems in terms of care and
support (UNDP, 2006:316). Before the incursion of the oil industry,
purity amongst women was highly revered and social miscreants
were lampooned. But the break down of culture in the region has
facilitated the wave of prostitution in the region.
The oil industry in the Niger Delta has also engendered cultural
conflict in another way. Migration into and out of the Niger Delta
during the pre-colonial and colonial period were dictated by the
need to farm, fish and trade (Otite, 1979; Aghalino 1996). The oil palm
belt as it were, attracted people from the densely populated and
agricultural land-lacking area of the core-east. The emergence of
petroleum as a major resource in the region introduced a new
dimension to earlier forms of migrations. Oil industry induced
migrations involve young men and girls in search of greener pasture
in the major urban areas of the Niger Delta (Legborsi, 2007: 11).
Perhaps, it may be stressed that an urban-rural divide was already
showing in the region by the time oil became a dominant feature of the
Nigerian economy. The oil boom years sharpened it with a
consequent decline in rural population. Migration out of the oilbearing enclave in the Niger Delta seem to be the major radical
adaptable mechanism put in place by the people whose source of
livelihood is threatened by oil spills and gas flaring. In point of fact,

Vol. 5, No. 1

11

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

migrations in the Niger Delta are also informed by the wish to move
elsewhere because of unbearable pollution of water ways and land
as well as the inflationary trend institute by oil field workers.
Others are searching for opportunities to re-establish trading
activities as a result of the lost of their farmland to oil pollution. It
seems that Nigeria's oil boom has turned the "Petroleum producing
areas to centrifugal centers of oil doom where people leave rather
than live in". (Adeniyi, et al.1983). It is easily conjectured that the
rapid migratory wave to cities and oil enclave had denuded the
population of the Niger Delta, dislocated the active stratum of society
and had consequently disoriented social networks that previously
sustained a virile cultural life style in the region (Darah, 1995).
Decline in artistic and socio-cultural and religious performances
illustrate the above development. Hitherto, the vibrancy in artistic life
was a prominent feature of the Niger social outlook. An urban-rural
was already showing in the Niger Delta by the time oil became a
dominant feature of the economy. The oil boom years sharpened it
.Rural-urban migrations intensified with a consequent decline in rural
population. The sharp decrease in rural population caused a decline in
the number and frequency of annual or seasonal performances and
observance of important cultural ceremonies, especially festivals. The
cultural space lost to traditional festivals is now filled largely by
elaborate obituary ceremonies. In point of fact, burials of the aged
were always elaborate in the region as the forum was used to reenact
culture and tradition. What is new is the conduct of funeral in form of
carnivals even for young people. This has engendered cultural crisis as
these burials entails extravagant spending, especially the spraying of
currency notes on the children of the deceased.
An adjunct to the above is that a majority of households in the region
is now headed by women as a result of the migration of their

Vol. 5, No. 1

12

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

husbands out of their villages. This is a clear distortion of the culture


of the people which ensured that the man was the head of the home.
The result is that the jobs of caring for the family now rest on the
women (Okoko, 1998). The cultural crisis caused by this development
can only be imagined when women now have to preside over family
issues. The influx of stranger elements from other parts of the
country and abroad has further diluted local cultures and safeguards.
As for the environment and natural resources, this means that
traditional arrangements for resource use and management have
virtually broken down. Clan rulers, villagers elders and family heads
can no longer be relied upon to enforce traditional practices, which
have negative consequences for the environment(UNDP 2006:306).
One characteristic of the migrants is that most of them are out in
search of paid employment. This trend has engendered a subtle
proletarianization of the labour force in the region. Proletarianization
in this context is applied to mean a shift away from self-employment
mainly in agriculture to wage labour. It also suggests that small
holders are being pushed out of agriculture into wage labour; rather
than being pulled by new employment opportunities (Jayaraman
and Lanjonw, 1999). This new but flourishing trend in the region is
probably a function of gross poverty in spite of the vast oil wealth in
the region. Moffat and Linden (1995) have shown that the Gross
National Product (GNP) per capita in the region is below the national
average of US$280. They assert that the high salary paid to oil workers
cannot mitigate the stark poverty in this region, it can only
exacerbate i t . Poverty in this region goes beyond the physical. It is also
psychological as there is a total erosion of dignity and self-respect
(Duning, 1990).
The displacement of people and villages when oil spillages occur is
another major cultural crisis occasioned by the oil industry. The

Vol. 5, No. 1

13

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

point to note is that the link between unsustainable petroleum


exploitation in the Niger Delta and the destruction of the
indigenous homeland and culture is undeniable. Traditional land
has been sacrificed at the altar of irresponsible oil practices. The
displacement of Igolu village in Isokoland which result from the
massive spillages in 1973 at Shell's location 13 and 18 had untold
physical and psychological impact on the people. In the same vein, the
September 1999 oil spillage disaster at Ekakpamre also in Delta state
impacted negatively on the people. The spill not only destroyed rivers,
wide expanse of agricultural land but also rendered the people
homeless. In addition, the spill created a new surge of displaced person
as well as environmental migrants. This surge was intensified with
the Jesse fire disaster, which claimed almost a thousand lives (Oil
Times, June 2001; The Punch, December 7, 1998).The displacement of
people had its attendant problem of removing people from their land as
the peoples ways of life are tied to their land (Aghalino,2010).
One other dimension to the cultural crisis in the region is youth unrest
and the emergence of militant groups. These groups are increasingly
challenging community leaders, who in the past were unquestionably
followed. This has led to a loss of societal values and the loss of
traditional structures of authority. In earlier times, youth were
typically at the bottom of the hierarchy. Today however, traditional
rulers and elders in the various communities have lost control over
youths. They have worked out their own largely unsustainable ways
of reaching and dealing with the oil companies, government at every
levels, and national and international organizations (UNDP,
2006:306). Before the oil armada, the social value of labour and hard
work was celebrated. People with unquestionable wealth were
subjects of ribald songs and infamy. Today, the incursion of the oil
industry has totally distorted the culture of hard work and quick

Vol. 5, No. 1

14

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

wealth is the in-thing. The quest for quick money must be


instrumental in the high wave of crime in the region.
The cultural crisis in the Niger Delta is also found in the form of a
resurgence of violent conflicts in the region. The region has witnessed
a rash of violence within the past two decades. Between 1990 and 2004
alone, over 1000 cases of violent crises were reported resulting in
more than 300,000 deaths. In the 2002 World Bank governance
rankings, only 19 countries out of a total 179 ranked below Nigeria in
terms of political stability and the absence of violence (AAPW,
2006:7). In an environment of insecurity, agitation, mistrust and even
wealth distribution, criminal elements have become strong in the
Niger Delta. These are armed, well organized and protected by
powerful patrons. They steal sections of oil pipelines, well heads and
vehicles, engage in illegal oil bunkering, attack small crafts on the
rivers, intimidate communities and companies to extort money and
protect their network (AAPW, 2006:22).
The point to note is that the spread of Western ideals of capitalism,
the quest for money, and immediate gratification has overshadowed
the respect for traditional authority. Consequently, in view of the
impact of oil exploration activities, the deep sense of community,
morality, social cohesion and solidarity hitherto enjoyed by the people
is being eroded, making it easy for families and communities that
have co-existed peacefully before the commencement of oil business
to come into conflict with each other over oil royalty and ownership
of land. Internal divisions within communities also seem to have
increased. These divisions are instigated by greed, a byproduct of
social disintegration. The observable internal divisions are most
frequently between the youths and chiefs, between youths and the
communities urban and local elites, between youths and professional
claims agents and the community, as well as, between different youth

Vol. 5, No. 1

15

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

groups. Interestingly, the youths play crucial role in the formation of


factions. Thus, in most cases, the conflict is directed against the chiefs
who are seen as the focal point of authority and patronage.
Age grades were important institutions which helped to mobilize
community energy and reinforce solidarity. The age grade also
performed economic functions in the form of clearing bush paths as
well as bailing of ponds. But with the advent of the oil industry, the
pre-colonial and colonial functions of the age grades changed. Age
grades are now used as forum for resisting the atrocious
environmental regime of the oil firms. They galvanize themselves in
presenting common front in the struggle for compensation from the
oil firms .They organize and stage protests. In the extreme, they
barricade flow stations, subtlety engage in the sabotage of oil
installations and engage in outright kidnapping in order to obtain
ransom. Discipline which was a hallmark of age grades when it was
culturally regulated has now fizzled out. The result is frequent
disruption to peaceful community life and disruption of oil
industry activities. Before the advent of the oil industry, youths
unquestionably followed the dictates of the elders (Aghalino, 1999).
But with the realization of the wealth that could be from oil industry,
traditional chiefs threw caution to the wind and began to assume the
final point of authority and patronage by the oil industry. With time
the youths discovered that they were colluding with contractors to
falsely certify jobs completion in order to share a percentage of the
contract sum to the detriment of their communities. The youth are
becoming so vocal. The result is a complex and dynamic
fragmentation of communities characterized by frequent power shifts.
This makes it difficult to build relationship as well as negotiate
compensations for land acquisition, damages and spills.

Vol. 5, No. 1

16

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

Conclusion
This paper has attempted to examine the cultural crisis
induced by oil exploration and production in the Niger Delta. The
point was adumbrated that it is conventional for scholars to view the
crises in the Niger Delta from the binoculars of environmental
deterioration occasioned by oil pollution and gas flaring without
taking cognizance of the cultural crisis as these are intertwined. The
environment of the people of the region cannot be divorced from their
every activity which is embedded in their culture.
Thus, the cultural crisis in the region is explicated by the break down
of pristine ways of doing things and this is reflected in the violation of
land rights, degradation of cultural artifacts such as shrine, groves
and even burial sites. The cultural crisis in the region is acute as it
affects women and their access to land, water and pharmaceutical
product derived from land. More importantly perhaps is the wave of
migration, resurgence of crime as attested to by youth militancy and
disdain for constituted authority. There is structural and social
dislocation of society as epitomized by high wave of prostitution,
acceptance of spirit of rugged individualism and strained inter-group
relations. Our point of departure is that although the federal
government is making concerted effort to tame the Niger Delta crisis,
this must be done from a holistic perspective by taking into
consideration the cultural dimension of the crisis. This, in fact, entails
social re-engineering and cultural re-orientation to integrate the
people back to their society.

Vol. 5, No. 1

17

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

References
Academic Associates Peace Work, (2006). Oil Prospecting and Communal
Crisis. Case Studies of Private Corporations Activities in the Niger
Delta, Nigeria
Adalikwu, J. 2007.Globalisation and the Uneven Application of International
Regulatory Standard: the Case of Oil Exploration in Nigeria. PhD
Thesis, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon.
Adeniyi E. O. et al (1983) Environmental and Socio-economic Impacts of oil
Spillage in the Petroleum Producing areas of Nigeria in proceedings
of the 1983 international Seminar on the Petroleum Industry and
the Nigerian Environment (Lagos: NNPC).
Aghalino S. O. (1994) Isoko Under Colonial Rule 1896-1949 M.A. Thesis
University of llorin.
Aghalino, S.O. and B.M. Eyinla, 2009. Oil Exploitation and Marine Pollution:
Evidence for the Niger Delta, Nigeria, Journal of Human Ecology,
Vol. 28, No. 3, pp.177-182.
Aghalino, S.O. (2000) British Colonial Politics and the Oil Palm Industry
in the Niger Delta Region, 1900-1960, African Study Monographs
21(1).
Aghalino, S.O. (2005). Issues and Trend in the Payment of Compensation in
the Oil Industry in Nigeria, 1969-1997, Ibom Journal of History and
International Studies, Vol., 12, No. 1, pp186-208
Aghalino, S.O. 2009. Oil Exploitation and the Accentuation of Intergroup
Relations in the Niger Delta, Nigeria. Journal of Human Ecology.
Vol.28, No.3, pp.153-159.
Aghalino, S.O. 2009. The Olusegun Obasanjo Administration and the Niger
Delta 1999-2007. Studies of Tribes and Tribals Vol. 7, Number 1,
pp.57-60.
Aghalino, S.O. 2010.Resource Control and the Problem of the Niger Delta
Region of Nigeria. In Adam Karap Chekpkwony & Peter M.J. Hess
(ed.) Human Views on God. Variety Not Monotony. Essays in
Honour of Ade P. Dopamu, Kenya: Moi University Press, Eldovet
pp.263-271.

Vol. 5, No. 1

18

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

Amnesty International, 2009. Nigeria: Petroleum, Pollution and Poverty in the


Niger Delta. London: Amnesty International
Amnesty International, Nigeria: Petroleum, Pollution and Poverty in the
Niger Delta. London: Amnesty International, 2009.
Anikpo, M. (1996) Dynamics of Socio-Cultural exchange in Nigeria's Oil
Producing Communities. The case of Izombe: In P.U. Onyige (Ed).
Energy and Social Development in Nigeria. Lagos, Longman.
Ashton; J.N. (1998) "The ERA Handbook of the Niger Delta. Benin City:
Longman and ERA.
Atsegbua, L., Akpotaire, V and Dimowo, F., (2003). Environmental Law in
Nigeria: Theory and Practice. Lagos: Ababa Press.
Atsegbua, L., V. Akpotaire and Dimowo, F. 2003. Environmental Law in
Nigeria: Theory and Practice. Lagos: Ababa Press Ltd
Azaiki, S. 2003. Inequities in Nigerian Politics. Yenagoa: Treasure Books
Bourguignon, F. (1999) Crime. Violence and Inequitable Developments,
Annual World Bank Conference on Development Economics
Washington D.C.
Brisibi, A.A. 2001. African Tradition: The Identity of a People with special
focus on globaliastion and its impact in the Niger Delta. Paper
written for Niger Delta Women for Justice and presented at the
C.O.O.L Conference in Boston, USA, March
Dafinone, D., Supreme Court verdict on Resource Control: The Political
Implication in http://www.ngrguardiannews.com
Diana, W. The Role of Women in the Struggle for Environmental Justice in
Ogoni. Delta News.
Durning A.B (1990)
"Ending Poverty" in Linda Starke (ed.), State of the
World 1990: World Watch Institute Report on progress towards a
Sustainable Society, London: N.N. Norton and Co.
Ekine, S. 2000. Blood and Oil: Testimonies of Violence from Women of the
Niger Delta. London: Centre for Democracy and Development
Ekuerhare, B.U. The Niger Delta Environment and its Implications for
Development Policy Options in Nigeria In: Akpojotor, A.S. et.al
(ed.,) Sustainable Environmental Peace and Security in the Niger
Delta. Abraka: Delta State University.
Etikerentse, G.E. 1985. Nigerian Petroleum Law. London: Macmillan

Vol. 5, No. 1

19

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

Fayeye, J.O. 2009. The Place of Culture in Plural Societies; In Lasisi, R.O. and
Fayeye, J.O. (ed.,) Leading Issues in General Studies. Ilorin: General
Studies Division
Fayeye, J.O. 2009. The Place of Culture in Plural Societies, In: Lasisi, R.O.
and J.O. Fayeye, (eds.) Leading Issues in General Studies. Ilorin:
General Studies Division
Federal Republic of Nigeria (2000) Report of the special Committee on the
Review of the Petroleum Supply and Distribution.
Federal Republic of Nigeria (2008). Report of the Technical Committee on the
Niger Delta. Volume 1.
Federal
Republic
of
Nigeria,
Cultural
Policy.
Available at
http://www.wwcd.org/policy/clink/nigerai.html
Fekumo, J.A (1990) Civil Liability for Damages Caused by Oil Pollution in
Omotola, J.A. (ed.) Lagos: University of Lagos Press
Fregene, P.A.A. 1997. Oil Exploration and Production Activities: The Socioeconomic and Environmental Problems in Warri Division-Itsekiri
Homeland. Paper presented at the seminar on oil and environment
organized by Fredrich Ebert Foundation at Port Harcourt, 14 and 15
March.
Frynas, J.G (1998). Political instability and Business: Focus on Shell in
Nigeria, Third World Quarterly, Vol.19, No. 3, pp457-478
Hamilton, J., Stockman, L. Brown, M., Marshall, G., Muttit, G. and Rau, N.
2004. The case for an Oil-free Future, www.nonewoil.org
Jayaraman, R. and Lanjouw, P. (1999) The Evolution of Poverty and
Inequality in Indian Villages, The World Bank Research Observer Vol.
14(1).
Legborsi, S.P. 2007.The Adverse Impacts of Oil Pollution on the Environment
and Wellbeing of a Local Indigenous Community: The Experience of
the
Ogoni
people
of
Nigeria.
Available
at
http://www.un.org/esg/socdev/unpfil/.../workshop_IPPE_Pyagbara.
doc.Accessed 29/6/10.
Moffat, D and Linden, O. (1995) Perception and Really: Assessing Priorities
for sustainable Development in the Niger River. Delta, Ambio Vol. 24
(7-8).
Oil Times, June 2001

Vol. 5, No. 1

20

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

Okoko, E. C. (1098) "Migration Gender and Resources: a Study of Ibeno


Community in South Eastern Nigeria, African Journal 01 Social and
Policy Studies, Volume I No. I.
Onokerhoraye, A.G. (2000). The Political Economy of the Niger Delta Region:
A look at the future from the past and present. Paper presented at
the Seminar on Niger Delta and Nigerian Federalism Organised by
Tos and Associates in Collaboration with the Office of the Governor
of Delta State, on Thursday, 2-3 November, 2000, PTI, Effurun.
Otite, O (1979) "Rural Migration as catalysts in Rural Development, the
Urhobo in Ondo State, Africa, Vol. 49, No.3.
Otite, O (1979) "Rural Migration as catalysts in Rural Development, the
Urhobo in Ondo State, Africa, Vol. 49, No.3.
Oyefusi, Aderoju, (and Oil-Dependence and Oil Conflict in Nigeria. Mimeo
Shell (1995) People and the Environment: Annual Report Lagos: SPDC.
Shell (1998) "People and the Environment: Annual Report Lagos: SPDC.
Taylor, E.B. (1871). Cited in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/culture
Teilanye, D. 1997. Bayelsan Notes on Oil Pains, The Guardian, Thursday,
February 20.
Tell, Lagos February 23, 1998.
Tell, July 14, 2008
The Punch, December 7, 1998.
UNDP, 2006. Niger Delta Human Development Report
UNESCO (2007). UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity.
Available at
http://www.unesco.org/educational/imld2002universaldecla.shtm

Vol. 5, No. 1

21

Environmental Justice, Democracy and the


Inevitability of Cultural Change in Nigeria: A
Critical Analysis of the Niger Delta Dilemma
Dr. Kelly Bryan Ovie Ejumudo2

Key Terms: Nigeria, Niger Delta, oil, environmental justice,


democracy, land use.

Abstract
Globally, environmental justice principles are in tandem with
democratic ideals and practices. This is because environmental justice
seeks to analyze and overcome the power structures that have the
potency of thwarting and militating against the principles of fairness
and equity which democracy both represents and enforces. In the
Third World, poor and shallow democratic institutions and culture
have engendered environmental injustice typified by imbalance
between access to environmental costs (pollution, unemployment,
social and economic dislocation and crime) and environmental
benefits (food security, clean air and water, health care, educational
opportunity, transportation facilities and gainful employment). In the
Nigerias Niger Delta region, environmental injustice that has almost
assumed a crisis dimension is a product and a manifestation of the
unsettled democracy and the stunted and stifled democratic
institutions, especially as environmental policy decisions are a
reflection of the political process. This paper therefore examines how
Nigerias pseudo democracy has both occasioned and reinforced the
prolonged and protracted environmental injustice that is yet plaguing
the Niger Delta. The paper that relied on relevant secondary sources
Kelly Bryan Ovie Ejumudo, Ph.D. is with the Department of Political
Science,
Delta
State
University,
Abraka,
Nigeria.
E-Mail:
drkellypaulovieejumudo@yahoo.com.
2

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

of data concluded with useful recommendations including the


creation and entrenchment of ideal democratic institutions and values
with cultural change as an imperative.

Introduction
Environmental justice is an increasingly important element of
policy making and it is fundamentally about equity and fairness
toward the disadvantaged individuals, groups, communities,
societies, institutions, regions and nations. Environmental justice
offers the opportunity for merging two difficult agenda at both the
national and international levels, by seeking to resolve the conflict
between environmental and social goals and focusing on tackling
environmental problems as part of the social exclusion agenda. There
has been considerable progress on integrating the economic and social
goals with far-reaching programme on social exclusion and
neighborhood renewal, but there has been much less on integrating
the environmental with the social; this is where environmental justice
focus is both desirable and inevitable. Environmental justice
principles and practices, therefore, require a focus on the needs of
future generations, for environmental justice will not be pragmatic if
this were achieved at the expense of people in future generations. This
is essentially as a result of the fact that social and economic concerns
and goals that fail to recognize and accommodate the critical
environmental element and consideration will reduce the ability of the
environment to provide non-substitutable resources and services
(labeled critical natural capital by environmental economists).
In the face of the recognized and acceptable efficacy of environmental
justice principles and practices across communities, societies and
nations, particularly in the third world, there is still massive
environmental degradation such that the rural, urban and generally

Vol. 5, No. 1

23

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

neglected areas have experienced large scale erosion and waterquality deterioration, deforestation, declining soil productivity and
socio-economic dislocation. Worse still, majority of the people
especially the youths have little or no access to the benefits derivable
from production activities that should expectedly mitigate the
negative effects and costs of the environmental degradation to which
they have been perpetually subjected. As a consequence, they cannot
lead a life that they value and cherish and their potentials are hardly
actualizable and realizable. In the Niger Delta region of Nigeria, the
costs of environmental pollution and degradation that is borne by the
marginalized, oppressed and pauperized people as well as the
benefits that should flow to them in the form of employment, skill
acquisition programmes, educational scholarship schemes, provision
of basic social amenities and other pro-poor life-enhancing
programmes are heavily disproportional so much so, that the
principles of fairness and equity that underlie or underpin
environmental justice are impaired with one likely hazardous
consequence, environmental crisis.
Critical to the environmental injustice problem in the Niger Delta is
the shallow, flawed, failed and pseudo democracy that is in practice in
Nigeria. The justification for the above position is that true,
consolidated and functional democracy presupposes an institutional
and governance climate that encourages and upholds fundamental
human rights, guarantees equity and fairness and promotes
responsible, accountable and representative governance that are the
heart of environmental justice. The creation and entrenchment of ideal
democratic institutions and values, the expediency of environmental
justice and the true recognition, acceptance and practicability of
cultural re-orientation are therefore a desideratum.

Vol. 5, No. 1

24

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

Environmental Justice: A Conceptual Understanding


There is a growing evidence of the links between
environmental problems and social injustices; environmental justice is
the idea that brings them together. The term environmental justice
otherwise called environmental equity has featured prominently in
the environmental debate for over three decades, but it only surfaced
in the legal parlance in the 1990s ( Lazarus 2000:17). It focuses on the
disproportionate sharing of environmental benefits and burdens
between different states, institutions, organizations, groups and
individuals. It is based upon the recognition that environmental costs
and benefits are not in a fair and equitable manner and that
traditional environmentalism has not been sufficiently concerned with
very divergent local situations and the plight of minorities (Bullard
2000:45). The term is concerned mainly with the side effects of
industrial activity, such as the citing of waste disposal facilities, the
proximity of industrial pollution and workplace exposure to
industrial toxins and in-house lead exposure, in particular for children
(McDermott 2004:62) . Environmental justice seeks to redefine the
traditional environmental movement by incorporating the concerns of
minorities within environmental policy making thereby engendering
environmental equality or equity (Torres 2000: 31). The main thrust of
environmental justice is a shift in focus from the environment to the
people, for it underscores the need for environmental protection not
to be planned within a vacuum and for environmental goals to take
into account social, political and economic realities.
In a broad sense, environmental justice is about positive
discrimination because it seeks to achieve a redistribution of the costs
of environmental justice so as to lower the disproportionately high
burden borne by some segments of society. In effect, it is shifting the
focus of environmental protection towards taking into account the
needs of the poorer sections of society that have suffered the

Vol. 5, No. 1

25

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

environmental consequences of industrialization more than others


(Gadgil and Guha 2004: 53) . It also addresses the extent of linkages
between environmental and social injustice and asks whether it is
practicable to tackle both social exclusion and environmental
problems through integrated policies and development. It therefore
follows that by looking at social justice issues through an
environmental lens and simultaneously by analyzing environmental
issues more clearly in terms of social justice, new and more effective
ways of dealing with each can be developed.
Environmental justice is equally the confluence of social and
environmental concerns that deals with the inequitable environmental
burden born by groups such as racial minorities, women and youths.
It is a holistic effort to analyze and overcome the power structures
that thwarts and militates against the principles of fairness and equity.
This phenomenon views the environment as encapsulating where we
live, work and play and seeks to redress the imbalances in the
distribution of environmental benefits and costs. By implication,
environmental justice seeks to achieve an accommodation or balance
between access to environmental costs or burdens (pollution,
unemployment, social and economic dislocation and crime) and
environmental benefits (nutrients food, clean air, and water, health
care, education, transportation and safe jobs). Environmental justice,
which is not a panacea to all social problems, especially as
environmental and social goals can be in conflict, has two
fundamentally basic premises; first, that everyone should have the
right and be able to live in a healthy environment, with access to
enough environmental resources for a healthy life and second, that it
is predominantly the poorest and least powerful people who are
missing these conditions. These two premises connotes environmental
rights and responsibilities that focus on the inevitability of ensuring
that a healthy environment exists for both the present and future

Vol. 5, No. 1

26

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

generations and that countries, organizations, institutions and


individuals do not create environmental problems or distribute
environmental resources in ways that damage other peoples health.
Environmental justice is therefore a core element of and, as a
consequence, it is critical to achieving social justice goals, particularly
as it is concerned with ensuring the environment part of the social
justice goal. The underlying causes of environmental injustices
include institutionalized racism, the commodification of land, water,
energy and air, unresponsive, unaccountable and repressive
government policies and regulation and lack of or inadequate
resources in communities or regions like the Niger Delta. Thus,
environmental justice prevails when the environmental risks, costs
and hazards or investments and benefits are equally distributed. It
does not question the current path of development and its associated
environmental foes, but seeks solutions in order to mitigate the
problems caused by the current development process. Environmental
justice principles are thus expected to serve as a guide for organizing,
networking and relating to governmental and non-governmental
organizations' demands. This implies that environmental policy
decisions are a product of the political process (Field and Field
2006:18).
Environmental justice affirms the sacredness of the earth, ecological
unity and the interdependence of all species and the right of people to
be free from ecological destructions and demands that public policy
be based on mutual respect and justice for all peoples free from any
form of discrimination or bias. It also emphasize the right to ethical,
balanced and responsible uses of land and renewable resources in the
interest of a sustainable planet for humans and other living things and
calls for universal protection from nuclear testing, extraction,
production and disposal of toxic/hazardous wastes and poisons and
nuclear testing that threaten the fundamental right to clean air, land,

Vol. 5, No. 1

27

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

water and food. Environmental also seeks to promote the


fundamental right of all people to political, economic, cultural and
environmental self-determination and to participate as equal partners
at every level of decision-making, including needs assessment,
planning, implementation, enforcement and evaluation. It equally
protects the right of victims of environmental injustice to receive full
compensation and reparations for damage as well as quality health
care and affirms the need for urban and rural environmental policies
aimed at cleaning up and rebuilding cities and provide fair access for
all to the full range of resources. Environmental justice similarly calls
for the strict enforcement of principals of informed consent, opposes
the destructive operations of transnational corporations and requires
individuals to make personal and consumer choices to consume as
little of the earths resources and to produce as little waste as possible
and to make conscious decisions that will ensure the health of the
natural world.
The essence of environmental justice is the capacity of the earth to
satisfy the intra and inter generational needs of society.
Environmental justice is recognition that access to clean and healthy
environment is a fundamental right of all human beings
(Cunningham et al 2007:587). A long history of international law even
argues that we all have an inalienable right to sustainable
environment. The 1982 World Charter for nature, for example, asserts
that mans needs can be met only by ensuring the proper functioning
of natural systems and it is an essential human right to redress it
when the human environment has suffered damage or degradation.
(Cunningham 2007:541). The 1987 World Commission on
environment and development went further in stating that all human
beings have the fundamental right to an environment adequate for
their health and well-being. In fact, of all the nations of the world, 109
now have constitutional provisions for protections of the environment

Vol. 5, No. 1

28

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

and natural resources and 100 of them specifically recognize the right
to a clean and healthy environment and the states obligation to
prevent environmental harm (Cunningham et al 2007:542).
Paying attention to environmental justice makes sense for two
reasons: ethical and pragmatic. The ethical dimension concerns
whether distribution of risks, benefits and costs is in accordance with
the norms of social justice. The desire for just policies is therefore a
conventional complement to the desire for efficient policies. The
pragmatic dimension, on the other hand, emphasizes the relationship
between the distributional burdens. Policies and programmes that are
perceived as unfair will therefore stand little prospect of passage even
if they enhance the prospects for efficiency and sustainability
(Tietenberg 2005:501). The political conflicts in which many natural
resource issues get embroiled are, as a consequence, often related to
the fact that the groups who enjoy the benefits are not the same as
those who bear the costs (Field 2005:145). These are matters of equity
or fairness which is why they can become so controversial. Another
important aspect of distributional fairness in resource programmes is
how they impact people with different income levels. This is a major
issue in the environmental justice.

Democracy: A Conceptual Discourse


According to George Orwell (cited in Mahajan 2008: 793),
democracy does not have an agreed definition and the attempt to
provide one is resisted from all sides. Democracy could be defined as
a high-flown name for something that does not exist. In a similar vein,
Lucas (1976:29) opined that democracy is a noun but should be an
adjective. It therefore implies that democracy is nothing but different
doctrines in different peoples minds or perhaps the most
promiscuous word in the world of public affairs and it could be

Vol. 5, No. 1

29

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

everybodys mistress. Burns (1935: 32) equally asserted that


democracy is a word with many meanings and some emotional
colour, for it is not an algebraic symbol, but a flag or the call of a
trumpet for some; and for others an obsolete mythology which has
undesirable connections with capitalism and imperialism, and to
Finer (1949:15) democracy has come to mean different things, some
very hostile to each other, that it needs careful analysis if
misunderstanding and idle controversies are to be avoided.
Attempting a comprehensive definition of democracy appears elusive
and a mirage. This is because it is confounded by a wooliness of
thought and usage that is characteristic of the social sciences
(Ejumudo 2009:9). And as Eliot (1914:17) rightly posited, when a word
acquires a universally sacred character as the word democracy has,
one wonders whether it still means anything at all. Expanding the
frontiers of the argument, De Jourenel (1949: 276) noted that all
discussions about democracy, all arguments whether for it or against
it, are stricken with intellectual futility because the thing at issue is
indefinite. Therefore efforts by scholars and political theorists across
age, discipline and society to define democracy have always founded
on the rock of ambiguity and antinomy (Williams 1999: 65). The
complexity in defining democracy may be due to the fact that political
systems are in a continual state of evolution and ideas regarding what
ought to be the scope of governmental intervention in the lives of
individuals have also changed and are continually changing. No
wonder, the complexity in providing a concise and precise definition
of democracy is compounded by the fact that historically the concept
itself has been a locus or terrain of prolonged intellectual and
ideological contestations.
Essentially, after centuries of intellectual speculations as to the origin
and nature of democracy, the sad conclusion is that it is an ideal

Vol. 5, No. 1

30

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

towards which many nations strive. By implication, the democratic


ideal remains an ideal, a possible explanation for the necessity to see
democracy as a continuum where democracies can be placed and
gauged in accordance with the extent of their democratization or
conformity with acceptable democratic norms and values. One may
simply argue that any given nation, or a method or institution is
democratic which means that it is in the process of achieving the ideal
or that it adopts some principles or processes which may be called
democratic (Ijomah 1988:65). In fact, as far back as 1849, Guizot
(1949:11) observed that such is the power of the word Democracy
that no government or party dares to raise its head or believes its own
existence possible, if it does not bear that word inscribed on the
burner. The difficulties of capturing the essence of democracy and of
high listing its often contradictory activities made scholars researchers
to resort to various devices and stratagems for coming to terms with
the above reality (William 1999: 65-66). One of the most celebrated
and an influential attempt in this direction is the concept of polyarchy
formulated by Dahl (1971:39). He classified political regimes
according to two criteria: the degree of contestation of political power
and the extent of popular participation in such contestation. The twodimensional framework proposed by Dahl has become widely
adopted by political scientists to measure the extent to which various
states approximate the democratic ideal (Tremblay et al 2004).
All the same, democracy that was derived from the Greek word
Demos meaning people and Kratos implying rule or power refers
to government or rule by the people or masses (Mbachu 1990: 13). It
therefore follows that in a democracy, government should not only be
responsible to the demos (people), political power should also
emanate from the popular will of the people and the state should be
guided by and bound by the same will. Diamond (1999:19)
approached democracy as a developing process and added that

Vol. 5, No. 1

31

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

consolidation is a critical step in building democracies. He further


argued that the consolidation process involves three components
namely: decentralization that enhances the efficiency, quality and
legitimacy of democracy, political culture which is a precondition for
democracy to take root, especially as democratic values, beliefs,
attitudes, norms and means must be embodied in a democracy and
the creation of a civil society that facilitates and enhances public
participation in the democratic process and prevents abusive power
from becoming concentrated at the centre of society. Democracy is a
way of life that permits freedom to make choices pertaining to every
area of human endeavour and safeguards the liberty of individuals
and protects them against unnecessary constrains on their actions
because it is a governance system based on popular will.
At a more theoretical level, democracy is a political system in which
the eligible people in any country participate actively not only in
determining the kind of people that govern them, but also actually
participate actively in shaping the policy output of the government
(Mbachu 1990:197). Bryce (cited in Mahajan 2008: 794) equally
asserted that democracy has been used ever since the time of
Herodotus to denote that form of government in which the ruling
power of a state is legally vested not in any particular class or classes,
but in the members of the community as a whole, while Mahajan
(2008: 794) stressed that democracy is not a particular kind of
civilization, it is rather a civilized way of taking political action. A
parsimonious definition of democracy that captured the important
notion of the uncertainty of political competition is that of Przeworski
(cited in Tremblay et al 2004: 335) who contended that democracy is
quintessentially characterized by the fact that the winners of political
competition do not have a guaranteed control over the power that
they have won. In line with this perspective, democracy is an
organized uncertainty. Democracy is, in fact, a political contrivance

Vol. 5, No. 1

32

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

that is aimed at reconciling freedom with the need for law and its
enforcement and it is a political method by which every citizen has
the opportunity of participating through discussion in an attempt to
reach voluntary agreement as to what shall be done for the good of
the community as a whole.
Mill (cited in Mahajan 2008: 794) also viewed democracy as that form
of government in which the whole people or a numerous portion of
them exercise the governing power through deputies periodically
elected by themselves, while Seeley opined that democracy is a
government in which everybody has a share. According to Hall (cited
in Mahajan 2008: 794), democracy is that form of political organization
in which public opinion has control and Mayo (cited in Mahajan 2008:
794) noted that democracy is one in which public policies are made on
a majority basis by representatives subject to effective popular control
at periodic elections which are conducted on the principle of political
equality and under conditions of political freedom. Kpanneh (cited in
Mbah 2003: 151) equally argued that democracy is a complex process
of institution building, development of a liberal political culture and
traditions, an uninhibited growth of free speech, an unfettered
development of the press and respect for not only the rule, but the
due process of the law.
It can be safely stated therefore that democracy cannot exist in the
absence of fundamental human rights, whether individually or
collectively, which is in consonance with Nnolis (2003: 143) notion
that democracy is a system of government usually involving freedom
of the individual in many respects of political life, equality among
citizens, justice in the relationship between the people and the
government and the participation of the people in choosing those in
government. In fact, democracy is one which makes government
responsive and accountable and a form of government where the

Vol. 5, No. 1

33

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

mass of the people posses the right to share in the exercise of


sovereign power, maintain ultimate control over affairs and
determine what kind of government machinery shall be set up. It is
not only primarily a means through which different groups can attain
their ends or seek the good of society; it is the good society itself in
operation (Gauba 2007:22). Rather than a mode of governance, it
represents a bold and rigorous attempt to conceptualize the
democratic process as a function of several features that include
freedom of speech and association, the supremacy of the will of the
electorate, regular elections and accountability. These features
constitute the clustering of practice and countries can be placed on the
democracy continuum in line with the presence or absence of all or
some of the features.

Environmental Justice and Democratic Ideals


Democratic climate ensures the enhancement of the
responsiveness, transparency and accountability of the state and the
empowerment of the people (Ejumudo 2009:8). In the African
continent, democratic experimentation has largely been an ongoing
concern and process yet there have been frustrations and misused
opportunities such that the democratization process has not been
beneficial or, put more categorically; it has failed to satisfy the
democratic yearnings and aspirations of the large majority of
Africans. The temptation is therefore there to assert that the
democratic process is at crossroads because despite the opportunity
that abound for the continent to search for, experiment with and
consolidate democracy through constitutional reforms, political
engineering and transitional programmes, the democratic dream or
actual democracy has proved elusive and, by implication, it has
become an illusion (Ejumudo 2009:8).

Vol. 5, No. 1

34

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

In the midst of the so-called variant of democracy in Africa, efforts at


building a society that guarantees justice, human dignity and civil
liberties which democracy represents have been constrained and the
continent faces political, social and economic uncertainties, a situation
that is compounded by governments insensitivity to the fundamental
problems of resource exploitation and distribution, environmental
degradation, poverty and socio-economic dislocation, insecurity and
the inadequate capacity to deliver democratic dividend. Democracy in
most of Africa is therefore so fledgling and unsettled that
environmental injustice which is an outgrowth of the fragile and
failed democracy has become common place.
Although democracy presupposes an institutional and governance
climate that encourages and upholds environmental justice,
democracy itself has to be entrenched and truly consolidated before it
can play the envisaged facilitative role. In the face of the poor,
shallow, fledgling and flawed nature of democracy in most of the
third world, it is instructive to note that the basis for environmental
justice is almost non-existent, especially as the actualization of true
democracy is constrained and inhibited by sundry factors like colonial
background that did not create the conditions that are germane for
democratic experience, lack of genuine commitment in the neocolonial environment as evident in the fact that the political
leadership is not favourably predisposed toward the consolidation
and entrenchment of true democratic practice, past political history
and legitimacy crisis as well as electoral fraud, corruption and
dysfunctional political culture (Ejumudo 2009:14-15). In sum,
functional democracy is a genial climate for the bedding, fruition and
sustenance of environmental justice, while environmental justice is an
indication of ideal and true democratic practice.

Vol. 5, No. 1

35

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

Shallow Democratic Institutions, Weak Culture and Environmental


Injustice in the Niger Delta
Democracy provides core institutions and processes that
support equity which is a sure antidote for environmental injustice in
Nigeria. In most of Africa, although there have been various attempts
and efforts at democratization and democratic consolidation, yet the
claim to having a functional democracy that is founded on mass
participation appears to be a sham and a ruse (Ejumudo 2009:16). This
position derives from the fact that the developing process that
critically builds up to consolidate democracies are largely constrained,
stifled and stagnated to the extent that most democracies in Africa can
be appropriately dubbed as shallow and flawed. Arguably,
entrenching democratic values and institutions in transitional
democracies is not an easy task, especially as democratic
consolidation demands decentralization that potentially enhances the
efficiency, quality and legitimacy of democracy as well as political
culture that embody democratic values, beliefs, attitude and norms.
In the absence of the above conditions, or put more emphatically, in
the environment of failed democracy typified by shallow institutions,
weak democratic culture, inequity in the distribution of costs and
benefits, oppression and violence, environmental justice will be an
illusion. In Nigerias Niger Delta, the development dream remains a
mirage and its future is threatened by environmental devastation and
degradation, deteriorating economic conditions and socio-economic
dislocation in spite of its huge resource base (Magbaggbeola 2003:32).
In fact, the environmental injustice in the Niger Delta region is
inextricably tied to the shallow and failed institutions, weak culture,
inequity, marginalization, oppression and violence that characterize
Nigerias flawed democracy. The multi-dimensional nature of the
above injustice is evident in the legal, operational, infrastructural and
fiscal aspects considered below:

Vol. 5, No. 1

36

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

Legal/Constitutional: Legislation on petroleum predated exploration


activities or efforts in Nigeria. The first piece of legislation was the
Petroleum Ordinance of 1889 which was followed by the Mineral
Regulation (Oil) Ordinance of 1907, both of which provided the basic
legal framework for the development of petroleum and its natural
resources (Omorogbe 2001:16). To a very significant degree, the nature
of the colonial and post-colonial Nigerian state are largely structurally
the same, for the broad spectrum of laws and accompanying actions
of the Nigerian state on the countrys oil industry have been no less an
extension of the 1914 Mineral Act which vested all powers over
resources (solid and liquid) on the state as Omoweh (2005:111-112)
rightly articulated. For instance, the post-colonial state like its
predecessor has the exclusive right to issue mineral prospecting and
mining licenses and the sole power to collect royalties, rents and fees
from the oil companies.
Both the Petroleum Act of 1969 and the Land Use Decree of 1978 are
complementary and designed to strengthen the instrument of
oppression, suppression, marginalization, dispossession, deprivation
and disempowerment of the Niger Delta people by the state in
collaboration with its allies, the multi-national oil corporations and
local bourgeoisie, a clear manifestation of unadulterated
environmental injustice (2008:51). This partly explains the logic
behind the content of the Land Use Decree which also provided a
buffer for the oil giants to be more reckless in their operations in the
Niger Delta region. This may also be a part explanation for why Shell,
for instance, can afford to flare gas on a daily basis since 1956 when it
discovered oil in the Niger Delta and yet it is shielded by the state
over litigation on land where oil is explored or produced (Omoweh
2005:115). Land protection in the light of sustainability was, as a
result, and is still not of any interest to the state that gradually
rendered the Niger Delta people into paupers through successive

Vol. 5, No. 1

37

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

legislation including the petroleum and Land Use and squatters in


their own land. Thus, the entire nature, structure and character of the
shallow, fledgling and failed democracy in which the Niger Delta is
embedded has seriously stifled its development or facilitated its
underdevelopment with the legal and constitutional framework
providing the foundation.
Operational: The alliance of the Nigerian state with the oil giants and
the domestic bourgeoisie has played a dominant role in the
underdevelopment of the Niger Delta through their laws, policies,
actions and operations. The legal/constitutional (foundational)
dimension did not only create the environment which is up till today
plaguing the Niger Delta region, it also set the stage for the
operational menace in which the region has been engulfed. (Ejumudo
2008:53). This is because the activities of the oil conglomerates destroy
the soil, water, vegetation and crops of the people. The environment is
not only polluted and degraded, the costs in terms of the destruction
of the economic base of the rural people who are denied their sources
of livelihood defies any accurate statistical calculation and
quantification. The level of environmental degradation in the region is
manifest in the inability of the environmental resources, like the
atmosphere, river, soil and vegetation to renew themselves naturally
which invariably, incapacitates the people of the Niger Delta from
regenerating themselves socio-economically. The mass of the people
are thus pauperized through rural poverty that is foisted on them and
they can be described as poor, malnourished, miserable, wretched,
landless, neglected and virtually, vulnerable and denied the
opportunity to lead a life that they value and to realize their potentials
as human beings (UNDP 2005:1).
Regrettably too, the alliance of the state, the oil giant and the petit
bourgeoisie makes the oil companies, particularly Shell Petroleum

Vol. 5, No. 1

38

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

Development Company (SPDC) arrogant, reckless and insensitive to


the plight and the feelings of the devastated Niger Delta region and its
impoverished people. In the mentality of Shell and the other oil
giants, the region is a minefield that cannot be polluted, such that gas
flaring, oil spillage and dumping of untreated wastes on
lands/swamps and sea are considered as normal hazards that
accompany oil exploration, exploitation, production, transportation
and storage. In effect, the worsening social and economic well-being
of the Niger Delta region is a product of the deliberate design and
execution by the trio (the oil giants, the state and the petty
bourgeoisie) in the unholy alliance (Ejumudo 2008:54) and patently a
manifestation of hydra-headed environmental injustice. Studies have
also shown that crude oil, when spilled on the environment pollutes it
together with the land, and destroys the nitrogen cycle of the soil. It
equally halts photosynthesis in plants and kills plankton, fishes and
other aquatic organisms. Oloibiri, the first source of crude oil in
Nigeria has, in fact, become the reference point for environmental
degradation and neglect, for it was left wretched and was eventually
wiped out of Shells map of flow lines following the extinction of its
well after 35 years of rapacious exploitation. This bitter experience
depicts the nature of the underdevelopment to expect in the other
areas of the Niger Delta.
The operational dimension engendered and instigated largely by the
foundational legal/constitutional dimension of the Niger Delta crisis
has generated a lot of tension characterized by protests, militancy,
youth restiveness, piracy, kidnapping, pipeline vandalism, illegal
bunkering, violence and the like. State violence in the form of
aggression against targeted groups has been the distinguishing mark
of the responses and intervention tactics in conflict issues in the
region, especially during the military dispensation (IDEA 146;
Imobighe et al 2002:62). As a consequence, the democratic rights of the

Vol. 5, No. 1

39

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

Niger Delta people to resource control, political participation, a clean


environment and sustainable development are commonly sacrificed
on the altar of the profit of the oil giants and the profligacy and
corruption of the state and the domestic bourgeoisie. Thus, untold
harm has been inflicted on the Niger Delta environment by petrobusiness and the Nigerian state has demonstrated its deliberate
unwillingness and attendant gross incapability to intervene in order
to protect and ensure the environmental quality of the region due to
the strong and contrived alliance between the state, petro-business
and the petit bourgeoisie.
Fiscal: The structure of fiscal federalism focuses on two closely related
issues viz: which level of government has authority to impose or
administer what tax, and which government should administer or
retain what proportion of the revenue actually realized from taxation.
Fiscal federalism equally attempts to grapple with the twin concern of
the socio-economic disparities among the component units of the
federal system and the economic growth, stabilization and
development of the whole federation (Oyovbaire 1985: 163). In
Nigeria, the central problem has not been so much the allocation
powers and jurisdiction over taxation as the allocation of distribution
of the revenue derived from the different taxes between the various
levels of government in the federation and by implication, the socioeconomic disparities and development. Fiscal federalism in Nigeria
has been largely a product of three factors viz: the colonial heritage,
military governance and oil revenue. The interaction of these three
factors weakened fiscal cohesiveness in Nigeria (Osayimwese and
Iyare 1991:89).
Also, the structural and foundational defects of the Nigerian federal
experiment compounded by the shallow and fledgling democratic
environment does not only have the potency of making fiscal issues

Vol. 5, No. 1

40

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

prone to crisis, it has actually contributed to the environmental


injustice that the Niger Delta region has been subjected to. In the face
of the numerous revenue allocation commissions and the plethora of
formulas, the contentious and political nature of fiscal federalism and
the concomitant revenue sharing palaver exhibit the hollowness of
Nigerias democracy (Ejumudo 2009:18). Of all the burning issues in
Nigerias fiscal federalism, the most controversial and apparent locus
or terrain of contest is the derivation principle contention. This
principle is the only one in the revenue sharing system that allows
money to be appropriately returned back to the state or source and
base of natural resources in line with globally acceptable
environmental justice principles. No wonder, derivation principle has
come to be equated with the consciousness and efforts at the
actualization of resource control in Nigerias political terrain.
Over the years, the controversy over the use of derivation principle
centre on the infinitesimal and inconsequential value in the weighting
system of the various revenue allocation efforts and formula
(Ejumudo 2009:18). With the exception of the Nigerian first republic
and the post-1999 democratic experience, derivation principle had
attracted as little as one percent of the federation account. In fact,
while the various minority groups have continually pressed for a fair
and better deal or compensation in the revenue sharing arithmetic of
Nigeria given the centrality of their states in the revenue generation
calculation of the country, the Nigerian leadership, especially the
military cabal, had coercively employed the apparatus of the state to
effectively contain the opposition to the minorities to governments
imposition. They had also cosmetically and superficially tinkered with
the issue that concerns the collective destiny of the mineral-bearing
communities and states in the Niger Delta region as evident in the
slow and tortuous journey that culminated in the progression from
one percent to the present thirteen percent derivation formula.

Vol. 5, No. 1

41

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

Against the background of the fifty percent derivation arrangement


that previously favoured other regions in the entity called Nigeria, it
is not hyperbolic to describe the gap as fiscal and environmental
injustice, going by the level of environmental degradation and social
dislocation that has become commonplace in the region. This may be
a fruitful point to state in all certitude that the fiscal federalism
endless problematic has a devastating political economy underlying
force with environmental implications. It is instructive to note that the
superimposition of the militarys unitary command structure on the
pre-military federal system and the growth and centrality of oil
revenue engendered a confused form of intergovernmental fiscal
relations and substantial changes in the fiscal landscape to the
detriment of the Niger Delta. Such struggles for the control of
economic resources through the leveraged and instrumentality of
politics portrays the failure of the Nigerian federal arrangement and
the desirability of a limited tension-packed revenue generating and
distribution approach to fiscal federalism which is critical to
democratic sustenance and stability.
Infrastructural: Environmental justice practices demand that the
Niger Delta region as the treasure base of the Nigerian state should be
compensated through infrastructural development. On the contrary,
the region lacks basic social amenities and infrastructure, aside the
shortage of skilled manpower and the socio-economic dislocation
engendered principally by blocked access to the nations wealth. This
anomalous state of affairs was admitted by the Willinks Commission
of 1958 in its recommendations to the then colonial government,
shortly before Nigeria attained independence in 1960. The only
remedy that the commission proffered to assuage the agitated people
of the Niger Delta region was the creation of the Niger Delta Basic
Development Authority (NDBDA) in 1959 to cater for the
development needs and aspirations of the region. However, the

Vol. 5, No. 1

42

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

impact of the NDBDA, which was supposedly an interventionist


agency, was so infinitesimal and inconsequential that it can at best be
described as an abysmal failure.
Acting under the guise that it does not want to be reckoned with as
insensitive to the yearnings and aspirations of the people of the richoil region, the Nigerian state began its own community based projects.
Similar to those embarked upon by the oil giants, they did not address
the environmental degradation and they did not seek to reverse the
rural poverty which became the characteristic feature of the Niger
Delta. The Presidential Task force (PTF) which the Babangida-led
military administration established in 1988 also failed woefully to
handle the complex ecological crisis and the deep-seated rural poverty
in the oil areas.
In 1992, the Babangida regime created the Oil Mineral Producing
Areas Development Commission (OMPADEC) to replace the
Presidential Task Force (PTF) which he had earlier established.
Although the Commission was originally construed as a
developmental strategy to cater for the needs of the oil-bearing
communities, it became overtly clear that it was a political machinery
designed to serve the purpose of the self-seeking military junta
through the erection of a clientele of political supporters in the Niger
Delta. The OMPADEC essentially deepened the misery of the people
of the region given the political motive behind its creation and
operations as mostly evident in the kind of projects that it embarked
upon in the oil region and the manner it awarded the contracts
(Omoweh 2006:246). The commission was not somewhat glaringly
designed to fail, for it was interested in addressing the environmental
concerns or injustice of the oil bearing communities, nor was it
concerned about reversing the circle of poverty and neglect to which
the people had been subjected.

Vol. 5, No. 1

43

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) established by


the Obasanjo administration is not sufficiently different from the
previous deliberately designed and failed efforts of the ill-fated state
so-called interventionist development agencies because the thinking
of the state and its allies in the exploitation and marginalization of the
region had not altered. That the commission is another aloof
government agency like its predecessors and a superficially
refurbished cocoon for official corruption by the state and its cronies
is evident, considering the fact that over ten years after its existence ,
the oil-rich region which is the treasure base of the nation fares
relatively poor in every indicator of wellbeing. It is, in fact, evidently
pellucid that the region is still locked up in and mired in poverty,
unabated youth employment, lack of infrastructural development,
dysfunctional educational system and environmental degradation
and devastation that appears pervasive and unending. The Yaradua
administration with its sincerity and commitment posturing had
promised a holistic to the Niger Delta environmental crisis and its
consequential socio-economic dislocation and intends to actualize a
Niger Delta Development Plan, yet he clearly stated that the Federal
Governments contributory share to the NDDC fund in the sum of
Two Hundred and Twenty- Four Billion (224b) that was not paid by
his predecessors administration had expired. On the whole, the
infrastructural aspect of the Niger Delta environmental crisis, despite
the recent creation of the Niger Delta Ministry by the Yaradua
administration, is such that one can safely summarize that there has
been a superficial tinkering with the burning issues that concern the
collective density of the Niger Delta people. The bottom line of this
deliberate approach that reveals the insincerity, negligence and lack of
commitment on the part of the state and its allies, is the demonstration
of the hollowness of the mission and the deceit of the vision behind
the cosmetic and dubious so- called development-based state
intervention agencies.

Vol. 5, No. 1

44

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

Concluding Remarks
Functional democracy and environmental justice are
inextricably linked together, because while democracy creates the
conditions that are precedent to and the climate that is genial for the
bedding, fruition and sustenance of environmental justice,
environmental justice is not only an element and an integral part of
democracy, it also facilitates its deepening and consolidation process.
Given the failure of the Nigerian specie of democracy to produce the
conditions that will guarantee the true ideals and practice of
environmental justice, the expediency of functional democracy is
arguably inevitable. This is particularly because equity is relevant and
critical to environmental law policy making, whether in the area of
distribution of benefits or the burdens created by environmental
pollution. The fundamental issue is thus how a just society should
distribute the various benefits (resources, opportunities and
freedoms) it produces and the burdens (costs, risks and hazards). And
since justice has to do with the very basic structure of society, it
defines how the various rights, goods, social advantages and liberties
are distributed and how equality and inequality are regulated.
Environmental justice which includes within its purview the
distributional implications of the environmental protection laws
designed to redress the hazards that have their own distinct set of
benefits and burdens is therefore a key dimension and an essential
element of the broad spectrum of social justice that permeates the
structure of the Nigerian society. This implies that the necessary
condition for environmental justice principles and practices in Nigeria
generally and the Niger Delta in particular, is functional democracy.
Although democracy, in the face of its critical role in engineering and
sustaining environmental justice, is not a sufficient condition,
especially as there are intervening variables that are essential in
actualizing the democracy/environmental nexus, the level of

Vol. 5, No. 1

45

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

environmental injustice in the Niger Delta region is largely a product


of the flawed and failed democracy and its concomitant shallow
institutions in Nigeria. Engendering environmental justice through
democratic governance and cultural change in Nigeria therefore
requires policies and actions that treat people equitably and address
the current persistent and historical injustices. After all, poverty,
inequality and injustice currently exist in the region at levels that are
undesirable. And poverty ordinarily bears an environmental
dimension, since the poorest are those most likely to suffer from
ecological degradation. However, although many anti-poverty
policies will be environmentally benign and many pro-environment
policies will reduce poverty, the link between environmental justice,
functional democracy, cultural change and sustainability is by no
means total and one-way dimensional. Thus, the construction and
creation of a true federal arrangement that will facilitate
environmental justice through cultural change is not only desirable
and inevitable; it is, in actuality, a desideratum if the Niger Delta
seeming unending crisis is to be tackled and resolved in a holistic,
integrated and full blown fashion or manner.

References
Bullard, R.D. (2000): Confronting Environmental Racism: Voices from the
Grassroots. London: Free Press.
Burns, C.D. (1935): Democracy. London: Free Press.
Cunningham, W. P., Cunningham, M.A. and Saigo, B.W. (2007): Environmental
science: A Global Concern. Toronto: McGraw-Hill.
Dahl, R. (1971): Polyarchy: Participation and Opposition. New Haven: Yale
University Press.
De Jourenel, B. (1949): On Power and Democracy. New York: Viking Press.
Diamond, L. (1999): Developing Democracy: Toward Consolidation. Baltimore:
The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Vol. 5, No. 1

46

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

Ejumudo, K. B. O. (2008): The Unending Niger Delta Crisis: An Ecological


Perspective. Journal of Social Policy and Society, Vol. 3, No. 3,
Ejumudo, K. B. O. (2009a): The Democracy and Development Nexus and the
Intermediation Role of Development Communication in Africa.
Journal of Business Administration and Management, Vol. 4, No. 3.
Ejumudo, K.B.O. (2009b): A Critical Analysis of Fiscal Federalism Palaver as
an Exposition of the Pseudo and Quasi Nature of Nigerias Federal
Experiment. International Journal of Political Science and Public
Administration. Vol. 2, No.1.
Eliot, N. O. (1914): Democracy and its Controversy. New York: Penguin.
Field, B.C. (2005): Natural Resources Economics: An Introduction. Toronto:
McGraw-Hill.
Finer, H. (1949): The Theory and Practice of Modern Government. London:
Methuer and Co.
Field and Field (2006): Environmental Justice: An introduction. Toronto:
McGraw-Hill.
Gauba, O.P. (2007): An lntroduction to Political Theory. Delhi: Macmillan.
Gadgil, G. and Guha, R. (2004): Ecological Conflicts and the Environmental
Movement in India, in D. Ghai (ed.) Development and EnvironmentSustaining People and Nature. New Delhi: Macmillan.
Guizot, O. (1949): Democracy and Claims to Democracy. University of
Chicago Press.
Ijomah, B. I. C. (1988): Afrocracy- Partyless Democracy: Basis for National
Stability. Benin City: Idodo-Umeh Publishers.
Imobighe et al (2002):
Lazarus, R. (2000): Pursuing Environmental Justice: The Distributional Effects of
Environmental Protection. London: Macmillan Publishers.
Lucas, J. R. (1976): Democracy and Participation: London: Penguin.
Magbagbeola, O. (2002): Environment Underdevelopment of the Niger
Delta: An Eclectic View in Orubu, C.O., Ogisi, D. O., and Okoh, R.
(eds.) The Petroleum Industry, the Economy and the Niger Delta
Environment, Warri: Joyco Press.
Mahajan, V.D. (2008): Political Theory. New Delhi: S.Chand and Company.
McDermott, C. J. (2004): Balancing the Scales of Environmental Justice.
FORDHAM, Vol. 6, No. 2.

