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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