American University

Threats to Nigerian Democracy: The Discussion on the Resource Curse by Andre’ James Thomas @ American University

Nigeria, when one eyeballs the data, should be an African Powerhouse and maybe even poster example for the possibilities of the eradication of poverty, health issues, literacy rates and a weak corrupt, government. Through the eyes of Boko Haram, the Western Oil companies are limiting the benefits of this massive oil producing country and “False Muslims” are aiding in Nigeria to become another Iraq or another Libya. The headlines on the Niger Delta region in the United States ring over concerns of the collective regional human suffering. Hunger, rape, disease, Radical Islamists, human rights, corrupt government, a weak military and the dire need for democratization are the main topics for airing.

Oil management or mismanagement rather and its effects aren’t ringing as loud and they should be because it is stifling Nigeria’s populace. From poisoning soil and water to corrupt politicians tapping into its profits and the massive influx of International Oil companies the hope in 1956 and the mid-1970’s has drastically been altered from notions of self-determination and African regional empowerment to the “Curse of Black Gold.” From 1956 to include the following two decades Nigeria’s Oil Economy ushered in a wave of expectations based on earnings. Nigerian Oil provided near 90% of the foreign exchange earnings and upwards of 80% of the federal revenue. In 2004 Nigeria boaster as the largest oil producer in Sub-Saharan Africa, and as the largest exporting country within the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and additionally as the fifth largest oil exporter to the United States.

Nigeria’s Oil wealth comes directly from the Niger Delta, a wetland area of approximately 70,000 square kilometers or 27,000 square miles that is allocated along the Gulf of Guinea. The area is home to nine oil producing states that include: Abia, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Imo, Ondo, and Rivers. These southern Nigerian states although at the heart of the economic boom are still immersed in the blanketed problem of Nigeria— Absolute poverty without access to food, safe drinking water and shelter—and the Northern states including Bauchi, Gombe, Yobe, Jigawa and Sokoto as Boko Haram states does bear the worst of the conditions. For example “Jigawa state has the highest poverty of 88.5%.” The North/South disparity continues to health concerns as Northern Nigeria experiences the lowest percentages of childhood administered vaccinations. In the Northwest state of Sokoto, “1.4% of children aged 12-23 months received all the basic vaccinations .”The Northern states of Kebbi, Zamfara, Katsina, Jigawa, Bauchi, Yobe, and Borno also experience this trend of lacking benefits of Oil revenue distribution.

Government and Societal Core Cocktail Issue

From the Former governor of the central bank Lamido Sanusi claiming that $20 Billion in oil revenue as missing; to a government-sanctioned investigation that has reported on finding $1.5 Billion missing, the methods of accountability in the government are breeding confusion and suspicion abound. The lack of transparency is aiding the warring parties of The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) and Boko Haram, by allowing room to prove their missions and frustrations as a “savior for Nigeria.”  Although Nigeria has four state-owned oil refineries, the lack of maintenance for both procedures and equipment has resulted in a shortage of fuel reserves for its populace. Reports have shown mile-long lines for fuel and Nigeria importing 70% of its fuel needs.

The obvious surplus of oil, its massive production, output, and shipping, but stark lack of access for its internal societal components and people continue to fuel the truth of some levels of corruption and the rumors of purposeful increased “political pocket greasing.”  This battle is restricting Nigeria’s Oil industry as it has not built the infrastructure for proper pipe gas to domestic consumers. The wealth is being squandered as the UK reports that as much $800 million of Nigeria gas is not contained for production.

The government should push for the Oil Industry to be reformed and increase efforts to stop the increased splintering of “Delta Militants” groups. An additional step is to take ownership of local oil supplies and stop the subsidies for imported fuel. This could include some levels of privatization, which is a risking business that Libya has much history to teach; especially when it comes to dealing with a plethora of international oil companies.

The solution to aid Democracy and Transparency with the Niger Delta is quite simple if the Nigerian government and the international oil companies just listen to the demands. What will create saved Democracy in Nigeria is: increased oil revenues to all Nigerian States, International oil company investment into local communities with emphasis on clean-up projects and development initiatives, increase methods to reduce environmental degradation, and a collective agreement to organize a meeting with MEND, Nigerian government, the international community, and Boko Haram. If Nigeria wants to avoid a war base on regional divides, environmental protection, local fisheries, Christian versus Islam, spillover into Niger and Chad as well as Boko Haram increasing connection to ISIS and other radical Islamist groups, it must act in a manner of respecting and addressing the war cries of its populace and the militant groups.