Vol. 5, No. 1

47

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

Mbah, P. (2003): Executive-Legislative Relations in Nigeria: The Presidency and the


National Assembly (1999-2002). A PhD Seminar Paper, Department of
Political Science, University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
Mbachu, O. (1990): Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy: A Nigerian Perspective
in Coexistence.
Nnoli, O. (2003): Introduction to Politics. Enugu: Pan African Centre for
Research on Peace and Conflict Resolution.
Omorogbe (2001) Oil and Gas Law in Nigeria, Lagos, Malthouse Press.
Omoweh, D. O. (2005) Shell Petroleum Development Company, the State and
Underdevelopment Nigerias Niger Delta: A Study in Environmental
Degradation, Africa World Press Inc.
Oyovbaire, S.E. (1985) Federalism in Nigeria: A study in the Development of
the Nigerian State, London: Macmillan Publishers
Torres, G. (2000): Changing the Government Views: Environmental Justice.
Journal of Environmental Science, Vol. 10, No. 3.
Tremblay, R.C., Lecours, A., Nikolenye, C., Salloukh, B. and Scala, F. (2004):
Mapping the Political Landscape: An introduction to Political Science.
Toronto: Thomson Nelson.
Tietenberg, T. (2005): Environment and Natural Resource Economics. London:
Pearson Education.
UNDP, (1980): World Development Report. Washington DC: United Nations.
UNDP (2006): Beyond Scarcity: Power, Poverty and the Global Water Crisis.
Human Development Report. New York, UNDP.
Williams, A. (1999) The Fictionalization of Democratic Struggle in Africa:
The Nigerian Example in Governance and Democratization in
Nigeria, in D.
Olowu, K. Soremekun and A. Williams (eds.)
Governance and Democratization in Nigeria. Ibadan: Spectrum Books.

Vol. 5, No. 1

48

Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW)


Proliferation and Instability in the Niger Delta:
An
Analysis
of
the
Disarmament,
Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR)
Process
Dr. George I.J Obuoforibo3
Key Terms: Nigeria, Niger Delta, SALW, DDR.

ABSTRACT
The issue of Small Arms and Light Weapons Proliferation has been
given widespread international focus in the post cold war era. This is
so because these weapons have become the primary tools of ethnic
and internal conflicts in recent times. It has equally been observed that
developing countries in the Third world, particularly in Africa are the
most vulnerable. The African situation has to be understood from the
context of the post independence political, economic and sociocultural setting. This period witnessed the existence of a highly
factionalized and fictionalized society, weak structures, sectoral
dislocation exacerbated by foreign domination and vulnerability to
the vagaries of cold war rivalry between the super powers of which
Nigeria where the Niger Delta Region is situated is not an exception.
The backlash of this development was widespread national, ethnic
and communal conflicts giving rising to the excessive militarization of
the continent. Hence, Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW)

George I.J Obuoforibo, PhD was born in 1954 in Ogu/Bolo Local Government
Area. He is Senior Lecturer of International Relations, Political and Administrative
Studies in the Department of Social Sciences at the University of Port Harcourt in
Rivers State, Nigeria. His e-mail is obuoforibo@yahoo.co.uk
3

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

becomes the basis for settling scores within national societies of


African nations.
As earlier stated the research of this paper is Small Arms and Light
Weapons (SALW) proliferation in the Niger Delta: An Analysis of the
(DDR) process. Our review of relevant literature on this research
problem indicates the existence of a yawing gap that we feel a further
research can help to fill. The objective of this paper is centered on the
need to examine and analyze the extent to which the DDR process
would help the existence of a lasting peace in the Niger Delta. As such
the significance of this paper can hardly be overemphasized. This is
based on the importance of the Niger Delta Region as the economic
life wire of the Nigerian nation. We would resort to the usage of
content analysis as the method of our source for data. It is our
hypothetical stand in this paper that the (DDR) process would not
ensure lasting peace in the Niger Delta, secondly that it is only a
sufficient involvement of the local population and their buy in into the
programme that would provide a lasting peace in the Niger Delta
In this paper we have resorted to the usage of systems theory for our
analysis. In a political system such as ours, we need to bear in mind
the fact that when there is crisis in the Niger Delta, Gbokoharam or
Jos the entire political system is affected in one way or the other. We
have therefore analyzed the crisis of Small Arms and Light Weapons
(SALW) in the Niger Delta from that context. The paper is divided
into six parts. The first part is the introduction which is followed by a
look at some conceptual issues pertaining to (SALW). Thirdly, we
look at the sources of these Arms and why these sources have become
a bottomless pit. Fourthly, we have examined the origin of the usage
of such arms in Africa and by extension the Niger Delta. Fifthly, we
would analyze critically the DDR programme in the Niger Delta and
the sixth is the conclusion.

Vol. 5, No. 1

50

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

INTRODUCTION
The issue of small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW)
proliferation has been given wide spread international focus in the
post cold war era. This is because these weapons have become the
primary tools of ethnic and internal conflicts in recent times. They
have been the sources of violence, wars, conflicts and crimes. It has
equally been observed that developing countries in the third world,
particularly in Africa are the most vulnerable. The question is why are
such conflicts persisting or why do they reoccur even after the end of
such conflicts? Does it mean that the disarmament, demobilization
and reintegration process has not been able to sufficiently address the
problems that may have necessitated the occurrence of such conflicts?
Answers to questions of these nature would go a long way in making
us to understand the persistent instability in the Niger delta, made
possible by small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) proliferation that
has reached a crisis level, hence the topic of this paper small Arms
and Light Weapons (SALW) proliferation and instability in the Niger
Delta, an analysis of the disarmament demobilization and
reintegration process.
The Niger Delta an oil rich region in Nigeria is characterized by the
existence of wide spread poverty, squalor and environmental
degradation due to long period of neglect and marginalization by
successive regimes both civil and military. Several efforts have been
made through representations of traditional rulers, opinion leaders
and public spirited individuals on behalf of the people. These moves
have been met by successive regimes with disdain and draconian
brute force. The small Arms and Light Weapons crisis we are
witnessing currently in the Niger Delta is necessitated by such brute
force, as the people had no alternative than resorting to violence.
Though some disarmament, demobilization and disintegration
programme was carried out by President Olusegun Obasanjo, they

Vol. 5, No. 1

51

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

could not provide lasting solution to the crisis due to lack of genuine
interest on the part of government. The question is how genuine is the
current disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme of
YarAduas government in ensuring a lasting solution to the Niger
Delta crisis by making sure that those factors that necessitated the
crisis are taken care of once and for all?
It is true that a lot has been written on the issue of small arms and
light weapons proliferation and instability in the Niger Delta. But
such writings have been focused largely on the aspects of
disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process. The real
issues that really necessitated the wide spread usage of such weapons
have not been sufficiently addressed. For instance, Bekoe Dorina in
his strategies for peace in the Niger Delta was of the view that
previous attempts at disarmament, demobilization and integration
(DDR) programmes did not succeed due to the absence of a
coordinating body and employment opportunities. He went further to
say that there is the need for comprehensive approach that will
address the incentives of groups to hold arms, implement best
practices from successful programmes, invite international observers
to monitor disarmament processes and ensure coordination between
disarmament, demobilization and reintegration efforts and also
creating meaningful employment opportunities (Bekoe Dorina 2009,
p.7). In as much as one appreciates Dorinas views, it is our contention
in this paper that such views does not help to sufficiently address
the problem of small Arms and Light weapons crisis in the Niger
delta. This is predicated on the fact that, what is necessary at this
point in time is the success of the post Amnesty peace building
process. The concern of this paper therefore, is the extent to which the
post amnesty peace building process can ensure the existence of a
lasting peace considering the pernicious long term effects of the
existence of small arms and light-weapons in a post conflict situation.

Vol. 5, No. 1

52

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

The paper starts with an introduction which is followed by a look at


some conceptual issues, the third is an examination of the causes of
small arms and light weapons proliferation, the fourth part looked at
the sources of these arms, the fifth part is an analysis of the
disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme, while the
last is the conclusion.

CONCEPTUALIZING THE USAGE OF SMALL ARMS AND


LIGHT WEAPONS (SALW) PROLIFERATION
In the prehistoric days man was said to be in a state of nature,
a homo-sapien and life was brutish, nasty and based on the survival
of the fittest. Over time, man became humane, civilized and started
living a communal life based on societal norms and values which
were considered sacred. Violation of societal norms and values is
often met with the exercise of legitimate coercive authority of the
state, to enforce compliance and obedience. As time went on state
elites began to misuse the legitimate coercive authority to suppress
and violate the rights of the people who in actual sense handed over
this power to them. Thus power corrupts and absolute power
corrupts absolutely. The instruments of coercion used either
legitimately or arbitrarily are the small arms and light weapons
(SALW).
Generally speaking, small arms are weapons designed for personal
use, while light weapons are designed for use by several persons
serving as a crew. Examples of small arms include revolvers and selfloading pistils, rifles, sub-machines guns, assault riffles and light
machine guns. Light weapons include heavy machines guns, some
types of grenade launchers, portable anti-aircraft and anti-tank guns
and portable launchers of anti-aircraft missile systems. They are
widely durable, highly portable, easily concealed, and possess

Vol. 5, No. 1

53

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

legitimate military, police and civilian users. Small arms and light
weapons are used both by government forces (military and police)
and non state actors (guerrillas, ethnic militias war lords, brigands
and so on engaged in low intensity conflicts (Klare 2009, p.3. In an era
of Oligarchic rule, who says power says Oligarchy. As posited by
elitist theory, the elites a small category of well organized few knows
the importance of power which when acquired is more often made
arbitrary use of that is inimical and detrimental to the interests of the
majority of the people.
It is a known fact that the principles of national sovereignty set no
boundaries to the violence in which domestic conflict can be
conducted. When polarization occurs along communal cleavages, the
conflict situation describes entire collectivities as enemies. Such
confrontation is intense in its mobilization effect and swiftly escalates
fears to a level where the very physical survival of a collectivity may
appear to be at stake. Taking into consideration the extent to which
Americans Melting Pot theory was challenged, it is understandable
why certain factors such as urbanization, industrialization and
secularization can hardly work in multinational society, even if the
total authority and coercive means available to the state were
launched to a coherent strategy of assimilation (Young 1993. p.7).
Again the American experience makes one to realize that the viability
of the assimilation paradigm came under growing attack in the 1960s,
as evidence began to accumulate that ethnicity was far more
persistent that the melting pot theory would permit. For the fact that
change and process are central we need to pay particular heed to the
social vectors which alter identity patterns and to the political arenas
which define their saliency (Young, 1993. p.11).
In Africa and indeed Nigeria, the identity of circumstances, the
fluidity of groups and pace of change offer a view of the entire range

Vol. 5, No. 1

54

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

of human experience of cultural pluralism. Since sub-national


cleavages will endure it must be endured. The American racial
situation might serve as a useful example, poverty and being Black
closely correlates; Black anger derives in part from the myriad social
obstacles which have kept the bulk of the black population at the
bottom end of the economic ladder (Young 1993 p. 40). Here in
Nigeria, the people of Niger delta have right from the inception of the
country as a sovereign nation been systematically and persistently
marginalized, impoverished and dispossessed of their natural
resources. One therefore agrees with Kegley in his assertion that,
when valuable natural resources are discovered in
a particular region of a country, the people living
in such localities suddenly have economic
incentives to secede violently if necessary. Conflict
is also more likely in countries that depend heavily
on natural resources as rebel groups can extort the
gains from this trade to finance their operations
(Kegley, 2007 p 23).

The situation in the Niger Delta can be seen from the above assertion.
However, the point of difference is that Jasper Isaac Adaka Boros
attempt at secession in his 12 days revolution in 1967 was due to the
long period of marginalization and neglect of the people of this area.
It is also true that militant groups resorted to oil bunkering activities
to finance their operations. Again the point of difference with
Kegleys assertion is that they were doing it in collaboration and
involvement of high level government officials.
According to the United Nations, some 359 million people (of 578
million who belongs to groups that face some form of cultural
exclusion) are disadvantaged or discriminated against relative to
others in following their beliefs and frustration, anger often erupts in

Vol. 5, No. 1

55

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

violence. (Kegley, 2007 p.42.3). When peoples expectations of what


they deserve rise more rapidly than their material rewards, the
probability of conflict grows. That of course applies to most of the
countries in the global south, where the distribution of wealth and
opportunities is highly unequal. This is the essence of relative
deprivation as a cause of internal violence as people who feel they
have been denied the resources they deserve are often inclined to use
force in acts of rebellion (Kegley, 2007 p.428).

THE CAUSES OF SMALL ARMS AND LIGHT WEAPONS (SALW)


PROLIFERATION IN THE NIGER DELTA
The root of the Niger delta crisis which reached an alarming
proportion in recent times could be traced to the prevailing
circumstances during the colonial era which were not taken care of as
at the time of independence. In other words, these problems were
carried over to the independence era and persisted over time. One
such problem was the coming into existence of ethnic politics by
virtue of the proliferation of ethnic identity groupings. These groups
include the Ogbe Omo Oduduwa, Ibo cultural union and Jamiyar
Arewa all of which later metamorphosed into political parties. This
period constituted watershed in the annals of Nigerias political
history. It was also an eye opener to the leaders of the Niger Delta.
Reference to one or two of such issues might help to buttress our
point. In order to establish their dominance at the centre, the major
political parties, particularly those of the West and East led by Chief
Awolowo and Dr. Azikiwe tried to balkanize the minorities in their
regions. Any effort aimed at establishing their identity was crushed
by the leadership of these parties. A case in point is the issue of
representation at the 1956 London conference aimed at preparing the
nation for independence.

Vol. 5, No. 1

56

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

This issue was highly politicized by AG and NCNC in order to


incorporate the minorities of these regions into themselves without
representation and identity at the conference. This was strongly
opposed by the leaders of the Niger Delta. Prominent among which
was the Chief Harold Dappa Biriyes led Rivers Chiefs and Peoples
Conference (RCPC) which dissociated itself from the position of the
two parties. What the RCPC did was to fall back on the treaties signed
by chiefs of Oil Rivers with Her Majestys government which were
recognized by the colonial government as at that time. Another thorny
issue is the problem of comey subsidy<..port dues collected by Ijo
Chiefs and peoples from ships that berthed in Ijo territories in the
Niger Delta. That Awolowo succeeded in doing that tend to
encourage Azikiwe to do same in the East. This was strongly opposed
by the Rivers congress led by Hon John A Nsirim as President and
Chief Biriye as secretary.
The rational behind Awolowo and Azikiwes actions was to have
complete control over the minorities without any identity with a view
to achieve their ambition of becoming either president or prime
minister at the national level. Akobos position on this issue is
instructive he said, that, it must not be forgotten however that each
of these three parties came to power at a time when their respective
leaders appeared committed to the cultural, economic and political
survival and supremacy of the three major tribal groups concerned to
commit large resources of the peoples treasury to the creation of a
qualitative and quantitative leadership of their various tribes. Again
Ayotamunos view on this issue is in line with the assertion of Akobo
when he said that, In the case of Alhaji Ahmadu Bello, the love of a
huge population was a primary consideration. Dr. Azikiwes position
was propelled by the desire to control the oil rich endowments of the
Rivers province, for Awolowo Mazi S.G Ikoku an ideologue of AGs
views captures Awolowos position; he was merely going through

Vol. 5, No. 1

57

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

the motions that would help him put together the arithmetical
problem of getting members to be the president. He was not doing it
because he had sat down and believed in it. He was doing it as part of
his political strategy to get into power.
It is true that the Willinks Commission was set up to address and
take care of fears expressed by the minorities. But the Commissions
report only gave palliatives that did not address the problems of the
Niger Delta. Rather it recommended the setting up of the Niger Delta
Basin Development Authority (NDDBA) which was just a mere
symbolic representation of the governments intension to douse the
tension that arose as a result of the agitations of the people. This was
so mainly because of the collaborative complicity of both the colonial
authorities and the leaders of the majority parties in Nigeria as at that
time. Therefore the root cause of the instability in the Niger Delta
could be traced to the time of colonial era when the structural
imbalances that are bedeviling the nation and indeed the Niger Delta
started.
One would have thought that the political leaders may have learnt
their lessons in the post independence era, by way of introducing
measures through policies to take care of these problems once and for
all, but the reverse was the case. Rather the leadership was unable to
transform inherited structures to meet popular aspirations for security
and peaceful transfer of power. Instead these institutions were grafted
onto and grow apart from traditional structures, thus creating fatal
fault lines in the architecture of the new state (Abdel p.4). To the
extent that the minorities in the Niger Delta do not see themselves as
stakeholders in the nation building project, the state in Nigeria has
lacked popular legitimacy and remained a shell state. The
preoccupation with assuring personal power and regime security
blocked any moves towards democratic institution building. The state

Vol. 5, No. 1

58

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

building project was effectively replaced by rent seeking


arrangements, based on personal loyalty and the denial of security to
the majority. This is why the French Africanist scholar J.F. Bayart
objected to the use of such terminologies like prebendalism and
beyond or in the final analysis patrimonialism or neo-patrimonial in
describing the nature of the state in Africa, preferring instead to
conceive of the state in Africa, as, La politique du ventre-sheer
Kleptocracy glamorized and elevated as a system of government
(Akindele Ace 2001, p.195).
While the degree of prebendalism and beyond or patrimonialism and
neo patrimonialism is relative from one state to another, the out
comes are significant for all the states concerned. The control of the
state becomes the foremost stake in national politics and to achieve
this end every means is justified. According to Crawford Young,
Many of the civil wars in Africa such as Liberia, Sudan, Somalia,
Rwanda and Zaire which have become clear threat to security started
as manifest group reaction to political exclusion and marginalization
which the authoritarian State has entrenched (Akindele and Ate. P.
195).
In spite of the existence of this gloomy situation in the country
generally, that of the minorities in the Niger Delta became worse due
to the reactionary policies of the Eastern regional leadership which
perceived the resistance of the Niger Delta people as an affront that
need to be crushed at all cost. There was a systematic exclusion of the
people in virtually all segments of Eastern Regional government. The
frustration and anger this situation created culminated into the first
attempt at succession and the usage of small arms in the 12 days
revolution led by Jasper Isaac Adaka Boro in 1967. It is true that
Gowon created 12 states in 1967 out of which was Rivers State, which
tend to assuage the feeling of the people. But Gowons establishment

Vol. 5, No. 1

59

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

of the petroleum Act in 1969 can be described as giving with one hand
and taking back with another. As if that action of Gowon was not
enough, Obasanjos military government introduced the land use
decree in 1978, thereby dispossessing the people of their God given
land and its natural resources. What came out of this development
was collaboration between successive military governments and the
oil multinational corporations in the systematic exploitation of the
resources. The irony of the situation is the brazen manner in which
the resources were exploited, without the slightest regard or resort to
standard environmental practices. The result of this was the
degradation of the environment which affected the ecosystem and the
depletion of the flora and fauna which is the peoples source of
livelihood. Chief Dappa Biriyes views on this issue are important he
said
The countrys gratitude to our loyalty was to exercise all offshore
royalties from coastal states in the time of Gowon through the
petroleum Act of 1969. That is a paradox of qualitative excellence
and undermined by its very beneficiaries.

With this development what the people needed and requested for was
the protection of their environment and the provision of basic
amenities for their sustenance. This was met with brute force by
successive military regimes. One of such brutal actions of government
was the killing of Ken Sarowiwa and eight other Ogoni activists by
Abachas military government. When peoples popular and legitimate
aspiration for self actualization and preservation are met with brute
force, the result is resistance at all costs regardless of what might be
the likely consequences. It is in this context that one need to
appreciate and understand the issue of small arms and light Weapons
proliferation in the Niger Delta.

Vol. 5, No. 1

60

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

However, the most recent violence in the Niger Delta grew out of the
political campaign in 2003. As they competed for office, politicians in
Rivers State, a focal point of violence in 2003 manipulated the Niger
Delta Vigilantes led by Ateke Tom, and the Niger Delta Peoples
Volunteer Force led by Alhaji Asari Dokubo. (Bekoe, 2009, p.5).
Exacerbating rivalries, political candidates used these groups to
advance their aspirations often rewarding gang members to commit
acts of political violence and intimidation against their opponents. The
conclusion of the 2003 elections did not end the violence. The Niger
Delta Vigilantes and the Niger Delta Volunteer Force continued to
fight each other through out 2004. The hostilities peaked when over
300 commanders of the Ijaw ethnic group announced that if the
government did not change conditions in the Niger Delta, they would
take action against both the government and the oil installations
(Bekoe, 2009, p.5). This was the turning point when arms originally
meant and used for political violence ended up being used as
instruments of militancy for Niger Delta struggle. This development
may well be an after thought or a face saving devise on the part of the
so called militants when their services were no longer required by the
politicians at the end of the elections. It need to be pointed out
however, that this after thought or face saving devise would not have
been possible if the prevailing circumstances in the Niger Delta where
any thing to the contrary. In other words, if the government and the
oil multinationals operating in the area had done what is expected,
the loopholes that necessitated this turning point would not have
arisen. Going by the pedigree of these youths who had no education
or skill except gunmanship, taking advantage of the existing situation
was necessary for their sustenance. According to The Hard Truth a
militant who called himself marine Scorpion said,
Our commanders and by extension our field officers were used in
the 2003 elections. Shortly after we were abandoned. A man armed

Vol. 5, No. 1

61

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

without a regular paying job, has to find way to make ends meet
with the gun he was given in the first instance.(The Hard Truth,
2007, p.2).

SOURCES OF SMALL ARMS AND LIGHT WEAPONS


The sources of SALW proliferation are many and varied. A
major pipeline of SALW remains the stockpiles that were pumped
into Africa in the 1970s and 1980s by the ex-soviet Union, the USA
and their allies to fan proxy inter state wars. These left over weapons
have found their way through clandestine networks, involving rogue
arms brokers, private military companies, shady air lines companies
and local smugglers to exacerbate on going conflicts and facilitate the
commencement of new ones in the continent (Abdel Fatau, P. 2). What
this has given rise to is that Africa has become the port of call for a
huge labour pool of potential security entrepreneurs, mercenaries and
arms merchants which have been created particularly in south Africa,
Eastern and central Europe. Besides, these weapons industries have
become the most important aspects of these countries economies in
the post cold war era. These developments have made it possible for
the process of production getting into private entrepreneurs. These
multifaceted production centres involving both the state and private
individuals, brought about the existence of surplus arms that
eventually find their way into conflict zones, through rogue brokers
thereby adding to the already, existing sizeable cold war stockpiles.
Ultimately, the end point of these weapons is Africa where the rogue
arms merchants team up with the foreign extracting companies and
the corrupt state elites to pacify violent resource enslaves for
illegitimate exploitation of resources.
It could therefore be said that the character of small arms and light
weapons proliferation is not state centric. Thus the line between legal

Vol. 5, No. 1

62

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

and illegal sources is blurred. This is applicable to both the external


and the internal. External has to be understood within the context of
what flows to Africa from Europe and other parts of the World and
the clandestine networks of passage of arms from trouble areas to
other parts of the continent that had relative peace and stability. For
instance, most weapons that find their way into West Africa came
from the conflict zones of the Great Lakes, the greater Horn into the
Mano River Vertex (Abdel Fatau p.2). The existence of these sources
not withstanding; there is the existence of emerging arms industries in
countries such as Nigeria. While the existence of porous borders and
lack of meantime domain awareness tend to accelerates external
sources, poor remuneration results into low morale of the security
personnel constitutes yet another illegal sources of arms transfer. The
evidence of proliferation gives a cause for concern. Out of the 639
million SALW circulating globally, some estimated 7 million are in
West Africa, and 77,000 small arms are in the hands of major West
African insurgent groups (International Alert p. 10).
What really gives a cause for concern is the fact that ethnic militia
groups, private security companies, arms smugglers, criminal gangs,
bandits, mercenaries and vigilante groups are playing more important
role in the proliferation of SALW in West Africa. For instance,
Nigerias estimated population of over 150 million is about half of the
entire West African population estimated to more than 230 million
people. At the 2001 UN Small Arms conference, the Nigerian Minister
of Defense confirmed that Nigeria is home to a million of SALW
estimated to be circulating in the West African sub-region. Nigeria is
also the bridge to central Africa, a zone of conflict from where many
weapons have been smuggled into West Africa using the Congo River
as a vital water way. Another striking feature of the Small Arms
proliferation in West Africa is its trans-national character involving

Vol. 5, No. 1

63

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

the citizens of various member states in a collaborative criminal


network (International Alert p.12).

AN ANALYSIS OF THE DISARMAMENT, DEMOBILIZATION


AND REINTEGRATION PROCESS
Disarmament has been an issue of great concern to the
international community generally and individual nations as well in
view of the carnage that is caused by small arms and light weapons.
As such disarmament efforts are often made at the global, Regional,
sub-regional and national levels. However, disarmament efforts have
been affected already by certain factors. Much of the initiative to
reduce and control small arms and light weapons has been left to the
poor countries themselves, with little help from international
governments or agencies. One of the causes behind the inaction of
some of the worlds wealthiest states is domestic politics and
economic self-interest. On the political front, not all governments in a
position to donate funds towards small arms control recognize
civilian ownership of arms as a problem. In terms of economic self
interest, a number of governments are also reluctant to be involved in
initiatives which seek to reduce armed violence by restraining local
market in small arms. The value of the legal global trade in small arms
is estimated at 4 billion us dollar per year. The estimated value of the
illegal global trade in small arms is an additional 1 billion us dollars
(file: IIE/Small Arms p.11-13).
In 2001, the UN Conference on the illicit trade in Small Arms and
Light Weapons in all its aspects was held in New York. Resulting
from this conference was the programme of Action to prevent and
eradicate the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons in all its
aspects (Ebo, p.142). It is true that this normative document has
emerged as the only consensus authoritative international statement

Vol. 5, No. 1

64

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

of the nature of the problem and the proposed solution. It is a


politically binding document which has become the central global
instrument for preventing and reducing trafficking and proliferation
of SALW. In as much as one appreciates this development, this
programme of action focuses only in illegal trade in small arms
despite the fact that most illegally sold arms initially came from legal
sources. This is in addition to the fact that despite official
proclamations to the contrary, various governments have undermined
the efficacy of the moratorium by working against it. Thousands of
weapons have been collected and destroyed by government agencies,
but statistics are silent on how many weapons remains in illegal
hands.
We however, need to bear in mind the fact that in the after math of
violent conflict large numbers of Small Arms and Light Weapons
often remain in the hands of government forces, warring parties and
civilians. The flow of illicit arms contributes to an atmosphere of
insecurity which further increases the demand for arms. Excombatants and criminals also take advantage of the lack of effective
and functional security institutions to perpetuate crime and revenge
attacks. The result is a cycle of violence which is a direct legacy of
conflict, which presents significant challenges for post conflict peace
building (Ebo, p. 137). The removal of weapons from circulation is a
necessary though not sufficient condition for successful post conflict
peace building. From a peace building perspective, combating
proliferation extends beyond the state which in post conflict context is
hardly existent. The challenges of addressing proliferation after
conflict is therefore one of governance rather than government,
reflecting a multiplicity of actors levels and mechanisms. The
challenges posed by small arms to peace building reflect and are
complicated by fragmentation of political authority and the
emergence of new actors in small arms issue (Ebo p. 138). The state

Vol. 5, No. 1

65

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

has become an increasingly insufficient albeit crucial actor in


addressing small arms proliferation, particularly after conflict when
state capacity is weak. The fight against small arms proliferation has
grown beyond the sole responsibility of government institutions,
structures and processes, and the number and profile of non state
actors involved in addressing what should be described as the small
arms crisis has increased considerably in recent times (Ebo, p.142).
That previous attempts or efforts geared towards disarmament,
demobilization and reintegration did not work because so many
factors were not taken into consideration. For instance, in September
2004, when the Niger delta crisis reached its peak certain measures
aimed at disarmament, demobilization and reintegration were carried
out by President Obasanjo and Governor Peter Odili. The Duo invited
Ateke Tom and Alhaji Dokubo to Abuja where talks were held
between the two warring factions. The outcome of the peace talks was
the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of the warring
groups. Over 3000 weapons were handed over by the militants, which
were publicly destroyed. The repented militants attended a thanks
giving church service, asking God to forgive their sins. They openly
embraced each other as a mark of new beginning not only for
themselves, but for the entire society. Camps were opened for their
training and at least 2000 youths were given technical skills even
though they were not given jobs (Dorina, 2009 P.5). Even if they were
given jobs, considering what they were gaining from oil bunkering
activities, they would have still resorted to violence for the fact that
government has really failed to address the factors that necessitated
the violent struggle in the first place. The position of the Hard Truth
on this issue is important,
The public has been noted to have so much misgivings about this
alleged sundering of arms by Ateke Tom and other major and

Vol. 5, No. 1

66

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

deadly groups. And to confirm their fears, it appears a lot more


effort needs to be put in as it were going by what is still obtainable in
the society today. The public has argued that general insecurity still
prevails. (The Hard Truth, August 5-11, 2004 p.4).

In view of the outcome of past efforts at disarmament, demobilization


and reintegration in the Niger Delta there is every need for
government to change its tactics if the present exercise it to provide
lasting peace and stability in the Niger Delta. Of great concern is the
bureaucratic ineptitude and complicity of the military personnel of
the Joint Task Force (JTF) in the disarmament exercise currently going
on in the Niger Delta? Allegations of complicity were leveled at the
(JTF) by the Director-General and Commandant of Nigerian Merchant
Navy Sea Farers Maritime and Petroleum Security and Safety Corps,
Commando Allen Benson Edema he said,
Many people were feeding from the Niger Delta crisis, and do not
want a resolution to it. He specifically fingered the Nigerian Navy
and NIMASA which is under the Ministry of Transport as some of
the organizations benefiting from illegal activities in the Niger Delta.
But today based on the crisis in the Niger Delta which a lot of them
have been involved in escalating it, they dont want the President to
find lasting solution because they all dine with the militants and are
sponsoring them (The Hard Truth, June 18 24 2009 p.3).

Apart from their involvement in illegal activities in the Creeks such as


oil bunkering and acting as conduit pipes for illegal transfer of arms
across the region, they unleash terror and mayhem on innocent
citizens of the area. To them everybody in the Niger Delta has to be
treated either as a militant or a criminal in disguise. As such,
fishermen, market women and people generally moving from either
Port Harcourt or Yenagoa to their communities have to raise their
hands several kilometers before getting to where this military

Vol. 5, No. 1

67

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

occupation forces are stationed. The slightest provocation is met with


brutality. The personal experiences of one or two persons can be used
as concrete examples. For instance, Mr. Igoniderigha a sand dealer
who was shot by an army officer of the (JTF) stationed at Chino Dcor
site Ovom Yenagoa for marching of ground fee is a case in point. That
an able young man going about his daily bread is made disabled by a
trigger happy soldier of the (JTF) is a clear testimony of what the
people of the area are suffering in the so called disarmament exercise
that is being carried out by government. (The Hard Truth, March 5-11,
2009, p.2).
Again the experience of the President of Jaw Youths Congress (IYC) is
worthy of note. Dr. Ekiyor the IYC President said he also suffered a
similar faith. He was short by members of the (JTF) at about the same
time Igoniderigha had his own experience. He said,
he was not opposed to government carrying out its responsibility to
secure lives and property; it should not be done through the use of
force. This he believes hardens the recalcitrant as well as scares the
trouble shooters thereby hampering government efforts at reaching
out to people of the region. Now the IYC President is reluctant to go
to the creeks for fear of what may be fall him on the way. And this
has implications for peace and confidence building in the region.
When the people in the creeks hear about these things they became
recalcitrant to turning a new leaf. They will say if those of you who
are telling us to shun violence cannot walk freely on the streets of
Yenagoa and Port Harcourt and you are being harassed, somebody
is slapping you, or shooting you, and then those of us in the Creeks
cannot come to town we better stay back here with our guns and
fight to death. (The Hard Truth, March 5-11 2009 p.2)

It is not surprising why many foreign governments and international


agencies involved in aiding conflict prevention incorporate security

Vol. 5, No. 1

68

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

sector reform in their dealings with societies in conflict, and for good
reason. The enduring image of the military in the conscience of the
ordinary people is one of brutality and impunity (Abdel Fatau, 2002,
p. 248). The preconditions for sustainable security and peace in region
remain the production and equitable distribution of public goods. In
other words, government has to do everything possible to ensure that
the factors that necessitated or brought about the crisis are taken care
of and not the usage of brute military force. Tony Uranta, local
facilitator of the commission of Nobel laureates to the Niger Delta and
member of the Technical Committee on the Niger Delta said
One of the ways government can improve the quality of lives of the
Niger Delta people is to withdraw the JTF back to the barracks as a
standby force to be deployed only in an emergency. He added that
this should go hand in hand with visible efforts on the part of the
Federal Government to develop the Niger Delta Region. Whatever
steps are taken, the parties involved should take into consideration
the ordinary people in the region (The Hard Truth, March 5-11, 2009
page 3).

It is therefore our position in this paper, that unless and until


post Amnesty peace building process is bought by the people of the
area, thereby making them to be adequately involved by making
necessary inputs with the conviction that the issues that gave rise to
the crisis are addressed once and for all, it would amount to an
exercise in futility. The relative peace that exists presently as a result
of the Amnesty programme is an uneasy calm that may go the way of
past exercises if what is expected is not done.

Vol. 5, No. 1

69

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

CONCLUSION
In the foregoing discussion we have been made to understand
the fact that small arms and light Weapons proliferation in Niger
Delta has been made possible due to long period of neglect and
marginalization of the people of this oil rich region by successive
governments in Nigeria. Representations to government made by
traditional rulers and opinion leaders of the area to address these
problems are often met by brute force on the part of a government.
The frustration and anger of the people resulted into the first armed
revolution and the attempt at secession in the 12 days revolution
carried out by Jasper Isaac Adaka Boro in 1967. In spite of this
development, successive governments in the country not only
resorted to the neglect and marginalization, but also carried out state
legislations that brought about enactments that completely
dispossessed the people of their God given natural resources. The
result was a joint exploitation of the peoples resources by the
government and the multinational oil cooperations. The irony of the
situation was the brazen manner in which these resources were
exploited without the slightest regard to standard environmental
practices required in the exploitation of such resources. The
devastation of the environment affected the ecosystem and the
depletion of the flora and fauna being the peoples main source of
livelihood.
Again the peoples demand for the protection of their environment
and the provision of certain basic amenities was met with brute force
as shown in the killing of Ken Sarowiwa and eight other Ogoni
activists. The struggle to emancipate the people of the Niger Delta
from what is currently being seen as internal colonization was
hijacked by the youths who were armed by politicians in 2003 general
elections. Be that as it may, if government had genuine interest to
resolve the crisis once and for all we would not have found ourselves

Vol. 5, No. 1

70

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

in the present level of small arms and light weapons crisis. The
genuine interest and concern on the part of late President Musa
YarAdua, has brought in relative peace in the area, though an uneasy
one. If the relative peace currently being experienced in the region is
to be sustained the following steps are necessary. The operators of the
SALW pipelines into the sub-region cash trapped rogue exporting
states mainly from Eastern Europe and central Europe, clandestine
western suppliers, brokers and private military entrepreneurs as well
as the recyclers and transhippers within the sub-region itself must be
exposed and sanctioned. There is a need to combine weapons
elimination from society with effective measures to diffuse societal
tensions. The long-term and sustainable path to addressing the small
arms crisis lies in addressing those factors which drive the demand
for small arms such as socio-economic and political exclusion. This
would require rebuilding the nation so that all segments of society
have a sense of ownership and belonging (Abdel Fatau, 2002:247). The
problem of bureaucratic ineptitude has to be reduced to the barest
minimum. The joint task force has to be removed and kept in their
barracks only to be called in during emergency periods, government
should involve all stakeholders i.e. traditional rulers, opinion leaders,
youths, the operating companies etc so that the out come of the
discussion is not just that of a government imposition but a buy in by
people of the area. This is predicated on the fact that nobody seeks to
destroy what he calls his own.

REFERENCES
Abdel-Fatau, Musali; The Political Economy of Small Arms and Conflicts;
International Alert, Security and Peace Building Programme, 346 Chapham
Road, London SW99 AP, UK; Africa, Page 2.

Vol. 5, No. 1

71

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

Abdel-Fatau, 2002, Page 247.


Abdel-Fatau, 2002, Page 248.
Akindele, R. A. and Ate, Bassey, E. (ed) Beyond Conflict Resolution;
Managing African Security in the 21 st Century, NIIA Security Studies Series,
2001, Page 195.
Akindele and Ate cited above page 195.
Bekoe, Dorina; Strategies Peace in the Niger Delta, File://e:/us/peacebriefing
8/16/2009, Page 7.
Bekoe, Dorina, cited above page 5.
Ebo, Adedeji, Combating Small Arms Proliferation and Misuse after Conflict,
Page 142.
Ebo, Adedeji, cited above, Page 137.
Ebo, Adedeji, cited above, Page 138.
Ebo, Adedeji, cited above, Page 142.
Ekekpe, Ambily, Minority Politics in Nigeria; The case of the South-South and
the Middle Belt Regions, Kemuela Publications, 2007, Page 42.
Etekpe, Ambily, Ayotamuno, Young M, Nwala, Ugwulor Eugene, Kariboro,
Joseph.
International Alert, Security and Peace Building Programme; Monitoring the
Implementation of Small Arms Control (MISAC). Small Arms Control in West
Africa. West African Series No. 1 (English Version), Page 10
International Alert, Security and Peace Building Programme cited above, Page
12.

Vol. 5, No. 1

72

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

Jumbo, Martins C. (ed) Politics in Nigeria, Onyoma Research Publications,


Port Harcourt, 2004, Page 55.
Klare, Michael, Small Arms Proliferations and International Security,
File://e:/pawss conflicttopicssmallarms.htm2009, Page 3.
Kegley, Jr. Charles W; World Politics; Trend and Transformation, Thompson
Wadsworth, 2007, Page 23.
Musah, Abdel-Fatau, Small Arms, A Time Bomb Under West Africas
Democratization Process, Brown Journal of World Affairs, Spring 22, Vol. IX,
Issue I, Page 24.
Small Arms: they cause 90% of Civilian Casualties, Global Issues,
file://:e/smallarms2009, Page 11-13.
The Hard Truth; A Port Harcourt based Weekly Newspaper, May 3-9, 2007,
No. 17, Page 22.
The Hard Truth, August 5 11 cited above, Page 4.
The Hard Truth, June 18 24, 2009, cited above, Page 3.
The Hard Truth, March 5 11, 2009, Page 2.
The Hard Truth, March 5 11, 2009, Page 2.
The Hard Truth, March 5 11, 2009, Page 3.
Young, Crawford; The Politics of Cultural Pluralism; Heinemann Educational
Books Nigeria Plc, Ibadan, 1993, Page 7.
Young, Crawford cited above, Page 11.
Young, Crawford cited above, Page 40.

Vol. 5, No. 1

73

Minorities and Resource Allocation in a


Transitional State: The Nigeria Experience 19601999
Dr. Ekanade Olumide4
Key Terms: Nigeria, Niger Delta, funding, strategies, higher education,
military.

ABSTRACT
So much has been written about the challenges in the Oil producing
areas of Nigeria, however minimal effort has been made to historicize
and interrogate the system of contribution and rewards in Nigerias
fiscal federalism which is at the heart of the problem in the Niger
Delta area of Nigeria. The problematic here is that in the practice of
fiscal federalism in Nigeria, between 1960 and 1999 there was no
proper correlation or relationship between funds and functions. The
Nigerian constitution allocated functions while funds were allocated
statutorily by the parliament which was structurally dominated by
majority ethnic groups. What existed up till 2010 was an asymmetrical
situation in which those who controlled the politics of the federation
did not finance the federation and those who financed it had no
political control over the federation and its resources. This study
places in proper historical perspective the politicization of revenue
allocation, the economic injustice, poverty and systematic
disempowerment of the oil producing minority states within the
context of Federal government control. It argues that the progressive
denigration of the derivation principle by the gate keepers, the
institutionalization of unjust revenue sharing principles and actual
allocations which run contrary to the sacred principles and fine tenets
Ekanade Olumide, PhD, is with the Department of History and International
Relations at Redeemers University, Nigeria. E mail: orogidi@yahoo.com
4

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

of federalism are at the core of the crisis between the Nigerian State
and the oil producing minorities. The paper concludes with some
policy recommendations which suggest that a way out of this
quagmire is for the Nigerian state to embark on the fundamental
restructuring and reinvention of the Nigerian state in order to
guarantee equity, tranquility and social justice
It is a federalism that has deprived the rights of the minorities. It is a
federalism that appropriates and expropriates the wealth of the
minorities without let or hindrance. It is a federalism that now stands on
its head. It is a federalism that has grown so insensitive to the political
and socio economic rights of the minorities so much so that all the
political calculations therein are based on the need to sustain the tripodal
hegemony of the three dominant ethnic groups. It is a federalism that has
lost its soul Dr. Kimse Okoko (National Concord 29 May, 1992; 5).

INTRODUCTION
This paper takes a cursory look at the system of contributions
and rewards in Nigerias fiscal federalism with specific reference to
the minorities of the Niger Delta. The work also places in a proper
historical perspective, the economic injustice, poverty and
disempowerment of the minorities within the context of Federal
government control and the institution of unjust revenue sharing
principles and actual allocations which run contrary to the sacred
principles of federalism up to 1999.

THE NIGER DELTA REGION: FROM PALM OIL TO


PETROLEUM
The Niger Delta area of Nigeria occupies very roughly the
area enclosed longitudes 50 and 60, 45 East and latitudes 40 40 and 60

Vol. 5, No. 1

75

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

10 North. It is populated by riverine peoples such as the Ijo, Itshekiri,


Ogoni, Urhobo, Aboh, Andoni, Isoko and Ukwani. The distinguishing
feature of the Delta is the dense mangrove vegetation through which
meanders a network of creeks and the evergreen forest belt
dominated by palm oil. Occupationally, they engaged in fishing, salt
production, palm produce, farming and trading of these commodities
amongst themselves (Ikime 1999, 56 -59).
However as from the 1480s, slaves became virile commodities in
commercial transaction in the Delta region. (Ryder 1999, 236).
However from the 19th century on, slave trade became spasmodic, as
it was no longer vital to the British economy. By this period palm oil
and kernels of the Niger Delta and its hinterland were required by
British industries (Alagoa 1999, 249), to run their machines as a result
of industrial revolution in Europe. Thus attention turned to this
legitimate trade and in fact up to 1870, the East/Niger Delta was the
principal oil river of the whole Niger Delta and accounted for over
three quarters of the entire African export of palm oil to Europe
(Alagoa 1999, 252). This trade in palm oil subsisted with domestic
slavery in Niger Deltas trading houses until the imposition of British
rule on Nigeria (Crowder I978, 203)
By 1914 British colonial legislation had granted the monopoly of oil
concessions in Nigeria to British allied capital. Operating under this
ordinance, Shell Darcy Petroleum Development Company (later Shell
B.P), an Anglo Dutch oil major, was granted an oil exploration license
covering the entire mainland of Nigeria, an area of 367,000 square
miles (Soremekun and Obi 1993, 216) Their activities paid off when in
1956 crude oil (petroleum) was discovered in the Oloibiri area of the
Niger Delta (Okoh and Egbon 1999, 406). With this discovery, massive
exploitation of crude oil began in earnest and persisted into
independence 1960(The Niger Delta Question 2004, 8:14). These oil

Vol. 5, No. 1

76

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

extraction activities led to ecological degradation in the Niger Delta


Region and this affected agriculture, health and the regions economic
conditions. Incidentally, the collapse of global prices of cash crop
exports on which the nations finances depended (Adedeji 1969, 143)
coincided with the discovery of crude oil in Nigeria. Thus, the Federal
government began to see oil prospects as the possible mainstay of
Nigerias economy in the post independence period. An indication of
the growing profile of oil in national revenue came in 1965 when the
Federal Prime Minister in a statement to the chamber of commerce<
spoke optimistically about the balance of payments impact that oil
production would have in Nigeria. Politically, feelings about the
exploitation of petroleum ran high and interest in controlling oil grew
(Soremekun and Obi 1993, 217).
With the notable impact of oil production on public finance the ethnic
minorities from whose soil the oil was extracted were placed on a
collision course against the ethnic majority groups who sought access
to and control of the new wealth of the nation (Obi 2002, 105). It was
in the light of the above scenario that Adaka Boro in late 1965
declared a rebellion against the Nigerian state (Dudley 1982, 321) in
support of creation of the Niger Delta Republic. This act was the first
expression of the dissatisfaction of the people of the Niger Delta with
the control of oil resources (Saturday Tribune 14 February 2004: 5).
Although the rebellion was quelled in twelve days, it was
nevertheless an indication of later developments to expect.

DECIMATION OF THE DERIVATION PRINCIPLE.


The Raisman-Tress Fiscal Commission in its report in 1958
had anticipated the role oil could play in the near future of Nigeria
and opined that both the region in which oil was produced and the
federal government should have a cut of the revenue arising from it:

Vol. 5, No. 1

77

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

the latter because of its authority over mineral policy and probable
involvement in funding of the oil industry. Besides, other regions
should partake of oil revenues in the interest of balanced
development of the regions. Thus, the approved sharing of formula
was 50%, 20% and 30% for the mineral region, Federal government
and distributable pool account (D.P.A) respectively. The principles for
sharing the 30% that went into the DPA included need (determined
by population) and national interest. At the end, the North, West and
Eastern regions each had 40%, 24% and 31% respectively (Ehwarieme
1999, 63 - 64). It followed therefore that till 1965 when oil accounted
for 8.4% of total Federal government revenue, 50% (Ehwarieme 1999,
59) of that oil revenue, rents and royalties both onshore and offshore
devolved, (on the basis of derivation) back to the region from where
the oil was extracted principally the Niger Delta area in the then
Mid-West Region. In addition, up till 1966, all export duties on
agricultural produce (from majority areas), the import duty on
tobacco and motor fuel were returned to regions on the basis of
derivation (Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1963, 65).
From 1966 onwards when the military seized the reins of government,
the successive military and civil regimes progressively denigrated the
derivation principle. They diluted its dominance and brought up a
number of new sharing principles as oil came to dominate
government revenue as the major revenue and foreign exchange
earner for the Federal government. We now turn to examine revenue
distribution in the federal state under the military with specific
reference to the minorities and the derivation principle.
Federalism according to O.B.C Nwolise implies that resources in
regions or states are controlled by the states and agreed quantum paid
into the central pool (Nwolise, 2005, 116 ). However, the distribution
of revenue in Nigeria from 1966 did not bear out this sacred tenet of

Vol. 5, No. 1

78

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

federalism. Two reasons are responsible for this deviation. They are
the fundamental shift in Nigerias economy from agricultural cash
crops (found in majority ethnic group areas) to crude oil
(expropriated from minority areas) and the intervention of the
military in the political space (The Guardian 14 May, 2002). When the
agricultural sector predominated, the component regional
governments retained the principal ratio of the revenue accruable to
them from export of agricultural produce and only surrendered a
fraction of it for the upkeep of the central government. The crude oil
era which came to dominate Nigerian economy from 1966 to date was
on the other hand marked by extreme concentration of fiscal resources
in the hands of the Federal government, while the federating units
were forced to depend on the central government for their financing.
With the military coup of January 1966 and the counter coup of July
1966, the military government through General Yakubu Gowon
restructured the federation into twelve states on May 27, 1967. The
excuse was that the exercise was to provide a platform for selfassertion by previously suppressed groups (minorities) (Gowon and
Effiong 2001, 13). This development increased the influence of the
minorities in the Eastern Region (inhabitants of the Niger Delta) and
they got a new state, Rivers State. This solution to their agitation for a
separate state since the 1950s, however assumed that the problem was
a political one. The belief by the minorities that creation of states
translated to exclusive control of their oil and land to the exclusion of
the majorities proved to be a fatally wrong assumption as subsequent
developments after the civil war further reinforced their
marginalization (The Niger Delta Question 2004, 8: 18 -19).
Military Decrees as centralization apparatus
After the creation of twelve states and given the notable
impact of oil on public funds, General Yakubu Gowon decided to

Vol. 5, No. 1

79

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

centralize revenue allocation in Nigeria. This it was believed would


help fund the war effort as well as run the Nigerian economy
(Sorenekun and Obi 1993, 219). The centralization of public revenues
was actualized by decrees. The first in line was the Decree No. 27 of
1967, which empowered the central military government to make
laws for the good governance of Nigeria and by extension, limited the
powers of states, to residual matters (Eliagwu 1979, 170). This was
followed by Decree No. 51 of 1969 which vested in the Federal
military government the entire ownership and control of all
petroleum (a) in, under or upon any land in Nigeria (b) under the
territorial waters of Nigeria or (c) all land forming part of the
continental shelf of Nigeria (The Guardian, 8 January 2001, 9). This
decree has denied the minorities their rights to their land and
resources derived there from. This practice contrasts with what
obtains in federalist Canada and Australia. In Canada, in spite of the
discovery of oil in Alberta Province, the federal government did not
centralize the control of the resource (oil).In Australia as well
federating units have rights over oil and gas resources within their
borders while the federal government can only levy taxes on these
natural resources. (Ekanade, 2010) Moreover it is important to point
out that this petroleum decree had its precedence in the colonial
ordinance on land and minerals promulgated in 1945 after the Second
World War. The ordinance provided that: The entire property and
control of all minerals and mineral oil in, under or upon any land in Nigeria,
and of all rivers, streams and water courses throughout Nigeria is and shall
be vested in the crown (Omoruyi, The Guardian, 24 January 2001, 8.).
The 1969 Decree took its cue from this colonial ordinance which had
set the standard for the economic injustice and only had a provision
that compensation should only be for economic crops destroyed in the
process of exploratory activities (Omoruyi, 2001, 8). These ordinance
and decree reflect the height of injustice to a geographical zone which

Vol. 5, No. 1

80

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

produces resources that sustain the entire Nigerian state and at the
same time bear the brunt of negative impact of exploratory activities
in their region. Furthermore in 1971, following the recommendations
of Dina Revenue Allocation Commission, the Federal military
government through Decree No. 9 of 1971 assumed proprietorship of
rents and royalties of all offshore oil revenues and reduced derivation
to states of origin to 30% (Omoruyi 2001,8). The provision of this
decree once and for all repealed a provision of the constitution of the
first republic that the continental shelf of a region should be deemed
to be part of that region in the allocation of of mining rents and
royalties to the region of derivation. The exclusion of this particular
constitutional provision from all of Nigerias post military
constitutions (1979, 1989, 1995 and 1999) has undermined the claims
of the oil producing states to offshore oil wealth (Suberu 2002, 151-152
). Decree No 38 of 1971, a fallout of decree No 5 of 1967 also extended
Nigerias territorial waters from 12 miles to 30 miles. This in effect
made royalties accruing to the Federal government increase at the
expense of the same oil producing communities (Nigerian Tribune, 20
June 1975:34; Osaghae 1988, 71)
Obviously, what informed and reinforced this development were the
unitary character of the military, the fact that oil wells were located in
a few southern minority areas with little or no political influence, and
also the fact that, throughout the late 1960s and 1970s in Nigeria, the
derivation formula was stigmatized by many prominent public
finance experts as the devil of revenue sharing (Suberu 2002, 14).
By 1975, Decree numbers 6 and 7 were introduced and had far more
reaching effect on transfer of resources from states to the Federal
government and in the redistribution of resources in a manner that
increasingly made non oil producing states to depend and survive on
the resources from oil rich states. In fact, the non oil producing states

Vol. 5, No. 1

81

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

benefited more than oil rich states. This included reduction of the
mining rents and royalties paid to the states of origin from 45% to 20%
while the share of the D.P.A increased to 80%. Half of the 80% in the
DPA was divided among states on equality basis and the other half on
basis of states population (Ebajemito and Abudu 1999, 224; Dudley
1982, 260; Daily Times, 10 March 1975, 1) .
By July 1975 a new regime of General Murtala Mohammed and
Brigadier Olusegun Obasanjo had taken over the reins of governance.
Immediately afterwards the regime further divided the 12 states into
19 states which necessitated the adoption of another revenue
allocation system to administer federal fund amongst the new units.
This was how the Aboyade technical committee was set up in 1977 to
look into the revenue distribution issue and make recommendations.
The Aboyade committee reduced the mining rent and royalties paid
to state of origin from 20% to 5% (Zuokumor 1985, 33) . In the place of
derivation he recommended an adoption of principles that ensured
equity and efficiency among states (Fajana 2001, 118). But Fajana Femi
had argued that despite these recommendations and application of
hitherto recommended principles, neither equity nor efficiency had
been achieved in horizontal revenue sharing (Fajana 2001,121). All the
same Aboyades report and recommendations were rejected by the
civilian regime that came into office on 1st October, 1979.

LAND USE DECREE OF 1978


The nearest piece of legislation in terms of total expropriation
of offshore minerals was the Land Use Decree of 1978 promulgated by
General Olusegun Obasanjo. The decree transferred ownership of
land to government without compensation (Daily Times 31 March
I978,1) as she held it in trust. According to the military government,
the decree was a structural change to bring about desired goals of fast

Vol. 5, No. 1

82

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

economic and social transformation (Daily Times 31 March 1978, 1).


The implication of the decree was that by vesting all rights in the land
in the state, through the decree, the Federal military government
virtually arrogated to itself the ownership of all mineral resources in
the oil mineral producing areas. According to Environmental Right
Action, Niger Delta communities are most affected as government has
awarded their lands through the instrumentation of land use decree to
oil corporations such as Shell, Chevron, Agip and Elf. This has in turn
alienated communities and raised tension and conflict (The Guardian
24 August 2005, 72).
The Second republic and allocation to oil producing states
The regime of Alhaji Shehu Shagari took the issue of revenue
allocation seriously and set up the Pius Okigbo Commission in
November 1979. The commission was asked to, in the words of
Dudley, give due regards to the principles of allocation, particularly
those of derivation, population, equality of states, even development,
equitable distribution and national interest. The commission in its
recommendations proposed that, of the federally collected revenue,
53% should be retained by the Federal government, 30% to the states,
10% to the local governments (the new third tier of government
introduced by the Murtala/Obasanjo regime), 7% to special fund
from which approved sums would be made available to the oil
producing states as compensation for ecological damage arising from
oil exploration and production (Dudley 1982, 262).
It is instructive to note that no amount was statutorily budgeted as
derivation fund for oil producing areas. Prior to this period, the Ijaws
had petitioned the Okigbo commission arguing that compensations to
oil producing areas should come to the communities directly and not
to states hosting the oil producing communities (Dudley 1982, 263).

Vol. 5, No. 1

83

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

It was partly in response to these petitions by Ijaws that Okigbo


recommended 3% (2% for special problems of mineral producing
areas and 1% for other ecological problems) of Federally collected
revenue to be kept for oil bearing communities or localities (not states)
as special fund for dealing with ecological challenges 48(Dudley 1982,
262). It was in reaction to these recommendations however that
Governors from oil producing states of Nigeria, Melford Okilo (Rivers
State), Ambrose Alli (Bendel State) and Clement Isong of Cross River
state submitted a report to the House of Representatives where they
insisted on the rights of their states to derivation which was being
mixed up with special fund and also asked that the special funds
should not be paid into any part of their states i.e. oil producing
communities but to states hosting the oil producing communities. To
drive home their point, the governors cited the land use decree of
1978 to back up their claims for oil royalties, stating that ownership of
land is vested in the Governor of the state who holds it in trust for the
people (Dudley 1982, 263)
Several individuals and state governments went to court over Pius
Okigbos recommendations with Rivers and Bendel states suit as a
test case in their demand for derivation (Sunday Times, 17 October
1993, 9). In its ruling of October 1981, the Supreme Court declared the
revenue act of 1981 (the law backing Okigbos recommendations)
unconstitutional, null and void (Punch 3 October 1981, 1-2).. By
December 1981, President Shehu Shagari modified the Act and sent a
new bill to the National Assembly taking into account the views of
state governments and several stakeholders. The bill had a smooth
sail through the two houses and was signed into law by Shagari and
used to allocate revenues in 1982 and the remaining part of the second
republic. Out of the 10% allocated to local governments, 2% was to be
shared on the basis of derivation among the mineral producing states
and 1.5% for the development of mineral producing areas to be

Vol. 5, No. 1

84

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

administered directly by the federal government (Adebayo 1993, 173;


Osakwe 1999, 528 - 52 9) .

THE SECOND MILITARY INTERREGNUM 1983-1999


General Muhammadu Buhari who came to power through a
military coup dtat on 31st December 1983, modified the 1981
revenue act by effecting two changes by Decree No. 36 of 1984. These
changes significantly affected oil bearing communities, reducing
special funds from 4.5% to 2.5% (Emenuga 1999, 87; Iniodu 1999, 295) .
What the Buhari regime sought to do was resolve the administrative
and legal impasse over disbursement of funds for mineral producing
areas and general ecological problems by vesting the centre with the
authority of administering both funds. More importantly, the Buhari
regime in 1984 reinterpreted the 1981 Act to mean that the amount
payable under the Act to mineral producing states and areas was to be
2% and not 1.5 % (Suberu 1993, 19; 45) of revenue derived from
mineral production and in addition not of the total federation account
which hitherto obtained (Suberu 2002, 15). This meant a further
diminishing of the amount accruable to the oil producing states and
communities.
This policy remained in force until 1989, well into the middle of the
General Ibrahim Babangida regime when the regime established the
National Revenue Mobilization Allocation and fiscal Commission
(NRMAFC) by Decree no. 49 of 1989. The commission was set up as a
permanent body to take charge of revenue allocation issues in the
Nigeria. In 1989 NRMAFC in its recommendation on allocation of
federal revenues suggested that the derivation component be retained
as 2% of the federation account and 1.5% of mineral revenue (not of
total federation account) should be for the development of oil mineral
producing areas. By 1990 the federal government approved a

Vol. 5, No. 1

85

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

reduction of derivation to 1% and 1.5% for the development of oil


mineral producing areas (Danjuma 1994, 100; Kayode 1999, 60; Okoh
and Egbon 1993, 414)
.
The 1.5% of mineral revenue that went to oil mineral producing areas
was increased to 3.0% in June 1992 apparently in response to the
agitation and crisis in these areas. In fact, it is arguable that these
agitations led to the establishment of Oil Mineral Producing Areas
Development Commission (OMPADEC) in 1992 to manage this 3%
mineral revenue and 1% derivation revenue from the federation
account (Okoh and Egbon 1993, 414).
This arrangement remained in force until 1999. It need be noted that
the 3% for development of mineral producing areas had been grossly
inadequate in tackling the multifarious ecological challenges in the
Niger Delta. The 3% allocation coupled with the 1% derivation fund
could not compensate for the permanent destruction brought on the
region.
By 1995, with the internationalization of the problems of the
minorities by Dr. Ken Saro Wiwa, the derivation principle received
national attention again. The National constitutional conference put in
place by General Sani Abacha recommended 13% minimum
percentage for derivation from the federation account (The Guardian
8 January 2001,8) and it was enshrined in the section 162 (2) of the
1999 constitution as follows:
The principle of derivation shall be constantly reflected in any
approved formula as being not less than thirteen percent of the
revenue accruing to the federation account directly from any natural
resources(The Constitution of the Federal Republic of the Federal
Republic of Nigeria , 1999,66)

Vol. 5, No. 1

86

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

The implementation of this 13% derivation principle became effective


on the 1st of January 2000. It followed that constitutionally as at
December 1999 only 1% of revenue accruing to the federation account
directly from crude oil reverted to the region of origin on the basis of
derivation principle. Quite evidently the derivation principle from a
relative weight of 100% in 1946 (The Guardian 19 July 2005, 9) reduced
drastically to a weight of 1% by the end of 1999. This reduction has
been rather drastic and the brunt bearers are the Niger Delta peoples.
An indication of this injustice is obvious by taking a cursory look at
the data submitted to the National Political Reform Conference
indicating contributions and rewards of the six geo-political zones of
the Nigerian federation. Here the Niger Delta (South South) was the
highest contributor to the federation account but what she got was not
commensurate with her contribution (The Punch 12 July 2005, 14). The
comparative revenue generation profile from the six geo-political
zones of Nigeria is a demonstrative evidence of disequilibria between
contribution and allocation in which the oil minority states and
communities have been perpetual victims. The table below makes this
obvious.

TABLE 1.0 CONTRIBUTIONS AND ALLOCATIONS TO ZONES (STATES AND LOCAL


GOVERNMENTS) FROM FEDERATION ACCOUNT (JANUARY-APRIL 2005).

Zones

Amount received by
% Contribution
each zone (in billions)
North Central
N45.811
0.00
North East
N46.213
0.00
North West
N44.488
0.00
South East
N33.476
2.75
South West
N42.502
3.97
South South
N145.171
91.54
Source: The Punch (Lagos), Tuesday July 12, 2005 p.14

Vol. 5, No. 1

% Allocation
7.48
8.00
8.31
8.31
7.43
17.3

87

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

Nonetheless, the central authority in the Nigerian state had always


claimed to have formulated policies to take care of the peculiar
challenges of the Niger Delta area. However, consequent upon the
negative impact of exploration activities in the oil producing areas,
much more serious attempts were made at tackling the problem,
howbeit inadequately. At this juncture we turn to examine the
intervention agencies set up by the various governments between
1961 and 1999.

THE
INTERVENTION
AGENCIES
NIGER
DELTA
DEVELOPMENT BOARD
Before crude oil became the mainstay of the Nigerias
economy, the Sir Henry Willink Commission (appointed to look into
the fears of the minorities) in 1958 had recognized the Delta region of
the southern minority zone as poor, backward and neglected given
its ecological state and to place on the concurrent list, a new subject
which should be known as The development of special areas (Sir
Henry Willink Report 1958, 94 95). This explained the establishment
of the Niger Delta Development Board (NDDB) which came into
being by an Act of Parliament in 1961(Lawal 2004, 273; Nigerian
Tribune 28, September, 2004, 31). This board was expected to act as a
unique agency to develop the Delta area in terms of infrastructural
development. However there were no clear cut responsibilities
apportioned to the central and regional authorities, hence the board
did not make any impact. Another reason for the boards inefficiency
was that the problems of the minorities at that period were
overshadowed by the grim power struggle among the major ethnic
groups (The Niger Delta Question 2004:8, 39). Moreover, the NDDB
failed because the Federal government deviated from the prescribed
composition of members of the board, which according to Diepreye
Alamieseigha had no single representative from the Niger Delta area

Vol. 5, No. 1

88

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

(The Nigerian Tribune 28 September, 2004, 31). In his submission he


affirmed that the ill conceived board did away with the aspirations
of the people of the area which was vitally needed to make correct
policy solutions to the problems of the area (The Nigerian Tribune 28
September, 2004, 31).
No real concerted efforts were made to address the specific needs of
the oil producing states and communities until 1992 when the Federal
government (prompted by strong agitations by the oil producing
communities) announced the revisions in fiscal and administrative
arrangements for revenue sharing. First and foremost, statutory
allocation to mineral producing areas was increased from 1.5% to 3%
of federally collected mineral revenues. Secondly, a statutory
commission was established to administer this allocation for the
development of oil producing areas and it was known as Oil Mineral
Producing Areas Development Commission (OMPADEC). (The
Guardian 7 June 1992, A10)
The OMPADEC was set up in 1992 by General Ibrahim Babangida,
ostensibly to pacify oil bearing communities after the Umuechein
massacre (Amuwo 2001,24). OMPADEC in its first three years of
operation, 1992-1995 received the sum of N11 billion under the
chairmanship of Chief Albert Horsefall, for the execution of its
projects. Albert Horsefall faulted this allocation positing that going by
the 3% weight of derivation applied at that period, N12 billion ought
to have accrued to OMPADEC and not N11 billion. Furthermore
between 1995 and 1996 when Professor Eric Opia was chairman of
OMPADEC, the commission received N2 billion. Thus between 1992
and 1996, the commission, cumulatively received from the federation
account N13 billion based on derivation (The Guardian 8 January
2001,8).

Vol. 5, No. 1

89

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

Moreover the upward review in statutory allocation to mineral


producing areas and ecological fund through OMPADEC entailed a
corresponding reduction by 1.5% and 1% respectively, of statutory
allocations from the federation account to the Federal and state
governments (Suberu 1996, 37). This is an aberration, as a portion of
revenues derived from the oil producing areas ought to have been
ploughed back into those communities and not the Federal
government deducting funds from statutory grants of federal and
state governments for the gratification of oil producing communities.
This practice underscores the ambivalences, which had characterized
the derivation principle. Moreso when you take into cognizance the
fact that another Federal government intervention agency Petroleum
Trust Fund (PTF) received from the same federation account the sum
of N346 billion between 1994 and 1997 (The Guardian 8 January
2001,8;Odia Ofeimun 1999, 67), a far cry from OMPADECs N13
billion in four years, this picture did not portray equity. In fact the
total amount that ought to have accrued to OMPADEC statutorily
was N85,489.5 billion instead of N13,154.29 million (Odia Ofeimun
1999, 67). Interestingly most of PTFs projects were concentrated in the
North where their presence was felt physically in terms of
infrastructural development against PTFs scanty presence in the west
and absence (of PTF) in the Eastern part of the Nigerian State (The
News Magazine 5 April, 1999, 6).
Although OMPADEC executed several projects during its years of
existence, its performance was generally abysmal. The dismal
performance can be attributed to the military governments
appointment of all the members of OMPADEC without, according the
Niger Delta people, the right to select their representatives in a matter
that directly concerned them (Egwaikhide and Aregbeyen 1993,110).
Andrew Onokerhoraye also corroborated this fact with his assertion
that members of these committees appointed to manage funds for the

Vol. 5, No. 1

90

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

oil producing areas were not people who understood the peculiar
problems, demands and needs of the oil producing communities
(Onokerhoraye 1995,321) hence their inability to perform.
OMPADEC under the military was transformed into a machinery of
the presidency to settle critics (Tell Magazine 18 March 1996, 26). This
argument coheres with M. Chris Allis submission that government
corruption crippled OMPADEC (Alli 2000, 255). In addition, contracts
from OMPADEC were used to bribe those people who could cause
breach of peace in the oil producing communities. Howbeit, people
who were non-professional contractors (given the manner in which
they executed the contracts) simply abandoned assigned projects after
collecting mobilization fee (Tell Magazine 18 March 1996, 26). In the
light of this, OMPADEC after seven years of existence (1993-1991)
admittedly left a legacy of abandoned projects all over the Niger Delta
area since there was little regard for accountability and transparency.

THE TRAVAILS OF OIL PRODUCING COMMUNITIES.


The historical dynamics and use of derivation has not shown
that the derivation principle was recommended to take account of the
geographic spill over effects of production and consumption of the
commodities on which the principles was based. Thus, the
manipulation of derivation can hardly take into account problems of
environmental pollution and ecological degradation (Egwaikhide and
Aregbeyen 1993, 109). The environmental cost of exploring and
exploiting petroleum resources are not recognized and charged for
before revenues and profits are declared. Hence the oil companies get
away with the environmental damage that their activities have foisted
on the region. This shows that Nigerias accounting practice is highly
defective (Financial Standard 4 July 2005, 12).

Vol. 5, No. 1

91

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

In view of the enormity of challenges that faced and are still facing the
oil producing communities, the 3% derivation fund was a drop in the
ocean of myriad of problems that faced the oil producing
communities. The derivation percentage of 3% was grossly
inadequate (The Guardian 14 May 1993, 25). A clause in OMPADECs
decree stipulated that projects from the fund including employment
should be shared within the oil producing communities according to
the percentage of their production quota. Ironically Olobiri where oil
was first struck (where production has now ceased) would not benefit
from the fund because there would be no percentage to base their
production on (The Guardian 14 May 1993, 25). Sad enough these
were communities where the high activity of oil exploration and
expropriation had impacted negatively on their environment, their
eco-system and their health. The following environmental table
completes the story of the plight of the oil producing communities
who are daily subjected to a life of misery owing to the dictates of a
warped Federal system which the Nigeria state operates.
TABLE 1.1. RANKING OF MAJOR ENVIRONMENTAL PROBLEMS,
SOCIAL ISSUES AND PRIORITIES
Problem Type
Natural environment

Development related

Vol. 5, No. 1

Problem Subset
Coastal/river bank erosion
Flooding
Sedimentation/silt
Substance
Exotice (water hyacinth)
Land degradation/soil fertility loss
Agricultural decline/shortened fallow
Delta forest loss (mangroves)
Bio-diversity depletion
Fisheries decline
Oil spillage
Gas flaring

Priority Ranking
Moderately high
Moderate
Low
Low
High
High
High
High
High
High
Moderate
Moderate

92

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

Problem Type

Problem Subset
Priority Ranking
Sewage and waste water
High
Other chemicals
Moderate
Socio-economic
Poverty
High
problems
Unemployment
High
Community-oil company conflict
High
Intercommunity conflict
High
Intercommunity conflict
Moderate
Conflicts over land
High
Inadequate compensation
High
Displacement
Moderate
Decay in societal values
High
Poor transportation/high cost of fuel
High
Housing pressure/infrastructure
Decay/crime
High
Source: R.N. Egbon and P.C. Okoh, Fiscal Federalism and Revenue Allocation in Fiscal
Federalism and Nigerian Economic Development .Proceedings of N.E.S Conference
Ibadan, 1999.

Thus the negative impact of oil exploration activities on the Niger


Delta has been enormous. The most pervasive and recurrent one is oil
spillage. This occurs at least four times in a week. Between 1979 and
1991 there were a total of 2,976 oil spills (The Guardian 25 July 1993,
B5). As at October 1996, the World Bank also wrote that the Niger
Delta was recording 500 spillages yearly (Daily Times 4 October 1996,
20). These spills relentlessly polluted the rivers and killed most of the
fishes. For farmers, pipelines criss-crossed land in the Niger Delta and
curtailed food production. The few crops that grow on the soil are
either killed or stunted by poisonous gases that escape from gas flares.
Quite obviously the noise from the exploration plants does not allow
people in the Delta area to sleep well at night (The Guardian 25 July
1993, B5). The gases released into the atmosphere and the spilled oil
caused cancer, decreased fertility, fever, cough, abdominal pain and
diarrhea. In the survey he carried out in the Niger Delta region, about
85% of his respondents suffered a combination of these diseases

Vol. 5, No. 1

93

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

(Okoh and Egbon 1993, 412). The World Bank had as far back as 1995
warned that, an urgent need exists to implement a mechanism to
protect the life and health of the Niger Delta regions inhabitants
(Financial Standard 4 July 2005, 12).
One reason for Federal governments relative indifference and
inability to enforce standards at the period has to do with the fact that
she is a major stakeholder in some of the major multinational oil
companies involved in oil spillage activities in the Niger Delta and
invariably the government is involved in oil spillage. With regard to
clearing up the mess of oil spillage, multinational oil companies posit
that having paid their rents, their royalties and taxes to the federal
government that also has controlling shares, they (oil companies) are
absolved of the task of providing amenities and infrastructures in the
oil producing areas (Eboe 1985, 122) in spite of the fact that Nigeria
(according to Time Magazine) had earned at least 300 billion dollars
from oil exports and 199.3 billion dollars between 1990 and 1993
(Owuga 1999,105). A clear picture appears with the Nigerian
Guardians documentation of the Ogoni challenge when it wrote:
At the end of 1992, cumulative oil production from
Ogoni was put at 634 million barrels valued at
5.2billion dollars. Of this, 15% was cost of production,
79% was paid to the federal government as taxes, i.e.
equity crude and 6% left for the private partners
including
Shell
Petroleum
Development
Corporation(The Guardian 1 June 2005,2).

All this transpired between 1958 and 1993 when Shell was forced to
withdraw from Ogoniland. The Ogoni field in 1993 had a production
potential of 28,000 barrels per day, about 3% of Shell Petroleum
Development Corporations total crude oil production (The Guardian

Vol. 5, No. 1

94

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

1 June 2005, 2). Yet Ogoni land suffered great neglect as attested to by
Ken Saro Wiwa who pointed out that You have taken away all these
oil from the Ogoni people. You build dams in Hausaland, in Fulani
country, you have provided for agriculture. What have you given
Ogoni people? <Without oil, they will not have the dams that are
making agriculture in the North possible (Eliagwu 2001, 185).
Despite all these cries of neglect the Federal governments primary
objective however had continued to be the profit motive, centering on
how to expand oil production and earn more revenue (Okoh and
Egbon 1993, 412).
A further demonstration of governments insensitivity to the effects of
its fiscal policy is all the more obvious with a critical look at the
average revenue of states and population figures between 1990 and
1996. Central Bank of Nigerias Annual report of 1996 and 1994 (CBN,
1996, 76-77: CBN 1994, 63) and Statistical bulletin 1996 (Statistical
Bulletin, 1996, 7,:118) make this very glaring. The tables reveal that
only Rivers State (a member of the Niger Delta) fell into the ranking of
the ten highest mean statutory revenue allocation received by states in
the Nigerian nation between 1990 and 1996. Even at that, Rivers state
occupied the eighth position (with N848.6 million). The first seven
states in descending order are as follows Kano (N3066.4m), Sokoto
(N976.8 million), FCT, Abuja (N907.7million), Lagos (N904.9million),
Bauchi (N891m), Oyo (N869m) and Bornu (N878m) . A look at the
population figures on same table shows that the states with the three
largest populations respectively are Lagos (5685.8m), Kano (5632.0m)
and Sokoto (4392.4m). This reflects the centrality of the population
factor as against derivation principle in the revenue allocation
formula (Okoh and Egbon 1993, 414).

Vol. 5, No. 1

95

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

AGITATION FOR INSTITUTION OF FAIR SHARE PRINCIPLE


The agitation for a fair share of oil revenue accruable to the oil
producing communities against the backdrop of adverse impact of
exploration activities on their environment and people has been
intensive. Four distinct phases had been identified as periods of
agitation and resistance taking different forms. The first phase was
from the late 1970s to mid 1980s characterized by the confidence (of
oil producing communities) placed in the Judiciary and states. The
dominant strategy was legal action and most of the time, court
judgments favoured the communities. However, the government
orders were fragrantly ignored and defied by the oil companies (
Zuokumor 1985 35; Ogbogbo 2004, 246 ). The oil producing
communities ran out of patience and adopted a more action- oriented
strategy which signified the second phase (mid 1980s mid 1990s). In
this second phase the deepening economic crisis occasioned by the
introduction of SAP in 1986 largely radicalized the struggles of
minorities in oil producing states for fair share of proceeds from oil
(Obi 1998, 269). This involved peaceful demonstration, occupation of
flow stations, disruption of workers from operating and demands for
adequate compensation and provision of basic amenities. Confident of
the support from the Nigerian government, oil companies employed
the military, police and state security service, which the government
put at their disposal (Ogbogbo 2004, 251) . This period was
characterized by the inauguration of Major Paul Okutimos task force
whose activities led to the killing of Ken Saro Wiwa. This led to the
third stage of the phase of resistance. The strategy here was to
respond combatively and more forcefully to the use of military men
by oil companies against host communities. Thus, the host
communities continued their forceful occupation and shutting down
of flow stations, destruction of oil companies equipment, kidnap of
oil workers, vessels and vehicles (Owuga 1999,114 115).

Vol. 5, No. 1

96

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

The fourth phase was signaled on December 11, 1998 by a formal


demand by the Ijaw Youth National Congress for self determination
within the Nigerian state. In addition oil companies were given till
December 30, 1998 to vacate the Niger Delta region. The Nigerian
state responded with military force resulting in Yenogoa, Kewna and
Odi Massacres. (Albert 2003:1, 7)
It is quite instructive to note that it was Dr. Ken Saro Wiwa, a
Nigerian minority rights activist from the Ogoni stock in Rivers state,
who internationalized the plight of the minorities in oil producing
communities of the Niger Delta. This ethnic stock (the Ogonis) had
through their movement, (Movement for the Survival of Ogoni
People) (MOSOP) submitted the Ogoni Bill of Rights to the General
Ibrahim Babangida administration in 1991. In it they demanded for
self determination in all ramifications (The Guardian 8 June 1994, 9).
That year, in essence, marked the beginning of a historical movement
for self determination and agitation for ethnic autonomy in the Niger
Delta, consequently defiant declarations by other ethnic groups in the
Delta region followed suit (The Niger Delta Question 2004;8,12). This
crusade continued to attract serious comments from within and
outside the Nigerian federation.
On the 30th of July 1992 the United Nations minorities subcommission provided a platform for the national minorities around
the world, to articulate their plight before the world body. Ken Saro
Wiwa represented the minorities from Niger Delta and presented a
position paper and documentary film which showcased the
dehumanized condition the Delta people lived in. Ken said My
Ogoni people are the object of genocide in which environmental
degradation has been a lethal weapon in the war against them. He
stated further that< only the international community, acting with
compassion and a sense of responsibility to the human race, can avert

Vol. 5, No. 1

97

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

a catastrophe which is about to overtake the Ogoni (Daily Times 19


September 1992, 13).
Ken Saro Wiwas celebrated presentation marked a turning point in
state response to his person and in a larger context, minority agitation
over oil matters. As a follow-up to the internationalization of their
grievance, the Ogoni numbering over thirty thousand and ably led by
Kobani in January 1993 closed down Shell flow stations. Their
complaint was that Shell and Nigerian government degraded their
environment (The Guardian 8 June 1994, 9). Subsequently Ken Saro
Wiwa was in and out of government detention until his extra judicial
murder in 1996. In fact Shell head quarters in London and The Hague
monitored Kens activities so as to, in their words, avoid unpleasant
surprises (Isumonah 1998, 244). Furthermore Shell admitted that it
funded and armed Rivers State Internal Security Task Force and
Ogonis neighbors against Ken Saro Wiwa and his Ogoni community
(Isumonah 1998, 244).
Moreover, in May, 1993 the Nigerian state too promulgated the
Treason and Treasonable Offences Decree no. 13 of 1993. According to
Justice Clement Akpambo, the then Justice Secretary in the defunct
Interim National Government (ING), the decree was aimed at
<stopping the champions of state within states and those who must
have printed cards and flags waiting to proclaim any state or
republic (The Guardian 24 June 1993, 3).
In this regard and given the prevailing climate at the time, it is
extremely difficult to accept the view that the decree was not
specifically targeted at Ken Saro Wiwa and his Ogoni kinsmen. He
was arrested on the basis of the provisions of the decree in same 1993.
A gale of protests trailed his arrest nationally from Association of
Nigerian Authors (Daily Times 23 April 1993, 3) to minority rights

Vol. 5, No. 1

98

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

bodies (The Guardian 23 April 1993, 4) and the Print media (The
Guardian 30 April 1993, 10) all asking for his release. The affair
continued as earlier mentioned until his extra judicial murder in 1996.
The whole campaign of the oil-producing communities was
predicated on their perceived neglect by the state and federal
governments on one hand and the oil companies on the other hand.
Fifteen years after the demise of Ken Saro Wiwa, the crisis in the
Niger Delta has not abated. Though the federal government has put in
place a host of palliative measures including the Niger Delta
Development commission (NDDC) to build infrastructure, and the
Yaradua amnesty programme for ex militants, the crises seem not to
have abated considerably. Rather, it has assumed alarming
proportions currently threatening the stability and viability of the
Nigerian state. In the post 1999 period, a militant group known as
Movement for the emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) has
become a thorn in the flesh of the successive civil regimes in post 1999
Nigeria engaging in acts of criminality. MEND has been linked to
attacks on petroleum operations in Nigeria as part of the conflict in
the Niger Delta, engaging in acts including sabotage, theft, property
destruction, guerrilla warfare, outright serial killings and kidnap of
expatriates (Wikipedia, 2011)

CONCLUSION
In conclusion, this paper has chronicled the fate of oil
producing communities in the Nigerian state pointing out the fact that
they have been marginalized by majority ethnic groups and the
military in terms of resource allocation. Through out this period
corporate politics intersected with successive dictatorships - military
and civil. Under these dictatorships the Nigerian government signed
laws that appropriated oil resources and placed them under the

Vol. 5, No. 1

99

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

control of multi nationals and the government. Asides this, a major


revenue sharing principle, which would have enhanced the fortune of
the oil producing communities stemming the ferment in the Delta
region the derivation principle was weakened. The proportion of oil
revenues allocated on a derivation basis progressively declined from
50% of mining rents and royalties in 1969, through 2% of the
federation account in 1981 to only 1% of mineral revenues in the
account during the period 1989 1999. This decline was systematic
and the reasons are not far fetched. The denigration of the derivation
formula was as a result of Nigerias shift from an agricultural export based economy which was concentrated in the regions (controlled by
ethnic majorities) to an oil - induced economy that is concentrated in
the minority region of the Niger Delta.
There is also no gainsaying that majority ethnic groups who
controlled political power have used federal might to invoke the
principles of equality and population as the basis for sharing federal
funds horizontally among states. This gives credence to Prof. J.A.
Ayoades assertion that if oil were to be found in any major ethnic
region, the principles of equality and population would be discarded
for derivation (Ayoade 2005). Thus, given the high premium placed
on equality and population factor, part of the Nigerian federation has
benefited and is still benefiting from the oil revenue gotten from the
Niger Delta at the expense of oil producing states.
Granted that the adoption of federalism is an acknowledgement of
diverse interests that need to be accommodated, the Nigerian federal
experience up till 1999 neglected the interest of its oil producing
communities, which has in turn bred serious crisis of stability in the
Nigerian state. As a solution to this festering crisis it is imperative for
the Nigerian federal system to be dynamic, responsive and adaptive
to the ever changing - Nigerian political and economic circumstances.

Vol. 5, No. 1

100

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

By reinventing itself, Nigerian federalism will be able to effectively


manage the present multiple disorders of lopsided fiscal and political
relationship between the centre and the federating units.

NOTES
1.

In fact asides defying government orders, appeals pended in court


for too long a time. C.B.N Ogbogbo had also pointed out that the
dialogue approach was first adopted after the first oil spillage at
Bomu in Ogoni, Rivers State. For details see C.B.N Ogbogbo, The
Niger Delta and the Resource Control. Conflict 1960-1995. Ph. D
Thesis, Institute of African Studies, University of Ibadan, Ibadan,
2004, p. 246.

2.

Ogbogbo, C.B.N again noted that Rukpokwo indigenes blocked


routes within their communities that led to fifty shell oil wells.
Egbema people seized Agip Oil installations at Ebocha and
Obaburru where People destroyed Elf oil drilling equipments. For
details see CBN Ogbogbo, The Niger Delta and resource control
conflict A PhD Thesis, Institute of African Studies, University of
Ibadan, Ibadan, 2004, p. 251.

BIBLIOGRAPHY
Adebayo, A.G. 1993. Embattled Federalism: History of Revenue Allocation in
Nigeria, 1946-1990 New York: Peter Lang.
Adedeji, Adebayo. 1969.Nigerian Federal Finance London: Hutchinson Press.
Alagoa, E. J. 1999. The Eastern Niger Delta and its Hinterland in the 19th
Century In Groundwork of Nigerian History, edited by Obaro, Ikime.
.249-261. Ibadan: Heinemann Books.

Vol. 5, No. 1

101

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

Alli, M.C. 2000. The Federal Republic of Nigerian Army: The siege of a Nation.
Lagos: Malthouse Press.
Constitution of the Federal republic of Nigeria , 1999 constitution. Lagos: Federal
Government Press.
Danjuma, T. Y. 1994. Revenue Sharing and the Political Economy of Nigerian
Federalism, in Federalism and Nation Building in Nigeria: Challenges of
the 21Century, edited by I. Eliagwu, P.C. Logams and H.S. Galadima,
94105. Abuja: National Council on Intergovernmental Relations.
Discussion with Ayoade, John. A. Professor, Department of Political Science,
University of Ibadan on 16 January, 2005.
Dudley, B. 1982. An Introduction to Nigerian Government and Politics London:
Macmillan Press.
Ebajemitso, O and I. Abudu. 1999. Intergovernmental Fiscal Relations in
Nigeria In Proceedings of the 1999 Annual Conference. 215-35. Ibadan
:Nigerian Economic Society.
Eboe, Hutchful. 1985 Oil companies and environmental pollution in
Nigeria, In The Political Economy of Nigeria , edited by Ake, C,114
128.Lagos: Longman.
Ehwarieme, W. 1999. The Military, Oil and Development In Proceedings of
the 1999 Annual Conference. 53-72. Ibadan :Nigerian Economic
Society.
Ekanade, O. 2010. Fiscal federalism and Nigerias Economic Development :
Comparative perspectives from Canadian Fiscal federalism, in
Journal of Global Initiatives, Kenessaw State University, U.S.A. Vol .5,
No3, 2010.

Vol. 5, No. 1

102

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

Eliagwu, I. 1979. The military and state building: Federal State relations in
Nigeria, 1967-1976, in Readings on Federalism, edited by A.B.
Akinyemi, P.D. Cole, and W. Ofonagoro, 151-81, Lagos: Nigerian
Institute of International Affairs.
.2001. Military rule and Federalism in Nigeria, In The foundations of
Nigerian Federalism, edited by I, Eliagwu, and R. A. Akindele,166
93. Jos :Institute for Governance and Social Research.
Emenuga, Chidozie. 1993. The search for an acceptable revenue allocation
formula, In Proceedings of the Nigerian Economic Society (N.E.S) 1993
Annual conference, 79105 Ibadan, Nigerian Economic Society.
Fajana, F. 2001. Three and a half decades of Fiscal Federalism in Nigeria, In
Foundation of Nigerian Federalism 1960 1995, edited by I. Eliagwu
and R.A Akindele. 87 124.Jos:Institute for Governance and Social
Research.
Festus O. E., Egwaikhide, F and O. Aregbeyen, 1999. Oil Production
Externalities in the Niger Delta, In Proceedings of the 1999 Annual
conference, 101115. Ibadan: Nigerian Economic Society.
Financial Standard, (Lagos), 4 July, 2005.
Gowon, Y and P.E. Obong. 2001. The Nigerian Civil War and its Aftermath:
Views from within. Ibadan, Programme on Ethnic and Federal
Studies, University of Ibadan, Occasional paper. Ibadan. 1:13
Ikime, Obaro. 1999. The Peoples and Kingdoms of the Delta province, In
Groundwork of Nigerian History, edited by Obaro, Ikime, 89108. Ibadan:
Heinemann Books.
Iniodu, P.U. 1999. Fiscal Dependence of Local Governments in Nigeria, In
Proceedings of the Nigerian Economic Society (N.E.S) 1993 Annual
conference, 28913. Ibadan, Nigerian Economic Society.

Vol. 5, No. 1

103

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

Isumonah, Victor. 1998. Oil and Minority Ethnic Nationalism in Nigeria


The case of Ogoni Ph. D Thesis, Department of Political Science,
University of Ibadan, Ibadan.
Kayode, M.O. 1993. National Question and Revenue Allocation: An
Articulation of some problems and issues, In Proceedings of the 1993
Annual conference, 4360. Ibadan: Nigerian Economic Society.
Kunle Amuwo, Kunle.2001. Transition as Democratic Regression, In
Nigeria During The Abacha Years. (19951998) The Domestic and
International Politics of Democratization , edited by K, Amuwo. D..C.
Bach and Y. Lebeau, 156. Ibadan: Institut Francais de Recherche en
Afrique.
Lawal, Olakunle Abdul-Rasheed. 1991. Britain and Decolonization in Nigeria
1945-1960, Ph.D. Thesis, University of Ibadan, Ibadan.
Lemmy, Owugah. 2000. The Political Economy of Resistance, In The Report
of the Conference on the Peoples of the Niger Delta and the 1999
constitution, edited by Ola, Dofie. 99 110. Port Harcourt: A
publication of the Environmental Right Action/Friends of the Earth.
Mike, Crowder. 1978. The story of Nigeria , London: Faber and Faber.
National Archives Ibadan .CE/W3. 1958. Report of the Sir Henry Willinks
Commission. Appointed to Enquire into the fears of minorities and the
means of allaying them: Her Majestys Stationery Office.
National Archives Ibadan. 1963. A4/X1 Allocation of Revenue: Mining Rents
and Royalties 1963.The constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria
1963, Lagos: Federal Ministry of Information. Lagos, Part 2 No. 20,
section 140.

Vol. 5, No. 1

104

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

Nwolise, O.B.C. 2005. How the military ruined Nigerias Federalism. In


Nigerian Federalism in Crisis: Critical perspectives and political options,
Edited by E. Onwudiwe and R. Suberu 114-23.Ibadan: John Archers.
Obi , Cyril.1998 , The impact of oil on Nigerias revenue allocation system:
Problems and prospects, In Federalism and Political Restructuring in
Nigeria, edited by K. Amuwo, et.al 261275 Ibadan: Spectrum
Books.
. 2002. Oil and Minority Question. In The National Question in Nigeria:
Comparative Perspective, edited by A. Momoh, and S. Adejumobi, 105.
Hampshire: Ashgate Publication.
Odia, Ofeimun.2000. The Niger Delta and the 1999 constitution In The
Report of the Conference on the Peoples of the Niger Delta and the 1999
constitution, edited by Ola, Dofie. 5672 (Port Harcourt: A publication
of the Environmental Right Action/Friends of the Earth.
Ogbogbo, Christopher.2004. The Niger Delta and the Resource Control.
Conflict 1960-1995. Ph. D Thesis, Institute of African Studies,
University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Nigeria.
Okoh, R. N. and P.C. Egbon, 1999. Fiscal Federalism and Revenue
Allocation. In Proceedings of the 1999 Annual Conference. 405-19.
Ibadan: Nigerian Economic Society.
Olawale, Isaac A, The Odi massacre of 1999 in the context of Graffiti left by the
invading Nigerian Army. (Ibadan, University of Ibadan, Programme
on ethnic and Federal Studies Monograph.
Onokerhoraye, A.G. 1995. Patterns of Development in Urhobo land, Nigeria.
The Benin Social Science Series for Africa, University of Benin, Nigeria:
Kraft Books.

Vol. 5, No. 1

105

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

Osaghae, E. 1988. Crippled Giant: Nigeria, Since Independence London;


and company.

Hurst

Osakwe, O. 1999. Fiscal relations among the three tiers of government In


Proceedings of the 1999 Annual Conference. 528-529. Ibadan: Nigerian
Economic Society.
Ryder, A.F.C. 1999. Trans Atlantic Slave Trade, In Groundwork of Nigerian
History, edited by Obaro, Ikime. 236-246. Ibadan: Heinemann Books.
Soremekun, K. and C. Obi.1993. Oil and the National Question. In
Proceedings of The 1993 Annual Conference, 216-217, Ibadan: Nigerian
Economic Society.
Suberu, Rotimi .2002. The civil war and reconstruction of Nigerian
Federalism. In, The Nigerian civil war and its aftermath, edited by E.
Osaghae, E. Onwudiwe and R. Suberu, 151-59 Ibadan: John Archers.
. 1996. Ethnic Minority Conflicts and Governance in Nigeria. Ibadan:
Spectrum Books.
.. 2001. Public Policies and National Unity in Nigeria. Research Report
No. 19. Ibadan, Development Policy Centre, Nigeria.
. .2002. The Politics of Fiscal Federalism in Nigeria, Conference
Proceeding at North Western University, Evanston Illinois, U.S.A..
The Niger Delta Question: Background to Constitutional Reform; 2004
Programme on Ethnic and Federal studies Monograph. Ibadan.
8:14.
Wikipedia:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Movement_for_the_Emancipation_of_t
he_Niger_Delta

Vol. 5, No. 1

106

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

Zuokumor, Kate. 1985 The oil industry and Ijaw politics. B.A. Dissertation,
Department of History University of Ibadan, Nigeria.
NEWSPAPERS AND MAGAZINES
Central Bank of Nigeria Annual Reports for 1996 and 1994.
Daily Times, Lagos.
Financial Standard, Lagos
National Concord, Lagos
Newswatch Magazine, Lagos
Nigerian Tribune, Ibadan
Punch, Lagos
Saturday Tribune, Ibadan
Statistical Bulletin, 1996
Sunday Times, Lagos
Tell Magazine, Lagos.
The Guardian, Lagos
The News Magazine, Lagos

Vol. 5, No. 1

107

Agony in the Garden: Incongruity of


Governance and the Travails of Port Harcourt
City, Niger Delta, Nigeria, 1912-2010
Dr. Akachi Odoemene5
Key Terms: Nigeria, Niger Delta, oil, failed governance, conflict, Port
Harcourt city, environment, state-sponsored violence.
Abstract
Port Harcourt, Nigerias Garden city, was a desirable home
for all and worth its name. In recent times, however, it has been
transformed into a city with a rough and tumble character. This paper
anchors the issues and crosscutting issues of concern in the concrete
experiences of Port Harcourt city. It highlights the transitions of the
city to its present state (witnessing considerable tension and violence
over the past fifteen years) noting failed governance, leadership crisis
and the marginalization and suppression of the people as factors that
accentuated its downturn. It explores the role of crude oil in shaping
socio-economic and political framework of the city, and shows the
linkage between its history and the threat it currently constitutes to
peace and stability in the city. The paper argues that indeed, Port
Harcourt harbours risks for continued violence and total
disintegration, but also has the potential to create new civilizing
arrangements and for sustainable democratic development. It

5Akachi

Odoemene, Ph.D. is an African Historian trained at the University of


Ibadan, Ibadan, Nigeria. He is a 2009 African Humanities Program (AHP) Fellow of
the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) and an Irmgard Coninx Stiftung
sponsored Residential Fellow at the Social Science Research Centre, Berlin (WZB) in
2009. Dr. Odoemene currently lectures in the Department of History and
International Relations, Redeemers University of Nigeria (RUN), Mowe, Ogun
State, Nigeria. His areas of research interest include social and cultural history, youth
and gender studies, peace and conflict studies, ethnic studies and urban studies. His
E-mail: akaigolo@yahoo.com.

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

concludes that where the social pendulum would swing necessarily


depends on the handling of the citys and its peoples affairs.

Introduction
The concept of garden presupposes a place of gentle
progress and nurturing, freshness and peace, beauty and rest; a
largely sustainable green environment. The use of Garden City as
an alias in the description of Port Harcourt due to the residents flair
for nurturing flower gardens around their houses, a result of the
influence of the early European settlers in the area (Ogionwo 1979)
shows the citys stature in the past. This is in addition to the
numerous opportunities available in the city for just anyone to make it
in life there: very cosmopolitan environment and blessed with an
array of economic concerns. At one moment, everything looked
possible in this once adorable city; but suddenly, everything went
wrong. Ghettos and slums started sprouting everywhere; organised
crimes became the order of the day; fraud and stark violence took
centre stage and the city started losing its serenity, greenness and
greatness. In recent times, Port Harcourt city has been at the brink of
total collapse.
Port Harcourt is the deepwater port city-capital of Rivers state,
Nigeria. It lies along the, 66 kilometers upstream from the Gulf of
Guinea, about 40 feet above sea level and a very few degrees above
the equator. It is located at the edge of the Niger Deltas mangrove
foreshore and swamplands (Wolpe 1974, p. 15). The largest and most
significant urban center in the Niger Delta and an important
industrial and commercial center in Nigeria, Port Harcourt city
possesses two seaports (one of them Nigerias second largest), two
airports (one international with a local wing and one for the Nigerian
Air Force), two oil refineries, two universities, two sports stadia and a

Vol. 5, No. 1

109

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

major railway terminus. With a population of about 2,820,200 (in


2007) (Ohiagbuchi 2007) and home to a number of Nigerias
indigenous ethnic minorities, the metropolis covers an area of 180,000
hectares and comprises two local council areas Obio/Akpor and Port
Harcourt City Local Government Areas (LGAs) (Owei and Ikpoki
2006, p. 3). Port Harcourt city is one of Nigerias fastest growing cities,
with the annual growth rate put at over 5% by the State Statistical
Agency (Owei 2006, p. 3).
This paper gives a synopsis of the travails of this city and highlights
the roles of failed governance in the dynamics of Port Harcourt citys
historical sociology. It interrogates the decline of one of Nigerias most
notable social spaces from a once glamorous urban milieu to a city of
crime and despondency. It further shows the future possibilities of
this current ramshackle city. The crisis is not solely or even largely
about crime narrowly construed, but about the unraveling of a socioeconomic and political order. Or more properly, it is about the
legitimacy of a failed government, as Watts (2007) puts it. Port Harcourts
historical experiences cannot, however, be fully understood unless it
is placed on the larger canvas of the wider collapse of Nigerias oilrich Niger Delta region and its socio-economic quagmire.
The Setting: Foundation and Development
During the colonial period, the effective exploitation of the
Udi (Enugu) coal fields required the development of a railway
distribution network to a port for eventual transportation by sea to
Lagos and exportation to Europe. The search for an ideal site a
deep water near high ground, which shall be connected with the
i
mainland that would be suitable both as a seaport and as a railway
terminus (primarily for the evacuation and export of mined coal and
generally for trade promotion in the districts of southeastern Nigeria)
led to the exploration of the Bonny River (an eastern distributary of

Vol. 5, No. 1

110

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

the Niger River). A suitable site was eventually located at a natural


harbour, village-community along the Bonny River in the Bight of
Biafra, about 64 kilometres from the sea (Okoye 1996, p. 158).
Originally known as Igwe-Ocha, its origins dated back to pre-colonial
times and this natural harbour was to become the economic raison
dtre of one of Nigerias most important commercial and industrial
centres (Wolpe 1974, p. 14).
Founded in 1912, the Igwe-Ocha port and the city that
eventually developed there due to migrations and enhanced economic
activities therein were re-named Port Harcourt, after the then
Secretary of State for the Colonies (1910-15), Lewis (Viscount)
Harcourt (1863-1922). The then Governor of the Protectorates of
Northern and Southern Nigeria, Frederick Lugard, in August 1913, in
a letter addressed to Lewis Harcourt, notes thus:
<I have the honour to enclose for your information
charts of the estuaries and rivers in the
neighbourhood of the proposed port and terminus
of the Eastern Railway at Diobu or more correctly
Iguocha<In the absence of any convenient local
name, I would respectfully ask your permission to
call this Port Harcourt, and I anticipate, that, in
future, it will be one of the most important ports in
the coast of West Africa<ii

And to this very amazing request, Lewis Harcourt had replied: It


gives me great pleasure to accede to your suggestion that my name
should be associated with the new port (Abati 2007, p. 4).
One disconcerting fact about this whole renaming development and
arrangement was the seeming inability, or maybe refusal, of Lugard
to adopt a suitable local name for the new port and the city that

Vol. 5, No. 1

111

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

eventually developed there. Like he rightly mentioned in his letter,


the proposed railway terminus was to be located at Diobu or more
correctly, Iguocha (a corruption of Igwe-Ocha). One then wonders
why and how these local names of the pre-1913 communities that
existed there were unsuitable or not convenient for the emerging
citys name. Or, why there had been much controversy about what to
call it, as Abati (2007, p. 3) notes. The choice of a name after Lewis
Harcourt is arguably in line with the colonial ideology of viewing the
colonized as dominated; thus, physical features within their domain
could arbitrarily be re-named to suit the colonizers, and/or
supplanted with better, more convenient and suitable names in their
thinking. This has been a wide-spread experience all over sub-Sahara
African colonial history.
The combined stimulating effects of the colliery in Enugu, the sea port
in Port Harcourt the railway linking both towns created vibrant socioeconomic scenarios in Port Harcourt, which also encouraged various
European commercial concerns to establish branches in Port Harcourt.
These industries colliery, sea port and railway were essentially
colonial projects and were being developed immediately after the
period when the northern and southern protectorates were being
amalgamated into one entity called Nigeria. This meant that the
colonialists necessarily employed peoples from all races and ethnic
groups to work in these industries. The many job opportunities these
establishments provided stimulated African migrant-labour from the
local populations as well as other parts of the colonial territory, even
beyond what is today Nigeria for wage-earning jobs and urban life
(Dixon-Fyle 1989, p. 126-127). The economic activities associated with
the establishment also resulted in high volumes of other uncontrolled
migrations. All these gave a cosmopolitan atmosphere to the new
towns population.

Vol. 5, No. 1

112

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

The railway and seaport, and the economic activities and attractions
attached to these industries, however, provide only one part of the
explanation for Port Harcourts socioeconomic and political
significance in the country. Petroleum and natural gas round out the
equation (Wolpe 1974, p. 22). Oil was found in the Niger Delta area in
the mid 1950s. Soon after, Port Harcourt became the main operational
base for multi-national petrobusinesses which refined crude oil both for
local consumption and export. Indeed, Port Harcourts rapid growth
and development was mainly tied to the effects of oil exploitation
activities in the town. In other words, though there developed an
industrial labour force due to the initial foundation industries,
petrobusiness activities led to an influx of expatriate multi-national
corporations which activities aided tremendously in the radical
transformation of the city (Ezedinma and Chukuezi 1999, p. 137).
These heightened migrations, which were strongly stimulated,
especially since the 1970s, by the oil boom.
Population wise, the growth of Port Harcourt has been quite
remarkable, as the census figures show. Three years after its founding
(1915), its population was about 5,000. Others include: 1921 7,185;
1931 15,201; 1944 30,200; 1946 34,000 (est.); 1952/3 79,634; 1963
179,563; 1971 213,443; 1973 231,632; (Anyanwu 1979, Ogionwo
1979, Izeogu 1989, p. 59), and in 1991 440,399 (Obinna et al 2010).
Since the 2006 national census was fraught with serious controversy,
and thus, is very unreliable, to have an insight into the 2009
population estimate of the city, Obinna et al (2010, p. 173) projects
from the less controversial 1991 census figure. With an annual growth
rate of 5.8% (as establishes by the National Population Commission),
he affirms that the 2009 population figure of Port Harcourt in 2009 is
projected to be 900,176 persons. This is, indeed, a phenomenal growth
regime for Port Harcourt. For instance, the percentage change of

Vol. 5, No. 1

113

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

90.1% between 1973 and 1991 represents an average annual growth


rate of 5% (Obinna et al 2010, p. 173).
The cosmopolitan nature of its population is also unrivalled. Right
from the colonial era, apart from the Europeans there were, in the city,
Africans representing a cross section of West Africa Sierra Leoneans
(or Saro people), Gold Coastians (now Ghanaians), Cameroonians,
Gambians and Togolese. There were also an equally formidable cross
section of the major ethnic groups of Nigeria the Yourba, Igbo,
Hausa, Ijo and Ibibio. There were also various Rivers nationalities like
the Ogoni, Ikwerre, Abua, Engenni and so on (Paul-Worika 1979, p.
116). This trend did not change much even in the post-colonial period.
For instance, by 1973, migrants to the city of Port Harcourt accounted
for about 72% of its population. Out of these, 66% migrated from the
diverse rural areas of Nigeria (Izeogu 1989). Its populations till date
have maintained similar configurations (Okoye 1996). Apart from
rapid population growth as a result of migration, Port Harcourt
expanded physically at a fast rate too. This growth was, nonetheless,
associated with uncontrolled urban development, especially in the
rural urban fringe to the north and the waterfronts to the south
(Izeogu 1989, p. 60).
The Mlange of Gold and Rust, Oil and Blood
Port Harcourt city has had both sunny and stormy sides in
almost a century history of existence. The city is not yet a hundred
year old) Port Harcourt city has had an interesting and intriguing
history one of a mlange of gold and rust, and of oil and blood. Its
proper take-off towards an urban development started in 1912, and its
re-naming following closely afterwards. The first main activity of the
colonial administrators there was the construction of a railway link to
the Udi coalfields of what later became Enugu. Indeed, there is
abundant evidence which suggests that coerced and forced labour of

Vol. 5, No. 1

114

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

indigenous peoples was widely used on the Port Harcourt railway


project which started in 1915. Wolpe (1974, p. 57) notes that this was
even a constant source of irritation to the local colonial administrators,
who expressed feelings of disapproval in different memoranda sent to
the Port Harcourt District Office and to Provincial Commissioners.
As a modern city, its development was made possible by the
enactment in 1917 of the Public Lands Acquisition Ordinance and the
township Ordinance. The Public Lands Ordinance empowered the
then Governor-General to acquire land from the indigenous
populations compulsorily for public purposes. The lands so acquired
became known as Crown Lands and after political independence as
State Land. Under that Township Ordinance, Port Harcourt was
classified as a Second Class township with the consequent provision
of specific urban services and infrastructure (Owei 2006, p. 3). Its
progress was steady and enormous until the civil war period when it
became a theatre of war, which destroyed most of its beauty and
infrastructure. But it quickly recovered from this setback, and
arguably, the city stood out as Nigerias best planned city: its set-out,
beauty, cleanliness and freshness were unrivalled in the immediate
post-war era. Archibong (2004, p. 17) reports on its early allurements:
Here, there and everywhere, the city looked planned
and designed with aesthetics and sanitary
considerations in mind. Apart from its famed
nightlife, many parts of Port Harcourt had
playgrounds; noise level was low, taps flowed with
water and streetlights were taken for granted. Roads,
especially in the Township and Government
Reservation Area (GRA) were in good shape. That is
how Port Harcourt came to be foisted with the
Garden City sobriquet.

Vol. 5, No. 1

115

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

To live in Port Harcourt between the 1930s and 1980s (except for the
period of the war) was desirable, cherished and, indeed, a privilege,
as the city had the best of almost everything good: It was a Garden
where Nigerians of all groups came together and lived happily in
search of peace and fortune<It was the city of lovely hotels, a
multilingual, multicultural society where various influences coexisted in fine harmony<It was a thriving centre of commerce and
culture (Abati 2007, p. 3). Its progress was gentle, gradual but steady
until sometime in the early 1990s when the repercussions of dire
governance started taking tolls on the citys sociology and
development. Of course, the problems of governance in Port
Harcourt, nay the Niger Delta, are not divorceable from the general
mis-governance which the Nigerian state has been witnessing. The
only twists are that: the region is a very delicate one, produces oil
which accounts for up to 95% of Nigerias export earnings and over
80% of its revenue (pumping about 2.5 million barrels of crude per
day), devastated by environmental and ecological degradation due to
oil exploitation, totally neglected by governments and petrobusinesses
operating there and the least developed geo-political zone in Nigeria
(Odoemene 2010). These were, indeed, a recipe for socio-political
explosion.
Conflict in the Niger Delta arose in the early 1990s due to tensions
between the expatriate petrobusinesses and government on one side,
and a number of the Niger Deltas minority ethnic groups who felt
they were being criminally exploited, on the other. Ethnic and
political unrest has persisted, and has led to a crisis situation in Port
Harcourt, where the politics of oil is hottest. This is all about the
political economy of oil in the country, which has bred corruption and
violence over the years. The wealth deposited underneath Niger
Deltas soil holds unprecedented promise for an ecologically delicate
terrain as the delta. Under normal circumstances, the region should be

Vol. 5, No. 1

116

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

one of the richest and best regions and places in terms of


development. However, the reverse is the case. Despite earning huge
profits for government and multi-national petrobusinesses, oil
exploitation activities in the region have continuously robbed oiliii
bearing communities of life and livelihood, and bringing them only
hardships and blood. The region is, ironically, Nigerias poorest and
least developed region. It is a typical paradoxical case of the geese that
lays the golden egg but is starved, ill-treated and grossly oppressed.
At this stage, a thematic insight into the citys major problems would
be desirable, as this would underline its main challenges for
sustainable governance.
Environmental Devastation
Decades after the first gush of oil in the creekside village of
Oloibiri, 80 kilometers west of Port Harcourt, was made in 1956,
petrobusinesses have transformed this remote wetland into industrial
wilderness. The imprint: 7,200 kilometers of pipelines, 159 oil fields,
and 275 flow stations, with gas flares visible day and night from miles
away (Oneill 2007). Leaks from pipelines and wells, the building of
roads and canals, and decades of oil spills and acid rain from unabating gas flares have damaged the ecosystem. From a satellite-based
study of the delta, it was found that between 1986 and 2003, more
than 50,000 acres of mangroves disappeared from the coast, largely
iv
because of oil and gas exploration. Jimmy Adegoke notes that this
<is a significant amount given how valuable the mangrove
ecosystem is.<the loss of one acre is too much. Youre wiping out the
means for people to sustain themselves (Polgreen 2007). Furthermore,
a 2006 UN report warns: *T+he degree and rate of degradation are
pushing the delta towards ecological disaster (Ohiagbuchi 2007, p. 9).

Vol. 5, No. 1

117

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

Due to this dire ecological situation and high cost of living in Port
Harcourt occasioned by the economics of oil exploration activities,
people started drifting to the outskirts of the city to live and make a
living. They started setting up shanty neighbourhoods/slums,
especially along the river banks. These are locally called Watersides
and there are forty-seven waterfront shanty suburbs in Port Harcourt
and the once adorable city was worse for it. Though the present Chief
Rotimi Amaechis administration has destroyed the waterfront
shanties, this has led to even more problems. For instance, there are
no compensation and/or resettlement plans for the hundreds of
thousands persons whose homes were demolished. They have, thus,
remained homeless and without sources of livelihood. Most of these
displaced persons now squat at different corners of the city trying to
eke out a living (Gusau 2010, p.15). Soon after the demolition of the
waterfronts and the displacement of persons, residents of Port
Harcourt witnessed a sharp increase in the incidences of crime in the
city (Obed 2010, p.5). This is understandably not surprising.
Gradually, the famed Garden City degenerated into a Garbage City,
and its marvelous flowers proved no better than wreaths. Describing
this in a catchy poetic manner, Abati (2007, p. 4) notes that Paradise
is lost. The Garden has been defiled. It is desolate. Beauty has given
way to ugliness. Another observer notes thus:
Dense, garbage-heaped slums stretch for miles.
Choking
black
smoke
from
an
open-air
slaughterhouse rolls over housetops. Streets are
cratered with potholes and ruts. Vicious gangs roam
school grounds. Peddlers and beggars rush up to
vehicles stalled in gas lines. This is Port Harcourt,
Nigerias oil hub<smack-dab in the middle of oil
reserves bigger than the United States and Mexicos
combined. Port Harcourt should gleam; instead, it
rots (Oneill 2007, p. 2).

Vol. 5, No. 1

118

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

Social Degradation and Abuse


In addition to the ecological devastation that the delta faced,
there was also a social degradation and abuse angles to their
problems. Various acts meant to humiliate, degrade and abuses the
peoples of the Niger Delta, including natives living in Port Harcourt,
are rife among agents of both the petrobusinesses and the government.
In a very celebrated case, scores of women were allegedly raped by a
contingent of the Nigeria Mobile Police group and soldiers who
invaded Choba town, an Ikwerre community in Port Harcourt city on
28 October 1999. These women, together with men from the
community, were protesting against perceived long-standing
unfulfilled promises by Wilbros, a US company in Port Harcourt
(Amnesty International and, Ekine 2005, p. 75, IHRHL 2000). Wilbros
officials, apparently appalled by this show, invited security forces
who unleashed murder, destruction of property and rape on the
people of the town. Some of these acts of rape of the Choba women,
which were rampant occurrences, were captured on film by a
journalist and even published in the Nigerian daily press (Ekine 2005,
p. 75). Unfortunately, the Nigerian government refused to
acknowledge the violations, especially the rape cases and refused to
investigate too (IHRHL 2000, p. 23).
There was also the issue of pressurizing native young women into a
life of prostitution. These accusations are especially made against oil
workers expatriate and otherwise who allegedly enticed these
young women with their stupendous wealth as against the abject
poverty conditions that most indigenes of the city experience. In a few
night clubs located within Port Harcourt many of these young women
are made to perform nude dances and other acts which are seen as
humiliating to the indigenes, as they are totally against their cultures
and practices (Morka 2007, p. 4). Due to this abhorrent posture, Port
Harcourt is not seen by outsiders as a safe place for any decent

Vol. 5, No. 1

119

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

young woman, as it is often considered a hunt for prostitutes and the


easy virtue. In fact, single young women living in the town easily get
stigmatized, even outside Port Harcourt, as whores and wild. This
situation is painfully deplored by many native male youth living in
the city (Morka 2007, p. 4).
The grim socio-economic realities that confronted Port Harcourts
indigenous residents were because of their political marginalization
within the Nigerian project. Indeed, the various groups that make up
the Niger Delta are all minorities in the country. And as such, no
serious attention is paid to their yearnings in the country. Their voice
was not usually heard or even listened to, neither were their concerns
taken on board when issues of national importance were being
discussed (Odoemene 2009, p. 5). This marginalization also meant that
ill treatments could be matted (sic) out on them at will by either
security forces or expatriate staff of petrobusinesses, without any
favourable responses from the State in their defense. Of course, in
serious contention here (between them and the State, whose officials
are usually from majority ethnic groups) is the control of the vital
petroleum resources buried in the Niger Delta lands. This was the
actual basis of their oppression and subjugation.
Popular Resistance, Hostage-taking and Armed Robbery
Exhausting all avenues to a diplomatic solution to their
many social, economic and political problems, and seeing no hope in
sight in the face of political marginalization, economic strangulation,
social slavery and possible extinction, the people of the Niger Delta
began an agitation for self determination and resource control. They
were also not unaware of what reactions to expect from government
officials and petrobusinesses over their agitations. With no concessions
being made by their alleged oppressors, the stage was set for popular
resistance and militancy in the region. According to a youth leader in

Vol. 5, No. 1

120

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

Port Harcourt, <the time for talking has passed. When the situation
in the delta threatens to turn into another Middle East, then the world
will finally intervene (Ohiagbuchi 2007). In another explanation for
this situation, another Port Harcourt-based Niger Delta youth opines:
The activities of these oil companies in collaboration with the state
are threatening our environments and natural habitat. So the battle we
v
are wedging is the battle for our life. These show the resolute spirit
of the youth of the Niger Delta region in finding a solution to their
unacceptable situation.
In a bid to realize their aims, many of the youth in the area formed
themselves into gangs and began to wreck havoc in different Niger
Delta cities and towns. In all these, Port Harcourt has had the most
shares for obvious reasons. It is the oil headquarters of Nigeria and
consequently has the largest concentration of oil firms expatriate
workers. This makes them good targets for attacks that will send
signals to their employers, the government and the West of the Niger
Delta peoples frustrations. Pointedly, the violence that has rocked the
city of Port Harcourt in recent years has been aimed mainly at foreign
petrobusiness, their expatriate workers and the security operatives
protecting them. Hundreds of kidnappings/hostage-taking by
militants, pipeline bombings and attacks on flow stations have
occurred in the past three years alone. And the number and severity
of these attacks have been building.
Commenting on these gangs and the severity of their actions in Port
Harcourt city, Oruwari and Owei (2006, p. 6-7) opine:
The gangs have become a security threat to oil
workers as the involvement of the gangs in
bunkering, extortions, kidnapping of expatriate oil
workers and rivalry wars, along
with
the

Vol. 5, No. 1

121

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

viciousness with which such acts are occurring, is


both alarming and frightening. ...In Port Harcourt,
cults and gangs exist from the street level to the
neighbourhood level and even the ethnic militias
whose bases are outside the city operate in Port
Harcourt for specific violent activities. ...Whatever
their background, urban gangs and their violent
engagement against rival groups, innocent persons,
and politically associated killings are a daily reality
in Port Harcourt. No one is ignorant of the existence
and activities of the gangs.