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Ramsbotham, Oliver, Tom Woodhouse, and Hugh Miall. Contemporary Conflict Resolution. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2011.

Gurr, Ted and Monty Marshall. “Assessing Risks of Future Ethnic Wars.” In People Versus States, edited by Ted Gurr, 223-260. Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace, 1998


Raleigh, Clionadh, Caitriona Dowd, and James Moody. “Conflict Trends No. 42 Real-Time Analysis of African Political Violence.” Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (2015): 1-12.

Ajakaiye Olu, (2001) Economic Development in Nigeria: A Review of Recent Experience, Proceedings of the First Annual Monetary Policy Conference (Central Bank of Nigeria; 2001), pp. 12-36.

John H. Adler. (Oct., 1956), The Economic Development of Nigeria. The Journal of Political Economy, Vol. 64, No. 5, pp. 425-434.

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  1. Oluwabomi Fagbemi

    April 2, 2018 at 10:33 pm

    I find your thoughts on the effects of the exploitation of oil in Nigeria to be interesting. It would perhaps be worth considering exactly why there is as much poverty as there currently is in Nigeria. Your post, acknowledges that a lack of investment in human capital, in the form of education and healthcare limits the prospects of many in the country. The terrorist group, Boko Haram’s original ideology was to protests the spread of Western education in the predominantly Northern part of the country. The focus on extracting crude oil, is perhaps a reason why there has not been investment in these areas. However, I believe that it is a fairly complex combination of factors. Firstly, Nigeria has functioned as a rentier state, all the while ignoring it’s large population and potential human capital. Also, a culture of impunity exists in the country. There have been numerous corruption scandals, but there have been significantly less convictions for officials accused of misappropriating funds. In my opinion, the presence of oil in the country is not necessarily the cause of the country’s situation. Instead poor governanceDespite all of this, in 2015, the incumbent president lost an election for the first time. This showed that the populace could express their dissatisfaction with the regime, and with elections coming up in 2019 it is an other opportunity for there to be a peaceful, democratic transition. This does count as progress, despite the security concerns and persisting inequality, is definitely not a liberal democracy but it has become one in the most minimal procedural sense.

  2. Maryam Kilani

    April 5, 2018 at 11:11 pm

    Great article Andre’James! Nigeria by the recent UN population records is about 195 million people and more than 200 million in the diaspora. So, it is normal to call it Africa’s powerhouse regarding data and basically anything. The country is the most populated black nation in the world, and its name is synonymous with corruption like you mentioned. Although corruption is everywhere but prominent in Nigeria, as it is in every stratum of the society. From parents paying for special centers for exams, paying for impersonation, and buying results at the secondary and university level. Corruption regarding tribalism is not left out as well. A top Nigerian executive would prefer to hire his “brother” even when he is incompetent in knowledge. Don’t go too far, Nigerians believe that because the President is a Fulani man, he is yet to address the issue of the Fulani herdsmen. More alarming is the recent return of the captured Dapchi girls by Boko Haram in “grand style.”Civil servants are not “servants” in Nigeria with the corruption mentality rung into a young child’s ear that once he or she attains a public office, he has to find ways to enrich himself and family. That’s why the majority of officials from local Government Chairmen to Governors and even Senators commission white elephant projects. I see you also mentioned the “oil crisis” in Nigeria. I do agree that oil management is stifled as the president recently spent 3 billion dollars to look for stolen oil in the north. Not surprising that it wasn’t found. However, I don’t think the Northern states of Kebbi and Zamfara lack in the oil revenue distribution. Nigeria is a federation, and it has a rather interesting revenue allocation formula that is based on the size of the state in terms of the land area that the northern states highly benefits from. Yes, the rate of poverty is high among the citizens, but the northern government is not necessarily poor.
    More than oil, there is a great incentive for youths to explore tech and agriculture, if possible merge the two areas.
    With this awareness on all forms of media from local (TV, Radio, Newspaper, etc.) to social media and search engines, the average Nigerian youth is told to make the change he or she wants to see. The government has failed, they are the new government by making life better in the little ways they can. This has taken a new toll on the Nigerian democracy as youths develop solutions that change the focus from oil to more areas and eventually the “not too young to run” campaign that has granted interested young adults the opportunities to campaign and displace the corrupt officials from power. The 2019 election will be a new kind of election as there is ongoing awareness urging everyone to make their votes count. And this, in my opinion, will make it a truly democratic Nigerian election. The focus has shifted from oil to tech, agriculture, and entrepreneurship. Terrorism is gradually becoming a thing of the past. A truly democratic Nigeria is here, however how slow it comes.

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