Dozens have been killed and many more wounded. In many cases,
and unfortunately too, most of the dead have come from bystanders
caught in crossfire. Arguably, one could perceive the magnitude of
the gang problem in Port Harcourt if the one hundred and three (103)
groups listed as banned organizations in the Rivers State Anti-cult Bill
are taken into consideration. In any case, the banning of these groups
has not been effective, neither has it stemmed down the tide of
violence in the city. Oruwari and Owei (2006) report that the gangs
are still around and operate in broad daylight, even in the presence of
law enforcement agents. Further commenting on the grim situation in
the city, Watts (2007) notes thus:
Port Harcourt has become to all intents and purposes
ungovernable: it is disorderly and lawless, and this
lawlessness now extends from the waterside slums
to the middle class Government Residential Area
(GRA). In particular, organized robbery by wellorganized gangs of alienated and angry youth has
exploded since the 1990s<

Vol. 5, No. 1

122

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

Endemic robbery across the city is a reflection of the fact that


criminals know full well that they will not be apprehended because
the operations of so much of government are a fraud and a racket: the
conduct of those in public office seems nothing more than organized
crime itself. How else would any sensible person interpret the images
in the mainstream press of high-ranking politicians cavorting with
political thugs, warlords, and gang leaders? To put the matter
differently, the proliferation of armed robbery is inseparable from the
wider struggle for power in Rivers State in the wake of the massively
corrupt elections (Watts 2007).
State Violence and Militancy
One major problem that the delta region has faced over time
has been that of State violence, demonstrated in several forms:
wanton killings, destruction of communities, military occupation, and
sexual abuses by government security operatives. The hanging of Ken
Saro-Wiwa and seven other of his Ogoni kinsmen in Port Harcourt
was the height and the tempo has only fallen a bit. Again, such brazen
State violence could be gleaned from State-sponsored punitive
expeditions like the one at Odi town near Port Harcourt in 2000,
during which thousands of people were killed, livestock, farms,
public utilities and houses in the town were totally destroyed and set
ablaze by the rampaging Nigerian Army. There are also cases of
military occupation in many delta communities, whose penchant of
abuses is very disturbing. The many violent inter- and intracommunal/ethnic conflicts, usually over the spoils of oil, are also
another dimension to the States violence and suppression. These
conflicts are known to be sponsored by the State, pitching one
community against the other, sometimes occurring among groups
with no previous history of antagonism. Furthermore, other
symptoms of such conflicts glaringly reveal the complicity of the
State.

Vol. 5, No. 1

123

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

Another angle to the State-sponsored violence in the Niger Delta is


also seen in the use and manipulation of rival gangs, known locally as
cults. These cults have proven ties with political leaders in the delta
region who use them during elections to intimidate opponents and rig
votes (Polgreen 2007). The rivalry among these gangs for supremacy
has brought so much violence to the city, as many of the citys
inhabitants are often cut in the cross-fire. Also, the implosion in Port
Harcourt of these groups since after the end of the elections has been a
source of deep concern to the citys residents. They constitute the
main bulk of the citys feared militants. Indeed, one cannot discuss
the degeneration of Port Harcourt city, especially as it relates to this
vexed issue of militancy without a mention of the person of Dr. Peter
Odili, the erstwhile Governor of the state, and his contributions to the
state of affairs in the city.
Peter Odili, medical doctor and politician, is presumably one of
Nigerias most corrupt politicians (Ghazvinian and). His corrupt
practices were not limited to alleged gross financial imprudence that
has impoverished Port Harcourt city and the region the more, but he
is also linked to the emergence and institutionalization of militancy in
the Niger Delta region. For instance, Alhaji Dokubo Asari, the leader
of the Niger Delta Peoples Volunteer Force (NDPVF), and Ateke
Tom, Asaris former colleague and later, founder of the Niger Delta
Vigilante (NDV), two of the most notorious militant groups in the
Niger Delta region, owed their existence to Dr. Odili. Both Asari and
Ateke have publicly attested to being recruited and armed by Dr.
Odili to ensure victory for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), with
him (Odili) as its governorship candidate in the 1999 elections, and
Abiye Sekibo as the Secretary to the State Government (SSG) (Asuni
2009, Courson 2009). Through Sekibos coordination, Asari and his
men helped to rig the vote for Dr. Odili and the PDP. These militants

Vol. 5, No. 1

124

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

were not only handsomely paid, but government kept a blind eye to
their illegal oil bunkering activities.
By the end of 2003, the influence of the group had become enormous.
After the 2003 elections, Odili fell out with Asari and his NDPVF
group. Asari was dropped and his lieutenant, Ateke Tom, became
Odilis new bride. He established the NDV, a break-away faction of
the NDPVF group, to keep Asari and his men in check (Odoemene
2011, 10). By August 2004, the NDPVF began clashing with NDV
causing an unprecedented violence in the Port Harcourt city. Before
the end of 2007, Ateke and his group had also fallen out with their
political master, Dr. Peter Odili, thus making the scenario
dangerously complex (Asuni 2009, Courson 2009, Ghazvinian nd).
Moreover, from about 2007 there emerged on the scene a multiplicity
of other militant groups, all fighting for their perceived rights, both
real and imagined. At various times some of these groups had clashes
among themselves which resulted in many deaths, including those of
innocent, law-abiding citizens. For instance, it was two major militant
groups the Bush Boys and the Greenlanders purportedly had their
leaders killed by Ateke and his men (Asuni 2009b, p. 12), occurrences
that further charged the Port Harcourt polity. The inability of Dr.
Odili and his associate, Abiye Sekibo, to contain the militia gangs
became a bane of Port Harcourt city the seat of power due to their
militancy and gangsterism. This was pertinently because
Many militant groups were never disarmed after the
elections were held, becoming in effect standing
armies for their political patrons. But while the
armed groups remained, their political allegiances
constantly shifted. Sekibo found himself unable to
reign in Atekes excesses, and the pair had a falling
out during the 2007 election campaign when the

Vol. 5, No. 1

125

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

latter blew up several police stations in Port


Harcourt, freeing his supporters but injuring many
bystanders. However, by 2008 it seemed that Ateke
and Sekibo had settled their differences and were
reportedly working together once more to destabilize
the current governor in Rivers State, who had fallen
out with them and his former godfather, Odili
(Asuni 2009, pp. 13-14).

With the Odili example, many other powerful politicians in Rivers


State, nay the Niger Delta, now make do with such militants for
various nefarious purposes. Indeed, the various groups are irked by
what seems like a fight from the government of Chief Rotimi
Amaechi, Odilis successor and former political godson, whom
Odilis militant groups also worked for during the various elections
(Obiyo 2011, p. 8). It would be recalled that Chief Amaechi was the
Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly throughout the eightyear period of Odilis two-tern tenure as governor of the state, and
allegedly worked hands in gloves with his political godfather. Watts
(2007) contends that Chief Amaechi was part and parcel of the
Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) political machine that emerged
under the previous governor, Peter Odili, an almost archetypical
example of the new breed of Godfathers who wield*ed+ enormous
power within a decentralized federal system.
Thus his recent moves at checking the militant groups are laughable
and seem unserious to many. For instance, Chief Amaechi had, in
2008, ordered the people of Okrika to give information on one of their
sons, Ateke Tom (Asuni 2009b, p. 13). Not surprising, no one from
the community cooperated with such a directive because these
politicians are never to be trusted and for fear of victimization (Obiyo
2011, p. 8-9). In all these, Port Harcourt city, the seat of government

Vol. 5, No. 1

126

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

and power, and Niger Deltas most significant urban social space, has
been the main war theatre. Indeed, it has become worse for it. Abati
(2007, p. 3) remarkably points out the implications of hobnobbing
with these evil groups that has become part of Port Harcourt city and
seem to have assumed permanence:
<they are causing so much problem because they need to get even
with the politicians who used them during the elections (2003, 2007),
only to get into office and ignore them. They promise to kidnap both
politicians and their relatives and make the area ungovernable<The
hoodlums who are now kings of the territory acquired power and
influence under the watch of political Godfathers who used them as
political thugs and armed them with sophisticated weapons. The
elections are over; the genie is out of the bottle; the boys with the
arms and ammunition have found a new occupation in terrorism.
And the matter is now beyond the Godfathers who dare not declare
their association with the boys too openly. We are paying the price
for bad leadership and bad politics.

Urban Ethnicity: The Indigene Settler Dichotomy


The colonial origins of criminal ethnicity in Nigeria, nay
vi
Africa, have been well noted by several scholars. According to Nnoli
(2003, p. 2-3), the colonialists manipulated the ethnic consciousness
that emerged from the violence of the colonial state. As a political line,
the colonial policy of divide and rule first used ethnic and regional
sectionalism to curb Nigerian nationalism and to maintain colonial
power. Thus, he considers the colonial urban setting as constituting
the cradle of contemporary ethnicity in Nigeria as it was there that
what we refer to today as ethnic groups first acquired common
consciousness (Nnoli 1978, p. 35). But beyond the colonial conspiracy
theory, one begins to wonder why even at the post colonial period the
manifestations of such ethnicity become even more dangerous and

Vol. 5, No. 1

127

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

destructive. Without a doubt, this ethnicity palaver is more fervently


exhibited within the indigene settler dichotomy framework.
Though one can hardly find the word indigene in most dictionaries,
it is a term so commonly and frequently used in Nigeria, so much so
that even the average Nigerian has a clear idea of what it means. Or,
at least, who is and who is not. The words indigene and settler
are mutually definitive in the sense that one defines the other and vice
versa (Odoemene 2008, p. 237). So, who is an indigene? The Human
Rights Watch (HRW) report of 25 April 2006, aptly titled They do not
own this place, defines indigenes as people who can trace their
ethnic and genealogical roots back to the community of people who
originally settled there (HRW 2005, p. 1). For our study here,
however, an indigene could be seen as a member of a group of
people who are the first to have settled permanently in a particular
area and who are often considered as natives. Such people have
rights to lands, traditions and culture (PSG 2004, p. 30, Odoemene
2008, p. 237). Therefore, anyone who does not fall within this category
in a particular locale is considered a settler, and thus, treated as
such.
Urban ethnicity in Port Harcourt, which is another fallout of bad
leadership in the area, is easily manifested within this indigene
settler dichotomy. This has, unfortunately, developed into
xenophobic irritations and intolerance with hydra-headed
consequences. The indigene settler politics in Port Harcourt was so
mainly because of the criminal neglect, cruel exploitation and
environmental degradation that the Niger Delta region faced within
the Nigerian project. There was also a palpable fear of domination of
the minority groups of the Niger Delta by the major ethnic groups,
especially the neighbouring ethnic Igbo (Paul-Worika 1979). In other
words, the activism which the youth-indigenes of Port Harcourt city

Vol. 5, No. 1

128

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

pursued included not just the fight for resource control, but also the
sacking from the city of all persons who are not from the Niger
Delta. Thus, indigenes of Port Harcourt, over time, became very
unreceptive to migrants, non-indigenes or settlers in the city, who
they claim had dominated and oppressed them for so long. LeithRoss (1937, p. 247) observations, only 25 years after the founding of
the city, are instructive as they underline, in some way, the
predisposition of the citys residents to such dichotomous politics and
their adjustments accordingly:
Port Harcourt is not, as might be expected, a
melting pot where races and speeches, customs and
character will fuse and mingle and out of which a
new and stable people will emerge, but rather a
railway platform with people coming and going.
Each family part holding closely together,
contemptuous and suspicious of the other

The insecurity and threats that these patterns of urban ethnic relations
pose underlines one of the main bases for the existence, prominence
vii
and vibrancy of organized ethnic unions in the city. These are
fashioned to deal with the vagaries of urban life and existence
guarantying adequate welfare and security as it affects their
members (Mabogunje 1976, Osaghae 1994). The existence of such
unions is a consequence of the weakening of family roles, nuclear
and/or extended, due to the exigencies of migration. Mabogunje (1976,
p. 23), for instance, notes these unions as <perhaps the most
important social phenomenon in many African cities. This is deeply
rooted in the kind of functions they performed, especially in
providing security to the urban migrants, dubbed settlers, in Port
Harcourt city.

Vol. 5, No. 1

129

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

The contemptuous and suspicious relations among Port Harcourts


residents (Leith-Ross 1937) were also played out in the Abandoned
Property saga targeted against the ethnic Igbo population in Port
Harcourt city. It was one very important by-product of the civil war
and the post-war politics of animosity in Port Harcourt that needs
some attention here. As the civil war ended, all landed properties of
the ethnic Igbo in Port Harcourt and elsewhere were designated
Abandoned Property and confiscated by the government. Indeed,
government promulgated the Abandoned Property Decree of 1979 to
back this unprecedented act, which was also supervised by
government-appointed Abandoned Properties Implementation
viii
Committee,
which was headed by David Mark, the current
president of Nigerias Senate, the upper legislative chamber. Through
this act, the ethnic Igbo, upon losing the civil war, were also divested
of thousands of such properties, which were treated as having been
captured as war booty (Nwabueze 1985). These properties were
later sold to members of other ethnic groups at ridiculously low
prices. The heated court case on the issue came to a close sometime in
2002 when the Supreme Court ruled that such act was illegal and a
violation of the rights of the Igbo citizens of the country. It ordered
such property to be returned to their rightful owners. These were not
returned till date.
The Abandoned Property issue is a rather distasteful one in the
history of inter-ethnic relations in the city and has been one of the
sources of tension between Port Harcourt city indigenes and the
ethnic Igbo, the largest group inhabiting the city. One other very
interesting post-civil war urban development in Port Harcourt was
the re-naming of most of its communities in an effort to deny their
Igbo origins. This followed a wave of anti-Igbo sentiments among
groups in the Port Harcourt axis that hitherto claimed to be subgroups of the Igbo. Thus, local communities originally known as

Vol. 5, No. 1

130

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

Umuomasi, Umuokoroshe, Umueme, Umuola, Umuolumeni,


Umuokoro and Umuomasi (which were typically Igbo names of these
ix
communities) had the letter R, which stood for Rivers , prefixed to
them. With this development, the communities came to be known as:
Rumuomasi, Rumuokoroshe, Rumueme, Rumuola, Rumuolumeni,
Rumuokoro and Rumuomasi respectively. This has remained till date
and is a constant reminder of the inappropriateness of certain
governance acts in the city.

Concluding Remarks
In all, a critical examination of these problems would show
that they were a reflection of a dilemma: failed governance. This has
been almost totally motivated by corruption which is rooted in the oil
of the delta region and its money. This is at the roots of Port
Harcourts woes. Thus, it has been subverted by the very thing that
gave it promise oil. As (Oneill 2007, p. 1) notes:
Oil fouls everything in southern Nigeria. It spills
from the pipelines, poisoning soil and water. It stains
the hands of politicians and generals, who siphon off
its profits. It taints the ambitions of the young, who
will try anything to scoop up a share of the liquid
riches fire a gun, sabotage a pipeline, kidnap a
foreigner.

The cruelest twist is that half a century of oil extraction in the delta
has failed to make the lives of the people better. Instead, they are
poorer still, and hopeless. As Oneill (2007, p. 3) reports, a Chief from
x
Oloibiri had charged thus: If we had never seen oil, we would have
been better off.

Vol. 5, No. 1

131

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

What future, then, is there for Port Harcourt city, in the face of its
glaring opportunities for positive transformation, and also the
tendencies of complete disintegration? Indeed, the social pendulum in
Port Harcourt has the potentials of swinging to any one of these
options. Its eventual course would, however, be largely dependent on
the approach to its problems. The continued neglect, alienation and
the suppression of its vast peoples, indigenes and settlers alike, by
either the government or petrobusinesses, or both, could be a recipe for
disaster. Its implications would be grave, especially as Port Harcourts
significance both for the Niger Delta region and the Nigerian state is
prominent. On the other hand, an honest appraisal of the crisis of
governance in the city of Port Harcourt, and the sincerity of the State
at oiling the friction by quickly dealing with the diverse problems,
could turn the city away from its destructive drift. It is only then that
the potentials of the city to truly create new arrangements and human
organizations through which a viable chance for all citizens to pursue
their aspirations could be effectively realised.
While one agrees that Port Harcourt, the Garden city, may not be
horticultural green anymore (a situation it can also turn around if its
administrators have the will), the city is still metaphorically green in
the context of the billions of dollars it spins, not only from
petrobusinesses, but also from other numerous industrial, commercial
and seaport activities therein. This offers the city a wonderful
advantage for a total turn-around. One has to reiterate that for this to
be possible, there has to be a credible government and leadership in
the city, the Niger Delta and Nigeria as a whole. This must be the first
step towards restoring the city on the part of sustainable development
and progress. These hard facts must have to be borne in mind
constantly, and consciously too.

Vol. 5, No. 1

132

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

References
Abati, R. 2007. Port Harcourt: A Paradise Lost [online]. Available from:
http://www.nigeriavillagesquare.com/articles/reuben-abati/portharcourt-a-paradise-lost/pdf.html [Assessed on 29 June 2008].
Amnesty International. nd. Nigeria: Rape the Silent Weapon [online].
Available from:
http://www.amnestyusa.org/document.php?id=ENGAFR440202006
&lang=e [Assessed on 20 September 2009].
Anyanwu, C.N. 1979. The growth of Port Harcourt, 1912-1960. In Ogionwo,
W. (ed.) The city of Port Harcourt: A symposium on its growth and
development. Ibadan: Heinemann Educational Books.
Archibong, M. 2004. Port Harcourt: Garden city with few flowers. The Sun
Newspaper, Thursday, 11 March.
Asuni, J.B. 2009. Understanding the Armed Groups of the Niger Delta.
Working Paper, Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) (September).
Asuni, J.B. 2009. Blood Oil in the Niger Delta. USIP Special Report 229
(August). Washington D.C.: United States Institute of Peace (USIP).
Courson, E. (2009). Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta
(MEND): Political Marginalization, Repression and Petro-insurgency
in the Niger Delta. Discussion Paper 47, Nordiska Afrikainstitutet,
Uppsala.
Dixon-Fyle, M. 1989. The Saro in the Political Life of Early Port Harcourt,
1913-49. The Journal of African History, 30 (1), 125138.
Dorothy, Q.T. and Regan E.R. 1994. Rape in War: Challenging the Tradition of
Impunity. SAIS Review, 14 (1) (Winter/Spring), 8199.

Vol. 5, No. 1

133

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

Ekine, S. 2005. Womens Responses to State Violence in the Niger Delta.


Feminist Africa, 10, 6783.
Ezedinma, C. and Chukuezi, C. 1999. A Comparative Analysis of Urban
Agricultural Enterprises in Lagos and Port Harcourt, Nigeria.
Environment & Urbanization, 11 (2), 135144.
Ghazvinian, J. (nd). The Curse of Oil. Available from:
http://www.ijawland.com/The%20Curse%20of%20Oil%20by%20Joh
n%20Ghazvinian.pdf. [Accessed 23 August 2008].
Gusau, I.U. 2010. Fresh battle on Port Harcourts Waterfronts. Weekly Trust
Newspaper, Saturday, 06 November.
IHRHL. 2000. Poverty in Wealth: Report on the People of the Niger Delta and
the display of poverty in wealth. Port Harcourt: Institute of
Humanitarian Rights and Humanitarian Law (IHRHL), (September)
[online]. Available from: www.ihrhlng.org/poverty%20in%20wealth.doc [Assessed 23 June 2008].
Izeogu, C. V. 1985. Port Harcourt City Profile. Cities: International Quarterly on
Urban Policy, 2 (1), 5462.
Leith-Ross, S. 1937. African Women: A Study of the Ibo of Nigeria. London: Faber.
Lugard, F. 1913. Nigeria 183, CO. 583/4/Vol.3. Sir F. Lugard to the Rt. Hon.
Lewis Harcourt, Secretary of State for the Colonies, 18 August,
Public Records Office, London.
Mabogunje, A.L. 1976. Cities and African development (Studies in the
Development of African Resources 3). Ibadan: Oxford University
Press.
Morka, P. 2007. The wild and dark side of city life. Weekend Horizon
Newspapers, Saturday, 24 March.

Vol. 5, No. 1

134

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

Nnoli, O. 1978. Ethnic politics in Nigeria. Enugu: Fourth Dimension


Publishers.
Nnoli, O. 2003. Ethnic violence in Nigeria: A historical perspective. Available
from: http://www.indiana.edu/~workshop/papers/nnoli_021003.pdf
[Assessed 21 December 2006].
Nwabueze, B.O. 1985. The Igbos in the Context of Modern Government and
Politics in Nigeria: A Call for Self-Examination and Self-Correction.
Ahiajoku Lecture Series, Owerri: Ministry of Information and Culture.
Obed, T.U. 2010. Port Harcourts Waterfronts: Issues arising. The Horn
Newspaper, Wednesday, 24 November.
Obinna, V.C.; Owei, O.B. and Okwakpam, I.O. 2010. Impacts of Urbanization
on the Indigenous Enclaves of Port Harcourt and Concomitant Policy
Measures. The Social Science 5 (3).
Obiyo, M.K. 2011. On Rotimi Amaechis Stewardship in Rivers State, 19992010. Horizon Newspapers, Monday, 10 January.
Odoemene, A. 2008. The Contexts of Colonialism and Ethnicity in Indigene
Settler Relations: Comparative Historical Evidence from Social
(Dis)orders in two Nigerian Cities. In Zewde, Bahru (ed.) Society,
State and Identity in African History. Addis Ababa: Association of
African Historians and Forum for Social Studies.
Odoemene, A. 2009. The Nigerian Military and Sexual Violence in Ogoniland
of (Niger Delta) Nigeria, 1990-1999. Paper presented at an
international conference on Rape in Wartime: A History to be Written,
Institut Historique Allemand, Paris, France, 11th 14th May.
Odoemene, A. 2010. Social Consequences of Environmental Change in the
Niger Delta of Nigeria. A paper for the 2010 Berlin Conference on the
Human Dimensions of Global Environmental Change, Theme: Social

Vol. 5, No. 1

135

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

Dimensions of Environmental Change and Governance, Environmental


Policy Research Centre, Freie Universitt Berlin, 8th 9th October.
Oneill, T. 2007. Curse of Black Gold: Hope and Betrayal in the Niger Delta.
National Geographic, (February), 88117.
Ogionwo, W. 1979. A social survey of Port Harcourt. Lagos: Heinemann
Educational Books.
Ohiagbuchi, J.C. 2007. Killing the Goose that lays the golden egg: The perils of the
Niger Delta. Warri: Ohioma Publishers.
Okoye, T.O. 1996. The city in Southeastern Nigeria. Onitsha: University
Publishing Company.
Owei, O.B. and Ikpoki, M. 2006. The growth of middle and high income
informal settlements in Port Harcourt, the factors causing this trend
and the challenges this poses for urban management. Paper
presented at the 42nd ISoCaRP Congress, Yildiz Technical
University, Istanbul; 14 19 September.
Oruwari, Y. and Owei, O.B. 2006. Youth in urban violence in Nigeria: A case
study of urban gangs from Port Harcourt. Niger Delta: Economies of
Violence, Working Paper 14.
Osaghae, E. 1994. Trends in migrant political organisation in Nigeria: The Igbo in
Kano. Ibadan: IFRA.
Paul-Worika, U.A. 1979. Cultural life in Port Harcourt after the Civil War. In
Ogionwo, W. (ed.) The city of Port Harcourt: A symposium on its
growth and development. Ibadan: Heinemann Educational Books.
Plateau State Government (Nigeria). 2004. Plateau Resolves: Report of the Plateau
Peace Conference, 2004 (Official Gazette). Jos: Government Printer.

Vol. 5, No. 1

136

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

Polgreen, L. 2007. Nigerian gangs turn their guns on their own. International
Herald Tribune, (Thursday, November 8) [online]. Available from:
http://www.iht.com/bin/printfriendly.php?id=8252160 [Assessed 2
December 2007].
Rowell, A., Marriott, J. and Stockman, L. 2005. The Next Gulf: London,
Washington and oil conflict in Nigeria. London: Constable and
Robinson.
Watts, M. 2007. So Goes Port Harcourt< Political Violence and the Future of
the Niger Delta. CSIS Africa Policy Forum (27th September) [online].
Available from: http://forums.csis.org/africa/?p=61 [Assessed 15
November 2007].
Wolpe, H. 1974. Urban politics in Nigeria A study of Port Harcourt. Berkeley:
University of California Press.

Notes
i

C.S.C. 1/32, Nigeria Dispatch to C.O., 5 June, 1913. National Archives Enugu
(NAE).
ii

Nigeria 183, CO. 583/4/Vol. 3. Sir Frederick Lugard to the Rt. Hon. Lewis
Harcourt, Secretary of State for the Colonies, 18 August 1913, Public Records
Office, London.
iii

This nomenclature is thought to be more suitable than the oil-producing


communities parlance which has become commonplace.
iv

A Nigerian-born research scientist at the University of Missouri.

Personal Communication: Ohuabudu, Mike; 32 years, Unemployed Ikwerre


Youth. Interviewed in Port Harcourt city on Saturday, 15 March 2008.

Vol. 5, No. 1

137

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

vi

For instance, see Boer, W. 2001. A perspective on the post-colonial roots of


identity and conflicts in Nigeria. In Albert, I.O. (ed.) Building peace, advancing
democracy: Experiences with third-party interventions in Nigerias conflicts. Ibadan:
John Archers; Nnoli, O. 1978. Ethnic politics in Nigeria. Enugu: Fourth
Dimension Publishers; Nnoli, O. 2003. Ethnic violence in Nigeria: A historical
perspective. Available from: http://www.indiana.edu/~workshop/papers/nnoli_021003.pdf
[Assessed 21 December 2006]; Odoemene, A. 2008. The Contexts of
Colonialism and Ethnicity in Indigene Settler Relations: Comparative
Historical Evidence from Social (Dis)orders in two Nigerian Cities. In Zewde,
Bahru (ed.) Society, State and Identity in African History. Addis Ababa:
Association of African Historians and Forum for Social Studies.
vii

For a discussion on the evolution of Ethnic Unions and/or Migrant Ethnic


Empires in Nigeria, see: Osaghae 1994.
viii

The decree provides that every such sale was deemed to have been lawful
and valid, and was to have effect according to its tenor; the new purchasers
of the abandoned properties were free of all encumbrances, while the registrar
of lands was directed, upon presentation to him of the instrument of sale duly
signed by or on behalf of the Committee, to expunge from the register the
names of the hitherto registered owners and to substitute same with that of
the new purchasers. Failure by anyone to comply with these stipulations was
made a criminal offence punishable by imprisonment for one year without the
option of a fine (Nwabueze 1985).
ix

Rivers State was the name of the wartime new state with headquarters at
Port Harcourt, granted to the people of the area. This statehood was
primarily granted to weaken the Biafran side by giving semblance of
freedom to groups who had groaned under the Igbo influence.
x

Oloibiri, a community near Port Harcourt city, is perhaps, a typical natural


museum of the neglect that the Niger Delta has endured over the years. It is
the very first community where oil was found (1954) and exploited in the
delta. Today, it is still a rural community lacking in almost all basic amenities

Vol. 5, No. 1

138

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

power (electricity), water, accessible roads, health and educational facilities


and proper sanitation.

Vol. 5, No. 1

139

The Nigerian Press, the Public Sphere and


Sustainable Development: Engaging the Post
Amnesty Deal in the Niger Delta
Uzoechi Nwagbara6
Key Terms: Nigeria, Niger Delta, media, Nigerian press, public
sphere; Habermas; sustainable development; good governance.
Abstract
The coalescence of effective media and the public sphere is a synergy
that brings about democracy, sustainable development and good
governance. Irrespective of its shortcomings, the Nigerian media has
been described as a bastion of peoples agitation, which impacts on
the public sphere, a realm where private individuals meet to address
societal questions with the state. This is the case with the Nigerian
press, whose duties and ideals have been called to action in the wake
of the amnesty deal in the Niger delta. In order to achieve peace and
good governance in the region, serious grassroots and national
information dissemination so as to guarantee objectivity and fairness
in news reporting thereby impacting on the regimes mode of
governance is required. Therefore, the partnership between the public
sphere and media is essential in the post amnesty era for increased
democratic experimentation and conflict resolution because it is a
platform that can be used to inform and sensitize the people, as well
as to influence the activities of government in the light of legitimate
leadership in the public space.

Uzoechi Nwagbara is with the Department of Human Resource Management,


Greenwich School of Management, UK. Email: uzoechin@yahoo.com
6

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

Introduction
There can be no liberty for a community which lacks the means to detect lies. Walter Lippmann
Without information there is no accountability. Information is power and the more
people who possess it, the more power is distributed. The degree to which a media is
independent is the degree to which it can perform an effective public watchdog
function over the conduct of public affairs. - Pope Jeremy

The contemporary Nigerian press is a child midwived by two


significant events in the history of Nigerias journalism and media
enterprise. These epoch-making journalistic events are the evangelical
church project of 1847 in Calabar that gave birth to the first printing
press in Nigeria pioneered by the famed missionary Hope Waddell
and Reverend Townsends Iwe Irohin fun Awon Ara Egba Ati Yoruba
which was established in Abeokuta in 1859. A flowering of the press
began 17 years later on the heels of socio-political, cultural and
economic activities characteristic of Nigerias emergent nation-state.
This experience saw the emergence of The Lagos Times in 1880, which
was edited by Andrew Thomas; The Lagos Observer followed in 1882,
edited by Blackwell Benjamin; and The Mirror in 1887, which was
started by Adolphous Mark. After the establishment of these projects
came what could be described as indigenous journalistic efforts that
were galvanised by nationalistic consciousness. Nationalistic
sentiment and struggle for decolonisation found resonance in the
establishment of some newspapers. The first one was The Nigerian
Chronicle, which was set up by Johnson Brothers in 1908, while
Kukoyi Ajasa inaugurated The Nigerian Pioneer that was bedeviled
with Lugardist influence. Subsequently, in 1926, the Nigerian Printing
and Publishing Company floated Nigerian Daily Times with its first
editor as Ernest Ikoli; and in 1937, The West African Pilot was

Vol. 5, No. 1

141

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

established by Nnamdi Azikiwe, among other similar journalistic (or


media) projects that followed in the footsteps of this process.
The Nigerian press is a concept that predates colonial state and has
been characterised by diverse twists and chequered evolution that
find expression in proscription of media outfits; incarceration,
imprisonment and killing of pressmen; draconian media laws and act;
politico-ideological oriented news reporting; and stringent legal
requirement for establishing media outfits. The present media outlook
in contemporary Nigeria is forged by the above antecedents. But
irrespective of the chequered nature of the media in Nigeria, it is
undoubtedly a palladium for contesting the public space with the
ruling class that marginalises as well as oppresses the people. This
pattern is instantiated in the way the media has been vibrant in
Nigerias democratisation project, as well as its participation in
moulding peoples thought, impacting public opinion and
sensitisation of the populace (Omu 1978: 204). It is on this score that
the major hypothesis of this paper is predicated: trying to locate the
contributions the partnership between the media and the public
sphere makes regarding good governance and sustainable
development in the post amnesty deal in the Niger delta. At the
moment, the realities unfolding in the region call for scholarly
investigation. This paper is part of that exercise.
In the struggle for democracy and expansion of the public sphere in
Nigeria, the media has been immensely active in bringing these to
fruition. In spite of the challenges and convulsions that beleaguer the
Nigerian media, it has been a veritable platform for the dissemination
of information, education of the citizenry, moulding of peoples
thought and criticism of the state. It is in this light that it has been
argued that

Vol. 5, No. 1

142

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

The media being described as a watchdog is in recognition of its


watchful and critical role against the bad practices of the government
and private individuals< The media have been irrepressible in
holding the citizenry, particularly the political leaders accountable in
Nigeria. (Omoera 2010: 35-6)

It is under the same rubric that Matthew Hassan Kukah in his


Democracy and Civil Society in Nigeria (1999) noted that there is no
contention that Nigerian media is a serious participant in the overall
struggle to sustain democratic culture in Nigeria (1999: 287), as well as
an instrument in ensuring the movement of people from the private to
the public sphere. As evinced by Denis McQuail, which technically
summarises the role of the media in sustaining and strengthening the
fabric of the public space, the media have an obligation to the wider
society in making sure news is truthful, objective, accurate, fair and
relevant (2000: 150); it also has the capacity to broaden the confines of
the public sphere. The public sphere is a space that serves as a
counterpoise to the excesses of the state and the political class, whose
stock in trade is to perennially marginalise and repress the people
particularly in the Niger Delta, where the activities of the state and the
multinationals have kept the inhabitants of this region of Nigeria in
misery.
Since the media is a major organ of the civil society, which espouses
an ethical ideal of the social order < that harmonises the conflicting
demands of individual interests and social good (Seligman 1992: 10),
it goes therefore to mean that the media is undeniably in a soulful
union with the public sphere that helps to shape public perception,
public opinion and the process of dialogue in a society. Thus,
Habermass theory of the public sphere ultimately calls for a recovery
of increased public opinion as well as renaissance of rational-critical
debate, which is a bastion of the media. As a consequence,

Vol. 5, No. 1

143

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

The public sphere is dependent on the quantity of involvement and


the quality (merits) of the discourse for its democratic relevance. It
needs institutional bases such as the media< that enable people to
be informed. (Lunat 2008: 3)

Here lies the fact that Habermass contention in his seminal work,
Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere (1962) is steeped in the
Kantian formulation, which articulates the use of reason and criticism
in public debate. The characterisation of the media as a conduit for
critical rationality, objectivity, informed opinion and widened space,
as well as an apparatus for governmental checks and balances make it
the fourth estate of the realm as intimated by Edmund Burke.
The activities of the media in the public sphere are very essential in
the contemporary world of democracy, this is particularly so in the
Niger delta region of Nigeria, which has been described as
an enclave of youth militancy, and unmitigated violence on a large
scale< The region has been the epicentre of conflicts between oil
bearing/host communities and oil companies (mainly over land
rights or compensation for ecological damage); between oil
producing communities and the government (over increased access
to oil wealth); and between and among ethnic groups (over claims to
land ownership and sharing of amenities). (Ojakorotu 2006: 230).

With the above in mind, the place of the media regarding the
protracted crises and conflicts in the Niger delta is cardinal; it is even
more in this era of post amnesty deal. In the era of post amnesty deal,
the media could help in widening the frontiers of the public sphere for
good governance and development. The media can do this by
legitimising, criticising and questioning the legitimacy as well as the
operations of the parties (that is the federal government and the
communities) involved in the peace process or amnesty deal.

Vol. 5, No. 1

144

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

As one of the institutions of democracy and the public sphere, the


media could aid in shaping the public sphere, a major source of public
opinion needed to legitimate authority in any functioning
democracy (Rutherford 2000: 18). Consequent upon this,
Among the institutions that contribute to the make-up of a (sic)
public sphere in society, the media perhaps perform the most critical
function. In the transaction in the public sphere, the media are not a
neutral participant or an impassioned chronicler. Instead, they are
either a legitimiser of the status quo or an innovator of the existing
social equilibrium. The conflict or collaboration of the media with
forces that attempt to colonise the public sphere materialise in this
context. (Panikkar 2004: 1)

Particularly, in the Niger delta, the media has enormous role to play
in the wake of the demands of the amnesty deal. The place of the
media in this regard has been captured clearly in a piece by Chigozi
Ijeomah Eti titled Objectivity and Balance in Conflict Reporting:
Imperatives for the Niger Delta Press. As he argues,
The press has been found to play a significant role in managing
conflict situations in the society< and building confidence, hope and
a sense of community and communality especially during or after
conflict event, with particular reference to the Niger delta. (Eti 2009:
91)

The remit of this study will not permit an exhaustive analysis of the
Niger deltas resource curse thesis and political impasse, rather it
will be exploring the ways and manner the dyadic relationship of the
public sphere and the media can help in galvanising methods and
approaches for dealing with conflicts amongst the Nigerian states, the
multinationals and their host community as well as resolving

Vol. 5, No. 1

145

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

communal violence so as to bring sustainable development in the


region.

Theoretical Framework
The theoretical framework of this study is based on Jurgen
Habermass theory of the public sphere, a realm made up of private
people gathered together as a public and articulating the needs of
society with the state (Habermas 1991: 176). Jurgen Habermass
avant-garde work, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: an
Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society (1962) has attracted extensive
attention in debates regarding the correlation between the public and
the private spheres and the public good. In the line of thought of the
cultural theorist, Habermas, the book questions the status of public
opinion in the exercise of representative democracy and good
governance. Although, originally used to gauge the heartbeat of
broadened public opinion as it affected the public sphere in Western
Europe, the concept, the public sphere, has been appropriated by
societies the world over to deal with their disparate situations
regarding expanding debates that bring about democratic changes.
For Hauser, the public sphere is a discursive space in which
individuals and groups congregate to discuss matters of mutual
interest and, where possible, to reach a common judgment
(1999:117). In the thinking of Nancy Fraser, it is basically a site for
the production and circulation of discourses that can in principle be
critical of the state (1990: 57). In addition, Asen in his Toward a
Normative Conception of Difference in Public Deliberation,
considers it as a realm of social life in which public opinion can be
formed (1999: 125). Habermass theorising here made a foray into
using the public sphere, a correlate of mass media to engage with
states excesses in the light of good governance and development. The

Vol. 5, No. 1

146

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

Haberrmasian public sphere is correlative of the media. It needs the


media, one of the agencies of the civil society to flourish and to impact
on democracy in the final analysis. This is because the media and the
public sphere are in an internecine interface. Thus,
The public sphere is dependent on the quantity of involvement and
the quality (merits) of the discourse for its democratic relevance.
It needs institutional bases such as the media < that enable people to
be informed about current events. (Lunat 2008: 3)

So, in view of the critical, informative and sensitising nature of the


media to contribute to public discourse as well as to further educate
the citizenry on how to offer reasoned opinions about the society and
governance, it is a veritable tool for the widening of the public sphere.
The watchdog function of the media makes it widely regarded as
the fourth estate of the realm one of the key organs of government in
a democracy for free and fair society. This fact has been corroborated
by J. B Thompson in his The Media and Modernity: A Social Theory of the
Media (1995) as he avers that one of the fulcrums of Habermass
theorising of the public sphere, is the way he treats the development
of the media as an integral part in the formation of modern society
(1995: 7). This is crucial for the Niger delta sustainable development
since the amnesty deal is a major step towards consolidating the
ideals of democracy project in the Niger delta and Nigeria by
extension. It is also worthy of note that the media was instrumental to
Nigerias current status as a democratic society (even though more
needs to be done in that light). For example, the expansion of the
discursive realm, the public sphere, through the instrumentality of a
virile media was instrumental in the emergence of Nigerias fourth
republic, which saw the coming of Obasanjo administration a march
from militarism to democracy. In this connection therefore,

Vol. 5, No. 1

147

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

The press, it has been argued, was in the forefront of the struggle for
enthronement of democracy or better still, the return to civil rule
(because not a few Nigerians believe we do have a democracy yet).
Many in this group will point out that the press was also in the
vanguard of the independence struggle. To them while other
countries in Africa fought for their independence on the battlefield,
that of Nigeria was fought for, and won on the pages of newspapers
expending millions of words, instead of ammunitions, in the process.
(Kalejaiye 2009: 75)

The Nigerian Press and the Public Sphere: Towards Conflict


Resolution
The press (or the media) which include print, broadcast and
Internet media are channels for the dissemination of information,
sensitisation and conscientisation of the people concerning equipping
them with insights into the goings-on in their environment and
around the world. This function is essentially the bedrock of media
criticism. However, particularly in the wake of partisan journalism,
sponsored news programmes, commercialised media enterprise,
political reporting, and propagandistic reportage in operation in
Nigeria, the press has taken a grotesque toga in the way and manner
that it disseminates information. This has impacted considerably on
the question of objectivity, truth and fairness regarding news content.
This ethical aberration has posed serious contradiction to the pristine
configuration of media or journalistic business. In instantiating this
position, Omenugha and Oji assert that regarding
News commercialisation practice in Nigeria, media industries adds
to this contradiction and deception, creating a continuous dilemma
for ethics and objectivity in journalism practice in Nigeria. (2009:13)

Vol. 5, No. 1

148

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

It is in the light of the above statement that Abimbola Adesoji in his


piece titled Globalisation of the Media and the challenges of
Democracy in Nigeria remarked that The response of the Nigerian
press to the challenges of democratisation has not been adequate
(2006: 49). And interestingly, the expansion of the public sphere
through the instrumentality of the media is cardinal in effecting good
governance and democracy in the Niger delta and Nigeria by
extension.
Having said that, the place of the media in supporting structures for
increased debate and widened public sphere, which guarantees the
actualisation of democratisation project in contemporary Nigeria, as
well as serves as a bridge to re-enforce conflict resolution in the wartorn and violence-prone Niger delta is crucial. In sync with this
position, the media is naturally attracted to conflict (Owens-Ibie
2002: 32). Therefore an understanding of the mass medias role in
shaping beliefs and behaviours, especially prejudiced beliefs and
behaviours (Paluck 2009: 574) is central in conflict resolution and
management.
In 1935, Gordon Allport, the father of modern psychological prejudice
research published a treatise entitled The Psychology of Radio. This
piece of research unveiled among other issues how people respond to
prejudice, stereotype, and propaganda while listening to the radio
and other mediums. In contemporary Nigeria, media slant, conflict,
prejudice and propaganda are major staples in her media practice.
This is the case with the Niger delta. An understanding of conflict
resolution/management as a corollary of media engagement or
mediation is fundamental in peace and rebuilding process in the
region. This is because the mass media is an instrument that could be
utilised to shape belief, attitude, and perception among others. It is
also a veritable instrument that could be used to advance objectivity

Vol. 5, No. 1

149

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

and fairness. In order to bring good governance in the Niger delta, the
Nigerian media should be in the vanguard of promoting the enabling
environment that will translate the federal governments promises
regarding the amnesty deal, which was brokered by President Umaru
Musa YarAdua with the warring militants in the region. The ability
of the media to engender conflict resolution has been lauded:
This cannot be less true of conflict in the Niger delta. In fact, the
establishment of the regional press in the Niger delta may be part of
societys response to the nagging and protracted crises in the oil-rich
area. < There is an emerging press system in the Niger delta that is
domiciled in the area or elsewhere in the country, but is established
to articulate the agitations of the Niger delta people. (Eti 2009: 92)

Ostensibly, conflict management and resolution has become a


contentious topic in the re-making of modern Nigeria, particularly in
the Niger delta. The media could be a tool for change, a
transformation that could be expressed in the modified way the
people and the major actors in the politics of the Niger delta crises see
the issue of governance through the medias involvement and
expanded the public sphere.
Modern wars and conflicts are fought as well as initiated on the
screen, battlefield and the pages of newspapers. Media coverage of
events in the Niger delta drew the attention of the world to the
magnitude of injustice and oppression in the area. This is exemplified
in the medias internationalisation of the unjust execution of the
Nigerian eco-activist and writer, Ken Saro-Wiwa including other
Ogoni eight, which caused national and global frenzy. So in the post
amnesty dispensation in the Niger delta, the role of the media in
guaranteeing as well as sustaining developmental and restructuring
programmes in this region is vital. This is because as the defunct

Vol. 5, No. 1

150

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

militants, movement for the emancipation of the Niger delta (MEND)


and other outfits surrendered their arms and ammunition following
the amnesty deal, they are largely depending on institutions such as
the media to sensitise the Nigerian government to the plights of the
people regarding conforming to the demands of the deal. Therefore
given the limitations of the efficacy of previous conflict resolution
measures in Nigeria, the media should be adequately involved in the
emancipation and renaissance of the Niger delta in this very instance.
Put simply the active, virile presence of unbiased media coverage of
the conjunctures in this region will drive home the core objectives
behind the amnesty deal which are enshrined in disarmament,
demobilisation and reintegration DDR.
It is the duty of the media to objectively disseminate information
concerning the operations of the federal government and the
multinationals in the region including how the erstwhile warring
communities have kept faith with the emerging developments and
rehabilitation programmes in the region. The ability of the media and
widened public sphere to bring to the knowledge of the people and
the multinationals concerning the impact of oil exploration on the
environment of this region and its inhabitants as well as the letting the
various actors keep faith with the amnesty deal process makes the
various corporations concerned to live up to its billings. This action by
the media will in the final analysis engender sense of corporate social
responsibility, which has been defined as
Intelligent and objective concern for the welfare of the Society that
restrains individuals and corporate behaviour from ultimately
destructive activities, no matter how immediately profitable, and
leads in the direction of positive contributions to human
betterment< .(Andrews 1991: 199)

Vol. 5, No. 1

151

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

The activities of the media and public sphere in the above light will
ultimately register a sense of transition from frontier mercantilism to
restrained, sensitive mode of operation in the multinationals in the
Niger delta, whose operations are the raison d'tre for the conflicts in
the region.
Furthermore, the presence of a virile, responsible media practice is
correlate of media social responsibility. Thus, a social responsible
media galvanises actions towards corporate social responsibility. This
practice is tantamount to journalistic activism in challenging and
changing oppressive structures (Shah 1996: 145). A gagged media
does not foster democracy, a harbinger of expanded public sphere,
which brings about inputs from the people regarding how they want
the society to move. As Chris Ogbondah observed, a free press is an
indispensable institution of a democratic society (1997: 291), meaning
that a society that allows free flow of information and ideas from the
people that usually stem from expanded public sphere is democratic
and developmental. It is in this direction that it has been noted that
In modern practice, the concept of social responsibility informs us
that the media should be responsible to the people in order to
advance the cause of good governance. This technically means that
the media should be a platform to advance the cause of humanity. It
calls for socially relevant information to be disseminated and shared,
thereby making available the stimulation of public dialogue on
issues of concern to a democratic, populist Society. (Nwagbara 2008:
246)

As the media indulges in res publica or matters of legitimate public


concern, it is engaging in conflict resolution as well as redefining the
concept of politics and compelling the state in the Niger delta to
justify its actions, which ideally should be in tandem with the
amnesty deal blueprint.

Vol. 5, No. 1

152

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

Another way the media and the public sphere could bring a wave of
change characterised by less tension and peace in the Niger delta is by
deflecting false information, slant and propaganda, a term which the
media legend, Walter Lippmann calls the picture in our heads
(1997: 95), an enemy of a conflict-free society. Propaganda is a hotbed
of conflict, crisis and the like. Hence, a misinformed people will
naturally get the wrong signal and thereby act in that light. The media
could help foster that the right information and news are being
filtered for public consumption in the region. The presence of a weak
media in the region rather being a platform for healthy change and
conflict resolution will be an avenue for sedation, a process the
cements the pictures in our head as Lippmann indicates, thereby
fuelling multilayered conflict and violence in the erstwhile
combustible Niger delta environment.
It has been noted that Africa (Nigeria or the Niger delta) is a theatre of
war. And part of the conflicts in Nigeria is as a result of the hype,
sensationalism, propaganda and skewed reportage that the media in
this part of the world carries out. In consonance with this,
Consistently, the news pages of virtually all Nigerian
newspapers are daily littered with necrophilous, if not
apocalyptic, fear-inducing, anxiety-promoting phrases which
draw attention to the transitional nature of the Nigerian state and
society. (Kehinde 2009: 126)

So, in order to reverse this obnoxious trend, the media, a correlate of


the public sphere should be in vanguard. This is what the case should
be in the post amnesty era in the Niger delta. In this age marked by
increasingly desire for conflict resolution and peace sustainability,
media practice should be in sync with the strategies to bring this to

Vol. 5, No. 1

153

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

fruition. It has been asserted that the media has become a crucial
battlefield (Shpiro 2002: 76) in mans quest to triumph over conflict
and its aftermath.

The (Niger Delta) Media and the Essentially Contested Concepts:


Sustaining Development in the Post Amnesty Deal Era
In his piece, The Nigerian Media: An Assessment of Its Role
in Achieving Transparent and Accountable Government in the Fourth
Republic, Mvendaga Jibo harps on the nature of the media to propel
sustainable development:
This development is consistent with the established position that the
media helps to cause attitude change and, by so doing, ensures
socio-economic transformation< In short the nature and the
character of the media greatly impacts on the performance of the
democratic/governance process and vice versa. (Jibo 2003: 181-2)

The nature of this sustainable development has been identified as


gross behavioural change in a countrys mode of governance to take
cognisance of the welfare of its populace, which is behind the
philosophy of the amnesty deal. Thus, sustainable development is
the concept presently coined to describe the totality of the good life
and overall welfare of the people in contradiction to mere economic
growth, hitherto erroneously considered (sic) as development
(Owolabi and Olu-Owolabi 2009: 219).
The phrase essentially contested concepts was first used by the
British social theorist and philosopher Walter Bryce Gallie in 1956 to
designate

Vol. 5, No. 1

154

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

*<+ a concept that not only expresses a normative standard and


Whose conceptions differ from one person to other, but whose
Correct application is to create disagreement over its correct
Application or, in other words, over what the concept itself is<
(Besson 2004: 3)

This concept has been adopted in contemporary political theory in


studies of institutions, such as democracy, freedom, justice, good
governance, development and among other semantically contested
terms in relation to human advancement in society. What makes such
concepts indeterminate, problematic or imprecise is what Gallie
himself identified as < the puzzles and conflicts that frustrate much
of our critical discussion (1956: 1). In unraveling this puzzle that is
humanitys yearning for more amplification and illumination
(Omotola, 2007: 249) so as to unpack the ambivalence and problematic
surrounding their relationship with nation-building and sustainable
development, the media and expanded public sphere have a duty to
uphold. Their duty is that of impacting the major apparatuses of
government and the masses through criticism, dialogue and increased
public opinion contribution in the act of government, which naturally
brings about healthy governance and development.
Also, the puzzle and conflict that characterise concepts, such as
development, democracy and good governance, among others find
resonance in what Shola Omotola has identified as conceptual
ambivalence (2007: 249), which makes finding solution to the issue of
embattled trinity (2007: 249) good governance, democracy and
development (2007: 247) with particular reference to Nigerias nationbuilding project and national re-engineering more complex. The term
democracy is contemporarily enmeshed in definitional complexity. It
essentially means different things to different societies. But no matter
the confusion or ambivalence or contest (as Gallie opined) that

Vol. 5, No. 1

155

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

bedevil it, democracy is encapsulated in this Lincolnian clich: the


government of the people, by the people and for the people. In
addition, part of the ambivalence adjoining democracy is what the
famed Nigerian political economist, Claude Ake considers here:
Democracy has been defined with a profusion of meaning that verge
on anarchy, libraries of controversy exist on the concept, theory and
meaning of the practice of democracy. And the confusion continuous
to grow with the very attempt to bring clarity. (Nwabueze 1993: 10)

From the foregoing, the opinion by Omotola that the triumvirate:


democracy, development and good governance are implicated in
embattled trinity, which Gallie adumbrated as essentially
contested concepts can now be appreciated.
The media have been variously described as agents for consolidation
of democracies as well as conduits for ensuring integrative and
developmental objectives in Nigeria. This is in view of the capacity of
the media (essentially in democratic dispensations) to form a coalition
with the masses in bringing the attention of the political class to
developmental issues that impact on good governance and
democracy. Accordingly, the mass media are participant in the overall
efforts and strategies to evolve developmental and democratic modus
vivendi in the political culture of Nigeria. This tendency has found
expression in the nationalist temper of pre-independence Nigerian
journalism, which largely culminated in Nigerias flag
independence in 1960, pro-democracy movements that translated
into the de-militarisation of Nigerian space and the present
experimentation with democracy. It is under this rubric that
The Nigerian press has lived up to expectation in spreading useful
and developmental information to society. This accounts for the tons

Vol. 5, No. 1

156

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

of news stories, editorials, commentaries, interviews and other


information giving activities of the media in both the print and
electronic media. The media have helped the Nigeria people to keep
abreast of the developments in the political space of the country.
(Omoera 2010: 34)

In contextualising the post amnesty deal, which took effect on the 4 th


of October 2009 between the federal government of Nigeria and the
Niger delta warring militants that warranted them to surrender their
arms and ammunition after the protracted, fierce debates about
resource control, environmental sustainability and socio-economic
justice, the critical functions of the media are relevant. This is because
communication is grossly crucial in maintaining peoples group
formation, community and nationhood.
The media reports the actions of the government as well as the
activities of those who speak in favour of the government. It also
criticises the policies and performance of the government by
suggesting alternative courses of action. By so doing, the media
impacts on the state of development in a society. As the media
contributes in making the people make informed political decisions
that relate to good governance and development, it thus makes the
ideals of democracy feasible. This quality of the media is integral in
changing the lives of the people towards desirable ideals as well as
serving as the mouthpiece of the people on the issues that will
transform their lives for the better. Thus,
It is clear that, taken together, mass media technologies, institutions,
professionals, norms and practices constitute one of the fundamental
forces now shaping the lives of individuals and the fate of peoples
and nations. To be sure, media influence < is significant, and
increasingly so, and as a result the media constitute a major human
resource whose potential to help prevent and moderate social

Vol. 5, No. 1

157

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

violence begs to be discussed, evaluated, and, where appropriate,


mobilised. (Manoff 1997: 2)

As the media brings the issues that shape human existence to the front
burner, it will be contributing to sustainable human development and
lasting peace in the Niger delta (Eti 2009: 100).
In this vein, the media helps in galvanising sense of solidarity in times
of conflict; it helps reciprocally hostile and incongruent entities find a
common ground. In the post amnesty era, this duty is doubly
relevant, hence, the media in this instance should serve as a platform
for cohesion and trust in making sure the ideals of the amnesty is
achieved. This can be achieved by dissemination of truth and politicsfree information that will enhance good governance and development
in the region. It is to this end that the role of media will be
contributory to Nigerias national peace and security as well as
causative to ending sectional and ideologically oriented agenda in her
body politic. This pattern is what Sydney Head calls national pride
and sense of communal identity (1985: 301). This is what has been
described as the media being able to create < a sense of community,
a sense of espirit-de-corps, a sense of shared identity (especially in
suffering), a sense of shared purpose and shared identity (Eti 2009:
100) in the Niger delta.
As the Niger delta media and other media outfits in Nigeria engage in
journalism that will bring lasting peace, sustainability, democracy and
good governance in the Niger delta, they will be enhancing the core
philosophy underpinning the amnesty deal that was brokered by
President YarAdua. The Nigerian medias effort in this perspective is
encapsulated here:

Vol. 5, No. 1

158

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

Peace journalism < has the characteristics and capabilities of


encouraging constructive communication< Peace journalism, with
its keen eye for causes and stimuli and with its commitment to a
broader and fairer depiction can and should bring such unattended
human needs to the fore and alleviates intractable conflicts. (Peleg
2006: 2)

Consequently, the combination of effective media and the public


sphere will usher in peace journalism, a precondition for
sustainability, development, democracy and wholesome governance
in the Niger delta.

Conclusion
It has been demonstrated in this paper that lasting peace,
security, democracy, sustainable development and good governance
are verged on robust combination of virile media and public sphere.
This is rather redoubled in the post amnesty period in the Nigeria
delta region of Nigeria, which before now was characterised by high
level of restiveness, militancy, marginalisation, agitation and inept
governance, all stemming from oil exploration by the multinationals
in cahoots with the political operators in the region and Nigeria by
extension. In a world brimming with ideology, events, incidents,
information, politics and cultural disparities, determination of issues,
opinions and editorials that will make it to the headlines is very
complex. A form of media practice steeped in reconciling the
contradictions in this region for the benefit of its inhabitants and
Nigerians in general as well as the expansion of its public sphere is
needed. An effective media framework plus widened public sphere
will spawn the needed energy to effect change in the region in the
wake of the amnesty deal.

Vol. 5, No. 1

159

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

Works Cited
Adesoji, Abimbola O. Globalisation of the Media and the Challenges of
Democratisation in Nigeria. Nebula: a Journal of Multidisciplinary
Scholarship, 3.2(2006): 38-50.
Andrews, Kenneth R. The Concept of Corporate Strategy. Illinois: Richard D.
Irwin, 1991.
Asen, Robert. Towards a Normative Conception of Difference in Public
Deliberation. Argumentation and Advocacy, 25(Winter 1999):115-129.
Besson, Samantha. Sovereignty in Conflict. Towards an International Legal
Community: The Sovereignty of the States and Sovereignty of International
Law. Tierney, S. and Warbrick C (eds.). Aldershot: Ashgate
Publishing, 2004.
Eti, Chigozi I. Objectivity and Balance in Conflict Reporting: Imperatives for
the Niger Delta Press. The Journal of African Studies, 3.3(2009):91-104.
Fred, A. I. Omu. Press and Politics in Nigeria, 1800-1937. London: Longman,
1978.
Hause, Gerald. Vernacular Dialogue and the Rhetoricality of Public
Opinion. Communication Monographs, 65.2(1998):83-107.
Fraser, Nancy. Rethinking the Public Sphere: A Contribution to the Critique
of Actually Existing Democracy. Social Text,25.26(1990):56-80.
Head, Sydney. World Broadcasting System. California: Wadsworth Publishing,
1985.
Jibo, Mvendaga. The Nigerian Media: An Assessment of Its Role in
Achieving Transparent and Accountable Government in the Fourth
Republic. Nordic Journal of African Studies, 12.2(2003):180-195.

Vol. 5, No. 1

160

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

Kalejaiye, Olugbenga. The Press, Military Coup, and the Nigerian Polity: A
Historical Perspective. Journal of Social Sciences, 19.1(2009):75-81.
Kehinde, Ayo. The Muse as Peace-Maker: The Moral Burden of Conflict
Management and Resolution in Nigerian Literature The African
Symposium: An Online Journal of African Educational Research Network.
9.2(2009): 126-42.
Kukah, Matthhew H. Democracy and Civil Society in Nigeria. Ibadan: Spectrum,
1999.
Lippmann, Walter. Public Opinion. New York: Free Press, 1997.
Lunat, Ziyaad. The Internet and the Public Sphere: Evidence from Civil
Society in Developing Countries. EJISC, 35.3(2008): 1-12.
Manoff, R. K. The Medias Role in Preventing and Moderating Conflict.
http://www.usip.org/pubs/usipeace. Retrieved March 14, 2010.
McQuail, Denis. McQuails Mass Communication Theory. London: Sage, 2000.
Nwabueze, Ben. Democratisation. Ibadan: Spectrum Books, 1993.
Nwagbara, Uzoechi. Political Power and Intellectual Activism in Tanure
Ojaides The Activist. Nebula: A Journal of Multidisciplinary
Scholarship, 5.4 (December 2008): 225-253.
Ogbondah, Chris W. Communication and Democratisation in Africa:
Constitutional Changes, Prospects, and Persistent Problems for the
Media. Gasette, 59.4-5(1997):271-294.
Ojakorotu, Victor. Youth Militancy and Development Efforts in African
Multiethnic Society. Asteriskos, 1.2 (2006): 229-242.

Vol. 5, No. 1

161

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

Omenugha, K. and Oji, Majority. News Commercialisation, Ethics and


Objectivity in Journalism Practice in Nigeria: Strange Bedfellows?.
Estudos em Comunicacao, 3(2008): 13-28.
Omoera, Osakue S. The Import of the Media in an Emerging Democracy: an
Evaluation of the Nigerian Situation. Journal of Social Science, 22.1
(2010): 33-38.
Omotola, Shola J. Democratisation, Good Governance and Development in
Africa: The Nigerian Experience. Journal of Sustainable Development
in Africa, 9.4(2007):247-274.
Owens-Ibie, N. Socio-cultural Considerations in Conflict Reporting in
Nigeria. Introduction to Conflict Reporting in Nigeria. Pate, U. A. (Ed).
Lagos: Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, 2002.
Owolabi Kolawale A. and Olu-Owolabi Fadeka E. Corporate Social
Responsibility and the Crisis of Development in Africa. Journal of
Sustainable Development in Africa, 10.4(2009):218-232.
Paluck, Elizabeth L. Reducing Intergroup Prejudice and Conflict Using the
Media: A Field Experiment in Rwanda. Journal of Personality and
Social Psychology, 96.3(2009):574-587.
Panikkar, K. Media and the Public Sphere. The Hindu.
http;//www.thehindu.com/2004/01/12/stories/2004011201571000.htm.
Accesses on 14-03-2010.
Peleg, Samuel. Peace Journalism through the Lenses of Conflict Theory:
Analysis and Practice. Conflict and Communication Online,
5.2(2006):1-17.
Rutherford, Paul. Endless Propaganda: The Advertising of Public Goods. Toronto:
University of Toronto Press, 2000.

Vol. 5, No. 1

162

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

Seligman, Adam. The Idea of Civil Society. Princeton: Princeton University


Press, 1992.
Shah, Hermant. Modernisation, Marginalisation and Emancipation: Towards
a Normative Model of Journalistic and National Development.
Communication Theory, 6/2(1996):143-166.
Shpiro, Shlomo. Conflict Media Strategies and the Politics of Counterterrorism. Politics. 22.2(2002): 76-85.
Thompson, John B. The Media and Modernity: A Social Theory of the Media.
Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1995.

Vol. 5, No. 1

163

Charting Pathways to Development in the


Riverine Areas of the Niger Delta Region
Dr. O.J. Offiong and Jude Cocodia7

Key Terms: Nigeria, Niger Delta, development, human resources,


modernization.
ABSTRACT
Development is a multi faceted concept that encompasses the
physical as well as the mental. As such it is inappropriate to conceive
of development only on infrastructural terms without reference to the
socio-psychological and vice versa. This paper takes a look at the
Niger Delta and argues that development in the region has been
lopsided as emphasis has, more often than not, been on infrastructural
or physical improvement. Thus this paper argues that the inability to
make the aborigines of the Niger Delta relevant in society through
relevant skills acquisition and adaptation to modernization after being
displaced from their environments and livelihoods ought to be the
focus of development in the region. Therefore, focus should be placed
on human resource development of the Niger Delta people just as
much as is on infrastructure.
This paper then posits that to achieve this, there ought to be an
increase in both formal and informal education to enhance the rural
peoples ability to adapt to and be relevant in the changes of a modern
world as well as curb the quick money mentality encouraged by
politicians and Multi National Corporations (MNCs) which has been
etched into the mindset of youths of the Niger Delta and thereby
making them productively redundant.
Dr. O.J. Offiong is with Department of Political Science and Public
Administration, University of Benin, Benin City, Nigeria. Jude Cocodia is with
Department of Political Science, Niger Delta University, Wilberforce Island, Bayelsa
State, Nigeria.
7

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

INTRODUCTION
The Niger Delta has been described as one of the worlds
largest and Africas third largest drainage area. This flood plain is
home to over seven million people, grouped into several nations or
ethnic groups the Ijaw, Urhobo, Itsekiri, Isoko, Efik, Etche, Ibibio,
Andoni, Ikwere, Ogoni, Edo, and Kwale-Igbo. The bulk of these
groups inhabit the heart of the delta which is spread over three states
in present day Nigeria namely, Bayelsa, Delta and Rivers states. These
states take up about 80% of the area.
The Niger Delta has been a topic for intense debate since the 90s due
to the local and international awareness created by Ken Saro Wiwa of
the regions cursed blessing. In the words of Ibaba (2005:3):
The Niger Delta Region of Nigeria is an odd paradox. Despite its
evident and abundant resources which include the nations oil
wealth, the area represents one of extreme poverty and
underdevelopment. The Niger Delta is not only underdeveloped, but
is also experiencing a crisis of developmental instability.
Infrastructural development is very low, poverty level is about 80%
and unemployment level ranks 70%. Access to basic social amenities
is very limited. For example, over 80% of the coastal or riverine
communities source water for drinking, cooking and other domestic
uses come from rivers, streams and lakes that are equally used for
disposing of human and other forms of waste. The upland
communities largely drink from shallow wells that are
contaminated. Indeed, the Niger Delta region falls below the
national average, in all measures or indicators of development

More often than not, most literature on the Niger Delta place the
blame of underdevelopment on the conspiracy between the MNCs
who milk this region of its resources and the federal government who
is the end beneficiary of this wanton exploitation. Most arguments

Vol. 5, No. 1

165

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

here border on environmental degradation and conflict creation and


exacerbation in the Niger Delta by the MNCs as well as policy
insensitivity, social exclusion and infrastructural neglect on the part of
the federal government. In a bid to correct this anomaly, private
enterprises and government agencies operating in the area have been
encouraged to live up to their corporate or role responsibilities. This
clamour is justified when one considers, as noted by Watts and
Okonta (2003) and Ikelegbe (2008) that nobody should be under any
illusion that the oil companies and the federal government are not the
most important factors driving < under-development, poverty,
marginalization, oppression, inequitable and unjust treatment,
repression and violence in the region. Thus, it is only befitting that
they play leading roles too in developing the area and peoples of the
region.
Assessing the success of their efforts in transforming the areas of the
Niger Delta is not the focus of this paper, but rather what this paper
attempts to address is the fit these developmental efforts (wherever
they have been carried out) leave in their wake and the social
displacements that ensues. The end result of this process is the high
degree of unemployment, underemployment and restiveness being
witnessed in the Delta as its aborigines, being ill-equipped to cope
with the changes in their environment, vent their frustration on a
system that has necessitated their social displacement. Consequently,
this paper posits that for development in the Niger Delta to be
meaningful and rub off positively its inhabitants, genuine efforts
ought to be made by the responsible agencies to ensure the provision
of formal and non-formal education which would enable absorption
of and cushion the impact of the changes brought by physical
development.

Vol. 5, No. 1

166

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

OBJECTIVE OF STUDY
Peoples of the core Niger Delta have for long complained
about marginalization and neglect in the distribution and utilization
of the countrys resources. The Izon, presumably believed to be
Nigerias largest minority group and the largest of the ethnic groups
in the Niger Delta claim to be the most affected. With the advent of
development in the region in the wake of violent agitations by the
people for a fair share of the nations proceeds from oil which is
sourced from their grossly underdeveloped towns and villages and
the effects of which impoverishes them even further, it becomes ironic
and worrying to note that in new and budding Niger Delta towns
such as Yenagoa, idleness among the indigenous workforce (youths)
seems to be at its highest. The same also applies to many oil
producing communities. The result of the refusal of the native youths
to apply themselves to labour, is that, the provision of services
becomes completely dominated by none indigenes.
In view of this scenario, this paper aims at first identifying the reasons
for this increase in human resource wastage amid increasing
development programmes. The essence of this is to identify gaps in
development strategies meant for the Niger Delta and consequently
point decision makers in the right direction of situating development
programmes within the context of the environment and its peoples.

THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK OF ANALYSIS


This paper is anchored on Human Capital theory which, as
proposed by Gary Becker (cf. Lohrentz 2006), was the basis for many
development efforts in the early 1990s in the United States. This
theory is a combination of human resources management and workforce
development theory. Human resources management is concerned with how
people who work for an organization are managed bearing in mind

Vol. 5, No. 1

167

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

these people have feelings, thoughts, needs and aspirations. This


aspect of the Human Capital Theory proposes an approach that takes
into account the needs of the organization (which in this paper is the
state), and the needs of the people. It contends that individuals have
their own needs and aspirations and as such emphasis should be on
endeavours through which persons within the organization can
improve themselves. Human capital theory therefore relates to every
aspect of the way in which the organization/state interacts with its
people through the provision of training, skills acquisition, attitudes
and development opportunities. This connects with the problem of
the Niger Delta areas as addressed in this paper where affected state
governments look for ways to empower their citizens by bringing
development to these long neglected areas and try to get them
involved in skill acquisition programmes. Then, coping with the
impact of these development strategies brings to the fore the
relevance of the workforce development theory.
The workforce development theory addresses the rational choices made
by families and individuals as they grapple with the changes brought
by development. The emphasis of the theory here is on poverty which
according to Lohrentz (2006) is the result of making bad personal
decisions compounded by a geographic concentration of people all
seeming to make the same bad decisions, just as their previous
generations did. The intergenerational cycle creates an underclass.
While the poverty of majority of the communities of the Niger Delta
may be attributed to the ignorance displayed by the previous
generation on the ills of reckless oil exploration, the poverty still
persists today despite increased awareness because the youths of the
area still make wrong choices such as resorting to receiving paltry
monthly stipends from oil companies instead of pressing for demands
directed towards community development, environmental protection,

Vol. 5, No. 1

168

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

education and all other demands that would improve the quality of
life communally and individually.

DEVELOPMENT
FROM
A
SOCIO-PSYCHOLOGICAL
PERSPECTIVE
Okereke (1999:1) defines development as the qualitative
improvement in the living standard of members of the society. and
administration as the role relationship that defines the intentions and
programmes of government, the means available internally and
externally to accomplish them; where, when and how they are to be
accomplished; and who is to benefit from them. He summarizes
therefore that development administration refers to all the activities
of government and its agencies aimed at the attainment of higher
levels of development. (ibid:2)
Ujo (in Okoli and Onah 2002:130) contends that development is both
a physical process and a state of mind. The transformation of
institution is one aspect. The other aspect is that the thinking of the
people must change. Development, no matter the circumstance,
refers to change, a change for the better. Ujos perception above
implies that development can only be achieved when the mental
accompanies the social, economic, environmental and infrastructural
aspects of development. If a community experiences an economic and
structural revolution, and the affected people are unable to adapt to
the changes brought therein, then a fit occurs in the developmental
process. In other words, these development gains would be lost if the
peoples psyche are unable to adapt to these changes to ensure
maximum utilization of these structures. This situation which is a
recurrent trend in the Niger Delta justifies the application of the
human resource management theory as the framework for this paper. For
every development stride made, there ought to be a commensurate

Vol. 5, No. 1

169

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

appreciation and adaptation on the part of the benefiting peoples


otherwise the benefits of such development is lost all together. Thus,
to speak of development at all, we have to examine the physical as
well as the mental aspects. A close examination of happenings and
development in the Niger Delta indicates that majority of
development programmes are focused on tangible or material aspects
of development such as roads, bridges, schools (without reference to
the quality of education), hospitals and so on. This lopsided
arrangement in development planning leaves the area grossly
underdeveloped. Taking a cue from the argument above, of what use
is a hospital when inhabitants of the community would not patronize
it? The under-utilized, yet modern hospital at Okolobiri in Bayelsa
state is a clear case in point. The majority of women in the area still
give birth at home despite services at the hospital being provided for
free. The essence of the argument here is to buttress the claim that for
development to be effectively administered in the Niger Delta, extra
attention ought to be paid to raising awareness and increasing
adaptability through quality education with the aim of helping the
aborigines make maximal use of the structural changes in their
environment. It is for this reason Friedman (1967: 225) defines
planning as the guidance of change within a social system. This is a
most salient aspect of development in the Delta most especially when
we consider the fact that the people in the region have been among
the most educationally disadvantaged in Nigeria.

HUMAN
RESOURCE
DEVELOPMENT
AMONG
THE
ABORIGINES OF THE NIGER DELTA
It is a widely held that the Niger Delta is one of Nigerias
most educationally disadvantaged regions of which the Ijaws
(Nigerias fourth largest ethnic group) have arguably been the worst
hit. This state of affairs coupled with their crude agricultural methods

Vol. 5, No. 1

170

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

amid environmental degradation has definitely aided the


underdevelopment of the region. Again, as opined by Worgu (2000):
Agriculture forms the most dominant economic activity in the Niger
Delta. Federal Office of Statistics (F.O.S.) in 1985 stated that crop
farming and fishing activities account for about 90% of all forms of
activity in the area. They also estimated that about 50% - 68% of the
active labour force is engaged in one form of agricultural activity or
the other including fishing and farming. Agricultural technology has
remained relatively unchanged over the years and over 90% of the
farmers are subsistent farmers operating on traditional methods
using basic tools<. The organic farming technique widely used in
the Niger Delta is highly susceptible to environmental changes
affecting the soil, water or deforestation because it is not technology
inspired, but rather land and labour intensive. Oil extraction and
production has led to adverse environmental impact on the soil,
forest and water of the Niger Delta communities.

The utter neglect of the rural communities in the Niger Delta has led
to a massive rural-urban drift occasioned not only by lack of basic
amenities (healthy drinking water, electricity and medical care) and
unemployment, but also by the destruction of their environment and
livelihood from oil exploitation as well as the frequent inter and intra
communal clashes witnessed in the region (most of which are also oil
related). The outcome of the prevalence of these problems is the
population explosion of the regions few urban centres. As Worgu
(ibid) notes once again,
this has ultimately caused problems of environmental refugees.
Some of the landless farmers migrate to other more fertile lands in
other rural communities putting pressure on scarce fertile lands.
While some of the displaced farmers out-migrate to the urban areas
in search of other means of livelihood.

Vol. 5, No. 1

171

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

This latter perception is buttressed by Okonta and Douglas (op.cit: 34)


when they opine that, The population of Port Harcourt and the other
major towns is literally exploding. The ensuing scenario
urbanization without economic growth. No doubt, the majority of
these migrants are unschooled or uneducated, skilled in trade - such
as boating, canoe making, thatch house building and fishing - that
would not be beneficial to them in the city. Even when they possess
more relevant skills, there is still some little difficulty in adapting to
urban life. This problem is aptly conceived by Odediran (2004: 165)
when he argues that
Rapid industrialization and urbanization and population growth
have hastened the degradation of the environment and the depletion
of natural resources. But it is the development that we have
practiced so far that has polluted the earth. In providing the desired
quality of life for the privileged few, the process of development has
caused a marked decline in the quality of life for the bulk of
humanity.

The inability of development administrators to address this problem


has contributed largely to the problems of youth restiveness and
insecurity in the Niger Delta as a result of the high level of frustration
felt due to being displaced from their environment and livelihood
without being retrained to fit into modern society. This is aptly
explained by Orakwe (in Ofuebe 2001: 92) when he says; Mans
happiness within his social setting is largely determined by the extent
and intimacy of relationships and socialization effects. Without these
relationships and adequate socialization, mans self worth and
perception of himself and others become both ugly and oblique. This
psycho analysis aptly explains the aggression and anger that is
prevalent in the Delta. Changing situations have made it increasingly
difficult for Niger Deltans to relate with their environment thus

Vol. 5, No. 1

172

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

making them feel misplaced in todays modern society. Even road


construction in the Niger Delta have been known to obstruct flood
time water ways which disrupts the economic and social life of the
people and places them at the receiving end of modernization. This
paper thus posits that we can only meaningfully talk of development
in the Delta when the people are provided with the wherewithal and
opportunities to adapt to change.

OTHER FACTORS MILITATING AGAINST DEVELOPMENT IN


THE DELTA
The paper has argued to present the lack of awareness on the
need for retraining in relevant skills as a major problem of the Delta.
Education, be it formal or informal (as in skills acquisition and
adaptation), is a salient ingredient in helping the individual adapt to
change. The lack of this constitutes a stumbling block to Niger
Deltans, most especially the Ijaws. However, a recent phenomenon
that has militated against human resource development in the Delta
and made it more complex is the quick and free money syndrome.
There is no gain denying that heinous crimes such as kidnapping and
cultism have reached alarming proportions in the region. This is as a
result of the quick money or fast track to wealth that is assured. As such,
most youths are no longer disposed to making a living through hard
work. Learning a skill or trade, becomes too tedious and education
becomes too lengthy. Decent work does not pay well enough when
kidnapping is likely to net a cash haul equivalent to a government
employees entire career earnings. Cultural values no longer hold and
morals have been thrown overboard. This aptly explains why in
budding Niger Delta towns like Yenagoa where there is surplus need
for artisans of sorts, you seldom find male Ijaw youths learning new
skills/trade. In Yenagoa for example, you rarely find native youths

Vol. 5, No. 1

173

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

among drivers (automobile and motorcycles), automobile mechanics,


vulcanizers, masons, carpenters, electricians, tailors, cobblers,
blacksmiths, goldsmiths, plumbers etc, despite the increasing need for
the services these craftsmen render. These services and the
opportunities they provide get eventually occupied by non-natives
who end up training more non-natives to fill these needs. This trend
did not begin overnight. It is the result of a decade of transformation
that has its origins in politics and oil exploration.
For time and the objective of this paper, much would not be said
about the former (politics). But suffice to say, Nigerias politics of
godfatherism (client-patron politics) where contestants are not shy of
the use of guns and thugs, has contributed its fair share to the
problem being discussed. Since most Politicians in Nigeria measure
their strength not by popular votes, but by the number of thugs or
miscreants each has in his camp, a scenario that thuggery pays is
created since these miscreants can eke a living from the remuneration
they get from their political patrons. This accounts for the violent
nature of Nigerias political landscape. Relating to political violence,
Alanamu (2001: 79) observes, the frequency and ferocity with which
these violent clashes have occurred since the inception of the present
democratic rule have made them one of the challenging monsters that
need to be addressed.
Agreed that this trend pervades the whole country, the educationally
disadvantaged nature of the riverine areas of the Niger Delta, makes
the situation worse and human resource wastage grave.
The worse culprit of the quick money syndrome however, are the oil
MNCs in the Niger Delta. Prior to recent agitation by communities in
the region to benefit from oil exploration within their borders, oil
companies, where and when they are called to account for their

Vol. 5, No. 1

174

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

actions, avoid corporate responsibility by bribing influential


community members (youths and community heads). The reason is to
get the communities to turn a blind eye to their unethical operations
which allow for irresponsible profit maximization. From the
perspective of these companies, it is much cheaper to settle
individuals and communities than to clean up their mess and act
responsibly. In consonance with this argument, Odogbor (in Orobator
2005: 112-113) stated thus:
Most of the companies responsible for these acts of degradation are
not always willing to attend to the plight of the communities.
Because they think that the demands of the communities are
outrageous, they are more amenable to assuaging a powerful and
influential individual or group in the community (usually the youth)
whose demands most often in monetary terms they find bearable.
This attitude promotes further agitations by other factions, and
rivalry resulting in clashes of diverse magnitude.

Communities among numerous others that have suffered this fate


include Okurekpo in Ethiope East Local Government Area, Evwreni
in Ughelli South Local Government Area, both in Delta state and
Nembe in Bayelsa State. Worse still is the fact that between 1996 till
date, intra and inter communal clashes have arisen or been fuelled
due to this practice. Notable among these conflicts are those of
Igbogene community in Yenagoa LGA in 1996, Bassambari and
Ogbolomabiri in Nembe LGA also in 1996 and Odioma community in
Nembe LGA in 2005. (cf. Etekpe 2007:7-10). Okonta and Douglas
(op.cit: 225) put it succinctly; The real story: This is how a senior
European Shell executive described SPDCs development projects in
the Niger Delta; I would go so far as to say we spent more money on
bribes and corruption than on community development projects.

Vol. 5, No. 1

175

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

With so much money been given by the oil companies to individuals


and youth groups, it becomes understandable why opting for
modern/relevant skills acquisition becomes a problem for the average
Niger Deltan. Youths in many oil producing communities do nothing
while they wait for the end of the month when they each collect what
they term royalty usually between N20,000 - N40,000 (approximately
$160 - $320) from the oil companies operating in their communities.
And now that oil companies are being compelled to live up to their
corporate responsibilities and seem no longer willing to support this
easy and unproductive lifestyle, the culture of quick and easy money
which they encouraged and which has been so inculcated in the Niger
Delta youth now serves as the biggest obstacle to their development
programmes as the youths have opted to force money from the oil
companies by abducting their staff, and when these oil workers
cannot be gotten, they opt for other well to do members of society
who can afford paying huge ransoms. In all these, human resource
development suffers as it remains relegated and stagnated, the
damaging effects of oil exploration remain unattended to thus leaving
most of these Niger Delta communities poor, primitive and further
underdeveloped. The description above thus becomes an apt
exemplification of the workforce development theory (also adopted as
framework for this paper) which posits that collective poverty is the
result of people within a geographic area all seeming to make the
same bad decisions just as their previous generations did.

Vol. 5, No. 1

176

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

ADAPTING TO MODERNIZATION AND THE NECESSITY OF


EDUCATION
As opined by Gant (1979: 75-76):
The quality of the human resources applied to economic
development has a direct relationship to the pace and level of that
development. The quality of human resources is dependent upon
education as well as upon health and upon the supporting
environment. Physical capital would be wasted to the degree that
productive skills are not applied to it <. The production of this
skilled manpower is a function of education education in formal
schools, on the job, and in non-formal but systemic programmes of
information dissemination and skill improvement <. Other benefits
to economic growth which can be attributed to significant
proportions of literacy and schooling are the acquisition of attitudes
which encourage and support the changes which precede and
accompany development.

In line with this assertion, it is logical to affirm that the increasing gap
between the development strategies of the Niger Delta (no matter
how meagre) and the level of awareness and relevant skills
acquisition to enable the people adapt to the changes therein, has
further underdeveloped the inhabitants of the region. The increasing
social fit has left the aborigines of the Niger Delta grappling for
relevance and inclusion in a system most are not suited for. I find this
scenario aptly depicted in the political satire/comic movie, The Gods
Must Be Crazy. In this movie, a bottle (science and technology) finds
its way into a primitive yet peaceful society of San Bushmen. The
presence of the bottle (which signifies development) makes living
easy as it becomes a handy tool for grinding and crushing. But just as
it is useful, it becomes the centre of squabbles for the primitive and
once peaceful community as every one wants use of it at the same
time. A community that had grown so used to doing things together

Vol. 5, No. 1

177

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

could not adapt to the pattern of taking things in turn. In the end, they
had to get rid of the bottle to let peace return.
The traditional inhabitants of the Niger Delta fall into the occupations
of fishing, subsistence farming and canoe building. The viability and
sustainability of these occupations amid the slowly increasing road
network and extensive environmental pollution gets increasingly
questionable with each passing decade. With the pollution of rivers
and lands, surviving on fishing and farming is almost impossible.
This is understood in view of the terrain which a World Bank Report
in 1995 described as vast interface between land and water. (cf
Ighodalo 2005: 321). Hence Briggs et al (cf Obi, 1997: 14) state; we
have widespread water pollution and soil pollution, contamination
with oil spills become dangerous for farming, even where they
continue to produce any significant yields. So, in a changing Delta,
what becomes the lot of the fishermen who have no fish to catch,
farmers who have no land to farm on, or canoe carvers or boat men
whose services are required less as time passes? These people along
with those seeking the better life head for the urban centres and
eventually find themselves ill equipped and consequently misplaced
in todays modern society. (Agreed that many more communities still
commute by water, but when we consider that just about a decade
ago, communities such as Abonema, Buguma, Degema, Amassoma,
Ogoibiri, Agudama-Ekpetiama, Trofani, Ikhibiri, Bomadi and most
Isoko areas which could only be reached by water can now be reached
by land, it would not take a seer to project into the future on the
relevance of professions such as canoe building and boating)

MAKING DEVELOPMENT MEANINGFUL


For development to be meaningful, it ought to be appreciated
and utilized by the people for whom it is meant. Thus, for the

Vol. 5, No. 1

178

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

fisherman whose rivers have been polluted, schooling him in the


provision, maintenance and increased productivity of fish ponds,
(whether natural or artificial) would definitely give him relevance in
society. Even without formal education, retraining him in modern
methods of production coupled with his basic traditional fishing
knowledge and skills, would improve his haul of fish and make him a
better fisherman. The same applies to land farmers where lands yet
unpolluted could be put to maximal use through the use of fertilizers
and modern methods of farming. Providing these facilities and
teaching these skills creates for the beneficiaries not only the economic
wherewithal to cope with todays demands, but also provides a
psychological cushion which arises from being a functional part of
society. In doing this, development is brought to farmers and
fishermen as they are kept abreast and involved in changing trends of
productivity.
The above applies also to handicraft. Canoe carvers, boat men and
others whose profession infrastructural development may eventually
make redundant, and who should be encouraged to unlearn old skills
to acquire new ones which would make them fit into society. When,
for example, a road hits a riverine community, a sizeable percentage
of its boatmen and boat technicians could be encouraged into being
automobile drivers and mechanics. The logic here is simple: with the
coming of the road, fewer communities would be reached by water,
thereby leading to a decline in water transportation. Thus, the
informal or technical education provided here would allow for job
fluidity which is essential for survival in todays modern world.
But unfortunately, the majority of original inhabitants of the riverine
communities of the Niger Delta have stuck to their traditional skills
and methods of production. This explains why in a budding Niger
Delta town like Yenagoa, it is difficult to find Ijaw youths being

Vol. 5, No. 1

179

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

craftsmen, builders, drivers or artisans of sorts. These lines of trade


have been taken over by non indigenes since the indigenes would
rather stay idle than retrain into any of these relevant skills, no matter
how high the demand for their services. Worse still, is the fact that
there has been no serious effort on the part of the government, be it
Federal, State or Local to embark on human development projects to
address this trend. The Niger Delta Development Commission whose
sole responsibility is the development of the Niger Delta has fared no
better. A visit to its website (www.nddc.ng.org) reveals that the only
human resource development programmes it undertakes are annual
scholarships given to a few indigenes of oil producing communities to
study in tertiary institutions. Rural youth empowerment programmes
are conspicuously missing. The programme implementation of the
Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF) unfortunately has
followed this trend. This is evident from its mission statement and
listed programmes which states thus; In line with Mr. Presidents
vision of Poverty Eradication, empowering the youth in the Niger
Delta and the need to re-inject the resources derived from the oil
producing communities with a view to addressing the problems
existent in the area, the PTDF has been mandated to undertake some
strategic projects/programmes in the oil producing states. (cf,
PTDF:2007). The so called strategic projects are; Completion of the
Federal Technical Institute, Bonny, Rivers State designed to train
students in obtaining professional certificates in Gas, Petroleum and
Environmental studies. Establishment of the Federal Polytechnics,
Ekowe, Bayelsa State with specialization in Gas and Environmental
studies; and Establishment of primary and secondary schools at
Oporaza and Okeronkoko communities in Delta State. (ibid) The
claim of the PTDF goes further: The PTDF in pursuance of its
mandate to train Nigerians < has introduced local scholarship
scheme. Under the pilot scheme, qualified Nigerians will be trained
locally < at both undergraduate and masters levels, effective from

Vol. 5, No. 1

180

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

2007/2008. As argued in this paper, where do the vast unschooled


riverine rural inhabitants of the Niger Delta, who are most affected by
oil exploitation and displaced by skewed development programmes,
fit in? Ironically too, the PTDF has come under heavy criticism for the
manner in which its scholarships were awarded. The Movement for
the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) described as unfair the
fourteen (14) slots allotted to the Niger Delta out of the PTDFs long
list of one thousand and two (1002) beneficiaries for its doctoral
scholarship programme. As Onoyume notes, MOSOP has expressed
grave shock at the deliberate and insensitive exclusion of the Niger
Delta from benefits accruable from the Petroleum Development Trust
Fund (PTDF) as reflected in its short-listed candidates for overseas
scholarship interview for Doctoral studies published in Thisday of
June 13, 2008. (Onoyume, 2008). The Shell Petroleum Development
Company on the other hand has been a little more attentive to human
development in the region. The SPDC, as part of its 2009 community
development programmes in Bayelsa State, floated a vocational
training scheme in which N53 million (approximately $300,000) was
earmarked with 78 persons as beneficiaries. This it said, was its way
of promoting self development and empowerment for indigenes of
the delta. Vocations to be learnt include baking, computer and
secretarial studies. The scheme also promises a further N34 million
($200,000) in starter packs and cash incentives which would be shared
to the beneficiaries at the end of the training to enable them start off.
(Radio Bayelsa News Report: 2009). Through these and more, the
SPDC, has shown some degree of involvement in human capacity
building in the Niger Delta.
Despite these efforts by SPDC, it has been noted that these Youth
Development Schemes have not achieved their objectives of
employment generation and poverty reduction. Ibaba (2005:139)
opines that A performance review of the scheme blames this on a

Vol. 5, No. 1

181

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

number of reasons, which include: faults in implementation strategy;


< inadequate training; sharp practices by the operators of the
scheme among others. In view of these avoidable hitches which mar
such schemes, Akes (2001:1) claim strikes home when he says, the
problem is not so much that development has failed as that it was
never really on the agenda in the first place. Even when development
is celebrated, it never goes beyond the provision of roads, schools,
hospitals, electricity and water. Human resource development has
seldom been on the agenda of the various tiers of government. This
trend has underdeveloped the aborigines of the Delta much more
than the lack of infrastructure. As such, the little institutions and
infrastructures provided are either abused or misused, and
underemployment and restiveness remain rife. It would therefore
make more sense to have oil companies and government agencies to
be sincerely involved in skills acquisition and human resource
development programmes just as they are in the programmes relating
to infrastructure.
While this paper calls for the organizing of human development
programmes for human development, it also recognizes the Nigerian
factor (wanton corruption) and thus advocates that such programmes
be undertaken with sincerity of purpose. The indigenes of Yenagoa
would not forget in a hurry, the governments hoax in the
procurement of 96 brand new mini-van taxis in 2006 which it claimed
was to empower youths of the area. No sooner had these taxis been
distributed than only a handful could be found on the streets as
government officials had hijacked the process and given the majority
of these cars to their wards/kin who had not the intention of using
these cars for the purposes they were meant. In the end, the exercise
was a dismal failure and human resource development thus remained
stagnant.

Vol. 5, No. 1

182

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

CONCLUSION
There has been so much emphasis on curbing the
underdevelopment of the Niger Delta. Much of this emphasis borders
on the provision of roads, hospitals, educational institutions, portable
water, electricity, theatres and so forth. But little attention has been
paid to underdevelopment from a socio-psychological perspective.
This paper argues that for infrastructural development to be
meaningful, emphasis ought to be paid to education, both formal and
informal to help the aborigines of the Niger Delta adapt positively to
the changes that ensue from physical development. While it would
not be easy to alter the quick money culture which has been
encouraged by politicians and oil companies, it is the position of this
paper that relevant skills acquisition and adaptation ought to be
commitedly implemented both in rural and urban areas so that the
youths find relevance in society.
The government both at federal and local levels has shown itself to be
overtly unwilling to effectively address issues pertaining to the Niger
Delta region. However, while not excusing
or encouraging
government irresponsibility, it is my contention that since these oil
companies work in the remotest of communities, they stand a better
chance of providing fastest the basic amenities to make life for these
distant rural dwellers a little more comfortable and thereby reduce the
allure of migrating to the townships where the meager facilities have
already been over stretched and where these migrants end up being
disillusioned and, more often than not, become threats to society.
After the provision of basic facilities, next comes the effort at helping
them make optimal use of their habitat, be relevant to society and
keep abreast with the times through the acquisition of relevant skills
and crafts. This becomes a vital step in human resource development
in the Delta. It is a step which both the government and MNCs in the

Vol. 5, No. 1

183

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

Delta have the capital and wherewithal to achieve. The only problem
here is the will. But the earlier they settle to achieve this, the better,
lest communities and youth groups that are still accommodating of
government policies and MNCs operations become hostile and
aggressive like their already restive brothers. If the MNCs can begin
this process of human resource development, it is only hoped that
somewhere along the line, the various arms of government would
genuinely follow.
While the implementation of these conditions may not completely
address the complex issues of human development and restiveness in
Nigerias Niger Delta, the intention of this research is to point stake
holders in the right direction in the search for a solution to the
stagnating of human resource development in the Niger Delta region.
One of such stakeholders is the novel Ministry of the Niger Delta
whose responsibility is the development of the Niger Delta, but whose
creation met with so much skepticism since the Niger Delta
Development Commission which is already saddled with the same
responsibility, has arguably not succeeded despite being in existence
for about a decade. The Niger Delta Ministry, in view of arguments
presented here would go a long way in effectively tackling issues of
restiveness and development in the region if only they would divert
adequate attention and resources to human resource development
programmes which would make the Niger Delta aborigines more self
sufficient and deft to change.

Vol. 5, No. 1

184

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

REFERENCES
Ake, Claude (2001), Democracy and Development in Africa. Lagos: Spectrum
Books Ltd.
Alanamu, Ayinla S. ed (2003), Issues in Political Violence in Nigeria. Illorin:
Hanson Printing Communication Resource Ltd.
Ehwarieme, W. (2006). Politics Among Minorities. A Paper Presented at the
Faculty of Social Sciences Seminar Series, Niger Delta University, June.
Etekpe, Ambily. (2007). The Politics and Conflict Over Oil and Gas in the
Niger Delta Region: The Bayelsa State Experience. Port Harcourt:
TowerGate Resources.
Friedman, John (1967), A Conceptual Model for the Analysis of Planning
Behaviour.Administrative Science Quarterly, vol.122, 225-252.
Gant, George F. (1979), Development Administration: Concepts, Goals,
Methods. Wisconsin: The University of Wisconsin.
Herbert, Simon (1957) Models of My Life. www.msu.edu/course/aec .
Ibaba, S.I. (2005), Understanding the Niger Delta Crisis. Port Harcourt,
Nigeria: Amethyst and Colleagues Publishers.
Ibaba, S.I. (2006). Aliens in Their Land: Reflections on Community Conflicts
and Internal Displacements in Bayelsa State. Paper Presented at the
Faculty of Social Sciences Seminar Series, Niger Delta University, July.
Ikelegbe, Augustine (2008), Interrogating a Crisis of Corporate Governance
and the Interface with Conflict: The Case of Multinational Oil
Companies and the Conflicts in the Niger Delta, in International
Conference on the The Nigerian State, Oil Industry and the Niger Delta.

Vol. 5, No. 1

185

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

Department of Political Science, Niger Delta University, Wilberforce


Island, Nigeria. March 11-13.
Ighodalo, Akhakpe (2005), Oil Pollution and Environmental Conflict in the
Niger Delta Region: A Framework for Conflict Management in
Hassan Saliu et al (eds.) Democracy and Development in Nigeria:
Economic and Environmental Issues. Vol.2, (Concept Publications), 317339
Lohretnz, Tim (2006), Human Capital Theory: Is Workforce Development
Simply Workforce Development? in Globalization: Low Wage
Workers. July.
Obi, C. (1997), Oil, Environmental Conflict and National Security in Nigeria:
Reunification of the Ecology-Security Nexus for the Sub-Regional
Peace. Programme in Arms Control, Disarmament and International
Security. (University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, Chicago).
Odediran, Oluwafemi (2004), Human Development Deprivation: Water and
Sanitation in Onimode, Bade et al. African Development and
Governance Strategies in the 21st Century: Looking Back to Move Forward.
London: Zed Books.
Odogbor, Peter O. (2005), Effects of Environmental Degradation and
Cultural Heritage of the Niger Delta and the Implications on
Sustainable Rural Development in Orobator, Eke et al (eds.) Federal,
State and Resource Control in Nigeria. Benin, Nigeria: F. Parker
Publishing Company.
Okaba, Benjamin. (2008), Petrodollar, the Nigerian State and the Crises of
Development in the Niger Delta Region: Trends, Challenges and the
Way Forward, in International Conference on the Nigerian State, Oil
Industry and the Niger Delta. Niger Delta University, Wilberforce
Island, Nigeria. March 11-13.

Vol. 5, No. 1

186

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

Okereke, O.O. (2001), Development Administration in Nigeria: Issues and


Strategies. 2nd ed Owerri, Nigeria: Concave Publishers
Okoli, F.C. and Onah, F.O. (2002), Public Administration in Nigeria: Nature,
Principles and Application. Enugu, Nigeria: John Jacobs Classic
Publishers.
Okoli, F.C. (2004), Theory and Practice of Public Organization: A Book of
Readings. Enugu, Nigeria: John Jacobs Classic Publishers.
Okonta, Ike and Douglas, Oronto (2001), Where Vultures Feast: 40 Years of
Shell Exploration in the Niger Delta. Benin, Nigeria: Environmental
Rights Action/Friends of the Earth.
Okowa, W.J. (2008), Oil, the Nigerian State and the Development
Possibilities of the Niger Delta. A Paper Presented at the
International Conference on the Nigerian State, Oil Industry and the Niger
Delta. Niger Delta University, Wilberforce Island, Nigeria, March 1113.
Onoyume, Jimitota (2008), MOSOP Flays PTDF on Scholarship Scheme.
www.vanguardngr.com, June 18.
Orakwe, I.T.C. (2001), Man in Society: A Conceptual Pedagogical Analysis of
a Social Studies Programme in Ofuebe, Chikelue ed. Dynamics of
Social Studies. Lagos: New Generation Books.
Pegg, Scott (1999), The Cost of Doing Business: Transnational Corporations
and Violence in Nigeria. Belkint University, Turkey.
Petroleum Technology Development Fund (2007), Special Programmes/Projects
in the Niger
Delta (www.ptdf.gov.ng).
Radio Bayelsa News Report (2009) SPDC Spends N53 Million on Youth
Empowerment, 14th May.

Vol. 5, No. 1

187

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

Watts, M and Okonta, I. (2003) Petro Politics and Nigeria Democracy Preface
to Dimieari Von Kemedi (2003) Community Conflicts in the Niger
Delta: Petro-weapon or Policy Failure? Berkeley Workshop on
Environmental Politics Working Papers 03-12 Institute of
International Studies University of California Berkeley.
Worgu,

Stanley (2000), Hydrocarbon Exploitation, Environmental


Degradation and Poverty in the Niger Delta Region of Nigeria. Lund
University, LUMES Programme, Lund, Sweden.

Vol. 5, No. 1

188

Armed Militancy in the


Quintessential Play-Off of
Economic Disparities

Niger Delta:
Sub-Regional

Dr. Franklins A. Sanubi8


Key Terms: Nigeria, Niger Delta, economy, government, GDP,
revenue distribution.

Abstract
Sub-national economic disparities between the Northern and
Southern Nigeria have continuously estranged policy makers in government
from adopting purely technical strategies in dealing with the nations
chequered economy. This paper uses a structural functional theoretical
framework to analyze the place of armed militancy in the Niger Delta as a
response to growing inter-regional economic disparity and sub-national
marginalization and explains why present institutional arrangement may
falter in yielding the desired national results. It concludes with a suggestion
of relevant policy suggestions for ensuring peace in the Niger Delta region of
Nigeria.

A. INTRODUCTION AND STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM


Quite often, armed militancy has been rationalized as an
economic crime. In a developing country especially in an era of global
economic recession, such rationalization would cohere with existing
sociological explanations of deviant behaviour. Economic factors
historically have occupied a dominant premise in the occurrence of
conflicts as civil wars occur where rebel organizations are financially
viable, (Collier & Hoeffler,1998); just as criminologists affirm that

Franklins A. Sanubi, PhD, is with the Department of Political Science, Delta


State University, Abraka, Nigeria.
8

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

about eighty percent of social crimes are economic in motive


(Bidinotto, 1995). However, far more than an expression of anguish
over dwindling economic fortunes in an environment typified by
growing variables of state failure - such as massive unemployment,
poor governance, social and physical insecurity, corruption, executive
lawlessness and impunity among others (Rothberg, 2004); armed
militancy among youths in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria is an
epitome of a playoff between the perceived owners and users of
natural economic resources in their expression of a more profound
variable sub-regional economic disparity - in the national political
economy. Armed militancy in the Niger Delta therefore, by virtue of
its geographic scope and operational targets, goes beyond the thesis of
a mere struggle for economic survival in the midst of a general economic
lack (though a necessary but not sufficient explanation) to a more
complex political economy perception of marginalization and deliberate
underdevelopment of the region..
The democratic tradition in Nigeria has suffered periodic stress, in its
transition, from the pressure of ethnic politics. The different ethnic
nationalities that were branded together for British administrative
convenience have struggled, since independence in 1960, with the
problem of political coexistence as one nation, thereby leading
consequently to the emergence of two broad ideological factions: the
nationalists and the ethno-politicians (Dinneya, 2006). In their struggle
for political control, the nationalists believe that the colonial crafting
of the Nigerian nation with its concomitant pluralism is in fact not a
disadvantage at all but rather a healthy aid to democratic
development while the ethno-politicians on the other hand hold that
the Nigerian nation is artificial, very difficult to govern as one nation,
and therefore unworkable as a true democracy.

Vol. 5, No. 1

190

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

Nigeria is a country made up of regions with sharp economic


contrasts on which a thirty-six (36)-state structure is currently built
with a federal capital territory at its centre in Abuja. Four (4) typical
geo-economic constituents can be deciphered namely; the Savannah
north with typically agricultural production contribution to the
national economy; the industrial south-west comprising a financial hub
in Lagos (the nations former capital); the commercial south-east with
epicenter at Onitsha; and the oil-bearing Niger Delta (otherwise referred
to as the South-south) with two parallel nerve-centers at Port
Harcourt and Warri. Although the nation was primarily agriculturebased at creation in 1914 and up to independence in 1960 the sharp
economic contrast began to manifest in the late 1960s and early 1970s
as the nation commenced the exploitation of its huge crude oil
deposits (which had been discovered in the Niger Delta in 1957). This
development created a new economic mindset among policy makers
leading to the gradual transition of the economy from agriculturebase to industry-base (particularly the mining subsector). The
relatively differing economic potential contributions of the North and
South towards the nations Gross Domestic Product (GDP) have
created episodic changes in the nations quest for an enduring
formula of revenue allocation. In fact, finding a suitable balance
between the revenue-sharing interests of the oil producing Southsouth and the rest of the country remains an unresolved question in
Nigerias political economy and one of the most fundamental of the
many debates that are regular features of contemporary Nigerian
society (Nwosu, 2009).
Thus, while the national economy was agriculturebased in the preindependence period and the early years of political independence in
the 1960s, revenue allocation was not much of a national issue of
contention because the economic aspirations of the contributing
regions were implicitly satisfied by the political structure at the time.

Vol. 5, No. 1

191

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

As sectorial contributions tilted with time towards mining (and


particularly oil) revenue allocation formula became a strong issue as it
momentarily shifted from one principle to the other among population,
derivation and needs. In the present disposition where the countrys
economy is over 80 percent dependent on crude-oil exports as its
major income earner (CBN, 2006), agitations for a firmer control of
economic resources by the respective regions have generated a more
strident call, especially by the Niger Delta people for a new national
economic policy. The potency of the call for resource control by the
people of the Niger Delta derives from their perception of
marginalization by the less-economically endowed North which
ironically has dominated the political (and hence the management
and administrative) machinery of the nation since its political
independence in 1960.
Typically, the perception of resource ownership by the Niger Delta
peoples stems from their realization of the long years of the Federal
Governments economic neglect of the region (which has literally
become the goose that laid the golden egg for the Nigerian
economy). The expectations of the Niger Delta people over the years
is that the region will be adequately compensated for its crude-oil
exploits by the provision of basic social infrastructure such as good
road networks, public power supply networks, health facilities,
schools, housing among others. There is a popular saying in the Niger
Delta that Warri is the oil field while Abuja is the oil city. This
statement though pejorative and ordinary in the surface, depicts a
very profound expression of the feeling of marginalization and denial
among the Niger Delta people in relation to the attitude of the
national managers of the countrys economy. To the Niger Delta
people, a God-given economic endowment has been exploited and
carted away for use in the development of the less-contributing
northern region. Thus, while Warri lavishes away in

Vol. 5, No. 1

192

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

underdevelopment, abject poverty, economic deprivation, mounting


unemployment and crime, Abuja enjoys massive modernization in
physical development and megalomaniac splendor at the expense of
the former.
The economic contribution of the Niger Delta region, which comprises
six original states (from a geographic map-drawing perspective)
namely Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross Rivers, Delta, Edo and Rivers and
three additional states (from a political economy map-drawing
perspective), namely Abia, Imo and Ondo, towards the nations Gross
Domestic Product (GDP) in terms of its crude oil earnings far
surpasses the collective contributions of the other 27 states of the
federation (CBN, 2006). This perception of the Niger Delta people, of a
lopsided inter-regional contribution to the national economy
especially against the backdrop of its negligible attention in the
national development policy of the Nigerian federal government has
whipped up enormous development-based sentiments among the
ethnic politicians of the South especially in the Niger Delta who see
the so-called nationalists policy makers at Abuja as simply agents of
underdevelopment and misery.
While the nationalists feel that the country can be managed in its
economic and socio-cultural diversity, the minority southern ethnic
politicians have over the years lost confidence in the workability of a
Nigerian polity under these exploitative circumstances and have thus
clamored for a re-definition of the national economic policy where
complete fiscal federalism will be applicable in the countrys democratic
governance. Resource Control as the agitation is being popularly
known in the Niger Delta has become a launching platform for ethnic
politicians and their ally (the militants) to express their dissatisfaction
with the poor economic conditions of their regions especially against
the backdrop of recent surging proceeds from the international crude

Vol. 5, No. 1

193

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

oil market. There is therefore a playoff between the minority Niger


Delta people whose attachment to the call for resource ownership
conflicts with the majority nationalists belief that the diverse
nationality can be managed. The armed militancy in the Niger Delta
in recent time is only therefore a field of play for the expression of
discontentment of the local people with the economic and political
marginalization of the region by the majority nationalist politicians.
While the armed militants use several strategies such as gunboats
attack, siege and bombardment of oil installations, kidnapping and
hostage taking of oil company workers and government officials and
seizure (or sometimes destruction) of crude-carrying vessels and
trucks among others, the federal government momentarily respond
by embarking on what may be referred to as cleansing of militants
hideouts and headquarters, often without much success in reaching
the militant targets. The governments action (as in Ogoniland, 1995,
Odi, 2000 and Gbaramatu, 2009) often result in the death of innocent
and helpless residents and natives.
The play-off is profound and impressionistic. Three dominant ethnic
groups the Hausa/Fulani, Yoruba and Ibo - call the shot in Nigerias
political determinism since independence and none of the major
ethnic groups in the Niger Delta fall into these three. There is
therefore a scenario of the potentially-rich, governed minority paying
the bills of the potentially-poor governing majority. The disposition of
the latter to continue to remain defiant, even to reason, about the cry
of the former should not, under this circumstance become elusive to
discern for, with the awareness of the wide economic disparities
between the north and south, economic considerations underlie their
policy choice in the same way as the sustenance of the Niger Delta
crisis just as notes Collier (2000)

Vol. 5, No. 1

194

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

...economic characteristics < are all significant and


powerful predictors of civil war. Rebellions either have the
objective of natural resource predation, or are critically
dependent upon natural resource predation in order to
pursue other objectives

The reality of the economic disparities between these regions has over
the years created a profound interplay of political machinations by
stakeholders having differing mindsets of which the armed militancy
is only an expression.

B. THE NIGER DELTA REGION: AN ISSUE-FIELD FOR A


POLITICAL ECONOMY PLAY-OFF.
The Niger Delta is a densely populated region once known as
the Oil Rivers because it was a major producer of palm oil. This region
is on the Atlantic coast of Nigeria where the River Niger divides into
many numerous tributaries. The region extends along the coast from
the Benin River on the west to the Imo River on the east. There are
several linguistic and cultural groups namely the Ijaws, Edos,
Urhobos, Itsekiris, Yorubas Igbos, Efiks and Kalabaris. The Niger
Delta as defined officially by the Nigerian government extends over
about seventy thousand square kilometers and makes up 7.5 percent
of Nigerias land mass. Some 20 million people (as per the 2006
national census figures) of more than 40 ethnic groups speaking some
250 dialects live in the region. Their means of livelihood is primarily
based on fishing and farming. Nigeria is currently the second largest
(with Algeria being slightly higher in the latest ranking) in oil
production in Africa and the fifteenth in the world (Energy
Information Administration, 2008). Some 2 million barrels a day are
extracted in the Niger Delta. Since 1975, the region has accounted for
over 95 percent of Nigerias export earnings. The region also accounts

Vol. 5, No. 1

195

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

for 40% Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and 80% gross revenue for the
country (CBN, 2006). With such a rich economic potential, the Niger
Delta region paradoxically gets continuously enmeshed in perilous
development challenges including, widespread poverty with about
70% of the population living on or below poverty line (FGN, 2006); a
very low level of industrial development, high rate of unemployment
involving a staggering number of school leavers most of whom are
college (university) graduates; illiteracy; diseases, poor health and
20% child mortality rate which is amongst the worlds highest; poor
infrastructures; social restiveness and conflict among others.
The environmental devastation associated with the industry and the
accompanying lack of distribution of oil wealth has collectively
provided a source of numerous environmental movements and interethnic conflicts in the region. The countless incidents of industrial
emissions, gas flaring and other operational hazards such as oil
spillage, fire outbreak, and gas leakage have, for instance contributed
immensely to despoiling the environment culminating in the
destruction of economic waters used by the local people for fishing
and even sometimes drinking. This has drastically reduced aquatic
life and destroyed flora and fauna in the region thus consolidating the
region peoples poverty levels. The health implication of this
development is profound as a government agency (FGN, 2006) even
acknowledges:
Water-related diseases represent at least 80 percent of all
reported illnesses in the region. Malaria followed by other
water-related diarrheal diseases such as dysentery, typhoid
and cholera are the most common causes of morbidity at
the various health establishments in the region< In
addition, 30% of the region is located in brackish or

Vol. 5, No. 1

196

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

saltwater ecosystems<the scourge of HIV/AIDS is also on


the increase in the region.

Even a study of the region by the World Bank (1995) warned that an
urgent need exists to protect the life and health of the regions
inhabitants and its ecological system from further deterioration
There is the feeling among major stakeholders in the area that the
underpinning philosophy in targeting these issues is that by
equipping local peoples with appropriate knowledge, skills and
abilities, their opportunities and intelligence are enhanced and choice
making will be improved (Niger Delta Foundation, 2007).
As the region contributing the highest share to the federal revenue
(depicted by Table I), stakeholders in the Niger Delta have argued
their case for resource control on the grounds of the continuing
underdevelopment of the area by what they believe is a connivance of
the federal government and oil multinational companies operating in
the area. While ethnic cleavages are intense in the Niger Delta, its
inhabitants are united by a sense of grievance about the exploitation
and neglect of their region. The federal government virtually ignored
the Niger Delta during the 1990s, leaving development in the hands of
the oil companies in an era when corporate social responsibility meant
little (Asuni, 2009). Environmental activism and militancy are a direct
response to the impunity, human rights violations, and perceived
neglect of the region by the Nigerian state on the one hand and
through sustained environmental hazards imposed on local Niger
Delta communities as a result of the oil production activities of
multinational oil companies on the other (Ojakorotu, 2008)
Typically, the revenue disposition of the oil and non-oil sectors of the
Nigerian economy (and hence the South and North sub-regions
respectively) can be analyzed.

Vol. 5, No. 1

197

Table I ( 5-Year disposition of Oil and Non-Oil Sectors' Contribution to Gross Domestic Product
2002-2006)
Years
Row
Labels
A

Total
revenue
(N
Billion)
Oil
Revenue
(N
Billion)
%
Contribu
-tion to
Total
Revenue
Non-Oil
Revenue
(N
Billion)
%
Contribu
-tion to
Total
Revenue

5-Yr
Total

5-Yr
Growth

%
Growth

5,965.1

19,740

4,233.3

244.55

4,762.4

5,287.6

16,710

4,056.7

329.57

85.6

85.8

88.6

84.65

17.5

24.61

500.8

565.7

785.1

677.5

3,030.1

176.5

35.23

19.4

14.4

14.2

11.4

15.35

(17.5)

-60.55

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

1,731.8

2,575.1

3,920.5

5,547.5

1,230.9

2,074.3

3,354.8

71.1

80.6

501

28.9

Source: Authors analysis based on data provided on Table B1.1, Public Finance
Statistics, Bullion, Central Bank of Nigeria, Abuja(2006) Vol. 17,Dec, Pp.91-92

Table I shows the 5-year disposition of oil and non-oil sectors


contribution to Gross Domestic Product for the period 2002-06. As the
figures on Row A depicts, the countrys total revenue grew steadily
by a five-year 244.55 percent for the period under review (rising from
N1, 731.80 billion in 2002 to N5, 966 billion in 2006). Out of this
performance, the oil sectors contribution to the total GDP as shown
on Row C, alone accounts for 84.65 percent thus authenticating
existing reports on the contribution of this sector to the Nigerian
economy (Imobighe, et al, 2002, Ojameruaye, 2004, Nwosu, 2009). And
this sector actually grew during the period under review by 17.5
percent. In the same period however, the non-oil sector contribution

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

to the national revenue stood at 15.35% (from N501Billion in 2002 to


N677.5 in 2006). This figure actually depicts a 17.5 percent fall in this
sectors performance in 2006 as compared to 2002.
The compelling implication here is that the economy continues to
increase in its reliance on crude oil proceeds. Yet, at this forum, our
concern lies not on the analysis of the respective contribution of the oil
and non-oil sectors to the national revenue or the suitability of their
economic mix (for such analysis interests the economist more than the
political scientist) but significantly on a more sensitive issue on the
revenue its distribution. This is because the civil conflicts are not
emanating from the choice of economic mix of the sources of the national
revenue (even though the present choice is not economically
palatable), but from the nature of distribution of the revenue derived
there from.
Table II gives another 5-year disposition of revenue distribution to the
three tiers of government during the period 2002-06. The distribution
in comparison with the revenue proceeds (as shown on Rows A & B)
is very instructive to the issue under consideration. Of the N19,740
Billion realized in the five year period (Row A, Table I) only
N11,560.50 Billion(Row A, Table II) representing 58.56 percent was
available for distribution, yet of this amount, the Federal Government
also got N5,546.30 Billion representing almost half (48 percent) of the
sharable revenue while the rest went to the states. The implication is
that the Federal Government alone retained about 75 percent (that is
N13, 627.6 Billion). A yearly examination of the sharable revenue from
Table II also shows that the revenue distribution to the three tiers of
Government (as a percentage of total revenue) have been effectively
falling from 97.75 percent in 2002 to 49.69 percent in 2006.

Vol. 5, No. 1

199

Table II (5-Year Disposition of Revenue Distribution to the Three Tiers of Government


2002-2006)
Years
Row
Lbels
A

B
C

D
E

F
G

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

5-Year
Total

5-Yr
Growth

%
Grwth

1,692.8

1,821

2,438.8

2,643.7

2,964.2

11,560.5

1,271.4

75.11

97.75

70.72

62.21

47.66

49.69

58.56

(48.06)

-49.16

859

917.1

1,147.9

1,237.2

1,385.1

5,546.3

526.1

61.25

50.7

50.4

47.1

46.8

46.7

48.

(4.02)

-7.92

398.8

419.8

582.2

627.5

703.

2,731.3

304.2

76.28

23.6

23.1

23.9

23.7

23.7

23.6

0.16

0.67

333.9

346.9

448.9

483.8

542.

2,155.5

208.1

62.32

19.7

19.

18.4

18.3

18.3

18.6

(1.44)

-7.3

(N B)
0.0
137.
259.9
295.3
333.4
1,025.6
333.4
As % of
Total
Distrib
0.0
7.5
10.7
11.2
11.2
8.9
11.25
Source: Authors analysis based on data provided on Table B1.1, Public Finance Statistics,
Bullion, Central Bank of Nigeria, Abuja (2006) Vol. 17,Dec Pp.91-92

243.36

Total
Distrib
(N B)
As % of
Total
Revenue
Federal
Govrnmnt
(N B)
As % of
Total
Distrib
State
Govrnmnts
(N B)
As % of
Total
Distrib.
Local
Govrnmnts
(N B)
As % of
Total
Distrib.
Derivation
13% - Oil
Producing
states

149.5

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

A chart analysis of Table II makes the situation more explicit thus:

Percentage Distribution of revenue to the


three tiers of govt. (2002-2006)

Percentage Share

60
Federal government

50
40

State Government

30

Local government

20
13% derivation to Oil
Producing states

10
0
2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

Years
Source: Authors analysis based on data provided on Table B1.1, Public
Finance Statistics, Bullion, Central Bank of Nigeria, Abuja Pp.91-92.

Mining is the 39th exclusive legislative item in the Nigerian federal


schedule of legislative powers as recognized by the 1999 constitution
(FGN, 2008); and therefore all oil proceeds go to a federation account
before they are distributed according to some federally determined
principles. This puts the states (and of course the local governments
councils) under a great degree of financial subservience to the federal
government.
Yet, of the 25 percent sharable revenue available to the states and local
government (N5, 912.4 Billion), only N1, 025.60 representing 17.34
percent apparently went to oil-producing states as derivation fund.
This figure is actually 8.9 percent of the total sharable revenue (Row J,

Vol. 5, No. 1

201

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

Table II). Of the N2, 155.50 Billion made available to local


governments for the period under review only a meager proportion
(the sharing process notwithstanding) would actually go to the Niger
Delta States because the nine (9) states making up the Niger Delta
region comprise of a total of 184 local government units out of a
national total of 774 recognized by the 1999 constitution of the federal
government. This represents a 23.7 percent of the total number of local
councils in the federation. The analysis of the local council is
significant because the higher the number of council units, the higher
the cumulative revenue receipts accruing to the respective states
having such number of councils. This is why the creation of the local
government units itself generates a lot of tension (Ukiwo, 2006); for it
represents another area of expression of marginalization by the
majority ruling ethnic groups over the minority south-south people.
By the last exercise of local government creation in 1991 several
Northern states got upwards of 33 local government units (such as
Katsina State with 34 and Kano State with as much as 44) far above
those of the states in the south. Some debatable criteria (such as land
mass, population and geographic spread) were provided as excuse for
the seemingly lopsided local government council creation by the then
Military government of Ibrahim Babangida. This has been seen by the
minority peoples as an apparent design to increase the revenue
sharing potentials of the respective states of the north in the federal
revenue allocation scheme thus making the northern states to regain
the revenue lost to derivation.
The same countenance of discontentment among the Southern
peoples greeted the several exercises of States creation in the country
which resulted in a numerical tilting in favour of the less contributing
Northern region such that the number of states created from this
region always exceeds the number from the south. The political and
economic objective of this recurring phenomenon in states creation

Vol. 5, No. 1

202

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

exercises can be easily deciphered. The foregoing shows very clearly


that there is an apparent template of sub-national economic disparity
between the North and the South regarding their relative
contributions to the national revenue on which a strong perception of
marginalization and underdevelopment by the Niger Delta peoples is
being built.

C. ARMED MILITANCY IN THE NIGER DELTA AS A


FUNCTIONAL
TOOL
FOR
THE
EXPRESSION
OF
DISCONTENTMENT: A THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK
The place of militancy in the whole gamut of the Niger Delta
crises especially in furthering the political economic aspirations of its
people can be explained within the context of the structural functional
framework. Structural Functionalism is a broad perspective in social
science which addresses social structure in terms of the functions of its
constituent elements namely norms, customs, traditions and
institutions. These aspects of society (the structures) according to
Herbert Spencer are regarded as organs that work towards the
proper functioning of the body as a whole (Parsons, 1961).
Structural functionalism adopts the positivist school of sociological
thought as stressed by Auguste Comte in his emphasis on social
cohesion especially after the experience of the French revolution
during which the society was ravaged by fragmentation and discord.
The framework of structural functionalism informed Emile
Durkheims theory of organic solidarity in his quest for social fact
(Fish, 2005).
Within a larger context of the Niger Delta crises especially in relation
to the objective of the civil protests, the militant organ appears to be
a welcome instrument of enforcement of the desires of the local
peoples over and against the collusive attitude of both the federal

Vol. 5, No. 1

203

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

government and the several multinational companies operating in the


area. Thus, the militant groups who may have been motivated
initially by pure economic drives especially in drawing attention of
the federal government towards their pitiable unemployment
situation and poor physical development in the area, found a
congruence of objective with some of the local political stalwarts who
quickly recognized this militancy as a functional recourse and the
militants as a useful ally in the prosecution of a unified course with
the federal government.
Militant activism in the area though criminal in orientation and
outlook becomes a necessary field of play between parties that have
contrasting politico-economic aspirations in the present federal
structure in Nigeria. The apparent congruence of objective between
the militants and the Niger Delta political stalwarts is evidenced by
the regular meetings of militant leaders with, and proven display of
loyalty to, these political and ethnic leaders of thought in the region.
Furthermore, when the federal government instituted an amnesty
policy in June 2009 and attempted to deal directly with leaders of the
various militant groups, these political and ethnic leaders of thought
vehemently challenged the procedure and warned against its futility
if they (the political leaders of thought) were sidelined in the
negotiations. All these point to an imminent fact that the armed
militant groups were not only being encouraged but also being
funded by some of these political and ethnic leaders of thought.
Armed militancy is therefore a structural functional organ of the
Niger Delta protests.

D. NATURE OF ARMED MILITANCY IN THE NIGER DELTA


The struggle for resource control can be significantly traced
back to the formation of the Niger Delta Volunteer Force (NDVF), an

Vol. 5, No. 1

204

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

Ijaw group formed by Isaac Adoka Boro and which he declared a


Republic in 1966. This was followed by the Movement for the Survival
of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) by Ken Saro Wiwa that raised issue of
environmental pollution caused by oil companies and highlighted the
lack of representation of the Niger Delta people especially the Ogonis
and published an Ogoni Bill of Rights in 1990; and also the 'Mujahid'
Dokubo Asari Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta
(MEND). All these different military groups have faced different
resistance from the federal and state governments. These groups and
other minor ones did not just come up; they started due to the neglect
that has over the years faced the states (Asiwe, 2009).
The recent phase of the Niger Delta crisis emerged from a piecemeal
discontent of the local peoples with the federal governments age-long
neglect of the region and ignited by a local ethnic crisis in 1996
(Imobighe, 2002); between two minority tribes, the Ijaw and the
Itsekiri over a disputed relocation of a newly created Warri-Southwest
local government headquarters by the federal government. The Niger
Delta Crisis which gave rise to the militancy in the region has for
almost two decades now impacted serious reverses on the political
economy of the nation. The reverses range from stoppage of oil
exploitation activities, intermittent closure of oil wells by major oil
companies operating in the area (such as Shell, Chevron, Pan Ocean,
Total), blowing up of oil terminals and installations to kidnapping
and hostage taking of foreign staff of these oil companies in return for
ransom payments amongst other activities. There were incidents in
which kidnapped victims were murdered before negotiations and
ransom payments were effected.
The effects have been very
profound: a lull in the nations oil production and hence in its oil
revenues; and an unprecedented rise in regional insecurity in the
Niger Delta with accompanying surge in nationalistic groups in the
area purportedly fighting for the rights of the local people in their

Vol. 5, No. 1

205

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

protests against the federal government development efforts in the


region. Even criminal gangs have capitalized on the general tension
and fear imposed by these militant activities to unleash further terror
on the people through armed robbery, burglary and other vices. It has
become very difficult to decipher genuine protests from criminal
activities in the region especially in metropolises like Port Harcourt,
Warri, Yenagoa and Asaba (where several bomb explosions have
occurred in recent time). The growing insecurity in the area have
further impacted on the economic lives of the local people as company
workers stayed back at home for several months (with the temporary
workers among them otherwise known as contract staff being
frictionally unemployed); domestic production of food plummeting
due to fear of insecurity on the farmlands leading to a surge in prices,
growing cost of living; and mounting social vices. With sharp vagaries
in the international prices of crude oil (the countrys major export
earner) at the heart of a global economic meltdown continuing with a
malnourished national power supply, the economic and social life of
the nation let alone the Niger Delta region goes beyond the mere
description of a misery or melancholy. The organic stress created by
the troubled Niger Delta subsystem into the general national economic
and political economic system in the wake of a federal governments
declaration of an amnesty programme for militants defies category
and literal definition.

E. FAILURE OF EXISTING POLICIES


Emanating partly from the seemingly disparate economic
strengths between the north and south, the colonial government had
instituted a Minority Commission of enquiry headed by Sir Henry
Willink in the country prior to the granting of independence to the
nationalists in 1960. This was with a view to establishing and
particularly allaying the fears of the minorities in the prospective

Vol. 5, No. 1

206

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

independent nation-state, at least to be sure that they are not handing


over a government to strange bedfellows. That may be regarded as the
first governments apprehension of the issue of minority rights, albeit
political though, at this time (Abbide, 2006). Following from this
action and accentuated by the discovery of crude oil in commercial
quantities in the Niger Delta (precisely at Oloibiri, in 1957) the
national policy makers at independence realized how fragile the
federations stability will be and thus very early in its tenure
addressed the issue of revenue allocation as a means of securing
national economic consensus. But the several attempts to define a
workable revenue allocation for the country have so far yielded
marginal, if any consensus. The country has tried several principles
using at any given time, a combination of them including derivation,
population, needs, federal-character, even-development, balancedfederation and penultimacy among others but there hardly had been
any time the revenue allocation satisfies the political and economic
desires of the various regions in the country. Revenue allocation
therefore remains a failed policy in this regard.
Beside the failure of the revenue allocation formula were mounting
tension emanating from growing protests movements in the region
which also dates back to the early post independence period and the
federal government has been apprehensive of these developments
inspiring it to adopt some policy measures of placation in the area.
One of such was the establishment of the moribund Niger Delta
Development Board (NDDB) in 1960 with a mandate to provide basic
social development in the region. The commission operated for about
seven (7) years achieving basically nothing before going down due to
the military coup of 1966 and the outbreak of the civil war in 1967.
The federal government then used the available revenue from oil
production in the region to fund its post-war 3Rs (Reconciliation,
Reconstruction and Rehabilitation) programme in different parts of

Vol. 5, No. 1

207

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

the country. Even with the quadrupling of the international oil prices
in 1973 and the subsequent windfalls in oil export proceeds, there was
no deliberate attempt to use the oil wealth to address the issue of
poverty and the developmental needs of the region (Ojameruaye,
2004). The collective failure of both the NDDB and another
experimental agency - the River Basin Development Authority
(RBDA) established in 1970 - increased the local peoples
consciousness of the unserious posture of the federal government
towards the development of the region and in response, the military
government of Ibrahim Babangida created yet another development
agency called the Oil Mineral Producing Area Development
Commission (OMPADEC) in 1991 with operating headquarters in
Port Harcourt, in the heart of the Niger Delta. Like its predecessor, the
OMPADEC which operated between 1992 and 1995 did not impact
any positively on the people and the region. It abandoned many
projects and accrued huge debts most of which were dubious and
fraudulent. The OMPADEC lacked focus amidst irregularities of
funding, official profligacy, corruption, excessive political
interference, lack of transparency and accountability. The commission
was to receive a statutory 3% of the federation account but it hardly
got a single percent of its yearly mandate throughout its four year
lifetime. Within, the commission never had any regard for due process
in the determination and award of its contracts and never sought the
choice of the people in the determination of prospective development
projects. There was little, if any, of poverty reduction and the vast
majority of the poor people were sidelined in its activities and the
economic situation of the local people worsened. This increased the
degree of restiveness and discontent in the area reached alarming
proportion in 1998 when the latest spark of the Niger Delta crises was
presented in the Ijaw/Itsekiri ethnic conflicts (Imobighe et al, 2002,
Ojameruaye, 2004). Consequently, one of the first actions of former
President Olusegun Obasanjo taken on assumption of office in May

Vol. 5, No. 1

208

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

1999 was to send a bill to the national assembly for the establishment
of another interventionist agency called the Niger Delta Development
Commission (NDDC). The euphoria, as a roaring flame, which greeted
its establishment and inauguration in 2001 soon died down as a cold
impotent ash (Achebe, 1960) after barely two years of its operation
when the initial funding intensity gradually waned. The main task of
the NDDC at its establishment was to complete some of the abandoned
and uncompleted projects of its predecessor, OMPADEC and
necessarily embark on some new ones including, preparing a detailed
master plan for the development of the Niger Delta region. By 2003, it
appeared the NDDC had achieved some good start as its Chairman,
Albert K. Horsefall told a meeting in June 2003, of local stakeholders
in the region known as Traditional Rulers of Oil Mineral Producing
Communities of Nigeria (TROMPCON) of the modest achievement of
NDDC including its application of the 47Billion naira receipts from all
its sources to an estimated 700 contract awards of which 258 had been
completed as at the time of that meeting and the successful execution
of 40 roads projects, 90 water projects, 129 electrification projects, 47
shore protection/jetty projects, 50 health centers, 205 new block of sixschool classrooms each, among others (Ojameruaye,2004). These
figures though show some impressive record but hardly indicate the
impact the commission had had on the lives of the people especially
in poverty reduction perspective as the depth and severity of poverty
in the oil producing communities continues to manifest.
While not ignoring the fact that the NDDC (through its contract
awards and employment of local contractors and some natives into its
staff positions which has, in a positive way, negligibly impacted on
the economic and social lives of the people) has ignited some level of
consciousness and responsibility on the part of the federal government
towards the plight of the local people, the internal issues of corruption
and accountability, tepid funding and insider-politics in the

Vol. 5, No. 1

209

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

determination of prospective projects leave serious matters for


concern. Beside, there are evidences that even those federal
institutions which are created and located in the region in response to
the yearnings of the local people do not have Niger Delta indigenes in
their core leadership positions. For instance, in the Federal University
of Petroleum Resources, established by the Olusegun Obasanjos
administration in 2007 and located in Ugbomro-Effurun in Delta State,
all top positions including that of the Vice-Chancellor who is the chief
executive, are at present being held by non-Deltans. This has made the
employment of qualified local indigenes as lecturers and even the
admission of local candidates as students in this institution very
restricted to the fury of the local people. The three dominant ethnic
groups have often monopolized federal institutions and
establishments under the guise that as a federal institution any
qualified individual from any part of the country could hold
positions. The commission today is virtually a mere image of itself as
an instrument of government policy as its roles are being gradually
shifted to a newly-created Ministry of the Niger Delta (MND). As the
armed militancy intensified, the federal government also tried, though
unsuccessfully, some military reprisals at the militant targets
bombarding communities harboring these militants.
The latest policy is the implementation of an Amnesty policy which
sees key federal government officials meeting regularly and making
negotiations with militants at choicely exclusive venues within the
government house. Though it may seem premature to assert for now,
the Amnesty policy of the federal government is yet to yield any
significant impact apart from some success recorded in the retrieval of
some arms and ammunitions from the erstwhile militants and the
organization of on-going training programs which will lead to their
successful rehabilitation. By the failure of existing policies and
uncertain future of current solutions, the lingering Niger Delta

Vol. 5, No. 1

210

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

developmental question is far from being answered as Abidde (2006);


in quoting an editorial of the Nigerian Guardian of Monday, August
28, 2006 asserts:
The Niger Delta crisis is without doubt the most potent
expression of failure of the Nigerian state< of our inability
to resolve the crisis of nationhood that has held the country
down since independence four decades ago. The regions
crisis has become the sore of the nation, a cancer that may
erode the fragile bonds that hold the poly-ethnic nation
together<

The failure of the responses of government may be adduced among


others, to its lack of vision and planning, improper development
strategies and policies and poor implementation focus (Urien, 2009).

F. CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS


In the foregoing discussion, we have attempted to establish
that a relationship exists between the relative economic disparities of
the North and South Nigeria and the emergence of armed militancy in
the Niger Delta. Armed militant groups may have been motivated
initially by economic factors such as rising unemployment, poor
infrastructure, social and physical insecurity, poor governance and
corruption but their activities found ample coherence with the
political economic aspirations of the Niger Delta peoples within the
context of their perception of economic and political marginalization
and underdevelopment. By an informal (or formal) integration of
purposes, political stakeholders in the Niger Delta region have found
themselves working in alliance with the militant groups in which
criminality could no longer be separated from genuine social protests
and agitations.

Vol. 5, No. 1

211

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

In a multiethnic polity like Nigeria where the bond of national


integration is hinged on a fragile and unstable consensus among
component groups of the federation, perception of economic disparity
between these groups provides a potent cause for prospective conflict.
We submit that economic disparity among peoples is therefore a
strong territorial cause of civil conflicts among groups in Africa.
African states, especially those running federal systems must adopt
universal standards of achieving acceptable balance in the sharing of
political and economic powers between the tiers of government in
each federation. The adoption of workable fiscal federal systems
patterned along that of the United States where each component state
has relatively complete control over its economic resources without
the central governments intrusion may satisfy the divergent
economic interests of the disparate groups in the respective African
State. The resurgence and concentration of armed militant groups in
the Niger Delta relative to other parts of the country further cements
the hypothesis that economic variables account significantly for the
occurrence of civil conflicts in the African region.
As for efforts in trying to secure a peaceful environment in the Niger
Delta region, besides rethinking about the potency of the call for
resource control, the federal government must redefine it
development strategies for the region and make adequate
consultations with the local stakeholders in the determination of these
strategies (Nwosu, 2006).
The long list of failed interventionist agencies in the Niger Delta
region only suggests that mere creation of unworkable federal
agencies will not abate the crisis as the level of awareness of the
people have been adequately simulated by the series of environmental
protest movements and militant activism in the past decade. These

Vol. 5, No. 1

212

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

institutional responses must, as a matter of purpose, and as Omotola


(2007) observes,
be closely linked with grassroots organizations, particularly
community-development associations and related ruralempowerment
nongovernmental
organizations,
with
adequate frameworks for monitoring and evaluation.

The government amnesty programme must be consciously


implemented with the Niger Delta development focus in mind while
the erstwhile militants are being rehabilitated. Cynical
implementation on the part of the government whereby it defaults in
transforming the Niger Delta area through relevant and tangible
development efforts would be dangerous. Abbide (2009) had warned
the policy makers at Abuja that if not properly done and if there are
whiffs of ulterior motives, what the government may get, in the end,
will be a bad and useless peace. If Abuja wants to know what a bad
and useless peace is, they should ask Tel Aviv.

REFERENCES:
Abbide,

O.S. (2006) The Niger Delta today, retrieved 12/07/2009


http://www.ijawland.com/The%20Niger%20Delta%20Today%20by%
20Sabella%20Abidde.pdf
___________ (2009) The Niger Delta amnesty programme<What next?
Village square, retrieved 12/01/2009 at
http://www.nigeriavillagesquare.com.html
Achebe, C. (1960) No longer at ease, London, Heinemann Educational Books.
Asiwe, E. (2009) The Niger Delta region, Anatomy of a crisis, Nigeria News |
Tue, October 6, retrieved
http://www.modernghana.com/GhanaHome/

Vol. 5, No. 1

213

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

Asuni, J. B.(2009) Understanding the armed groups of the Niger Delta,


Working paper of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), New York
September.
Bidinotto, J.R. (1995) The root causes of crime, The Freeman, Ideas on Liberty
Foundation for Economic Education, 45(6).
Central Bank of Nigeria (2006) Statistical Bulletin, 17 December, Abuja, Pp.8099
Collier, P. (2000) The economic causes of civil conflicts, Working papers of the
Global Policy Forum, Diamonds, June, Pp. 934-942
Collier, P. & Hoeffler, A. (1998) On the economic causes of civil war, Oxford
Economic Papers, 50, 563-73.
Dinneya, G. (2006) Political economy of democratization in Nigeria. Lagos:
Concept Publication Limited, P.39.
Energy Information Administration, (2008) Country energy profiles, US
Energy Information Administration, (EIA), Independent Statistics and
Analysis, December, retrieved 12/24/2009 @
http://tonto.eia.doe.gov/country/index.cfm
Federal Government of Nigeria (2006) Niger Delta Regional Development Master
Plan, Port Harcourt, p.91.
Federal Government of Nigeria (2008) 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic
of Nigeria & fundamental rights (enforcement procedure) rules
2008.Abuja: Federal Government Press, p.170.
Fish, J.S. (2005) Defending the Durkheimian Tradition. Religion, Emotion and
Morality Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing.
Imobighe, J. A. (2002) Warri crisis in historical and contemporary
perspectives, In J.A.Imobighe, C.O.Bassey & J.B.Asuni (Eds.) Conflict
and instability in the Niger Delta, Ibadan: Spectrum Books Limited,
pp.36-51.
Niger Delta Foundation (2009) Niger Delta region, Retrieved from the web on
12/4/2009
@
http://www.nigerdeltafoundation.org/nigerdeltaregion.html.
Nwosu, O. R. (2009) Opening up the Nigerian eastern economic corridor,
Greenbelt, Maryland, U.SA. Retrieved 12/4/2009
http://www.nigerdeltacongress.com/oarticles/opening_up_the_nigeri
an_eastern_.htm

Vol. 5, No. 1

214

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

Ojakorotu, V. (2009) Militancy and oil violence in the Niger Delta Journal of
Energy Security, Institute for the Analysis of Global Security,
Washington: 98, August, 349.
Ojameruaye, E. (2004). Lessons from the Chadian model for the distribution of
oil wealth in Nigeria, Urhobo Historical Society. Retrieved from the
web on 12/04/2009 @ www.waado.org/Environmental/Remediation.
Omotola, J.S. (2007) From the OMPADEC to the NDDC: An Assessment of
state responses to environmental insecurity in the Niger Delta,
Nigeria
Africa Today, Indiana University Press, (54)1,Fall,pp.73-89.
Parsons, T., (1961) Theories of Society: foundations of modern sociological theory,
New York: Free Press.
Rothberg, R.L. (2004) The failure and collapse of nation states: Breakdown,
prevention and repair, In Robert L. Rothberg (Ed.) When states fail:
Causes and consequences, Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University
Press.
Ukiwo, U, (2006) Creation of local government areas and ethnic conflicts in
Nigeria: The case of Warri, Delta State, Paper presented at the CRISE
West Africa Workshop, Accra Ghana: March, 23-25.
Urien, J. O. (2009) Militancy in the Niger Delta: Its relationship to national
development, Unpublished MSc Political Science Dissertation, Delta
State University, Abraka, P.121.
World Bank (1995) as cited in FGN (2006) p.103

Vol. 5, No. 1

215

Amnesty Programme and the Niger Delta:


Overview of Disarmament, Demobilization, and
Reintegration (DDR) Strategy for Sustainable
Peace
Dr. Atare Otite and Nathaniel Umukoro9
Key Terms: Nigeria, Niger Delta, DDR, amnesty programme,
development.

Abstract
The Niger Delta the geographical heart of oil production in
Nigeria has been a breeding ground for militants and impoverished
ethnic groups for some years now. This is because the discovery of
oil and its exploitation has ushered in a miserable, undisciplined,
decrepit, and corrupt form of petro-capitalism which produces
conflict accelerating factors. Devastated by the ecological costs of oil
spillage and the highest gas flaring rates in the world, the Niger Delta
has become a centre of violence. In an attempt to solve the Niger Delta
crisis, the Federal Government recently introduced the policy of
amnesty to militants as the solution to the Niger Delta Crisis. The
amnesty programme has been acclaimed by some persons to be a
success. Consequently this paper makes a careful study of the
amnesty Programme which is basically a disarmament,
demobilization and reintegration (DDR) Strategy for Sustainable
Peace. With the aid of secondary data and content analysis, the paper
argues that sustainable peace can only be ensured if the root causes of
violence in the Niger Delta are identified and ameliorated. In the
course of the study, it was discovered that ecological devastation and
Dr. Atare Otite and Nathaniel Umukoro are with the Department of Political
Science, Faculty of the Social Sciences at Delta State University in Abraka, Nigeria.
Dr.
Otites
e-mail
is
atareotite@yahoo.com;
Mr.
Umukoros
is
numukoro@yahoo.co.uk.
9

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

short-changing of the people of the Niger Delta, in terms of


infrastructural development, was among the reasons that led to the
people of the region picking up arms in the area. The paper
recommends, among other things, the need to ensure environmental
protection and the diversification of the economy.

Introduction
The Niger Delta, an area of dense mangrove rainforest in the
southern tip of Nigeria, has been a centre of violent conflicts for some
years now. The Nigerian government like a doctor has over 50 years
tried to solve the problem in the region. During the colonial era the
Willinks Commission was set up following the agitation by the
minorities over what they saw as imbalance in the political and
economic structure of Nigeria. In 1962, the Niger Delta Development
Board (NDDB) was set up to serve in advisory capacity and provide
government with information that would lead to the alleviation of the
plight of the area in conjunction with the Development Act of 1961.
The NDDBs reports were never made public; they died with the First
Republic when the military took over power in 1966. Between 1960s
and late 1980s, nothing significant was done to solve the
environmental and developmental problems of the Niger Delta. In
1989, the military government of General Ibrahim Babangida, in an
attempt to assuage the people of the Niger Delta, set up the Oil
Minerals Producing Areas Development Commission (OMPADEC)
but failed to actualize its objectives due to wastefulness and
corruption. During the Obasanjos administration the Niger Delta
Development Commission (NDDC) was established in 2000 with the
sole mandate of developing the oil-rich Niger-Delta region of
southern Nigeria. Like OMPADEC a magnifying lens is required to
see its performance. This has made the Federal Government to create
a new ministry called Ministry of Niger Delta in 2008, to address the

Vol. 5, No. 1

217

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

Niger Delta issue. In spite of the presence of these institutions,


militant activities, violence and rebellion which portray a looming
civil war have been the order of the day in the region. This has
resulted in the military approach to ensuring peace in the area, using
the Joint Task Force. The military approach has not been successful in
bringing peace to the area.
In pursuit of the Seven Point Agenda, the Federal Government
inaugurated a technical committee headed by Ledum Mitee on
September 8, 2008 to distill the various reports, suggestions and
recommendations on the Niger Delta from the Willinks Commission
Report of 1958 to the present and give a summary of the
recommendations necessary for government action. The committee
was also expected to present a detailed short, medium and long term
solution to the problems in the Niger Delta and make any other
recommendations that will help to achieve sustainable development,
peace, human and environmental security in the Niger Delta region.
On December 1, 2008, the report was submitted to President YarAdua
and he assured that the crisis in the littoral region of Nigeria would
have a final resolution. Following the report of this committee, the
Federal Government is presently pursuing the policy of amnesty to
militants as the solution to the Niger Delta Crisis. Since the efforts of
the federal government and multinational corporations to get the
Niger Delta out of the shackles of underdevelopment, violence and
rebellion have been a mirage it becomes pertinent that a closer
attention be given to the root causes of the problem. The paper makes
an overview of the amnesty programme and argues the solution to the
root causes of the Niger Delta problem goes beyond amnesty.

Vol. 5, No. 1

218

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

Philosophical Bases of the Amnesty Programme


The Amnesty programme which is one of the
recommendations of the 2008 Mittee Committee report is based on the
need to achieve sustainable development, peace, human and
environmental security in the Niger Delta region. This sentiment was
expressed by the Chairman of the Amnesty Implementation Panel,
General Godwin Abbe (Rtd), that the goal of the amnesty
programme is to achieve peace, reconciliation, reintegration, healing
and sustainable development (The News, 2009). This is because the
people of the Niger Delta have suffered various forms of hardships
and injustice over the years resulting in violence and the destruction
of lives and properties. Amoda (2009) espoused the view that the
amnesty approach to security, politics and conflicts is a legal approach
and asserts that amnesty is a general pardon of offence by
government, a deliberate overlooking of offenses against a
government. To pardon is to release the criminally-culpable from the
just punishment of the law; it is to cancel or not to exact punishment
due for an offence. Thus, the relationship assumed by government
between it and the Niger Delta militants is juridical; the militants are
pardoned instead of being punished. Based on this conception, the
amnesty programme is conceived out of the need to prevent
insurgents who ought to have been punished for engaging in criminal
activities from facing the wrath of the law in other to foster peace and
progress. In other words, the amnesty programme is explicit or
implicit acceptance by the government that militant activities in the
Niger Delta is the product of neglect and underdevelopment which
can be attributed to corruption and lack of political will. The amnesty
programme is based on the understanding that violent conflict can
easily develop if large numbers of people become convinced that
taking up arms is not only legitimate but may perhaps be the only
way to secure the necessities of life. In other words, they feel that they

Vol. 5, No. 1

219

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

are in an unjust situation and must therefore decide to rectify it


(Smith, 2002).
This contention is buttressed by President Yar'Adua's statement in his
2009 Independence Day broadcast that 'with a view to engendering
lasting peace in the area, we proclaimed a general amnesty and
granted unconditional pardon to all those who had taken up arms as a
way of drawing attention to the plight of the people of the Niger Delta. He
further stated that 'on this day and in the spirit of rededication, we
renew our commitment to confronting the challenges of critical
infrastructure in the Niger Delta, food security, security of lives and
property, human capital development, land tenure and wealth
creation' (The Guardian, 2009). The amnesty programme therefore is
not a solution to the Niger Delta crisis but a means for ensuring
ceasefire in order to correct the wrongs of the past (Umukoro, 2010).

Overview of the Amnesty Programme


The activities of Militants have made peace to elude Nigeria
especially the Niger Delta area for a long time. On June 25, 2009 the
amnesty for militants operating in the Niger Delta was announced by
Nigeria's President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua with the condition that the
militants will renounce militancy within 60 days. He granted the
amnesty in accordance with section 175 of the 1999 Constitution
which provides that the President may grant any person concerned
with or convicted of any offence created by an Act of the National
Assembly a pardon, either free or subject to lawful conditions. A
presidential panel on amnesty and disarmament of militants in the
Niger Delta was then set up to manage the process. The militants
were expected to demobilize and their arms surrendered at
designated centres to pave way for rehabilitation and reintegration.
The amnesty initiative started on August 6, 2009 and ended on

Vol. 5, No. 1

220

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

October 4, 2009. The Federal government declared amnesty for all


militants with a view to disarming and rehabilitating them. The
amnesty programme is part of the federal government's strategies to
end the violence in the oil region, which has hampered oil production,
the nation's main foreign exchange earner. The last notable militant to
surrender emotionally was Government Ekpemupolo popularly
known as Tompolo, who publicly accepted the amnesty with over
3000 militants under his command. Thousands of people gathered in
Oporoza and Warri to witness the disarmament ceremony. Tompolo
was short of words during most of the handover, able to say only "all
is well, all is well" to the crowd before bursting into tears. "We came
because we want peace," said Chief Andrew Anegba, who was among
the thousands gathered in Warri to greet Tompolo before the
ceremony. "The last militant groups are giving up arms, and that
means peace is coming back," said Anegba, a traditional Ijaw ethnic
community leader from Ogbe-Ijoh, close to where security forces used
helicopters and gunboats to attack Tompolos camps in May 2009
(Amoda, 2009).
President YarAduas amnesty offer is the most concerted effort so far
to bring peace to the Delta. Unrest in the region has prevented
Nigeria, which vies with Angola as Africas biggest oil producer, from
pumping much above two-thirds of its production capacity. It also
costs the country $1 billion a month in lost revenues, according to the
Central Bank, and has helped to push up global energy prices (Tell,
2009).
The most important question is: Can amnesty to militants bring about
sustainable peace to the Niger Delta? This question becomes pertinent
because the line between militancy and crime is blurred. Some
militants have grown rich from a trade in stolen crude oil and
extortion, with hundreds of expatriates and wealthy Nigerians

Vol. 5, No. 1

221

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

kidnapped for ransom over the past three years. Skeptics say that,
even if commanders disarm, there is little hope to stop fighters from
finding new leaders and resuming attacks. Some residents fear they
will return to the creeks unless those who hand over their weapons
can quickly find work.

Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR)


The amnesty programme is basically DDR oriented.
Disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration of ex-combatants are
the first step in the transition from war to peace. However, DDR is
much more complicated in a post-conflict environment, when
different fighting groups are divided by animosities and face a real
security dilemma as they give up their weapons, when civil society
structures have crumbled, and when the economy is stagnant. DDR
supports the transition from war to peace by ensuring a safe
environment, transferring ex-combatants back to civilian life, and
enabling people to earn livelihoods through peaceful means instead of
war (Wikipedia Encyclopedia, 2009).
DDR is an applied strategy for executing successful peacekeeping
operations, and is generally the strategy employed by all UN
Peacekeeping Operations. Disarmament is the first phase of DDR, and
logically precedes demobilization and reintegration. However, it is
often a long-term process. It entails the physical removal of the means
of combat from ex-belligerents (weapons, ammunition, etc.);
Disarmament is important not only for the material improvement of
security conditions, but also for its psychological impact. There are
added psychological benefits when ex-combatants physically disable
their own weapons, and are led in doing so by their commanders,
immediately upon entering the disarmament site. The process
symbolically underscores the transition from military to civilian life.

Vol. 5, No. 1

222

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

Additionally, public destruction of weapons is an important tool in


sensitizing the population and promoting the DDR program
(Massimo, 2003).
Demobilization entails the disbanding of armed groups.
Demobilization includes assembly of ex-combatants, orientation
programs, and transportation to the communities of destination.
These movements of large groups of people should be timed to
coincide with phases of civilian life that facilitate reintegration, such
as crop and school cycles. According to Massimo (2003)
demobilization requires:
a.

b.

Assembly of ex-combatants: This helps ensure their


participation in the DDR program, through their
disarmament, registration, and access to DDR benefits in the
form of goods and services. When ex-combatants are
assembled, they are first registered and then receive civilian
identification cards, which allow the holders to participate in
the DDR program and receive benefits. Encampments are not
intended to host ex-combatants for a long time, but adequate
facilities, food supplies, and medical assistance are important
to maintain discipline and security. In addition,
encampments' infrastructure should be built to meet not only
the needs of ex-combatants, but also of the many dependents
who may follow them.

Orientation of ex-combatants: This is essential in establishing


and reinforcing ex-combatants' beliefs that the DDR program
offers viable alternatives to conflict as a livelihood: Pre-discharge
orientation has important practical and psychological functions.
Practically, it provides ex-combatants and their dependents with
basic information about the DDR program. Psychologically, it

Vol. 5, No. 1

223

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

empowers DDR beneficiaries as free citizens, by addressing their


needs and doubts and asking for their interactive participation.
The pre-discharge orientation typically focuses on the DDR
program, the implementing agencies, the rights and obligations of
participants, and how they can access the program's benefits.
General information is also offered about reintegration into
civilian life, such as health issues, education and employment
opportunities, and access to land and credit. Post-discharge
orientation caters to more specific needs, in the context of the
community of resettlement. Post-discharge orientation is the first
step in the social and economic reintegration of ex-combatants. It
provides information about the place of relocation, economic
opportunities, and relevant local institutions and social networks,
including religious groups, NGOs, veterans' associations, farmers'
associations, women's groups, and others.
After ex-combatants have been demobilized, their effective and
sustainable reintegration into civilian life is necessary to prevent a
new escalation of the conflict. Reintegration describes the process of
reintegrating former combatants into civil society, ensuring against
the possibility of a resurgence of armed conflict (Wikipedia
Encyclopedia, 2009). In the short term, ex-combatants who do not find
peaceful ways of making a living are likely to return to conflict. In the
longer term, disaffected veterans can play an important role in
destabilizing the social order and polarizing the political debate,
becoming easy targets of populist, reactionary, and extremist
movements. Massimo (2003) argues that reintegration includes:

Reinsertion: This addresses the most immediate needs of excombatants. Reinsertion assistance consists of short-term
relief interventions, which provide a safety net for
demobilized ex-combatants. Assistance may include housing,

Vol. 5, No. 1

224

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

medical care, food, and elementary education for children.


The distribution of cash allowances has proven to be the most
effective and efficient way to provide reinsertion assistance.
Cash payments are preferred over in-kind assistance because
of reduced transaction costs, easier and more transparent
accounting, and because cash payments can adapt more
closely to the specific needs of beneficiaries. Additionally,
cash allowances have the positive psychological effect of
empowering ex-combatants to take charge of their lives.
However, cash payments present two dilemmas: they can
give the negative impression of being "cash for weapons," and
they can be easily lost or misused for consumption and
pleasure. A common solution to this problem is to distribute
allowances neither in advance, nor at the time of
disarmament, but instead after arrival at the community of
destination, in separate installments, and accompanied by
post-discharge counseling.

Economic Integration: This is the final requirement for a DDR


program to be successful and sustainable in the long term.
The goal of economic reintegration efforts is to provide excombatants
with
financial
independence
through
employment. Different initiatives should cater to the special
needs of disabled veterans who cannot reintegrate into the
labor force, for rural settlers, and for urban settlers. Common
economic integration programs include education and
professional training, public employment, encouragement of
private initiative through skills development and micro credit
support, and access to land.

Vol. 5, No. 1

225

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

Goals of DDR
The goals of DDR can be classified into two, namely:
1.

Short-term goals: The immediate goal is the restoration of


security and stability, through the disarmament of
warring parties. Demobilization of armed groups is
another fundamental step in the improvement of security
conditions at the end of an armed conflict. Progressive
disarmament reduces the mistrust that fuels a security
dilemma between the fighting factions, allows aid
workers to intervene more effectively, and allows
peaceful social and economic activities to resume.

2.

Long-term goals: The final goal of DDR is the sustained


social and economic reintegration of ex-combatants into a
peaceful society. However, DDR programs are not
comprehensive development projects; they are temporary
measures to facilitate the transition from war to peace. If a
DDR program is to be sustainable and successful in the
long term, it must be integrated with and supported by
interventions for post-conflict reconstruction and social
and economic development (Massimo, 2003).

The Amnesty Programme and Structural Violence in the Niger


Delta
There is no doubt that the post amnesty period will be more
challenging than the amnesty period. This is because the restoration of
positive peace in the Niger Delta or the evoking of a civil war depends
on the events of the post amnesty period. Positive peace can only be
ensured if there is a well articulated plan for addressing the root
causes of underdevelopment and sources of structural violence in the

Vol. 5, No. 1

226

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

Niger Delta. The expression structural violence is often used to


describe forms of institutionalized social injustice. According to
Galtung (1969) structural violence refers to a form of violence which
corresponds with the systematic ways in which a given social
structure or social institution kills people slowly by preventing them
from meeting their basic needs. Hunger and poverty are two prime
examples of what is described as "structural violence," that is, physical
and psychological harm that results from exploitive and unjust social,
political and economic systems. Failure to sincerely and successfully
implement policies that can address the problem of structural violence
in the Niger Delta could rubbish the relative peace now prevailing in
the region. In addition, failure to avoid anything that is capable of
eroding the trust and confidence the ex-militants have in the federal
government pertaining to the amnesty deal could lead to further
insurgency (Umukoro, 2010). Since positive peace and its sustenance
in the Niger Delta is hinged on understanding and addressing the
root causes of underdevelopment and violence in the region, a careful
diagnosis of the causes of underdevelopment and violence in the area
is important.

The Amnesty Programme and the DDR Strategies for Peace in the
Niger Delta
The success of the amnesty programme and the DDR
strategies for peace in the Niger Delta depends on finding lasting
solutions to the root causes of violence in the area. A proper diagnosis
of the causes of conflict in the Niger Delta area of Nigeria requires a
tripartite dissection of conflict. These are: structural background
conditions of conflict, conflict accelerating factors and the triggers.
The structural background conditions of conflict at best only point to
the existence of conflict potential but cannot explain the actual
occurrence of a given conflict. They include; differences in ethnic

Vol. 5, No. 1

227

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

groups, languages, religion and culture. They require other factors or


force to activate them in order for an actual conflict to break out.
These factors are the conflict accelerating factors. They include
pressures of democratization, rising cases of unemployment, rising
poverty, marginalization (perceived or actual), the demands for
empowerment, stress and strains of environmental cum human
insecurity. The combined effects of the structural background
conditions of conflict and the conflict accelerating factors produce
alarming social and ethnic tensions and conflicts (Adekanye, 1999).
Wealth creation in a monocultural manner without development has
made the Niger Delta a harbor of conflict accelerating factors which
are igniting from time to time. Firstly, rising cases of unemployment is
a cause for concern in the area. Enahoro (2003:14) commenting on this
situation states that a lot of youths including university graduates
have resorted to bike riding (Okada) to make ends meet. The rising
cases of unemployment in the area breeds rising poverty. According
to UNDP Human Development Report (2009) the number of poor
people in Nigeria remains high. The total poverty head count rose
from 27.2 per cent in 1980 to 65.6 per cent in 1996, an annual average
increase of 8.83 per cent in the 16-year period. However, between 1996
and 2004, population in the core poor category rose from 6.2 to 29.3
per cent before declining to 22.0 per cent in 2004. The report also
shows that over 50 per cent of the total population is officially poor.
This indicates that the Niger Delta region is suffering from
administrative neglect, crumbling social infrastructure and services,
social deprivation, abject poverty, filth and squalor and contributes to
endemic conflict.
Secondly, environmental degradation cum human insecurity is
another conflict accelerating factor in the area that requires careful
attention. The problem of environmental cum human insecurity is

Vol. 5, No. 1

228

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

basically due to the activities of multinational oil companies. The


exploration, refining and transportation of petroleum result in social
and ecological disturbance. These include explosions from seismic
surveys, pollution from pipeline leaks, blowouts, drilling fluids and
refinery effluents as well as land alienation and widespread
destruction of the natural terrain from construction activities
(Hutchful, 1985).
The activities of oil companies have contributed to the
marginalization of the peasantry in oil producing areas and threaten
its conditions and existence. Oil exploration and exploitation have
permanently alienated large tracts of land and accentuated land
insecurity (Aluko, 1999).
Pollution of terrestrial, atmospheric and marine environments is
another aspect of environmental degradation. The dangers of
pollution in this area is accentuated by three factors; an extensive
coastline dominated by mangrove swamps, large numbers of offshore
rigs and oil port facilities. These offshore activities pose particular
danger to the sensitive mangrove ecology (Ake, 1985; Agbese, 1993;
Human Rights Watch, 2002; Ojo, 2002; Uduaghan, 2008).
Oil industry pollution arises from variety of sources. The first is crude
oil from pipeline leaks, failure of equipment or tank overflow from
excessive pressure, failure along pump manifolds, blow out of oil
wells and sabotage to well heads and flow lines (Awobayo, 1981).
Additionally, drilling mud and cuttings and gas flaring operations are
also sources of environmental pollution (Hutchful, 1985).
Undoubtedly, these conditions are causes for concern to the people of
the Niger Delta area. Their aspiration is to have these problems
ameliorated. That is why the people continually make claims on the

Vol. 5, No. 1

229

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

government and oil companies. Such claims have been in the form of
demands for compensations, increased revenue allocation to oil
producing states, provision of adequate social and economic
infrastructure, creating more job opportunities for the youths and the
demand for resource control (Onduku, 2001; Saro-wiwa, 1993).
The slow response of the political system to meet most of the
demands of the people can be related to the contradictions of the
countrys corrupt economy. The problems of rising poverty,
unemployment and environmental decay with no real solution in
sight have sown the seed of frustration in the minds of many. This
makes them susceptible to aggression and militant activities. The
quest for political redeemers or messiahs is also related to the
ubiquity of violence during periods of election.
In a nutshell, it is generally comprehended that the recurring crisis in
the Niger Delta region is the product of the deep-seated sense of
neglect and marginalization by the government and oil companies in
supporting critical human development and provision of basic social
amenities (Aboribo, and Umukoro, 2008). The situation in the Niger
Delta is indeed a paradox of poverty in the midst of plenty. In spite of
the oil wealth, the Niger Delta still remains one of the least developed
parts of Nigeria. Outside the major urban areas, the level of
infrastructural development and the provision of social amenities
such as electricity, health care and education are very poor. The state
of infrastructure in the Niger Delta made the World Bank to warn in
1995 that an urgent need exists to implement mechanism to protect
the life and health of the regions inhabitants and its ecological
systems from further deterioration (World Bank, 1995). Fourteen
years after this warning the Niger Delta still suffers from
infrastructural decay and underdevelopment (The News, 2009).

Vol. 5, No. 1

230

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

Even though the activities of oil companies affect the health of the
people in the rural areas, health facilities and personnel are
concentrated in the cities and the quality of health care delivery is
poor because of inadequate facilities and personnel. The people of the
Niger Delta still suffer from debilitating diseases such as malaria,
diarrhea and yellow fever (NDES, 1995). As a result of oil activities
and migration, infrastructure has come under pressure in the cities,
impacting heavily on the quality of life. Electricity supply has
degenerated to the lowest ebb. In an attempt to solve these problems
series of reports and recommendations have been made by different
committees, commissions and conferences. Huge financial resources
have also been wasted in handling the Niger Delta problem without
significant achievement basically because of corruption (Umukoro,
2008). In recent times, especially before the amnesty programme, too
much emphasis has been placed on coercive force with which to cow
the militants in search for peace. This has not yielded positive results.

Conclusion
There is an urgent need for decisive action to be taken to solve
the developmental problems in the Niger Delta area since it is the root
cause or justification of militant activities and violent conflicts in the
area. Eradication of corruption and social peace building are the keys
to ensuring sustainable development in the Niger Delta area of
Nigeria. The relative peace experienced in the Niger Delta area as a
result of the amnesty programme has major impacts on the Nigerian
economy and the potentials for the generation of adequate revenue
for development. The first major impact is that oil production has
increased. This means increase in government's revenue and
enhanced foreign exchange earnings. Benefits will also be realized in
the gas sector, particularly in the area of gas supply to power plants
for internal use. This will help to boost electricity supply which has

Vol. 5, No. 1

231

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

become a major problem in recent times. These gains should be


effectively harnessed for the sustainable development of Nigeria
including the Niger Delta.
Recommendations:
- There should be rapid development of the Niger Delta region
through the provision of infrastructural facilities. It is time to
adopt the simple method used for the rapid development of
Abuja in developing the Niger Delta.
-

Strict environmental standards for air, land and water


pollution should be enforced. The environmental protection
agency should be strengthened for this task. Market based
instruments like pollution taxes and effluent charges should
be utilized. Revenue obtained from pollution taxes should be
plough back into developmental projects or used to
compensate inhabitants of the Niger Delta who have suffered
as a result of environmental damage. An attempt should be
made to mainstream environmental concerns in national
economic policies. This will promote visibility and
sustainability of environmental policies.

The Nigerian economy should be diversified in order to


reduce dependence on the petroleum sector.

References
Aboribo, R.O. and Umukoro N. (2008) Conflict of Globalization and the
Globalization of Niger Delta Conflict in Nigerian Sociological Review,
Vol. 8
Ake, C. (1985) Political Economy of Nigeria, Lagos: Longman

Vol. 5, No. 1

232

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

Adekanye, J. (1999)Conflict Prevention and Early Warning Systems in


Wohlgemnth L. Common Security and Civil Society in Africa (ed),
Oslo: Peace Research Institute
Agbese, D. (1993) The Curse of Oil, Newswatch, Vol.17, No.4. January 25
Aluko, M.A.O. (1999) Social Dimensions and Consequences of Environmental
Degradation in the Niger Delta of Nigeria: Suggestions for the next
Millennium in Osuntokun, A. Environmental Problems of the Niger
Delta, Lagos: Friedrich Ebert Foundation
Amoda, J.M. (2009) Nigeria: Amnesty Approach to Niger Delta Crisis
Vanguard Newspaper
Awobayo, S.A. (1981) An Analysis of Oil Spill incidence\in Nigeria: 1976-1980,
Warri: Petroleum Training Institute
Enahoro, E. (2003) Riots in Warri in the Nigerian Observer, Vol. 9, No. 9
Galtung, J. (1969) "Violence, Peace, and Peace Research," Journal of Peace
Research, Vol. 6, No. 3
Human Rights Watch (1999) The Price of Oil: Corporate Responsibility and
Human Rights Violations in Nigerias Oil Producing Communities, New
York: Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch (2002) The Niger Delta: No Democracy Dividend, New
York: Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch (2005) Rivers and Blood: Guns, Oil and Power in Nigerias
Rivers State, Human Rights Watch
Hutchful, E. (1985) Oil Companies and Environmental Pollution in Ake, C.
Political Economy of Africa (ed), Lagos: Longman

Vol. 5, No. 1

233

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

Ibeanu, Okechukwu, 2002, Democracy, Environment and Security in


Nigeria: Reflections on Environment and Governance in the Post
Military Era, Annuals of the Social Science Academy of Nigeria, 14 &
15th December.
Massimo, F. (2003) "Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration of ExCombatants." Beyond Intractability. (Eds.) Guy Burgess and Heidi
Burgess. Conflict Research Consortium, University of Colorado,
Boulder. http://www.beyondintractability.org/essay/demobilization/
Niger Delta Environmental Survey Report (1995).
Nkoro, E. (2005) Conflict in the Niger Delta: the Way Forward. SearchWarp.com
Nwabueze, B. (2008) The Patriots Warns on Federal Governments threat of
War in the Niger Delta, Vanguard, July 10
Ogidan, A (2007) Why Oil Prices Are Rising from Nigeria Guardian
Newspaper, on line http://www.ngrguardiannews.com, July 12, 2007
Ojie, A.E. (2007) Hostage-Taking and the prospect of Peace Building in the
Niger Delta, in Nigerian Sociological Review, Vol. 2, No. 1.
Ojo, O.J.B (2002)
The Niger Delta: Managing Resources and Conflict, Ibadan:
Development Policy Centre.
Onduku, A. (2001) Environmental Conflicts: the case of the Niger Delta, Warri:
Urhobo Historical Society.
Okoko, Kimse, 1998, Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) Host
Community Relations Study (Unpublished).
Olagbaiye, Tunde, 1990, Statutory Regulations of the Environment: An
Appraisal of the Lagos Environmental Sanitation Edict, 1985, in J. A.

Vol. 5, No. 1

234

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

Omotola, Environmental Laws in Nigeria, University of Lagos, Lagos,


Nigeria.
Osoba, S.O. (2000) Corruption in Nigeria: Historical Perspectives, in
Rwekaza Mukandala (ed), Harare: AAPS Books
Pepple, A. (2007) Niger Delta: Government Must Dump Past Deceptive
Tactics, from Nigeria Guardian
Newspaper, on line
http://www.guardiannewsngr.com, accessed July 06.
Repetto, R. (1989) "Balance-Sheet Erosion -- How to Account for the Loss of
Natural Resources," International Environmental Affairs, Vol. 1, No. 2
Rummel R.J. (1984) Understanding Conflict and War (Vol. 4), New York: Sage
Publications
Salau, A. J., 1993, Environmental Crisis and Development in Nigeria,
Inaugural Lecture, University of Port Harcourt, Choba, Nigeria.
Saro-wiwa, K. (1993) These we demand Newswatch, Vol.17, No.4, January 25.
Shakleman, J. (2006) Oil Profits and Peace: Does Business have a Role in
Peacemaking? United States Institute of Peace.
Smith, D (1997). The State of War and Peace Atlas, London & New York, NY:
Penguin Books.
Smith, D. (2002) Trends and Causes of Armed Conflict, Berghof: Research Center
for Constructive Conflict Management.
Steven, M. S. (2003). Economics: Principles in action. New Jersey: Pearson
Prentice Hall.
Tell (2009), November 2.

Vol. 5, No. 1

235

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

The Guardian (2009), October 2.


The News (2009), July 6.
Torulagha, P.S. (2007) The Niger Delta, Oil and Western Strategic Interests:
The Need for Understanding, http://unitedijawstates.com, accessed
June 28, 2007.
Uduaghan E.E. (2008) How Oil Firms Investors can Secure their Investments
in the Niger Delta, Vanguard Newspaper, June 6.
Ukaogo, V. (1999) Transnational Business Ethics, Government Policies and
the Crises of Pollution and underdevelopment in Niger Delta Cited
in Ojo, O.J.B (2002) The Niger Delta: Managing Resources and Conflict,
Ibadan: Development Policy Centre.
Ukeje, C. (2001) Youths, Violence and the Colapse of Public Order in the
Niger Delta of Nigeria in African Development, Vol. XXVI No. 1 and
2.
Umukoro, N. (2008) Corruption and Militant Group in the Delta State of
Nigeria: Implication on Multinational Corporations. A Paper
Presented at the International Conference on Institutions, Culture
and Corruption in Africa, Organised by the United Nations
Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and the Council for the
Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA) at
the United Nations Conference Centre, Addis Abba, Ethiopia,
October 13-15.
Umukoro, N. (2010) Beyond Amnesty: Curbing the Looming Civil War and
Environmental Scarcity in Nigerias Niger Delta, A Paper Presented
at the International Conference on the Territorial Origins of African
Civil Conflicts, Organized by Ohio State University, USA and the
University of Kwazulu Natal, South Africa in Pietermarizburg, South
Africa, January 29th and 30th 2010.

Vol. 5, No. 1

236

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

Welch, D (1993) Justice and the Genesis of War, Cambridge: Cambridge


University Press.
Yusuf, H.O. (2008). Oil on Troubled Waters-Multinational Corporations and
Realizing Human Rights in the Developing World with Particular
Reference to Nigeria African Human Rights Law Journal 8.1
Wikipedia Encyclopedia, (2009). http://en.wikipedia.org
.

Vol. 5, No. 1

237

Amnesty and Peace-Building in the Niger Delta:


Addressing the Frustration-Aggression Trap
Dr. Ibaba Samuel Ibaba10
Key Terms: Niger Delta; Amnesty; Disarmament, Demobilization and
Reintegration (DDR); Frustration-Aggression Trap

Abstract
This paper interrogated the Nigerian Government amnesty
program, intended to resolve the Niger Delta conflict. The objective
was to address the frustration-aggression trap and highlight the
challenges it poses to peace-building. To achieve this, the paper was
divided into five sections, including the introduction. The first section
after the introduction examined theoretical issues of interest and
describes frustration-aggression trap as a condition where individuals
or groups cannot get out of frustration because their environment and
policies of government reinforces the blockage of goal attainment or
ignores it. The second located the context of oil related conflict in the
Niger Delta, while the third, which analyzed the challenges posed to
the amnesty program by the frustration-aggression trap, focused on
oil induced environmental degradation and corruption in governance
as elements of the trap, which has created conditions for violence, and
noted that if not addressed, it can trigger the recurrence of violence in
the region. The fourth section concluded the study and noted
environmental protection through the strengthening and enforcement
of environmental laws as one option to deal with the problem.
Further, it suggested bringing the fight against corruption into peaceIbaba Samuel Ibaba, PhD, is affiliated to the Department of Political Science,
Niger Delta University, Nigeria where he lectures Political Science and engages in
research focused on conflict analysis, peace building and development. He can be
contacted via E-mail: eminoaibaba@yahoo.com or through P.O. BOX 1529, Yenagoa,
Bayelsa State, Nigeria.
10

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

building in the region, alongside the institutionalization of democratic


governance as the most likely means to escape the frustrationaggression trap and ensure the success of the amnesty program.

Introduction
Agitations in Nigerias Niger Delta dates back to the colonial
era when the fear of domination and neglect by the major ethnic
groups in the country, triggered demands for state creation, seen by
people of the Niger Delta as a guarantee for development and a shield
from ethnicity-based political domination. The colonial government
established the Willink Commission to inquire into these fears and
demands, but the Commission refused the request for state creation
which it considered inappropriate. However, having recognized the
lack of development as the key reason for the agitations, it
recommended the declaration of the region as a special area of
development, and the establishment of a board to plan its
development (Willink Commission Report, 1958:94-95).
The Nigerian government responded to this recommendation and
established the Niger Delta Development Board (NDDB) in 1961, but
the development plight of the region was not addressed as vindicated
by the 1966 Major Isaac Adaka Boro led rebellion which cited
development neglect, arising largely from ethnicity-based political
domination as the reason for the rebellion which sought to create a
Niger Delta Republic. The revolt which commenced on February 23,
1966 lasted till March 6th of the same year, when leaders of the
rebellion were taken into custody by federal troops (Tebekaemi, 1982).
At this point, the violence was not directly linked to oil, probably
because it was not yet the economic pivot of the country. But things
took a different turn when in the 1970s, oil-related conflicts erupted.
First as community agitations against Transnational Oil Companies

Vol. 5, No. 1

239

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

(TOCs) for neglect of corporate social responsibility, environmental


degradation, and payment of compensation for damages to property
caused by oil exploration and production activities, turned to conflict
between the communities and security operatives such as the police
and the army. This later turned to insurgency against the state, as
militia groups emerged to engage security operatives in armed
struggle, just as they made political demands on the Nigerian
government (Osaghae, Ikelegbe, Olarinmoye & Okhomina, 2007;
Watts, 2007).
The insurgency phase of the violence has attracted concerns which
pertains mainly to its impact on global and national energy security,
Nigerias national security and economic development and stability,
and security in the Gulf of Guinea. The most manifest impact of this
phase of the violence was the drastic cut in oil production and by
extension oil revenues. For example, the countrys oil production is
noted to have dropped from 2.6 million barrels per day in 2005, to 1.3
million barrels per day in June 2009 (Obi, 2010:220). This, in addition
to the threats to national security forced the Nigerian government to
proclaim amnesty for militia combatants as a means to ensure peace.
Since the introduction of the amnesty program in August 2009,
concerns have been raised on its capacity to end violence in the
region. Whereas the failure of the amnesty program to follow
conventional Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR)
procedure which requires negotiations and establishment of a
framework of implementation has been noted as major defect of the
program (Ikelegbe, 2010; Davidheiser & Kialee, 2010; Adeyemo &
Olu-Adeyemi 2010), the consensus is that addressing the
fundamentals which underlie the transformation of the Niger Delta
conflict is crucial to peace-building.

Vol. 5, No. 1

240

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

The proliferations of arms, the violent responses of the state and


TOCs, and the non-resolution of the fundamental issues which
motivate the conflict have been highlighted as major reasons for
conflict transformation. The analysis of the transition of the conflict
from protests to insurgency has however under indicated the
frustration-aggression trap. The objective of this paper is to fill this
gap. It argues that although the amnesty program has restored peace
as evidenced by the cessation of attacks on oil installations and
kidnapping of oil company personnel, violence will most likely
reoccur if the frustration-aggression trap is not addressed. The issues
for analysis include: What are the elements of the frustrationaggression trap? How has the trap contributed to conflict
transformation in the Niger Delta? What challenges does the
frustration-aggression trap pose to the amnesty program and peacebuilding in the region?
The remaining part of the paper proceeds in four sections. The first
examines theoretical issues in amnesty, peace-building and the
frustration-aggression trap, while the second locates the context of oilrelated violence in the Niger Delta. The third section discusses the
challenges posed to the amnesty program and peace-building by the
frustration-aggression trap. The fourth section concludes the study
with suggestions on the way forward.
Frustration-Aggression Trap, Amnesty and Peace-Building: Issues
in Theory
This section provides a theoretical guide to the issues of
interest. Divided into three areas, the first reflects on the frustrationaggression explanation of violence, and locates how the frustrationaggression trap arises from it. The second discusses the amnesty
program and links it to Disarmament, Demobilization and
Reintegration (DDR). It highlights the issue of context and explains

Vol. 5, No. 1

241

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

the peculiarities of the Niger Delta amnesty program. The third


explains peace-building and links it to the amnesty program.
(a) Frustration Aggression Trap
The frustration-aggression explanation of conflict, pioneered by John
Dollard, Leonard Doob, Neal Miller, O.H Mowrer, and Robert Sears
in 1939 ( Berkowitz, 1989) has been used as one of the dominant
explanations of violence in the Niger Delta. But the analysis has not
highlighted the dimension of being trapped in frustration-aggression.
This theory explains conflict from a psychological perspective, and
blames conflict on the inhibition or blockage of goal attainment. Faleti
(2006: 47) explains this with the want-get-ratio, expected need
satisfaction and actual need satisfaction. The explanation is that
the gap between what people feel they want or deserve and what they
actually get sets in frustration that culminates into aggression and
violence. The disappointment arising from not getting what an
individual wants or deserves, and the impact this brings to bear on
him, triggers frustration and aggression. Although frustration does
not always lead to violence due to intervening variables such as the
fear of sanctions, the linkage cannot be disputed (Berkowitz, 1989).
The targets of violence in this context are the individual, institution or
organization, perceived to be the cause of deprivation, or those related
to it (Faleti 2006: 47). Theories of aggression have supported this by
noting that aggression occurs as an innate response to frustration,
although the theories also acknowledge that it can be instigated by
instinct or learned. It however clarifies that frustration-aggression is
more systematically developed and has empirical backing (Gurr,
1968).
But is frustration-aggression a passing or permanent phase? Can
frustration be endured to prevent aggression? Are there conditions
where people cannot get out of frustration and by extension

Vol. 5, No. 1

242

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

aggression? Frustration can be circumstantial or permanent if not


resolved. Indeed, psychologists attributes conflict to frustration
arising from unresolved challenges or obstacles, suggesting that
conflicts would always occur as long as such challenges are not
resolved (Anikpo, 1998). Frustrations can remain unattended to by
policies which fail to address the causes, or just because attempts are
not made to resolve the issues. The point is that where an individual
or a group of people lack the capacity to escape frustration on their
own, and government policies fail to assist them to do so or reinforces
their frustration, such individuals or groups will most likely remain in
permanent frustration. Frustration-aggression trap thus refers to a
condition where individuals or groups cannot get out of frustration
because their environment and policies of government reinforces the
blockage or inhibition of goal attainment, or ignores it. The
implication is conflict transformation from one phase or stage to
another, as the people respond to changing situations of frustration in
society.
The Niger Delta conflict was triggered by several factors that are
linked to the inhibition of goal attainment- centralized federalism and
inequity distribution of oil arising from ethnicity-based political
domination and neglect of the regions development; oil induced
environmental degradation and the resultant occupational
displacement, lose of income and increased poverty; corruption in
governance and poor service delivery; and the neglect of corporate
social responsibility by TOCs and their refusal to pay or payment of
inadequate compensation for damages to properties caused by oil
production activities. The frustrations arising from these triggered the
conflict, and the non-resolution of these challenges motivated the
transformation of the conflict. Importantly, present policies are not
addressing these issues, in particular, oil induce environmental
degradation and its socio-economic consequences, and corruption in

Vol. 5, No. 1

243

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

governance and the resultant deprivation of the people. Because


these challenges inhibit goal attainment, they provide objective
realities for a vicious circle of conflict, as the reinforcement of
frustration always motivates aggression. Addressing the frustrationaggression trap is thus a core requirement for peace-building in the
Niger Delta.
(b) The Amnesty Program (AP) and DDR
DDR has become a major strategy for the resolution of conflict and
management of post-conflict situations for over two decades now.
Widely utilized by the United Nations and similar organizations, its
preference in conflict resolution appears to be linked to its acceptance
as an effective tool for achieving sustainable peace. The Nigerian
government adopted the amnesty program in this contest. However,
the program has been questioned by some scholars who argue that, by
its conception and operation, the amnesty program does not conform
to DDR in its fundamentals. According to Davidheiser and Nyiayaana
(2010:1):
A DDR program is typically adopted as a means of transition
from conflict to peace since its function is to remove one or
more of the disputing parties from the scene. Accordingly,
peace negotiations generally include DDR clauses, yet in peacebuilding theory, a DDR program is only expected to comprise
the preliminary phases of a much broader process of
addressing root causes that initially motivated the combatants.
By failing to include the latter, the Amnesty Program does not
conform to this model.

The lack of negotiations between the government and combatants is


identified here as a major flaw which dissociates the amnesty
program from DDR. But Ikelegbe (2010) list other defects such as the
absence of cease fire and cessation of hostilities before the

Vol. 5, No. 1

244

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

proclamation of the amnesty program, and the lack of gestures such


as the release of detained combatants and those on trial, and the noninvolvement of international organizations as evidences why the
program deviates from DDR.
It is true that these are essential components of DDR, but their absence
in the amnesty program is not enough to dismiss it as non-DDR
compliant, as disarmament, demobilization and reintegration are core
policies of the amnesty program. Negotiation and cease fire for
example, are processes which lead to DDR, and to insist that there
must be negotiation between the government and combatants will be
ignoring context, and thus missing out the point. This is also true of
international support that may not be necessary always. The essence
of negotiation is to establish a framework for conflict resolution,
which is expected to address the root causes of the conflict and a
determination of how to resolve them. In the Niger Delta Context
where these were already known and established, pre-DDR
negotiations with combatants can be overlooked. Further, the violence
was championed by a welter of groups (Watts, 2007), and thus,
negotiations with combatants could have been disorderly. The
individual acceptance of the amnesty by militia leaders, the feelings of
betrayal by others and the separate meetings between militia groups
and the late President Umaru Musa Yaradua after they have accepted
the amnesty vindicate this point.
At another level of analysis, there is no single path to DDR, as it can
be secured in three ways. First, DDR can be secured through
negotiated settlement between parties in conflict with support from a
third party. Second, it can be established by one party after defeating
others, and third, DDR can be the result of peace agreements
midwifed through international intervention (UN Report on DDR,
2007). Thus the insistence that the amnesty program deviates from

Vol. 5, No. 1

245

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

conventional procedures for the establishment of DDR, simply


because it did not follow the path of conflicting parties negotiating to
secure DDR ignores context, and again misses the point.
That the amnesty program satisfies the core phases and goals of DDR
is not in doubt, as it adopted the DDR phases and processes of
disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, highlighted in Table
1.
Table 1: The Phases and Processes of DDR
Phase
Disarmament
(Removing the
weapons)
Demobilization
(Discharging
combatants from
their units)

Reintegration (The
socio-economic
process of
becoming a civilian)

Processes
Collection and documentation of arms
and ammunitions from combatants
and development of arms
management program
Discharge of active combatants from
armed groups and the provision of
reinsertion (transitional assistance) in
the form of allowances to cover basic
needs, short-term education, training
and employment.
Status change process from combatant
to civilians

Source: Joab-Peterside, 2010:74-75

The disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of militia groups


in the Niger Delta was a policy recommended by the Niger Delta
Technical Committee ( NDTC), a committee established in 2008 by the
Nigerian government to determine appropriate peace-building
strategies in the region. The 40 member committee, made of scholars
and opinion leaders from the region made wide consultations with

Vol. 5, No. 1

246

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

stake holders, including the combatants before making its


recommendations. The policy recommendations on DDR states in part
that:

Federal government should establish a credible and


authoritative DDR institution and process including
international negotiators to plan, implement, and
oversee the DDR programs at regional, state, and
local government levels

Grant amnesty to all Niger Delta militants willing


and ready to participate in the DDR program

Work out long-term strategies of human capacity


development and reintegration for ex-militants

Exclude from amnesty and criminalize the activities


of those militants not committed to the DDR process
and unwilling to surrender to arms (NDTC, 2008:
66)

Further, specific tasks were assigned to the states and local


governments, communities, militia groups and security operatives in
order to ensure the success of the program. In particular, state
governments1 were required to support the rebuilding of communities
destroyed by military invasion, and establish youth development
centers and community demobilization and reintegration committees
to enhance reintegration and capacity building. State governments
were also required to provide social amenities such as health centers
Federating units in Nigeria are called States, and there are 36 of such states
and 774 local government councils.
1

Vol. 5, No. 1

247

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

and schools at the site of former militant camps (NDTC, 2008: 67). The
amnesty program was therefore not imposed by the federal
government, neither is it a beneficent gift to Niger Delta militias, nor
is it an instrument of political patronage or primitive accumulation of
wealth as argued by Davidheiser and Nyiayaana ( 2010) and JoabPeterside ( 2010).
The amnesty program was proclaimed on June 25, 2009, and militias
were given a 60 day period (August 3 to October 4, 2009) to accept the
offer. Arms collection centers and withholding camps were created
across the region. At the end of the period, over 20,000 militias
disarmed and surrendered thousands of arms ammunitions, and
other weapons of war ranging from rocket launchers, KK 47 Rifles,
pump action guns, machine guns and gun boats (Okogun & Okeneye,
2009: 1-2; Joab-Peterside, 2010: 85-98).
The program has since moved on to the rehabilitation and
reintegration phase. First, the militias were sent for non-violence
training, to ensure behavior modification and equip them with
strategies for peaceful resolution of conflicts. Thereafter, they have
been sent for training in their chosen areas of economic
empowerment, including vocational skills acquisition and
entrepreneurship training. While some are trained within the country,
others were sent to South Africa and Ghana. The federal government
has also stepped up efforts in providing social infrastructure,
although the noticeable project in this area thus far, is the accelerated
construction of the East-West road2

The East-West Road is the major road that connects the Niger Delta states.
Importantly too, it is the major link between the Niger Delta and other parts
of Nigeria. This makes it an important road for communication and the
2

Vol. 5, No. 1

248

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

It is discernible from the above that the amnesty program has the
essential features of DDR. The report of the NDTC which was based
on wide consultation with stake holders, and the consultations and
negotiations between opinion and political leaders of the Niger Delta
and the militia groups which preceded the commencement of the
amnesty program can be termed in context as Pre-DDR negotiations.
Importantly also, militia leaders who accepted the amnesty held
meetings with the late president of the country, Alhaji Umaru Musa
Yaradua, to clear doubts, build trust, express demands, make
guarantees, and clarify intentions (Ikelegbe, 2010:11).The
disarmament and demobilization of militias, the sub-sequent closure
of their camps, and the on-going rehabilitation and reintegration
process are also indications of the DDR strategy for peace-building.
Thus far, the program has restored peace; the militias have left the
creeks, attacks on oil infrastructure and oil company personnel have
stopped, and oil production has been restored to normal level of
about 2.3 million barrels per day (AIT, 2010). The possible recurrence
of violence is however a major concern.
(c) Conflict and Peace-Building
Conflict necessitates peace-building, which seeks to secure peace
through conflict prevention, resolution and management (World
Bank, 2006; Ibeanu, 2006; Francis, 2006; Best, 2007). This is however
enhanced by knowledge of the motives for conflict and peculiarities of
particular conflict systems (Bassey, 2002). Conflict prevention requires
the identification and containment of possible conflict drivers before
they trigger conflicts. In contrast, conflict resolution intervenes to
change or facilitate the course of a conflict. This is also seen as part of
evacuation of petroleum products from the Niger Delta to other areas in
Nigeria.

Vol. 5, No. 1

249

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

conflict management which establishes institutional and regulative


procedures to deal with conflicts when they occur (Otite, 2001: 6 &
10). But, Best (2006:94), separates conflict resolution from conflict
management, and describes conflict resolution as the termination of
conflict through the provision of constructive solutions to the causal
factors of conflict, and modification of behavior from violent to
peaceful coexistence among previously hostile adversaries. The point
on behavior modification highlights one link between conflict
resolution and DDRs reintegration phase that seeks to give excombatants a new orientation in collective existence.
Furthermore, the emphasis placed on negotiation by DDR links it to
mediation, one of the three dominant approaches to conflict
resolution. Table 2 compares mediation with adjudication and
arbitration, the other two dominant methods of conflict resolution,
and gives an indication of why mediation is preferable to the other
two.
Although the outcome of intervention in mediation is not binding, the
participation of all disputants, pragmatic outcome, and win-win
posture establishes trust among adversaries, guarantees consensus on
the framework for the resolution of conflict, and secures commitment
from all parties. This makes it suitable for the resolution of armed
conflicts such as the Niger Delta crisis.

Vol. 5, No. 1

250

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

Table 2: Adjudication, Arbitration and Mediation: A Comparison

Staring points
Decision making
authority
Outcome of
intervention
Focus of
intervention
Number of
outcome
Number of
parties required
for occurrence
of intervention
Parties influence
over identified
third party

Types of Intervention
Adjudication
Arbitration
Judge
Arbiter

Mediation
Disputants

Binding

Binding

Non binding

Law based
outcome

Law based
outcome

Win-lose

Win-lose

One

All

Management and
pragmatic
outcome
Win-Win
(Compromise)
All

No

Yes

Yes

Source: Adapted from Kleiboer (1998), cited by Godongs (2006: 132)

But how does DDR contribute to peace-building? Demobilization and


reintegration reduces the risk of returning to violence, as it removes
arms from combatants and gives them a new orientation, such as the
resolution of conflict through peaceful means as against the use of
violence (Humpreys and Weinsten, 2007). The disarmament and
reintegration program of the amnesty program captures this and thus
makes it a useful program for peace-building in the Niger Delta.
Niger Delta: The Context of Oil-Related Violence
The description of the Niger Delta has elicited two broad view
points; one that describes it as a geographic entity, and the other

Vol. 5, No. 1

251

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

which sees it as an oil producing region. Whereas the geographic


definition lists 6 states (Akwa-Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo
and Rivers) as the component states of the region, Abia, Imo and
Ondo states are included in the conception of the Niger Delta as an oil
producing region. However, this later view, widely described as the
political definition of the Niger Delta, is the accepted definition in
policy circles (Etekpe, 2007; Tamuno, 2008; Omotola, 2010). Located in
the southern part of Nigeria, the region is home to Nigerias oil and
gas industry. Oil is the mainstay of the Nigerian economy, and
between 1960 and 2006 for example, the country generated about $500
billion as oil revenue (Nafziger, 2008:153-154). Presently, the country
also earns about $4 from natural gas exports (Obi a, 2010:104)
Despite these huge revenues derived from oil and gas, produced
majorly in the Niger Delta, the region remains one of the most
impoverished parts of Nigeria ( Obib, 2010:221). This paradox, largely
blamed on ethnicity-based political domination, the countrys
centralized federalism and inequitable distribution of the oil wealth,
oil induced environmental degradation and the dislocation of local
economies, and corruption in governance and the resultant
deprivation (Naanen, 1995; UNDP, 2006; Ibaba, 2009) triggered
conflicts which began as community agitations against oil companies
in the 1970s and burst into full blown insurgency in 2005 ( Watts,
2007; Osaghae, Ikelegbe, Olarinmoye & Okhomina, 2007). The
interface between the conflict and oil can be discerned from Table 3
which provides insight into Nigerias crude oil export. The
information shows that the countrys crude oil export rose sharply in
the 1970s, a period that coincided with community agitations against
the TOCs. It also indicates that the 1990s up to the 2000 years recorded
large volume of oil export. Significantly, this period witnessed rapid
transformation of the conflict. Indeed, the year 2005, which witnessed

Vol. 5, No. 1

252

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

the emergence of the armed insurgency, recorded the highest volume


of oil sales.
Table 3: Volume of Crude Oil Production in Nigeria

Year
1958
1959
1960
1961
1962
1963
1964
1965
1966
1967

Vol.
of
Prod.
In
mbpd.
1.9
4.1
6.4
16.4
24.6
27.9
44.0
99.4
152.4
116.6

Year
1968
1969
1970
1971
1972
1973
1974
1975
1976
1977

Vol.
of
Prod.
In
mbpd.
51.9
196.3
395.8
558.7
655.3
719.4
823.3
660.1
758.1
766.1

Year
1978
1979
1980
1981
1982
1983
1984
1985
1986
1987

Vol.
of
Prod.
In
mbpd.
696.3
845.5
760.1
525.5
470.6
450.9
507.5
547.1
535.9
482.9

Year
1988
1989
1990
1991
1992
1993
1994
1995
1996
1997

Vol.
of
Prod.
In
mbpd.
529.0
626.7
660.6
689.9
711.3
695.4
696.2
715.4
681.9
855.0

Year
1998
1999
2000
2001
2002
2003
2004
2005
2006
2007

Vol. of
Prod.
In
mbpd.
806.4
774.7
828.3
859.6
725.9
844.1
900.0
923.5
814.0
880.0

Source: Tell, 2008: 28

Conflicts between the oil producing communities and the TOCs robed
off on inter-community and intra-community conflicts which became
worse with competition over benefits of the oil industry such as
employment, location of project, award of contracts, naming of oil
facilities such well sites, flow stations and manifolds. Further, the use
of security operatives (in particular the anti-riot police squad or
Mobile Police and the Army) by TOCs to protect their facilities and
the suppression of protests by communities pitched the communities
against the security operatives in the 1980s, setting the stage for
violent confrontation between the communities and security agencies.

Vol. 5, No. 1

253

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

Table 4 provides insight into actors of the conflict, to enhance


understanding of the context of violence.
Table 4: Actors in Niger Delta Conflicts
S/No. Types of Conflict
1 Intra-community
conflict:

Actors in Conflict/Mode of Aggression


Community factions:
(A) Urban Elites against Local Elites
Urban Elites:
Hijack of community resources; disregard for
local elites.
Local Elites:
Incite youths and chiefs against the urban
elites.
(B) Youths against Elites
Youths:
Destruction of properties owned by the elites;
harassment of relations.
Elites: Fractionalization of youth Bodies
through partisan support and patronage.
Attack on rival groups.
(C) Youths against Youths
(D) Youths against Community
Youths: Over throw of community leadership
and usurpation of power.
Community: Inequity distribution of
resources leading to the short changing of
youths
(E) Claims Agents against Community
Claims Agents: Short changing of community
members
Community: Refusal to pay agreed fees;
double dealing.

Vol. 5, No. 1

254

Africana: The Niger Delta

S/No. Types of Conflict

Special Issue 2011

Actors in Conflict/Mode of Aggression


(F) Youths against Chiefs
Youths: Dethronement of chiefs; attack on
chiefs.
Chiefs: Fractionalization of Youth Bodies
through partisan support and patronage
kidnapping; encroachment on land and
fishing grounds; attack on community
members(s).
Youths, chiefs and elites
Community: Attack on oil installations/
equipment; work stoppages; seizure of
property, kidnapping of workers

Inter community
conflicts

Community against oil


company

Youths, chiefs, elites, oil MNCs and security


operatives
Oil Company: Fractionalization of community
leaders; refusal to pay compensation; breach
of MOU; payment of inadequate
compensation.

Community against
state

Community youths and security operatives


Community: Disruption of oil production;
attack on security operatives
State: Attack by security operatives; neglect
and deprivation.

Inter-ethnic

Intra-militia/cult/
confraternity groups
Inter-militia/cult/
confraternity groups

Youths, elites and chiefs


Encroachment of land; domination and
exclusion.
Youths
Inequality in resource distribution;
Youths
Encroachment on area of control or oil theft
zone

Source: Ibaba & Ikelegbe, 2009: 7

Vol. 5, No. 1

255

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

The emergence of youth groups and the radicalization of same


marked a major turning point of the conflict, as militia groups
emerged to confront the state and the security operatives. Groups
such as Niger Delta Volunteers (NDV), Niger Delta Peoples Volunteer
Force (NDPVF) and the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger
Delta (MEND) which emerged with the goal to provide a common
platform for all militia groups in the region, confronted the military
and attacked oil infrastructure and oil company personnel. The oil
industry and the national economy became the victims. Obi b
(2010:220) capture the implications thus:
Between late 2005 and mid-2009, attacks against oil installations
forced the shutdown of between 25% and 40% of Nigerians oil
production and exports, leading to substantial loss of revenues and
profits by the state-oil multinationals alliance. These militia attacks
(in addition to oil theft) have largely accounted for a drop in oil
production from about 2.6 million barrels in 2005 to 1.3 million
barrels in June 2009. The resultant loss of revenue is estimated in
billions of Dollars. The transformation of initially uncoordinated,
non-violent protests into a full-blown pan-Delta insurgency and the
attendant insecurity in the region has continued to occupy the
attention of strategic and policy analysts and oil multinationals,
whose multibillion dollar investments are at grave risks. Also at stake
are the energy security and strategic interests of oil-dependent
Western powers, which back the oil multinationals and rely on oil
imports from the Niger Delta.

Other source indicates that oil production dropped to about


700,000(AIT, 2010).This endangered the national economy which
depends on oil, and the economies of other countries which depend
on Nigerian oil. This, the kidnapping of oil company personnel, the
instability, and threat to national security occasioned by the
proliferation and stockpiling of arms and ammunitions by the militia

Vol. 5, No. 1

256

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

groups necessitated the amnesty program. Before the amnesty


program, a number of interventions have been made by the Nigerian
government and the TOCs. The oil companies responded to
community protests with community development projects, by
providing basic social amenities such as clean water, health facilities,
school buildings, and the provision of scholarships and training of
youths to acquire vocational skills. The government intervened in
development engineering through the establishment of ministerial
and extra-ministerial agencies, such as the Presidential Committee on
the disbursement of the 1.5 percent oil derivation fund, the Oil
Minerals Producing Areas Development Commission (OMPADEC),
and the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC). Further, the
government increased the oil derivation fund to oil producing states
from 3 percent to 13 percent. However, these attempts failed to
address the frustrations which drive conflict in the region thus setting
in the transformation of the conflict from one phase to another. The
amnesty program, the latest attempt to resolve the conflict faces the
challenge of the unresolved frustrations. The next section examines
this.

Frustration-Aggression Trap and Challenges to the Amnesty


Program
This section argues that due ineffective policies which fail to address
fundamental causal factors which link the blockage of attainment to
frustration, the people of the Niger Delta are unable to come out of
frustration, thus creating a circle of aggression which instigates
violence in the area. This, the paper contends, is a threat to the
amnesty program. The analysis will be limited to oil induced
environmental degradation and corruption in governance and the
resultant deprivation of the people, a choice informed by the neglect
of these two key issues in the peace-building process.

Vol. 5, No. 1

257

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

(a) Oil induced Environmental Degradation


Two consequences of the oil industry in the Niger Delta are oil spills
and gas flare, which have caused severe damage to the environment
and livelihoods of the people. Available data indicates that the
country recorded a total of 9,107 oil spills between 1976 and 2005
alone (Nwilo and Badejo, 2008:1222). Between 2003 and 2007, the Shell
Petroleum Development Company alone recorded 1,243 oil spills
(SPDC, 2008). These incidents resulted in the spilling of oil into the
environment, with the attendant damage to the ecosystem. Between
1976 and 2005 for instance, a total of 3,121,909.8 barrels of oil was spilt
into the environment (Nwilo and Badejo, 2008: 122. 2). Significantly,
about 70 percent of spilt oil in the region is not recovered. Gas flare is
also noted to have caused severe environmental problems. Nigeria
flares 20 billion out of the global 150 cubic feet of gas that is flared
annually (Uzoma, 2008:29).Oil spills destroy economic trees and crops
within 2.1/4 kilometers (Adeyemo, 2008: 62). Gas flares also have
similar effects. For example, studies have shown that crop yield
reduces by 45 percent and 10 pecent 600 meters and one kilometer
respectively from flares site (Adeyemo, 2002: 69). Meanwhile, there
are about 275 flow stations where gas is flared in the region. Oil spills
and gas flares have impacted on the local economies largely based on
farming
and
fishing;
leading
to
occupational
displacement/disorientation, and forced migration (UNDP, 2006;
Opukri & Ibaba, 2008).
The point is that the local farmer and fisherman/woman experience no
improvement in his/her condition of living, no matter how hard the
individual works. Expected crop yield at harvest for example, is not
realized, and hopes of earning higher incomes have been dashed.
Remaining in poverty no matter how hard an individual works is
certainly a source frustration which creates conditions for violence.
But, current policies are not addressing the issues of environmental

Vol. 5, No. 1

258

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

degradation related to oil industry activities. Government and oil


company intervention in the development of the region has only
targeted infrastructure and educational development. Attempts to
deal with environmental issues have not yielded results as the Niger
Delta Development Commission (NDDC) which was given this
mandate has abandoned it. The state governments in the region have
also neglected the environment in their development policies, while
federal agencies are too distant to make any meaningful impact.
Worse, alternative means of livelihood have not been provided.
Similarly, the problems of agricultural development, including the
lack of farm inputs such as improved seedlings and fertilizer, storage
facilities, transportation and communications, small farm sizes, and
modern equipments/expertise, have not been addressed. Because the
solutions to these problems are beyond the capacity of the people, the
neglect by the government and TOCs means that they remain with
the problems and the frustrations which results from them.
Significantly, oil induced environmental degradation impacts mainly
on the rural areas where majority of the citizens live. Thus the
aggravation of poverty, one consequence of the degradation affects a
large proportion of the population, including the youths who lead the
violence. Whereas the neglect of the environment has contributed to
population displacement and rural-urban migration, the urban
migrants cannot find work or other means of livelihood, due to the
crisis plaguing the national economy, lack of credit facilities, and poor
infrastructures, particularly the lack of electricity or power. Thus
frustrations deepen, and support conditions for violence. This has the
potential to breed new militias or reactivate dormant ones.
(b) Corruption in Governance
This section highlights the interface between corruption in
governance, the resultant deprivation, and conflict. Essentially,

Vol. 5, No. 1

259

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

corruption in governance occurs as stealing of public funds through


the inflation of project costs; payments for fictitious projects and
workers (ghost project and workers); outright stealing of funds;
inflated travel expenses, salaries and allowances; among others. The
examples cited below demonstrate the different faces of corruption in
the region. In 2005, the Opobo/Nkoro local government council in
Rivers State budgeted a total sum of $6.92million, out of which the
capital allocation to education and health sectors were $170,000 and
$23,000 respectively. Similarly for recurrent expenditure, the salaries
for protocol officers were $247,846 as against that for workers in the
health sector which was $215,040. Significantly, the travel budget of
the Chairman was $53,800. In 2006, the Rivers State government set
aside the sum of $23,725,000 out of its total budget of $1.3billion to
fund travels by the Governor and $10 million for catering services and
souvenirs as gifts for guest of the government, but allocated
$20,000,000 to its sustainable development program (HRW, 2007:37-38
& 77-78).
Also in Bayelsa State, the 2008 budget of the state government
allocated 45.6% of the total overhead costs and 7.6% of total budget as
the overhead cost for running the offices of the governor and his
deputy. Significantly, agriculture, education, health and water supply
were allocated 3%, 8.1%, 8.1% and 3.6% respectively (Bayesla state
Budget, 2008). Other figures for 2008 indicate that, Akwa-Ibom State
allocated 23.2% of its budget to Government House, and 12% and
3.5% to education and health respectively. Delta State budgeted 5.8%
for Government House, 2.5% for education and 2.6% for the health
sector, while Rivers State allocated 6.2% to Government House, 6.4%
to education, and 4.1% to health (Niger Delta Standard, 209:28). The
allocations to Government House is spent on security vote, travels,
gifts and souvenirs, entertainment, purchase of news papers and
magazines, drugs, among others. This is also applicable to the

Vol. 5, No. 1

260

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

national level where the Central Bank Governor alleged in 2010 that
the National Assembly alone gulped 25% of federal government
overhead budget for 2010.
The implication of this pattern of expenditure is twofold. First, it
encourages corruption, as demonstrated by the many allegations of
corruption against past and present public office holders by the two
prominent anti graft agencies in the country; the Economic and
Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt
Practices Commission (ICPC). Attempts have been made to deal with
this problem, and perhaps the most celebrated was the 2005 arrest in
London, of former Bayelsa State Governor, Chief D.S.P
Alamieyeseigha for money laundering and related practices involving
hundreds of millions of United States Dollars. Chief Alamieyeseigha,
who was alleged to have escaped from London, was later convicted
by a Nigerian High Court in 2007. Other examples include the
conviction of former Edo State Governor, Chief Lucky Igbinedion for
misappropriation of State funds. Former Delta State Governor, Chief
James Ibori, is facing similar charges. The conviction of Chief Olabode
George, a chieftain of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party and its
former deputy national chairman for the South-West zone3 (PDP) is
also a case in point.
Although information on the actual sum of money stolen by public
office holders in the country is sketchy, one estimate put it about $380
Nigeria is divided into six geo-political zones comprising five to seven
states: South-West ( Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, Ekiti and Oyo States); SouthEast ( Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu, Abia and Imo States); South-South ( Bayelsa,
Akwa-Ibom, Delta, Edo, Croos River and Rivers States); North West (
Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto and Zamfara States.); NorthEast ( Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Taraba and Yobe States); and NorthCentral ( Benue, Kogi, Kewara, Nasarawa, Niger, Plateau and the Federal
Capital Territory-Abuja)
3

Vol. 5, No. 1

261

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

billion between 1960 and 1999 (HRW, 2007:16). It has also been
estimated that $14 billion was stolen in 2003 alone (Ejibunu, 2007: 18),
while about $12 billion oil wind fall monies are alleged to have
disappeared between 1958 and 1993(HRW, 2007:16). This leads us to
the second point. Due to corruption, only a small fraction of budgeted
funds trickle down to the poor. This deprives the people adequate
funds for infrastructure development and provision of social
amenities and services. The socio-demographic data of the Niger
Delta indicates low life expectancy, high maternal and infant deaths,
and limited access to education, health and clean water, among
others.
It is imperative to note that state agencies such as the Oil Minerals
Producing Areas Development Commission ( OMPADEC), and the
Niger Delta Development Commission ( NDDC), established by the
Nigerian Government to intervene in the development of the region
have been also noted for corruption( Omotola, 2010), which
undermined their mandate to ameliorate the development plight
which underlies the violence. Similarly, corruption has been identified
as one of the reasons responsible for the failure of TOCs community
development programs to impact significantly on the living standards
of the people (Okoko, 1998; Ibaba, 2005).Here, the frustrations which
have resulted in agitations, protests and insurgency, is linked to the
poor state of infrastructure and quality of living in the region, despite
the huge oil revenue generated by the country 4, the billions of United

It has been reported that Nigeria has earned over $600 billion from oil
exports in the last 50 years (EFCC, 2010). Despite this, the country generates
just about 3000 megawatts of electricity for a population of over 150 million.
None of its over a 100 universities is ranked among the best 5000 universities
in the world, while only five of its universities are among the best 100
universities in Africa. Road infrastructure is very poor, the health sector is in a
4

Vol. 5, No. 1

262

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

States Dollars which have accrued from the Federation Account 5 to


the Niger Delta States through the 13% derivation fund and statutory
allocations, in the face of conspicuous life styles of corrupt public
office holders and the obviously high living standards of oil company
personnel. This is heightened by the inability of the people to vote bad
or ineffective governments out of office. Although the amnesty
program has not resolved these frustrations which created the
conditions for violence, the militias it removed from the creeks, and
the hopes it brings to the entire population has subdued open
aggression. Whether this would last without the resolution of the
frustrations is however doubtful.

sorry state, while the public school system at the primary and post-primary
levels are in comatose.
5 In Nigeria, national revenue is collected and paid into a common purse
called the Federation Account. On a monthly basis, revenue is shared from
this account on the basis of population, social development factor, equality of
states, land mass/ territory and derivation. Derivation takes 13% of allocation
and goes to the oil mineral producing states and local governments in the
Niger Delta as oil derivation fund. The remainder is shared as statutory
revenue among the federal government, the 36 states and Abuja, the federal
capital territory, and the 774 local government councils. Available data
indicates that the Niger Delta States have received huge revenues since 2000
due to the increase in the oil derivation fund from 3% to 13% in 2000. For
example in the first 11 months of 2008, the Niger Delta States received $4
billion out of a total of $11 billion allocated to the 36 states of the federation (
monthly figures collected from www.fmf.gov.ng, and then added up to give
annual total)

Vol. 5, No. 1

263

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

Escaping the Frustration-Aggression Trap: Concluding Remarks


The conditions for violence in the Niger Delta are pervasive,
and the amnesty program which removed militias from the creeks can
be likened to an inchoate operation for removing a cancerous part of a
body without containing its further spread or re-emergence. The
pertinent questions that come to mind include: Does the surrender of
arms and renunciation of violence by militias bring the frustration of
the entire population to an end? Are the militias the only deprived
and aggrieved Niger Deltas? Is the amnesty program and the
attention given to the ex-combatants not reinforcing the frustrations of
those who did not take up arms against the Nigerian State? My
answer to the first two questions is no, but the answer to the third
question is in the affirmative. This brings us to the point that violence
could recur in the region if the frustrations which support insurgency
are not resolved. Resolving these frustrations is therefore a
requirement for peace-building in the region.
Escaping the frustration-aggression trap is predicated on addressing
the lack of development, the most fundamental cause of the violence.
In the context of the analysis of this paper, dealing with oil induced
environmental degradation and corruption in governance are the two
key issues. Lubeck, Watts and Lipschutz (2007) have linked the
security of the Niger Delta to the consolidation of democracy through
free and fair elections; improved health care, education and living
standards; and the integration of the people into the oil wealth to
ensure they derive maximum benefits. This underscores the position
of this paper. Ending oil based environmental degradation is a sure
way to improve living standards, and empower local people through
their fishing and farming based occupations, to have adequate access
to health and educational services and facilities. To achieve this,
environmental laws which are presently weak and suffer poor
enforcement will need to be strengthened and enforced adequately.

Vol. 5, No. 1

264

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

Oil spillages are industry based and also caused by sabotage. The
regulatory bodies in the country such as the Directorate of Petroleum
Resources (DPR) have a crucial role to play.
One major cause of lawlessness in Nigeria is the culture of impunity.
Thus enforcement of environment laws and placement of adequate
sanctions on TOCs is a sure way to elicit compliance and thus protect
the environment. Sabotage spills can be contained by responding to
the development challenges of the people, in addition to enforcing the
relevant laws dealing with sabotage as an economic crime. This will
address the causes of sabotage as engagement strategy of protesting
communities and groups, and as a form of business involving a
network of community youths and leaders, contractors to TOCs and
officials of TOCs and oil theft syndicates. Related to this is the need to
pursue the gas flare out policy of the government with uncommon
commitment. The development of gas utilization infrastructure will
create conditions to support the TOCs to end gas flaring. The
completion of the West Africa and Trans-Sahara gas projects6, gas
related power generation projects in the country can be considered in
this regard. This suggests that the resolution of the frustrationaggression trap, and by extension the Niger Delta conflict, requires an
integrated and holistic approach. The amnesty program is defective in
this regard, as it has isolated the ex-combatants for attention, while
neglecting other segments of the population. Further, the
rehabilitation program is disconnected from the national economy

The West African gas project is expected to convey about 450 cubic meters of
gas to Ghana, Togo and Benin Republic Annually on completion (Nigeria,
Country Briefs, 2009). Similarly, the Trans-Sahara gas projected is expected to
supply about 20 billion cubic meters of gas per annum to Europe by 2016
when completed ( Afrik-News, 2010)
6

Vol. 5, No. 1

265

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

that has a limited capacity to either employ people with skills or


provide support to entrepreneurs.
Addressing the issue of corruption in governance is however a
requirement for effective environmental protection, as corruption has
been identified as one of the reasons for the poor enforcement of
environment protection laws. Bringing the fight against corruption
into peace-building is a sure way to deal with the frustrations arising
from corruption in governance and poor service delivery. Democratic
consolidation as emphasized by Lubeck, Watts and Lipschutz (2007) is
appropriate here due to the associated accountability and
transparency. Although it is has also been noted that corruption
weakens democracy (HRW, 2007), and thus appear to create a
dilemma, democracy is a sure way to fight corruption given its
participatory nature and the freedoms it guarantees. Civil society can
take advantage of this to secure democracy, fight corruption and build
peace in the Niger Delta. It can achieve these by protecting the
freedoms of citizens, observing and monitoring the activities of
government, and political socialization of citizens (World Bank, 2006).
In all however, behavior modification by political leaders and
common citizens is a critical requirement.
References
Adeyemo, A.M., (2002), The Oil Industry, Extra-Ministerial Institutions and
Sustainable Agricultural Development: A Case STUDY OF Okrika LGA
(Local Government Area) in Rivers State, Nigerian Journal of Oil and
Politics, Vo.2, No.1,pp.60-78.
Adeyemo, A.M (2008), Environmental Policy Failure in Nigeria and the
Tragedy of Underdevelopment of Niger Delta Region, Inaugural
Lecture No. 63, University of Port Harcourt.

Vol. 5, No. 1

266

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

Adeyemo, D, and OluAdeyemi, L, (2010) Amnesty in a Vacuum: The


Unending Insurgency in the Niger Delta of Nigeria, in Ojarokotu, V &
Gilbert, L.D. (eds), Checkmating the Resurgence of Violence in the Niger
Delta, Johannesburg.
Africa Independent Television (AIT) ( 2010), One Year After Amnesty, Special
Features program sponsored by the Amnesty Implementation Program
committee, November 5, 2010, 9:00am
Afrik-News, July 12, 2010, www.afrik-news.com/article/16513.html
Aham, U (2008), Oil and Development: More Money, More Problems, Tell,
February, 18, 2008.
Anikpo, Mark (1998), Community Conflicts in East Niger Delta: A Cultural
Matrix, Pan African Social Science Review, No. 3,pp.1-16.
Bayesa State of Nigeria, 2008 Budget, Budget and Control Department,
Ministry of Finance and Budget, Yenagoa, Bayelsa State.
Bassey, C.O. (2002), Framework for the Conflict Transformation Project in
Warri, in Imobighe, J.A, Bassey C.O., & Asoni J. B. (eds) Conflict and
Instability in the Niger Delta: The Warri Case, Spectrum Books Limited,
Ibadan, Nigeria.
Berkowitz, L. (1989), Frustration-Aggression Hypothesis: Examination and
Reformulation, Psychological Bulletin, Vol.106, No. 1, pp. 59-73.
Best, S.G. (2007), Conflict and Peace Building in Plateau State Nigeria,
Spectrum Books Limited, Ibadan, Nigeria.
Davideheiser, M. and Kialee, N. (2010), Demobilization or Remobilization?
The Amnesty Program and the Search for Peace in the Niger Delta,
paper presented at the International Conference on
Natural
Resource, Security and Development in the Niger Delta, Organized by
the Department of Political Science, Niger Delta University, in
Collaboration with the Centre for Applied Environmental Research,
Department of Geosciences, University of Missouri Kansas
City,
USA, Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, Nigeria, March 8-11, 2010.
EFCC (Economic and Financial Crimes Commission)( 2011), The Eagle, EFCC
Public Enlightenment Program, Channels Television, March 5, 2011.
Etekpe, A. (2007), Politics of Resource Allocation and Control in Nigeria,
Harey Publications Co., Port Harcourt, Nigeria.

Vol. 5, No. 1

267

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

Ejibunu, H.T (2007), Nigerias Niger Delta: Root Causes of Peacelessnes, EPU
(European University Center for Peace Studies, Austria), Research
Papers, Issue No. 7.
Faleti, S. A. (2006), Theories of Social Conflict, in Best, S.G ( eds), Introduction
to Peace and Conflict Studies in West Africa: A Reader, Spectrum Books
Limited, Ibadan, Nigeria, pp.35-60.
Francis, D. J. (2006), Peace and Conflict Studies: An African Overview of Basic
Concepts in Best, S.G. (eds), Introduction to Peace and Conflict Studies
in West Africa: A Reader, Spectrum.
Godongs, S. (2006), The Methods of Conflict Resolution and Transformation,
in Best, S.G ( eds), Introduction to Peace and Conflict Studies in West
Africa: A Reader, Spectrum Books Limited, Ibadan, Nigeria, pp. 93-115.
Gurr, Ted, ( 1968), Psychological Factors in Civil Violence, World Politics, Vol.
20, No. 2, pp.245-278.
HRW ( Human Rights Watch)( 2007), Chop Fine: The Human Rights Impact
of Local Government Corruption and Mismanagement in Rivers State,
Nigeria, Report, Volume 19, No. 2 ( A).
Humphreys, M. Weinstein, J.M. (2007) Journal of Conflict Resolution, Vol. 51
No 4, pp. 531-567.
Ibaba, S.I. (2005), Understanding the Niger Delta Crisis, Amethyst and
Colleagues Publishers, Port Harcourt, Nigeria.
Ibaba, S.I. (2009), Civil Society Organizations, Democracy and Peace Building
in the Niger Delta, International Journal of Nigerian Studies and
Development, Vol. 15, 32-49.
Ibaba, S.I. and Ikelebge, (2009) A. Militias and Pirates in the Niger Delta,
Paper Presented at Institute of Security Studies (ISS) South African,
Workshop on Militia and Rebel Movements Human Insecurity and
State Crisis in Africa, Pretoria, South Africa, April 20-21, 2009.
Ibeanu, O. (2006), Conceptualizing Peace, in Best, S.g. (ed) Introduction to
Peace and Conflict Studies in West Africa: A Reader, Spectrum Books
Limited, Ibadan, Nigeria, pp.3-14.
Ikelegbe, A, 2010, Resolving the Niger Delta Conflict: A Critical and
Comparative Analysis of The Amnesty and Post Amnesty Challenges,
paper presented at the International
Conference on Natural
Resource, Security and Development in the Niger Delta, Organized by

Vol. 5, No. 1

268

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

the Department of Political Science, Niger Delta University, in


Collaboration with the Centre for Applied Environmental Research,
Department of Geosciences, University of Missouri Kansas City, USA,
March 8-11, 2010, Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, Nigeria.
Joab-Peterside, S. ( 2010), State and Fallacy of Rehabilitation of Repentant
Militants in Nigerias Niger Delta: Analysis of First Phase of the
Federal Governments Amnesty Program, Pan African Social Science
Review, No.11, pp.69-0-110.
Lubeck, P.M, Watts, M.J. & Lipschutz, R. (2007), Convergent Interest: US
Energy Security and the Securing of Nigerian Democracy,
International Policy Report, Center for International Policy, Washington,
D C.
Naanen, Ben (1995), Oil Producing Minorities and the Restructuring of
Nigerian Federalism: The Case of the Ogoni, Journal of Commonwealth
and Comparative Politics, Vol.33, No.1, pp.46-78.
Nafziger, E. W. (2008), Nigerians Economic Development and Niger Delta
Grievances, paper presented at the International Conference on the
Nigerian State, Oil Industry and the Niger Delta, March 11-13 2008,
Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, Nigeria.
Niger Delta Standard, May 19, 2009.
Niger Delta Technical Committee (2008), Report of the Committee
Established by the Nigerian Government to Review the
Recommendations of the Reports of Previous Commissions ad
Committees and Determine Appropriate Policy Options for the
Resolution of the Niger Delta Crisis, November, 2008
Nigeria, Country Analysis Briefs, 2009, www.eia.de.gov
Nwilo, P.C & Badejo, O.T. Impacts and Management of Oil Spill in Nigerian
Coastal Environment, Conference Proceedings, International Conference
on the Nigerian State, Oil Industry and the Niger Delta, Organized by
the Department of Political Science, Niger Delta University, in
Collaboration with the Centre for Applied Environmental Research,
Department of Geosciences, University of Missouri Kansas City, USA,
Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, Nigeria, March 11-13, 2008, p.1217-1232

Vol. 5, No. 1

269

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

Obi, C. I. Structuring Transnational Spaces of Identity, Rights and Power


in the Niger
Delta, Globalizations, 2010, Vol.6, (4), 467-481
Ologun S. & Okeneye S. (2009), Amnesty to Cost N10 billion, The Nation,
October 9, 2009, pp.1-2
Obia, Cyril Nigerias Niger Delta: Understanding the Complex Drivers of
Violent Oil-related Conflict, Africa Development, Vol. XXXIV, No. 2, 2009,
pp. 103128
Obib, Cyril, Oil Extraction, Dispossession, Resistance, and Conflict in Nigerias
Oil-Rich Niger Delta, Canadian Journal of Development Studies 30, nos. 12
(2010): 219236.
Okoko, Kimse ( 1998), SPDC ( Shell Petroleum Development Company)Community Relations Study ( Unpublished), Submitted to the SPDC
Western Operations, Warri, Nigeria
Omotola, J.S. (2010), Liberation Movements and Rising Violence in the
Niger Delta: The New Contentious Site of Oil and Environmental
Politics, Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, Vol. 33, No. 1, pp.36-5.
Opukri, C.O & Ibaba S. Ibaba, Oil Induced Environmental Degradation and
Internal
Population Displacement in Nigerias Niger Delta in
Journal of Sustainable Development in Africa, Vol. 10, No. 1, spring
2008, PP.173-193.
Osaghae, E, Ikelegbe, A, Olarinmoye, O & Okhomina, S. Youth Militias, Self
Determination and Resource Control Struggles in the Niger-Delta
Region of Nigeria. Research Report, Consortium for Development
Partnership Module 5, 2007.
Otite, O. (2001), On Conflicts, Their Transformation, and Management, in
Otite, o. & Albert A.O (eds), Community Conflicts in Nigeria:
Management, Resolution and Transformation, Spectrum Books Limited,
Ibadan, Nigeria, pp.1-33
Tamuno, T.T. (2008), The Geographic Niger Delta, Conference Proceedings,
International Conference on the Nigerian State, Oil Industry and the
Niger Delta, Organized by the Department of Political Science, Niger
Delta University, in Collaboration with the Centre for Applied
Environmental Research, Department of Geosciences, University of
Missouri Kansas City, USA, Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, Nigeria, March 1113, 2008,pp.916-930

Vol. 5, No. 1

270

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

Tebekaemi, T. (1982), The Twelve-Day Revolution by Major Isaac Jasper


Adaka Boro, Idodo Umeh Publishers, Benin City, Nigeria.
The Willink Commission Report (1958), Report of the Commission
Appointed to Enquire into the Fears of Minorities and the Means of
Allaying Them, Her Majestys Stationery Office, London.
The United Nations Office of the Special Adviser on Africa, Final Report on
the Second International Conference on Disarmament, Demobilization,
Reintegration and Stability in Africa,Kinshasa, Democratic Republic Of
Congo, 12 - 14 June 2007.
United Nations Development Program UNDP (2006), Niger Delta Human
Development Report, Abuja, Nigeria.
Uzoma, M.R., (2008), Gas Flaring in the Nigerian Petroleum Industry, Port
Harcourt Petroleum Review, Vol.1, No.1.
Watts, M.J. (2007) Petro-Insurgency or Criminal Violence? Conflict and
Violence in the Niger Delta, in Review of African Political Economy,
No.114, 637-660.
World Bank (2006), Civil Society and Peace building: Potential, Limitations
and Critical Factors, Report No. 36445 GLB, December, 2006.

Vol. 5, No. 1

271

External Challenges to Moving Toward


Sustainability in the Niger Delta Region: Why a
Critical Assessment of the Classical
Epistemologies and Developmental
Assumptions of External Actors Matters
Dr. Christopher LaMonica11
Key Terms: Niger Delta, Nigeria, sustainability, development, Western
epistemology, Cold War ideology.

Abstract
For centuries the Western classics of the social sciences have
helped to justify the decisions of business entrepreneurs and
development practitioners in developing country contexts like
Nigeria. These classical lessons are not devoid of merit but tend to
promote a very one-sided pro-entrepreneur approach to development
that systematically marginalizes the concerns of exploited regions of
the world, like the Niger Delta Region (NDR). Instead of accepting
responsibility for the turmoil that external actors have caused within
the NDR, the institutional norm in both the international oil industry
and the international development industry is to squarely point
fingers at Nigerias internal shortcomings, as if all of these growing
problems are due to Nigerian failings and solely for Nigerians to
11

Christopher LaMonica, PhD, is an Associate Professor of Comparative Politics


with the Humanities Department, Government Section, of the United States Coast
Guard Academy, New London, CT, USA.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this paper are those of the author and do not
necessarily reflect those of the United States Coast Guard or United State Coast Guard
Academy. Please do feel free to contact the author directly with any comments or
questions about the contents of this paper: Christopher.LaMonica@uscga.edu.

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

resolve. This blame the victim attitude, prevalent among so many


external actors, needs to change for it completely ignores external actor
responsibility, allowing external stakeholders to continue as before
with impunity. Here it is argued that the problem has its roots in the
firmly embedded lessons of the classics that continue to have an
impact on the self-assured mindsets of many external actors. The time
has come for all of us to be less ideological and more frank about who
is keeping the NDRs gas flares alit and who has benefited, so
disproportionately, from the ongoing expansion of the oil industry
throughout the region; only then, it is argued, can a discussion on the
improvements to, and sustainability of, NDRs local and coastal
governance begin. Improved NDR governance will, in turn, lead to
improved trade prospects for all of Nigeria and the entire Gulf of
Guinea region.

The Problem
Today there can be little doubt that the Niger Delta Region
(NDR) is under tremendous developmental strain; to include
environmental degradation, relocation of peoples, affronts to cultural
ways of life, and a sudden rise of violent conflict.
NDRs
immiseration truly began, as so many people from the region have
commented, with the lighting of the oil companys first gas flares in
1958; since then, the gas flares have been continuously burning. And
since that time external actors, colluding with Nigerian politicians,
have been vigorously pursuing crude oil exploration and extraction
with virtual impunity.
In recent years Nigerias Economic and Financial Crime Commission
(EFCC), formally established in 2003, has duly filed charges of bribery
and conspiracy against individuals (a list of Most Wanted is
regularly posted on their web-page) and international oil companies

Vol. 5, No. 1

273

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

but with little success. 1 The list of ongoing high-profile cases is


impressive but, along the way, charges are also being dropped in
exchange for payments of negotiated fines, often settled outside of
Nigeria. In early December 2010, for example, BBC news headlines
read Nigeria Files Charges Against Cheney in a Halliburton bribery
scheme. Before the month was over we heard, via the Pan-African
News Wire: The EFCC announced that charges against Dick Cheney
and Halliburton/KBR were being dropped in exchange for payment of
$250 million in fines to the Nigerian government. 2 Just weeks earlier,
The Times of Nigeria reported that other firms, associated with the
bribery scandal, had also agreed to pay fines (in the U.S.), including
Panalpina, Royal Dutch Shell and five oil-service companies, totaling
$236.5 million.3 Most would view payment of these fines as clear
victories for the EFCC, and improvements over previous patterns of
oil company exploitation of the NDR, but these fines represent little
more than a speed bump for these multi-billion dollar conglomerates,
little more than a cost of doing business in Nigeria. Oil companies
will therefore continue as before; moreover these fines cannot possibly
address, in any meaningful way, the environmental, cultural, and
social damage that these oil companies, in collusion with Nigerian
politicians, have wrought over the past few decades.

Major oil companies include, e.g., Royal Dutch Shell, Halliburton and its
subsidiary Kellogg, Brown & Root. See: http://www.efccnigeria.org/
(Accessed February 2011).
2 BBC on-line, Dec. 7, 2010, Nigeria Files Charges Against Cheney,
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-11943192 (Accessed February 2011).
3 Cited in Wall Street Journal, Commentary and news about money
laundering, bribery, terrorism finance and sanctions, Nov. 4, 2010. Posted at:
http://royaldutchshellplc.com/2010/11/06/panalpina-settlements-announcedwith-236-5-million-in-penalties/ (Accessed February 2011).

Vol. 5, No. 1

274

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

The fundamental reason why these and other oil company crimes
were allowed to occur is that Nigerian institutions civil, state, and
other are not able to ward-off these joint venture (oil companies
colluding with Nigerian politicians) abuses of power. The same kind
of institutional weakness that leads to those and other forms of
corruption is, ironically, again found when the Nigerian state
attempts to enforce punishment. Knowing that local enforcement is
virtually impossible, the EFCC is left negotiating for and taking
anything it can get its hand on. From beginning to end, then, one sees
a pattern of abusing the privilege of power and of taking advantage of
Nigerias low institutional capacity.
Of course, similar forms of corruption and enforcement challenges
have been experienced elsewhere in the world. However, when one
considers the now global pattern of avoiding jail time through
payment of fines or other, with virtually no institutional change,
Nigeria certainly appears to be one of the worlds worst. Joshua E.
Keating of Foreign Affairs does not mince his words when he describes
circumstances there:
Nigerias oil sector is plagued by corruption and willful
ignorance... One watchdog group put the discrepancies in
the Nigeria Central Banks oil earnings figures at [only]
around $155 million for 2005. With Western oil majors
heavily invested in the Niger Delta, theres suspicion that
those companies are extracting more than theyre reporting.4

According to some observers, the result in developing country


contexts like Nigeria is that valuable resources like oil have become a

Joshua E. Keating, The List, Known Unknowns: Nigerias Oil, Foreign


Policy, July/Aug. 2010, p. 19.

Vol. 5, No. 1

275

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

natural resource curse. The concept, first noted in the 1980s, is quite
simple: a small number of local elites, working with external
entrepreneurs, manage to tap into and disproportionately benefit
from the profits that result from natural resource extraction.
Accordingly, receipts from the sale of valuable resources like oil
that states like Nigeria have are squandered with no visible
improvement in economic development. In the Nigerian context,
since 1958, $billions of oil revenues have been misused or have
disappeared entirely. Moreover, the global demand for oil tends to
impact foreign exchange rates, thereby squeezing out the
competitiveness of other traditional exports such as agriculture and
manufactured goods.5 Before the 1950s, a great many agricultural and
other products were exported from Nigerias ports; today 85% of the
countrys foreign exchange earnings come from oil and gas. Nigeria
has therefore followed in the developing state pattern of having a
mono-crop economy that caters to the needs of external actors and
resists economic diversity.
In addition to the many adverse
consequences of having foreign oil interests dictate Nigerias
developmental future, then, is the added danger of having the entire
economy dependent on the sometimes volatile world price of oil.
An oft-cited and influential 1997 study on the natural resource
curse, by Jeffrey Sachs and Andrew Warner, considers data from
eight slow-growing oil-exporting states.6
What they find

This phenomenon is commonly referred to as Dutch Disease, a term


coined by The Economist in 1977.
6 Jeffrey Sachs and Andrew Warner, Natural Resource Abundance and
Economic Growth, Harvard Institute for International Development
Working Paper (November 1997) updated; originally published as NBER
Working Paper No. 5398 (October 1995). For a decidedly less technical
discussion of the problem on the Nigeria Delta specifically, see Curse of the

Vol. 5, No. 1

276

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

surprising in their findings is that natural resource abundance can


actually lead to lower rates of economic growth than those
experienced by states with fewer natural resources. The presumption
of most like-minded economists, who adhere to the doctrine of
comparative advantage, is that having something to offer global
markets would naturally lead to local economic growth via
international trade.7 In their study they refer to the unfortunate
phenomenon of being endowed with a valuable commodity like oil,
yet remaining undeveloped, as an oddity and accordingly present
this as a conceptual puzzle to be investigated.8 In retrospect the
only surprise, really, is that developmental economists like Sachs and
Warner have paid so little attention to: 1) previous literature on
capitalist exploitation and 2) the glaringly obvious lack of local
institutional capacity to provide better security to ward-off that form
of capitalist exploitation. To this day they systematically ignore
inconvenient realities that continue to degrade vast regions of the
world, like the Niger Delta, and assume economic growth inevitably
lifts all boats.
Both matters are considered below, in a slightly unorthodox way.
Through a consideration of the classics of political and economic
theory in mainstream Western education , I argue that many of the

Black Gold: Hope and Betrayal in the Niger Delta, National Geographic
Magazine, (February 2007), available on-line at:
http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2007/02/nigerian-oil/oneill-text (Accessed
February 2011).
7 The doctrine of comparative advantage is normally identified as one of the
theoretical foundations of international political economy in textbooks on
the subject. See, e.g., Frederic Pearson and Simon Payaslian, International
Political Economy, (McGraw-Hill, 1999), Part I.
8 Sachs and Warner (1997).

Vol. 5, No. 1

277

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

scientific assumptions that are made by many external actors lead to


the outright avoidance of patently obvious problems like those
experienced in the Niger Delta Region. Much of this, I argue, is due to
the lingering effects of inherently uncritical Cold War ideology that
was largely informed by Western epistemological assumptions.
Today the result is a culture of myopic self-righteousness that
continues largely unabated and systematically marginalizes the
concerns of immiserated masses in places like the NDR.

Classic Critiques on the Abuse of Power


No one on this Earth enjoys being a victim of the abuse of
power, whether it be political, economic, or social. Evidence of this
can be found, not only in the Western classics, but in many forms of
human expression: in the traditional check-and-balance norms
found throughout Africa in the pre-colonial era; in the moral lessons
of indigenous folklore; and in the written classics found in every
corner of the Ancient World.
In the Ancient Egyptian Instruction of Ptah-hotep we read, for example:
One punishes the transgressor of laws,
Though the greedy overlooks this;
Baseness may seize riches,
Yet crime never lands its wares,
In the end it is justice that lasts<9

Daniel Bonavac and Stephen Phillips, eds., Understanding Non-Western


Philosophy, (Mayfield Publishing, 1993), p. 2.

Vol. 5, No. 1

278

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

Even the earliest known texts, in other words, acknowledge the


existence of human selfishness and greed, and argue that something
ought to be done to check those types of behavior.
Within the West, eminent scholars of Ancient Thought such as Max
Mller, Karl Jaspers, Karen Armstrong, and Joseph Campbell have all
argued that the logical basis for our earliest mythical tales, religions
and philosophies was to have people think more critically about the
recurring norms of selfishness, greed and the abuse of power. 10 The
Axial Age (800-200 B.C.), as Jaspers terms it, witnessed
philosophical and religious responses to human vice and violence that
still reverberate to this day. 11 So, again, these are all long-standing
human concerns. As we can see in the quote above, and in countless
other ways, we certainly find them expressed in Ancient Africa.
Jaspers point is that these recurring concerns are not only religious,
they are also expressly human. And while not everyone in todays
world is convinced of the merit of secular thought, we could all agree
that these are all clear expressions of democratic sentiment that aim
to ward-off the potential abuse of power.
As the late Kim Dae Jung of South Korea has argued, one also finds
these democratic ideals expressed in the classics of Ancient Asia, that
is, they are far from being the sole province of Western thinkers.
Long before Locke, Kim tells us, the Asian classics had democratic

10

See, e.g., Karen Armstrong, The Great Transformation: The World in the Times
of Buddha, Socrates, Confucius and Jeremiah, (London: Atlantic Books, 2006);
Joseph Campbells 4-vol. series The Masks of God; and Jon R. Stone, ed., The
Essential Max Mller: On Language, Mythology, and Religion (Palgrave
Macmillan, 2002).
11 A term that is similarly employed by Armstrong (2006), in her comparative
survey of religion.

Vol. 5, No. 1

279

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

philosophies as sophisticated and profound as those of the West. 12


That said, most of us are taught that there is a long-standing Western
monopoly on democratic thinking. Put simply, that is not the case.
Democratic elections the sine qua non of democracy, according to
Joseph Schumpeter may well be an Ancient Greek invention but
democratic sentiments, I submit, are part of being human. Moreover,
democratic elections, while meritorious, have now proven, time and
again, to be procedural and certainly not a guarantor of democratic
substance.13
Another problem one quickly encounters in an investigation of these
ideas, when applied to the Nigerian context, is that they describe an
earlier, pre-colonial and, one could argue, pre-globalized time.
Western classics were written at the dawn of capitalist globalization,
when developmental challenges did not include the potentially
dramatic impact of a click of a mouse that could impact the welfare of
entire states.14 Yet, in the pursuit of modern ideas on checking the
abuse of power, one is inevitably drawn into Western sources for
answers; ergo the ongoing need to consider those classics. And,
when discussing developmental circumstances in formerly colonized
Africa, a thorough consideration of these classical ideas does matter as
they often spurred the colonizer and entrepreneur to action.

12

Kim Dae Jung, Is Culture Destiny? The Myth of Asias Anti-Democratic


Values, Foreign Affairs, Vol. 73, No. 6 (November/December 1994).
13 As argued by Fareed Zakaria, The Rise of Illiberal Democracy, Foreign
Affairs (1997) and, subsequently, by Christopher LaMonica, The Politics of
Strengthening Local Government Institutions in Zambia, Doctoral
Dissertation, Boston University (December 2000) and in Christopher
LaMonica, Local Government Matters: The Case of Zambia, (Lambert Academic
Publishing, 2010).
14 See: George Soros, Capitalisms Last Chance? Foreign Policy (1998-99).

Vol. 5, No. 1

280

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

Post-colonial theorist Edward Said is perhaps best-known for


suggesting that a consideration of Western classics is crucial for
understanding what is so firmly embedded in the mindsets of so
many engaged in industrially developed (OECD) state relations with
the developing world today. Said does not mince his words when
he writes:
The nations of contemporary Asia, Latin America, and Africa
are politically independent but in many ways are as
dominated and dependent as they were when ruled directly
by European powers.15

Adding to Saids argument (and he is certainly not alone in expressing


the aforementioned sentiment), the late Nigerian scholar Claude Ake
has convincingly argued in his seminal book, Social Science As
Imperialism, that many Western mindsets, informed by the social
science classics in their formal education and other, continue to have
an important impact on the shape of developmental politics. 16 Similar
sentiments have been expressed on the African continent by, notably,
Egyptian scholar Samir Amin. In Empire of Chaos Amin suggests that,
up to now, Western powers have not been interested in promoting
democracy per se but in maintaining a global order that:
<reserves them the right to exploit all riches of the planet for
their own profit< If this order can be better served by a
democracy, they are all for it, but they never hesitate to
install a dictator if this better serves their needs.17

15

Edward Said, Culture and Imperialism (1993), p. 19.


Claude Ake, Social Science As Imperialism, (University of Ibadan, 1979).
17 Samir Amin, Empire of Chaos (1992), pp. 99-100. See also: Samir Amin,
Eurocentrism (1989).
16

Vol. 5, No. 1

281

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

When considering the dismal state of affairs in the NDR, it is hard not
to conclude that the epistemological and developmental politics
battles, of which Ake and Amin speak, may be lost. But there are
reasons for hope. Since these authors aforementioned publications
there has been a groundswell of support, found throughout the world,
for the view that does there exist a profound gap in global scholarship
that systematically marginalizes the post-colonial non-West and/or
subaltern conditions and views. 18 Of course there is still much work
to do: Western-based philosophies, so readily found throughout the
world, still dominate and, in many ways, are perceived as the
language of power. Unless and until that Foucauldian problem is
adequately addressed, the self-righteous attitudes of those involved in
all forms of developmental politics will continue to foment the
recurring patterns of Nigerian politics that consistently marginalize
the needs of the NDR. What, then, are those external actors thinking?
What are the concerns of Ake, expressed in his 1979 book, that still
have an impact to this day?
For starters, among external actors, there is an underlying conviction,
informed by the classics and confirmed by scientific certitude, that
leads to a preference for clarity over the more nuanced explanations
as to why things might be going wrong in places like the NDR.
Conviction and clarity were, of course, hallmarks of the colonial era
but, for many, they remained in a very ideological form, throughout
the Cold War. And although the Cold War is now over, these
ideological sentiments of absolute certainty linger. At a most basic
level there remains methodological resistance, for example, to the
18

See, e.g., Ranajit Guha, Subaltern Studies, Vols. 1-X, (Oxford University
Press, 2010); Robbie Shilliam, ed., International Relations and Non-Western
Thought: Imperialism, Colonialism and Investigations of Global Modernity,
(Routledge, 2011).

Vol. 5, No. 1

282

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

intertwining of the political and the economic which, for many external
actors, has a whiff of Marxist logic.
It was Marx, after all, who famously argued that differences of
material wealth or class translated into rifts in politics. And one
still finds the development practitioners kneejerk reaction is to reject
economic explanations of Africas political problems.
Economic
growth requires, as liberal economists like Sachs would have it, the
identification of a states comparative advantage, that is, there are
economic laws that resolve economic problems. Similarly, drawing
on the lessons of Western political theory, the mainstream
development practitioner assumes that all democratic theories have,
as part of their virtue, clarity, viz: political solutions to political
problems. The influential political realist Hans Morgenthau suggests,
for example, that intellectually *he+ maintains the autonomy of the
political sphere, as the economist, the lawyer, the moralist maintain
theirs.19
Now it must be acknowledged that not all development practitioners
necessarily agree with Morgenthaus autonomy of the political
sphere argument. But it cannot be denied that the Cartesian-like
compartmentalization of developmental problems is very prevalent in
both Western education and developmental politics. Within the social
sciences
one
sees
a
very
strong
tendency
toward
compartmentalization of the studies of, e.g., anthropology, history,
politics, economics, psychology, and so on. And, the corollary to that
is found in the organizational structure of virtually all modern
19

Hans J. Morgenthau, Politics Among Nations, 5th Ed. Rev., (Alfred A. Knopf,
1973), p. 12. Morgenthau continues: <the economist thinks in terms of
interest defined as wealth; the lawyer, of the conformity of action with certain
rules; the moralist, of the conformity of action with moral principles.

Vol. 5, No. 1

283

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

universities (modeled after the Western) and, in turn, donor state


missions in Nigeria, according to which strategic objectives are
pursued according to one or another area of concern: business
development, democratic governance, public health, and so on.
Although there is undoubted strength through such clarity, and to all
scientific methodologies, we must also recognize the inherent
weakness of approaching complex problems using such myopic
methods. In short, by focusing on the success of one area of policy,
other vitally linked areas of development run the risk of being
marginalized.
This (Cartesian) dilemma, of not thinking holistically in favor of the
success of one or another developmental endeavor (e.g. oil
exploration over all else), has deep intellectual roots as can be seen in
the classics that inform developmental thinking and policy, starting
with Adam Smith.
Smith, of course, is regularly cited for his influential ideas on
liberalized markets and, to this day, many of those insights do
undoubtedly have great merit: globally, wealth has expanded
dramatically over the past few hundred years as a direct result of
commerce and trade.20 Neglected in the discussion, however, is the
one-sided nature of the capitalist venture, as espoused by Smith
himself, that also continues to hold sway to this day. Yes, as any
liberal economist will argue, there are positive-sum gains to be had
through market exchange but the impacts are not only and always
positive. In this regard, a critical reading of Smiths classic The Wealth
of Nations (1776) is vitally important. Smith writes, for example, in the

20

As but a few minutes with the impressive presentation of growth statistics,


through human history, will show, at: http://gapminder.org.

Vol. 5, No. 1

284

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

interest of the colonizer and according to which the merit of free


commerce is expressed in an entirely one-sided way:
Every colonist gets more land than he can possibly cultivate.
He has no rent, and scarce any taxes to pay< Waste lands of
the greatest natural fertility, are to be had for a trifle. 21

Those comments are, in fact, very telling as they demonstrate the


ongoing assumptions that many entrepreneurs make when it comes to
engaging those same waste land regions of the world.
Theoretically, of course, there are trickle-down benefits to even the
(formerly) colonized regions of the world as global wealth expands.
But what is seemingly lost in the discussion is the impact of these new
processes on all that is local.
Moreover, if the colony is to develop in any meaningful fashion, it
is to take place in a spirit of self-reliance, pride and thrift, as if there
was never a down-side to this transformative process.22 These selfassured entrepreneurial sentiments are also found consistently in the
Western classics. John Locke, for example, writes with great
confidence and conviction about natures abundance and how
mixing ones labor with it thereby creates private property.23
Presumably the labor of indigenous people that, frankly, had been
going on for millennia and, ergo, in the mind of the colonizer should
translate to local ownership! does not count in the colonizers
calculation of entrepreneurial freedom. In other words, that labor
only counts when it serves the interests of the colonizer; otherwise the

21

Adam Smith, The Weath of Nations (1776), (The Modern Library, 1937), p.
532. Emphasis mine.
22 Ake (1979) emphasizes this very point.
23 John Locke, Two Treatises on Government (1690).

Vol. 5, No. 1

285

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

colonizer either calculates that labor as a net zero or is entirely


ambivalent about it.
Edward Said has written very eloquently on the policy impacts of
colonial knowledge based on the popular European literary classics,
like Rudyard Kiplings White Mans Burden. Therefore, I will not
belabor the point further, except to say: that dialogue, framed as one
between Westerners and non-Westerners (like Frantz Fanon,
Amilcar Cabral, Chinua Achebe, Ngugi wa Thiongo, Wole Soyinka)
has been altered dramatically in recent decades. Saids thoughtprovoking suggestion, that the literary classics led to ill-informed
textual children (like Napoleon) who then ventured into the rest
of the world, while likely accurate, described a different, more
isolated time. In his 1992 Introduction to Culture and Imperialism he
acknowledges that this is, in fact, the case:
The world has changed since Conrad and Dickens in ways
that have surprised, and often alarmed, metropolitan
Europeans and Americans, who now confront large nonwhite immigrant populations in their midst, and face an
impressive roster of newly empowered voices asking for their
narratives to be heard.24

And so the dialogue has become more integrated, with new


sensitivities being expressed, yet there remain a good many classical
assumptions that remain firmly embedded in the mindsets of many.

24

Edward Said, Imperialism and Culture (1993), p. xx. Saids tone is of course
cynical but his comments do, nevertheless, describe important and ongoing
changes in the dynamics between the West and the Rest.

Vol. 5, No. 1

286

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

Again, a critical discussion of those assumptions can reveal patently


obvious problems. In retrospect, for example, it should be very clear
that the European classics of political and economic liberalism (read
freedom) focused on domestic solutions to problems that were
virtually absent of any dramatic global influences. Yet today, when
contemplating the developmental challenges of the non-West, the
dominant focus of Westerners (Europeans and Americans) remains on
the internal, i.e. domestic, change. The simple but systematically
overlooked fact is that in Western developmental history there was no
real need to fear the dramatic flows of capital that would take place
with the click of a mouse! So today we must remind each other that
the Western classics have a very strong tendency to favor short-term
and domestic solutions to possible abuses of power. This is not to say
that the solutions provided are devoid of merit but they are of
limited relevance to many of todays developing sate challenges. We
must therefore reconsider those solutions, seek out their wisdom and
applicability to modern concerns, and critically assess their
developmental impacts.
The logic of Locke, of course, is regularly emphasized in todays
Anglo-American (and former British colonies) politics and, like
Smith, that logic emphasizes the need to grab land and to privatize
property so that those scarce resources can be used more
efficiently. And this remains a foundational tenet of any capitalist
enterprise. Rousseaus classic, The Social Contract, is much more
popular in French and Continental European contexts and, in turn,
developmental dialogues with their respective former colonies. If one
is to believe the philosophical divide between the European Continent
and Anglo/America, there could well be differences of domestic

Vol. 5, No. 1

287

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

cultures and political solutions.25 But again all of these classic texts
are filled with surprises if one is to read them carefully. Notably, as a
growing number of post-colonial writers have emphasized, these
Enlightenment thinkers comments on race look odd to the modern
21st-century reader. 26 Moreover, though radical for their time, they
were far from being protagonists of some form of liberal hedonism;
their carefully crafted texts never argued for unrestricted individual
freedoms, as some libertarians and neoliberal ideologues might argue
today, but for various forms of liberal social contract. 27 Rousseaus
argument for shared liberty, for example, emphasized the notion of
citizen responsibility, that is, the citoyen (citizen) was not only
responsible for himself but encumbered with civil responsibilities to
the rest of society. The opening line of his Social Contract (1762) is
regularly cited in this regard: Man is born free yet everywhere is in
chains.28
In other words, even these famous proponents of
democratic liberalism understood that there were purposeful
constraints on unbounded freedoms; to argue otherwise, in their

25

Even a cursory look at the British and French classics demonstrates an


ongoing inclination to side with respective national authors. Whereas the
British might emphasize Locke, Smith and Burke in their own texts (and
thereby their formerly colonized states, like the U.S. and Nigeria), the French
tend to emphasize the role of Jean Bodin, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Baron de
Montesquieu. See surveys of classics in British, American and former British
colony (Nigerian) textbooks versus French, e.g., Philippe Nemo, Histoire des
ides politiques, (Presses Universitaires de France, 2002).
26 A subject that has rightly captured the attention of, e.g., Emmanuel
Chukwudi Eze, ed., Race and the Enlightenment: A Reader, (Blackwell
Publishing, 2005) and Andrew Valls, ed., Race and Racism in Modern
Philosophy, (Cornell University Press, 2005).
27 John Locke, Two Treatises of Government (1690).
28 Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract (1762).

Vol. 5, No. 1

288

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

view, was improper, irresponsible and immoral. Neoliberal policies


would have us think otherwise.
In many ways the European Enlightenment writers were after what
all of the aforementioned ancient classics of the world have argued,
from Ptah-hotep forward: the social need to act with class, not in the
way Marx would have portrayed it, in terms of rich/poor, but in terms
of doing the right thing. And doing the right thing, even if the
perspective was more domestic than globally focused, meant acting in
terms of more than only self-interest, that is, to keep in mind the
interests of a wider community of citizens as well.29 Although
idealistic writers like Immanuel Kant might be criticized, by some, for
trying to prove the existence of such principles, we have countless
written classics from all over the world that have spelled-out what we
need to know.
Yet another Anglo-writer on the matter is John Stuart Mill, who
famously argued in his seminal work, On Liberty (1859), the obvious<
that no person is an entirely isolated being< 30 Speaking of public
officials, in particular, Mill argued:
Whenever< there is a definite damage, or a definite risk of
damage, either to an individual or to the public, the case is
29

A similar argument was made by Nnimmo Bassey, Director of


Environmental Rights Action in Benin: Royal Dutch Shell is more than a
colonial force in Nigeria. A colonial force exhibits some measure of concern
for the territory over which it lords. This is not the case with this mogul,
which goes for crude oil in the most crude manner possible. Opening lines of
foreword in Ike Okonta and Oronto Douglas in Where Vultures Feast: Shell,
Human Rights and Oil in the Niger Delta (Verso, 2003).
30 John Stewart Mill, On Liberty (1859), David Spitz, ed., (W.W. Norton & Co.,
1975), p. 74.

Vol. 5, No. 1

289

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

taken out of the province of liberty, and placed in that of


morality or law.31

Again, in states like Nigeria that were formerly British colonies, a


consideration of these British classics is crucial. Not only are many
British norms firmly embedded in neocolonial Nigerian politics, with
the concomitant expectations of those who govern, but British-based
and Western-trained NGOs, businesses, aid agencies (e.g. DFID) are
regular participants in modern Nigerian politics.
How early
American politicians employed those European ideas (termed by
many as American Political Thought) is briefly discussed below.
One classic American contribution to the realm of ideas on democratic
freedom, and what could potentially go wrong with it, is offered by
James Madison, contributor to The Federalist Papers (1789). Citing this
founding text, generations of American students are taught that the
best way to ward-off the potential abuse of power is to establish
checks-and-balances within ones governing institutions an idea
that was allegedly borrowed from French philosopher Baron de
Montesquieu. In Federalist No. 51, notably, it is argued that a selfappointed authority is at best but a precarious security; because a
power independent of the society may as well espouse the unjust
views of the major as the rightful interests of the minor party. 32
Another democratic method, argues Madison, will be exemplified
in the federal republic of the United States.33 Many Americans
idealize this unique method of political organization and this logic
is readily found in their approaches to political challenges elsewhere.

31

Ibid, p. 76.
James Madison, Federalist No. 51, in The Federalist Papers (1789), (Mentor
Books, 1999), p. 292.
33 Ibid.
32

Vol. 5, No. 1

290

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

Granted, the checks on potential abuses of power within all


democratic states are certainly imperfect, as anyone involved in
democratic politics would attest! Horrified by that reality of
political conflict, many are soon averse to such solutions. That
struggle, however, is part-and-parcel of all democratic politics or what
political scientist Samuel P. Huntington refers to as the democratic
promise of disharmony.34 Drawing on Ancient Greek ideals as
others do, Huntington argues that democratic politics should allow
for the free-and-open debates of ideas; only then, goes the argument,
does freedom exist! And, methodologically too, this is crucial, for
only through the process of free-and-open debate can policy be
expected to improve over time. That political arrangement, he argues,
often referred to as pluralism allowing disagreement without
resorting to violence is similarly, and classically, argued in the
founding democratic texts. The key, submits Huntington, is to have
political fora and institutions that can manage those differences of
opinion. In this discussion one is often reminded that it was notably
Voltaire who, in his defense of liberalism (by which he meant civil
liberties, freedom of religion and even free-trade), famously argued
that I may not agree with what you say but I will defend to the death
your right to say it.
Although these liberal ideas are mythologized and all-too-often
misinterpreted for political gain, they are undoubtedly crucial lessons
of democratic history. And they are regularly cited in American
contexts. Importantly they are also clear, if philosophical, indications
34

Samuel P. Huntington, American Politics: The Promise of Disharmony,


(Harvard University Press, 1983). In Huntingtons view, contending
democratic ideals (e.g. equality, democracy, freedom) would naturally lead to
a continual political struggle that is not to be feared but truly demonstrative
of freedom in practice.

Vol. 5, No. 1

291

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

of early concerns regarding the potential abuse of power, from a


domestic perspective a logic that is being carried-over into
developmental dialogues in states like Nigeria.
By contrast, many post-independence African intellectuals looked
outward in their own discussions of circumstances at home due to
the continents colonial legacy. 35 In other words, the domestic
solutions that Western classics proffered did not necessarily convince,
as Akes 1979 work, and those of so many others, clearly
demonstrate.36
But many African manipulators of power, at
independence and to this day, have also looked outward in their
quest for self-aggrandizement. And that fact cannot be neglected by
all those who are now involved in developmental dialogues.
On the one hand, then, we have those who understandably express
concern for the ongoing colonial legacy while, on the other hand,
there are those who simultaneously continue to take full advantage of
neo-colonial circumstances. We must be careful, therefore, not to
over-simplify the problem as simply an epistemological battle
between one side and another; moreover, as discussed, the lines (if
they ever existed) are forever blurring as new forms of dialogue take
place and new allegiances of thought emerge. Although patterns of
thought are discernable, many Western (citizen) Africanists would be
in full agreement with many African (citizen) observers, just as a

35

See, e.g., Kwame Nkrumahs works including Towards Colonial Freedom


(1973) and Neo-Colonialism: The Last Stage of Imperialism (1969), Tom Mboya,
Freedom and After, (Andr Deutsch Ltd., 1963); and generally Gideon-Cyrus
Mutiso and S.W. Rohio, eds., Readings in African Political Thought,
(Heinemann, 1975).
36 Ake, cited supra.

Vol. 5, No. 1

292

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

number of Western capitalists are clearly in full allegiance with nondemocratic power-seeking Africans.
It is the discourses of power then, as Antonio Gramsci might have
argued, that need to be challenged. And we find these in academia,
heralding the language of power, just as we find them in the oil
industry and in politics. In fact, while the Western classics remain
influential to many external actors mindsets, virtually any Western
textbook on African politics, specifically, will readily emphasize the
continents colonial legacy and, upon reflection, the emphasis on
external influences on African development is now part-and-parcel of
the entire subject. Claude Ake was right to say that social science has
been imperialistic; what still needs to be achieved is the forging of
critically-minded alliances or of a viable counter hegemony as
Gramsci would have it. In the post-cold war era these alliances will
not be ideologically based; in fact their purpose should be to counter
remaining ideological clarity in the world.
Admittedly, a Western-centric solution to this problem will be
challenging in many ways as it would be in direct contrast with the
aforementioned lessons of the founding democratic classics which, as
we said, emphasize the importance of internal (domestic) solutions to
the potential abuse of power. Within the West, as elsewhere, there
remains a Foucauldian problem that needs to be challenged; one of
the best ways of addressing the problem may be to forge global
alliances, which include Western participants, with critical and
informed subaltern voices. As stated, the founding of North
American and European democracies did not take place with
anywhere near as much external influence and pressure as African
states have endured. But this fact can be readily shared and openly
discussed in ways that demonstrate mutual understanding of the
problem and a mutual concern for solutions. Of course, this still

Vol. 5, No. 1

293

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

needs to be said to a good number of development practitioners who


seem to emphasize only internal African state reform, thereby
(conveniently) neglecting the dramatic, adverse, and patently obvious
impacts of external actors, such as the international oil industry.
Moreover, today many in the development industry are
epistemologically products of the Cold War or what Edward Said
has referred to as that eras textual children, in that they summarily
reject critiques of capitalism and all-too-often refuse to recognize the
overlap of political matters with so many other areas of sustainable
development inquiry, such as the economic, social, cultural, or
environmental. It is therefore crucial that we all acknowledge the
lingering effects of Cold War ideology in all developmental dialogues.
In our post-Cold War world many developmental gurus remain
certain of two things: 1) Marxism is dead and 2) developmental
aid is bad.37 And again, the pursuit of developmental problems
takes place in an atmosphere of self-assured scientific certainty. In a
real but tragic way the pursuit of development in Africa continues to
be a kind of experiment that economist Jeffrey Sachs has suggested
takes place in sweeping waves that come largely from outside forces:
Africa is constantly berated for its poor politics and bad
economic ideas, though much of the mischief has come from
the outside. In the 1960s, the fad at the World Bank and
among many donors was "development planning". In the
1970s, this gave way to "basic needs", a doctrine which led the
World Bank to back the socialist strategies of soon-to-bebankrupt Tanzania and other non-market economies. In the
1980s, "basic needs" was supplanted by "structural
37

Dimbasa Moyo is probably the best-known modern critic of aid in Africa


contexts. See her book, Dead Aid: Why aid is not working and why there is a better
way for Africa, (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009), discussed infra.

Vol. 5, No. 1

294

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

adjustment" which rightly focused on markets but neglected


to set priorities in reform. In the ensuing frustration, the focus
in the 1990s shifted to "good governance"<38

Throughout the Cold War, and to this day, African state development
has taken place in an atmosphere of raging debates as to which
approach is best. Based on Huntingtons ideal of celebrating the freeand-open debate of (Western democratic) ideas, we can understand
why this is the case: methodologically, this should eventually lead to
better ideas and policies. But to date those debates have been
dominated by the prevailing thoughts of external actors. And as that
scientific process or debate rages on, one can only wonder in the
interim: at what human cost?
In many ways, from the colonial era to present, external actors have
been very consistent in their policies towards Africa in at least three
ways. First, foreign state policies have always emphasized the pursuit
of national interest. Of course, this was the case during the colonial
and imperial eras but still remains the case to this day, as most
recently demonstrated by Frances intervention in both the Ivory
Coast and Libya, i.e. colonial ties remain strong. Second, external
actors economic policies have been consistently justified by the
pursuit of profit a tricky matter that often overlaps with the priorities
of the state. Third, development policies toward Africa have
consistently emphasized the internal change of African states. This
latter point is crucially significant as it remains the fall-back position
of so many external actors and can be demonstrated as follows:

38

Jeffrey Sachs, Growth in Africa: It Can Be Done, The Economist, (June 29,
1996), p. 19.

Vol. 5, No. 1

295

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

Table 1
Internal vs. External Focus on Reasons for Developmental Woes
FOCUS

Political
Orientation

Developmental
Agenda

INTERNAL
(pushed for by Western/
External Participants)
Left
Right
(Liberal)
(Conservative)

EXTERNAL
(emphasis of many Local/
Internal Participants)
Left
Right
(Marxist(Local
Leninist)
Beneficiaries)

Civil Society

Leadership

Colonialism

Power

Community

Governance

Capitalist
Exploitation

JointVentures

Education

Policy

Cold War

Non-Demo.
Government

Empowerment

Corruption

International
Finance

Multinational
Corporations

As stated, the overarching focus of development experts is on internal


(domestic) change but, even among those who get involved in
developmental work there are differences of political orientation.
Bleeding heart liberals, and/or leftists, from industrially developed
states, have a strong tendency to work on African development
projects that involve local people (low politics), whether that is via
working for the US Peace Corps, an NGO, or other; by contrast,
political conservatives tend to work with elites or leaders on matters
of high politics. In both instances, the emphasis is on organizational
change within African states, i.e. they are busy trying to recreate, in
African contexts, what they are most familiar with back home. The
problem with these two (Western participant) approaches is that
neither really addresses the potential failings of what might be going

Vol. 5, No. 1

296

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

on outside of African states to alter an entrenched developmental


reality.
Of course a consideration of the external impacts on African states
would imply a failing of external actors (something external actors
have difficulty admitting) and, perhaps understandably, most tend to
focus on the places where developmental failings are most physically
apparent. The point is that the reasons provided for developmental
failings are internal to Africa and scarcely, if ever, contemplate change
of external actor norms. Moreover, for practically-oriented capitalists
and development professionals, contemplation of a global system of
some kind is far too nebulous; all the more reason to focus on what
they can physically see in front of them: the lack of development.
In the end much of this debate naturally follows the flows of available
resources and while one might find developmental work that falls
under either of these internal columns above, there are few Westernfinanced jobs that pay for a critical analysis of the external issues listed
above other than perhaps teaching! Again, much of this has to do
with the lingering effects of the cold war whereby terms like
imperialism and the like are summarily rejected. If anything, the
portrayal of African perspectives in Western classrooms and policyvenues is as either lacking opportunity (and therefore in need of
internal change for development) or Marxist-Leninist (and therefore
worthy of discrediting).39 One finds, therefore, that even most
scholarship on African development, after making a quick nod to the
aforementioned colonial legacy, is targeted on internal change, which
39

See: Christopher LaMonica, Africa in International Relations Theory:


Addressing the Quandary of Africas Ongoing Marginalization Within the
Discipline, in Reframing Contemporary Africa: Politics, Culture, and Society in the
Global Era, (CQ Press, 2010).

Vol. 5, No. 1

297

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

is viewed as the more pragmatic and responsible path to pursue.


Accordingly, if there is an abuse of power in Nigerian contexts, it is
something that is best resolved from within, as had allegedly occurred
in Western state history. Yet it is also important to recognize local
forms of conservatism, i.e. beneficiaries of the status quo, who might
justify their own behaviors in terms of self-interest and power. The
elites of Abuja, for example, are only too well aware of the corrupt
nature of the external, yet readily take advantage of this (neo-colonial)
system. In other words, they act in terms of self-interest described
as a virtue in many classic Western texts and view the internal
development priorities of external actors, and their scholarship, as
little more than a small nuisance.

The Cold War Generation: Still in Charge?


Today we have an entire generation of development experts
who, having been educated in the ideological environment of the
Cold War, ignore what they now perceive as critiques of Western
perspectives on freedom. As a matter of course we find summary
dismissals of the critiques of free-market solutions as being not
serious, devoid of ideas, etc. 40 Several best-selling authors have
40

Like comments were regularly made by my own supervisors and colleagues


(not all) at USAID, HIID and the OECD. A careful listen to Jeffrey Sachs
responses to critiques of his ideas or work through the years reveals the same
in, e.g., WBUR-Boston interviews, and other notably the retort that a critics
point of view is devoid of ideas. Even critics of Sachs neo-liberal
solutions admit that he has started to alter his own neoclassical economic
views to accommodate critical ideas. A leftist journal, reviewing Sachs
best-selling End of Poverty (2005), argued for example, As the 1990s
progressed Sachs became more prominent as a critic of development
orthodoxy, arguing against the IMF's austere prescriptions after the 1997
Asian crisis, and pressing for debt relief for the poorest countries. Book

Vol. 5, No. 1

298

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

now argued against the rationalist neo-liberal approach of


developmental gurus, like Jeffrey Sachs, but, to date, seem to have
very little practical policy impact. Their concerns are many but the
overarching truth of a highly inefficient aid industry that seems to
perpetuate the existence of their own work, to include that of wellintentioned NGOs, is increasingly visible and clear to a growing
number.41 International aid of all kinds, to include humanitarian aid,
has all too often found itself in a serious quandary, a moral hazard
whereby to help is to hurt, unintentionally making matters worse
than they were prior.42
The tragedy of continuing along these lines includes, of course, a
human cost this is not a simple matter of pursuing economic growth
to lift all boats< lives are being lost along the way; hence the
argument that neo-liberal market solutions are seemingly rational
but certainly not reasonable. Moreover, the current developmental
path seems to neglect the all-important identification of an end-game:
long-term, locally-supported, and sustainable governing institutions.
Granted, it may be a long time before we get there, but let us be clear:
the end-game should include a withering away (to use Marxs term)
Review, The Long Strange Career of Jeffrey Sachs, Left Business Observer,
No. 111 (August 2005) posted at: http://www.leftbusinessobserver.com/Sachs.html
(Accessed February 2011); See also: The End of Poverty? Think Again, DVD
documentary, 2010. Available at: http://www.CinemaLibreStudio.com.
41 Consider the ongoing controversies surrounding, e.g., Graham Hancock,
The Lords of Poverty: Power, Prestige, and Corruption in the International Aid
Business, (Atlantic Monthly Press, 1994); Michael Maren, The Road to Hell: The
Ravaging Effects of International Aid and International Charity, (Free Press, 1997);
and John Perkins, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, (Berrett-Koehler, 2004).
42 On the dangers of humanitarian aid, specifically, see: Fionna Terry,
Condemned to Repeat? The Paradox of Humanitarian Action, (Cornell University
Press, 2002).

Vol. 5, No. 1

299

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

of the development industry, to include the NGO, and certainly not


the democratic state! That is, these organizations should serve a
functional purpose: to weather crises, certainly, but also, over the
longer-term, to support the formation of new, locally-defined, civil
society institutions.
In her provocative best-seller, Dead Aid (2009), Moyo asks us the
seemingly unthinkable: What do you think Africans would do if aid
were stopped? She responds:
Too many African countries have already hit rock bottom
ungoverned, poverty-stricken, and lagging further and
further behind the rest of the world each day; there is
nowhere further down to go.43

In her book Moyo spells-out the patently obvious: in todays


globalizing world, there are winning globalizers (who increase
trade and, in return, economic growth), non-globalizers (who
eschew trade and have, unsurprisingly, little economic growth), and
losing globalizers (who have increased trade but have no associated
growth). Tragically, she argues, many African countries fall into
this third group. 44 Just like the developmental gurus of the world,
Moyo knows that active participation in world trade is the path to
developmental success, and she rightly points to two glaring 21 stcentury realities: 1) ongoing governmental subsidies within the West,
notably in agriculture, that are a completely hypocritical stance from
the lessons of neoclassical economics that are being taught
through developmental consultation, imposed via IMF/World Bank

43

Dambisa Moyo, Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working and How There Is A Better
Way for Africa, (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009), p. 144.
44 Ibid, p. 114.

Vol. 5, No. 1

300

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

conditionality, or other; and 2) Chinas rapidly growing trade


portfolio with Africa, now growing at an estimated $100 billion per
year. Moyo reminds us that the dollar-value of trade with China,
alone, consistently exceeds the roughly $40 billion per year of total
OECD aid to Africa; by 2015, she tells us, that would be $500
billion of trade income 50 percent of the trillion dollars of aid that
has made its way to Africa in the past sixty years. 45 One need not be
an economist to see that this kind of trade pressure from (ironically?)
China is causing dramatic alterations to the African developmental
landscape. What does this say, then, of our Cold War developmental
gurus?
Certainly, at a minimum, it is high-time for them to reconsider their
lecture and research notes! The observations of Moyo are, in fact, a
developmental reality that has long persisted in developing country
contexts like Nigeria: in an atmosphere of severely crippled governing
institutions, central government politicians have consistently abused
their political power for personal gain while vast regions of the
country, like the NDR, deteriorate. Moyos unfortunate label of
losing globalizer is pertinent for it aptly, if bluntly, describes the
resource curse phenomenon which later captured the imagination
of free-market economic modelers, like Sachs and Warner, but it also
captures the observations of earlier critics of global capitalist ventures,
like Marx and Lenin. And, to get to a less ideological place, this needs
to be said. In fact, Moyo follows the professional standard of today,
which is to avoid any reference to these earlier critiques of capitalist
exploitation. But again, if we want to move beyond the ideological
stance of todays neoliberal managers of development, we need to pay
attention to the obvious that, frankly, previous critics had pointed out
long ago. This will be a difficult process for many, as it will entail a
45

Ibid.

Vol. 5, No. 1

301

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

certain measure of swallowing ones pride which is, proverbially


speaking, never easy. Please understand: the motivation for speaking
of these critiques is not ideological; the point is that classic
commentaries on the potential abuse of power should be considered,
from all sides, if a sustainable solution to Nigerias developmental
woes is ever to be found.
Not surprisingly, the aforementioned Sachs and Warner study on the
natural resource curse makes no reference to the works of Karl
Marx and V.I. Lenin, nor of neo-colonial critics like Kwame Nkrumah.
This is quite unfortunate as all three had commented on this very
conceptual puzzle many years earlier; the problem, really, from the
perspective of many establishment scholars like Sachs, is that their
observations were critical of capitalism and therefore nary worth the
bother. The essential point here is that much of the systematic
rejection of any consideration of views from the other side is a
reflection of a bygone Cold War era, that happens to coincide with the
formative years of so many of todays academics and world leaders.
But we are now in a post-Cold War world and there is a large
consensus about how liberalized markets can help to achieve
economic growth.
As the world becomes a smaller place, we all get a clearer view of the
basis for the complaints as liberalization takes place. With the Cold
War now over, it is important for those who are interested in
development to consider those now classic descriptions of capitalist
exploitation, or economic parasitism; today, they should no longer be
considered the voice of an ideological divide but of another set of
reactions to the encroachment of capitalist modernization. Today, the
other side is the underbelly of global markets and something that
can no longer be swept under the rug.

Vol. 5, No. 1

302

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

In fact, in recent years we have seen that slowly, begrudgingly, the


developed world is taking notice of the not-so-pretty side of global
capitalism in various corners of the Earth. The Bush Administrations
2002 U.S. National Security Strategy declared, for example: A world
where some live in comfort and plenty, while half the human race
lives on less than $2 a day, is neither just nor stable.46 And we can be
quite certain that the author(s) of that text would not deem such
statements as Marxist! Yet that sentiment was repeatedly expressed
by Marx and has inspired countless many, to this day, to sympathize
with these kinds of dramatic statistics on global wealth; it is this basic
fact and not the solution of Communism that needs to be
acknowledged in a post-Cold War world. Moreover, the traditionally
provocative notion that differences of material wealth (as might be
investigated in the realm of economics, ergo by Marx) has political
ramifications is now quite mainstream in our modern age, despite
what political realists like Morgenthau might have wished. That there
can be no clear isolation of political concerns from other social
concerns, like disparities of wealth, has been expressed, for example,
by the former US National Security Advisor, Condoleezza Rice.
Again, it is doubtful that Rice, who famously has an oil tanker named
after her, would declare herself a Marxist! Yet, in fact, Rice was
among the first Republican leaders to declare, like Marx, that
disparities of wealth could lead to security concerns. In her
discussion of the 2002 Bali bombing that targeted wealthy Westerners
she declared, for example, Economics and security are inextricably
linked.47 Just a few years later the same can be said of the comments
46

The National Security Strategy of the United States of America,


September 2002, available at:
http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/policy/national/nss-020920.pdf
47 CNN quotes Rice as saying: Economics and security are inextricably
linked. You only have to look at what happened in a place like Bali when you

Vol. 5, No. 1

303

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

of countless conservative and other Western politicians, who


regularly comment on the political significance, and security
implications, of disparities of wealth. Following in that pattern, this
argument can also be found in the 2010 U.S. National Security
Strategy of the Obama Administration:
The growth of emerging economies in recent decades has
lifted people out of poverty and forged a more interconnected
and vibrant global economy. But development has been
uneven, progress is fragile, and too many of the worlds
people still live without the benefits that development
affords. While some countries are growing, many lag behind
mired in insecurity, constrained by poor governance, or
overly dependent on commodity prices. But sustained
economic progress requires faster, sustainable, and more
inclusive development.48

Again, we see a slow but certain acknowledgment of severe


developmental problems alongside an otherwise vibrant global
economy.
Of course, for decades the United States minimized the importance of
development aid vis--vis other OECD states, as a quick breakdown
of Official Development Assistance (ODA) demonstrates:

had the terrorist attack there. Bush in Japan on Six Nation Asia Tour,
CNN.com, October 17, 2003. See also Rices comments at Bush Departs for
Asian Tour, Cox News Service, October 14, 2003. (Originally accessed in
October 2003.)
48 The National Security Strategy of the United States of America, May
2010, p. 33.

Vol. 5, No. 1

304

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

Table 2
Official Development Assistance (ODA) of the U.S. as a % of GNP
vs. selected OECD states
1960
1970
1980
1990
2000
Belgium
0.88
0.48
0.50
0.46
0.36
Denmark
0.09
0.38
0.74
0.94
1.06
France
1.38
0.65
0.63
0.60
0.32
Germany
0.31
0.32
0.44
0.42
0.27
Netherlands
0.31
0.63
0.97
0.92
0.84
Norway
0.11
0.33
0.87
1.17
0.80
Sweden
0.05
0.37
0.78
0.91
0.80
United Kingdom
0.56
0.37
0.35
0.27
0.32
United States
0.53
0.31
0.27
0.21
0.10

2009
0.55
0.88
0.47
0.35
0.82
1.06
1.12
0.52
0.21

Source: Theodore Cohn, Global Political Economy, 3rd Ed. (2005), p. 366;
http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/42/30/44285539.gif (Accessed February 2011).

Moreover, ODA has traditionally followed a pattern of following the


national interests of OECD states that has systematically bypassed all
of sub-Saharan Africa for decades; a snapshot of the top ten recipients
of aid in 1995 and 2000 follows:
Table 3
Top Recipients of OECD ODA as a % of GNP
1995
2000
1. China
Indonesia
2. Indonesia
China
3. Poland
Russia
4. Egypt
Egypt
5. India
India
6. Israel
Israel
7. Russia
Vietnam
8. Philippines
Israel
9. Thailand
Philippines
10. Bangladesh
Bangladesh
Source: Theodore Cohn, Global Political Economy, 3rd Ed. (2005), p. 367.

Vol. 5, No. 1

305

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

Up through to the end of the 20 th-century, sub-Saharan Africa was


seemingly not a priority, but in the 21 st-century, the patterns of ODA
are changing.
A careful consideration of ODA flows of recent years demonstrates
interesting trends that are very much in line with the security
concerns expressed by both the Bush and Obama Administrations: 1)
the inclusion of OECD government spending in war zones as ODA;
and 2) a growing interest in conflict-ridden zones of sub-Saharan
Africa:
Table 4
Top Ten Recipients of US (only) ODA
2008-2009 average
1 Afghanistan
2 Iraq
3 Sudan
4 Ethiopia
5 Palestinian Adm. Areas
6 Columbia
7 Egypt
8 Kenya
9 Pakistan
10 South Africa
Source: http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/42/30/44285539.gif
(Accessed February 2011)

In recent years then, the US has made dramatic changes to its aid
policy and ODA statistics. During the cold war aid might have been
politically justified by national interest and defeating Communism;
today aid is targeted toward areas of broader security concern.
Moreover, assistance to areas where the US has been engaged in war

Vol. 5, No. 1

306

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

now counts in the calculation of ODA statistics. 49 Far from countering


this trend, other OECD states have similarly restructured their aid
portfolios and now count that assistance in their ODA statistics.50
Recent trends of US ODA are perfectly in line with the State
Departments newly declared foreign policy strategy, sometimes
summarized as 3D Security, that emphasizes the links between
Development, Diplomacy, and Defense. 51 This step, of formally
declaring development as part of a foreign policy strategy alongside
other, more traditional, bases for pursuing US national interest, is a
departure from the previously established pattern of underplaying
global developmental concerns. Moreover, the plight of many subSaharan states is now on the US foreign policy radar screen with
the 2008 establishment of the new Africa Command (AFRICOM)
some would say, cynically, literally and otherwise. With the cold war
over, this could translate to a new era of substantive dialogue on
development in previously marginalized areas.
What the Obama Administrations new strategy and Africa Command
demonstrate then is a growing recognition of the links between
development and security. The previous Cold War era had allowed
the US and other Western states to strategically support
nondemocratic regimes, ironically (many would say) in the name of
security, while simultaneously hypocritically some would now

49

This is likely due to the increased use of extra-military contractors that are
not counted as direct military expenditure.
50 As a brief visit to http://www.oecd.org will attest.
51 Hillary Clinton, Remarks on Development in the 21 st-Century made to
the Center for Global Development, Washington, D.C., January 6, 2010. Text
available at: http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2010/01/134838.htm (Accessed
February 2011).

Vol. 5, No. 1

307

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

say supporting democracy in principle.


Todays emerging
consensus is that localized destitution is a concern to all;
democracy, in the form of democratic elections, will often mean
little and it is security that still remains the trump card in policy
circles.
Pundits will always have different ways to interpret the Bush
Doctrine but, for certain, what that era did demonstrate was a new
concern for security at home based on things gone wrong elsewhere;
Obamas Administration has followed in that pattern but has boldly
(provocatively in domestic political circles) used the term
development in its new foreign policy strategy. This could be the
start of a more productive era of development, albeit one that remains
publicly based on security at home. Underlying that change is the
ongoing challenge of trying to shake-off the still ideological
understandings of development that prevailed in a Cold War
order and this will require vigilance. As we have seen, new
sensitivities have already been expressed in mainstream US politics
(Bush, Rice, Obama) and in the more recent works of establishment
development gurus (Sachs), but there is assuredly an urgent need to
press on. In this small world of ours, capitalist ventures that treat all
that is local as an inconvenient nuisance or as another waste land to
simply exploit must come to a conclusive end; NDRs local
sustainability, Nigerias national sustainability, and international
sustainability require that to happen.

Conclusion
Responsibility for the ongoing plight of the entire Niger Delta
Region extends well beyond Nigerias borders. External actors have
dramatically impacted the patterns of Nigerian development and
politicking and they, as we all know, have largely marginalized the

Vol. 5, No. 1

308

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

interests of the NDR. Today too many Africanists are too quick to
explain away the regions problems solely in terms of tribal
identities but that ethnic focus speaks only to the superficial surface of
Nigerian political behavior while systematically ignoring some of the
underlying reasons why local politicians and others resort to
tribalism. Throughout history men all over the world have used
tribalism as a means for achieving the end of maintaining power.
There are solutions and the Western classics do not necessarily have a
monopoly on what those solutions are. Indeed, the best ways to
ward-off the abuses of power are democratic but let us not forget that
external actors have heretofore destroyed indigenous checks-andbalances and, of course, much else. Moreover, the democratic
challenges a developing West might have had pale in comparison to
what developing states like Nigeria now face; globally significant and
dramatic flows of capital, peoples, and resources now impact Nigeria
in countless ways that, tragically, the world is just beginning to
understand. Hopefully the worlds mutual interest in security and
development, as described here, will soon lead to a better
developmental reality for the people of the NDR and all of Nigeria.
Here it is argued that much can be achieved through global alliances
of critically informed scholars and practitioners who, in the end, can
have a substantive impact on the actions of those involved in all forms
of development activity.
And, when it comes to the resource curse phenomenon described
by Sachs and Warner, and later popularized by Thomas L. Friedman,
there is good news: Economists C.N. Brunnschweiler and E.H. Bulte
published a 2008 article in Science with opposite conclusions:
The last word in the resource curse debate is far from having
been spoken; but economic advisors should be aware that
natural resources do not necessarily spell doom for

Vol. 5, No. 1

309

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

development. Instead, their exploitation can be a valuable


part of a sustainable development strategy.52

Of course they are right. Unlike the Sachs and Warner study, their
data consider a broader spectrum of resource-rich countries; since
then, a good many experts have compared African crises, and the
Nigerian case specifically, with resource-rich countries that are faring
much better. Countries in the North Sea region, notably Norway,
have now managed to hold on to a very sizable $300 billion,
expected to grow to $900 billion in a decade portion of their oil and
gas revenues.53
Yet critics remain. John Ghazvinian, author of Untapped: The Scramble
for Africas Oil (2007), investigates the prospect of employing a
Norwegian model in African contexts and concludes that the
challenges in oil-rich nations like Nigeria are simply too vast. His
words are blunt and even offensive: People in the Niger Delta live
almost as if its the Stone Age. They live in stick huts on little islands
in the mangrove swamps< Nearby, you will have these multibillion
oil facilities, with executives being dropped in by helicopter. 54 Yet
Ghazvinian is describing a developmental reality that Moyo similarly
describes: impoverishment, social and environmental degradation,
alongside clear evidence of vast wealth. Cynical and depressing, for
certain, but literature of the kind is encouraging in the sense that it is

52

C.N. Brunnschweiler and E.H. Bulte, Linking Natural Resources to Slow


Growth and More Conflict, Science, Vol. 320 (2 May 2008): 616-617.
53 Dubbed the future generations fund. See: The Resource Curse: Why
Africas Oil Riches Dont Trickle Down to Africans, Knowledge@Wharton,
October 31, 2007. Full text at:
http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article.cfm?articleid=1830.
54 John Ghazhvinian, cited in ibid.

Vol. 5, No. 1

310

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

helping us all to better understand and to work together to seek


sustainable solutions.55
Decidedly more measured tones are employed by Michael L. Ross of
the University of California, Los Angeles, who writes regularly on the
problems of the NDR:
Between 1970 and 1999, the Nigerian petroleum industry
generated about $231 billion in rents, or $1900 for every man,
woman, and child. Yet from 1970 to 1999 Nigerias real
income per capita fell from $264 to $250 a year.56

Writers like Ross feel obligated to research such statistics if only to ask
this simple question: Why has Nigerias remarkable oil wealth done
so little to raise incomes and alleviate poverty? 57 The answers are
becoming quite obvious but Ross is undoubtedly aware of the
ideological stance of those involved in development and, of course,
the self-righteous stance of so many in the oil industry. He is
therefore compelled to go through the bother of citing statistics. But
he does, eventually, get to the heart of the matter as he assuredly aims
to do. In a more recent publication, Ross concludes that the oil
industry:
Often wreaks havoc on a countrys economy and politics,
helps fund insurgents, and aggravates ethnic grievances.
55

The same could be said of coverage in popular journals, like National


Geographic (Feb. 2007) and popular films like Black Gold-Niger Delta,
although such projects inevitably have at least some errors.
56 Michael L. Ross, Nigerias Oil Sector and the Poor, Study prepared for
the UK DFID, May 23, 2003. Posted at:
http://www.sscnet.ucla.edu/polisci/faculty/ross/NigeriaOil.pdf.
57 Ibid.

Vol. 5, No. 1

311

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

And with oil ever more in demand, the problems it spawns


are likely to spread further.58

He knows that the developmental problems of Nigeria are not only


internal; they can only be understood as being in full collusion and
cooperation with external actors.
The Nigerian government does have deeply entrenched problems of
corruption but they have always relied on external support for
sustenance. Historian Basil Davidson has argued that, as a result, the
vast majority of Nigerian citizens now do all in their power to avoid
the state.59 Another writer on the subject is Africanist Doug Yates,
whose portrayal of the French oil interests in francophone Africa can
easily be transferred to circumstances in Nigeria. 60 The problems that
Davidson and Yates identify have deep historical roots: the mistrust
of government goes back to the colonial era, certainly, and continues
into present circumstances. Their essential point is that the state
had always catered to the needs of external actors; moreover, the
state has historically been viewed by locals as a resource for the
few and, to this day, latching onto the resources of the state becomes a
kind of lifestyle for some.
In this kind of environment,
entrepreneurial skill is quickly replaced by clientelism, as so many
Africanists have pointed out.61 Nigerias developmental problems are,
therefore, multidimensional and require firm acknowledgment of the
58

Michael L. Ross, Why Oil Wealth Fuels Conflict, Foreign Affairs, May/June
2008.
59 Basil Davidson, Modern Africa: A Social and Political History, 3rd Ed.,
(Longman, 1994).
60 Douglas A. Yates, The French Oil Industry: And the Corps des Mines in Africa,
(Africa World Press, 2009).
61 See, e.g., Carlene J. Edie, Politics in Africa: A New Beginning? (Wadsworth,
2003), pp. 76-78.

Vol. 5, No. 1

312

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

many factors that have led to present circumstances. If we are to


listen to the views of Davidson and Yates, this would require, at a
minimum: 1) correcting the historical mistrust of Nigerian civil
servants and government, writ large, through better integration and
formal, recognized presence of local authorities; 2) challenging
Nigerias Rentier State norms that include colluding with oil industries
to create joint ventures that are inherently corrupt and only
empower the few, with virtually no benefits to the Nigerian masses;
and 3) the fundamental reform of developmental partnerships with
donor states that would lead to a renewed focus on the longer-term
goal of strengthened local and coastal governing bodies. All of this
can be achieved in partnership with external actors; but, as discussed
above, that can only be realized if external actors speak frankly about
the one-sided assumptions they have been making about free-market
capitalism. Absent this, Nigerias seemingly all pervasive culture of
governmental impunity will only continue to thrive as the global
appetite for oil grows.
What is lacking in the Sachs and Warner study, and so many others
devoted to the challenge of sustainable development in Nigeria, is
the link to security and it is there, perhaps more than with trade, that
mutually beneficial solutions are to be found. If security is our
primary form of mutual interest, then a thorough consideration of the
development-security nexus in the NDR is required for Nigerias
coastal development to occur.62 It is only when local and coastal
governance in the NDR is improved that development in the NDR
and all of Nigeria can be expected to take off.
62

A similar argument is made by Lars Buur, Steffen Jensen and Finn


Stepputat, eds., The Security-Development Nexus: Expressions of Sovereignty and
Securitization in Southern Africa, (Cape Town: HSRC Press, 2007).

Vol. 5, No. 1

313

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

For now much of the developmental discussion is blocked in the


largely ideological discussions of a previous Cold War era, a hallmark
of which has included ideological certainty. Todays developmental
leaders are products of that era; moreover they are informed by the
classics of Western development that have waste land and other
assumptions about the then colonized areas of the world, like Nigeria.
All of this needs to be carefully and critically considered by all
involved in developmental politics if the mutually beneficial aim of
improved governance and sustainability in the NDR is ever to be
achieved.
Beyond that important epistemological challenge, clarity on the
following, by all stakeholders, would greatly improve the regions
developmental prospects:

1.

The State Matters


The Nigerian State was created by external actors who were
interested in Nigeria as a resource; in their minds Nigeria was
little more than a waste land waiting to be exploited for their
own benefit. Understandably, post-independence, many
Nigerians have similarly looked to their own state as a
resource; in many ways, those in Nigerian government
have simply followed in the footsteps of what was a wellestablished colonial pattern. If latching-on to that corrupt
resource is not a possibility, the state has become, for the
Nigerian majority, something to avoid. Today external actors
know this and, following lockstep with their colonial
predecessors and the lessons of the aforementioned classics,
are generally couching their dialogue with the Nigerian
government in terms of (ideological) efficiency. Economists
like Sachs have become famous for providing that kind of

Vol. 5, No. 1

314

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

advice. But today, the merit of the free movement of


economic resources is well understood by a growing
community of politicians and policymakers of all kinds. The
ongoing push for providing lessons of free-market economics
are therefore of little help and have, in fact, resulted in a
backlash of many who correctly argue that the free-market is
not the be-all and end-all of Nigerias developmental woes.
Economic growth is obviously very important and helpful but
catering to that only, as miraculous and impressive as it can
be, can lead to a substantial degradation of other things that
matter: environmental sustainability, a sense of community,
and the quality of human life, to name a few. It should
therefore be understandable, to all, why it is that there are
growing concerns regarding the ideological nature of freemarket capitalism what many in the region refer to as neoliberalism. We all need to move beyond the ideological
approach to development that speaks only to the efficiency
priorities of the market. The realization of democratic state
goals, such as security, equity, fairness, and justice, are also
important to all human societies and are required for secure
and sustainable circumstances to be realized in the NDR. In
short, the state matters and while strengthening Nigerian
civil society will help to check the potential abuses of
political power, external actors can also do their part by
checking their own participation in Nigerian corruption. As
discussed in this article, the world is now better informed
than ever and watching the corrupt behaviours of all
involved. Nigerias democratic goals will not be achieved
overnight; they are the ever-adjusting results of pluralistic
political processes. But democratic success will also require
external vigilance and support.

Vol. 5, No. 1

315

Africana: The Niger Delta

2.

Special Issue 2011

Less Ideology Will Help


Critiques from the other side of the Cold War debate, often
attributed to followers of Marx, Lenin, Nkrumah, and others
were not devoid of merit, although their methods and
solutions were often flawed. In retrospect, we can hopefully
appreciate all of us the historical concerns of these earlier
observers of industrial capitalism that emphasized, among
other things, the seemingly systematic exploitation of the
weak. Yes, many of their followers approaches to the
problem of industrial exploitation was brutally ideological
and undoubtedly led to untold human suffering, corruption,
and delayed development of all kinds. But, in our pursuit of
economic growth, let us not make that same ideological
mistake. When one sees the suffering of so many in the NDR,
combined with the intimate involvement of extra-Nigerian
capitalist interests, it is hard not to reach a similar conclusion:
here, as has happened in history, we have a story of capitalist
exploitation. Here, as has happened in history, we have
abuses of power. And if we listen carefully to the lessons of
the Enlightenment, their arguments were not only about
science but about valuing human life.
Politicians,
stakeholders and development practitioners have to be honest
about the ongoing local appeal of that kind of (now classic
Marxist-Leninist) logic; and the very visible exploitative
results of pursuing unhindered capitalism on the ground.
Today a systematic rejection of the basis for the argument that
highlights industrial exploitation, and of the NDRs tragic
facts, while continuing along the current developmental path,
can only be attributed to the ideological rejection of
Communism during a previous Cold War era. This position
does not condone Communism in any way but does help us
all to understand crucially significant differences of

Vol. 5, No. 1

316

Africana: The Niger Delta

Special Issue 2011

perspective. Only if we can move beyond ideology can we


begin to engage in a meaningful dialogue over the crucial role
of local and coastal governance in the NDR. And that
discussion will hopefully lead to the empowerment of local
governing institutions and, in turn, improved security for the
region.
3.

Development Requires Security


As such, the developmental challenges of the twenty-first
century will require closer attention to the connections
between security and development, particularly in regions
where trade and commerce are lagging. Developmental
economists, like Sachs, are right to emphasize the centrality of
trade to developmental prospects.63 But that trade can only
take place in a safer environment than what the NDR
currently has to offer. Twenty-first century solutions to the
developmental problems of the NDR, and of Nigeria more
generally, are to be found in an improved and enhanced role
for the local and coastal portions of the Nigerian state. And
the time seems right: Western leadership seems to be
convinced of the need for security, particularly where
destitution exists, and to engage in more effective, mutually
beneficial, forms of developmental aid. Put simply, those
goals cannot be achieved if external oil interests are allowed
to continue colluding with Nigerian elites in the form of joint
ventures. Today, in Nigeria at least, everyone knows this; it
is high time for all external actors to take note.

63

Sachs (2005); Sachs, Common Wealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet,


(Penguin Press, 2008)

Vol. 5, No. 1

317

Africana: The Niger Delta

4.

Special Issue 2011

External Actor Responsibility


Thus far, donor states and other developmental actors have
emphasized the importance of Nigerias internal change. Upon
reflection, the justifications for that approach make some
sense as most external actors sincerely believe in the ideas of
their founding democratic texts and expect developing states
to follow suit. But Western democratic states did not develop
in the smaller globalized world of today; to apply those
lessons to developing states is therefore not reasonable. In
many ways, then, this article has considered the obvious:
much of the responsibility for Nigerias current
developmental woes lies squarely on the shoulders of those
outside of Nigeria who have benefited so disproportionately
from oil and other forms of capitalist ventures. It is therefore
external actors who need to think critically about their own
developmental methods and logic, so often informed by the
classics of Western education, that continue to treat regions
like the NDR as a waste land rather than a participating
partner.

Vol. 5, No. 1

318