news analysis advocacy
AfricaFocus Bookshop
New Gift CDs
China & Africa
tips on searching

Search AfricaFocus and 8 Partner Sites

 

 

Visit the AfricaFocus
Country Pages

Algeria
Angola
Benin
Botswana
Burkina Faso
Burundi
Cameroon
Cape Verde
Central Afr. Rep.
Chad
Comoros
Congo (Brazzaville)
Congo (Kinshasa)
Côte d'Ivoire
Djibouti
Egypt
Equatorial Guinea
Eritrea
Ethiopia
Gabon
Gambia
Ghana
Guinea
Guinea-Bissau
Kenya
Lesotho
Liberia
Libya
Madagascar
Malawi
Mali
Mauritania
Mauritius
Morocco
Mozambique
Namibia
Niger
Nigeria
Rwanda
São Tomé
Senegal
Seychelles
Sierra Leone
Somalia
South Africa
South Sudan
Sudan
Swaziland
Tanzania
Togo
Tunisia
Uganda
Western Sahara
Zambia
Zimbabwe

Get AfricaFocus Bulletin by e-mail!         More on politics & human rights | economy & development | peace & security | health

Print this page

See more Nigeria books US | UK

Visit AfricaFocus Bookshop US | UK

Nigeria: Swamps of Insurgency

AfricaFocus Bulletin
Aug 13, 2006 (060813)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

"Over the past quarter century, unrest in the Niger Delta has slowly graduated into a guerrilla-style conflict that leaves hundreds dead each year. The battle lines are drawn over the region's crude oil and gas that make Nigeria the number one oil producer in Africa and the world's tenth largest crude oil producer." - International Crisis Group

This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains the press release and executive summary of a new report on the Niger Delta, by the International Crisis Group (http://www.crisisgroup.org), as well as a summary of recent events in the Delta from the UN's Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN). The Crisis Group report is the second of a new series on Nigeria; the first "Nigeria: Want in the Midst of Plenty,: appeared in July.

The UNDP's Niger Delta Human Development Report, released this year but too long to excerpt here, provides extensive statistics and background information on the Delta (report available at http://hdr.undp.org/reports/view_reports.cfm?type=3). The report notes that "The Niger Delta is a region suffering from administrative neglect, crumbling social infrastructure and services, high unemployment, social deprivation, abject poverty, filth and squalor, and endemic conflict."

For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on Nigeria, see http://www.africafocus.org/country/nigeria.php

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++++++++

The Swamps of Insurgency: Nigeria's Delta Unrest

Africa Report N 115

International Crisis Group
http://www.crisisgroup.org

Dakar/Brussels, 3 August 2006

Contacts: Andrew Stroehlein (Brussels) +32 (0) 2 541 1635 Kimberly Abbott (Washington) +1 202 785 1601

Dakar/Brussels, 3 August 2006: The Nigerian government and international oil corporations must change direction if they are to reduce the risk of violent meltdown in the Niger Delta.

The Swamps of Insurgency: Nigeria's Delta Unrest, the new report from the International Crisis Group, examines the potent cocktail of poverty, crime and corruption fuelling a militant threat to the stability of the region and to the country's reliability as a major oil producer. Several steps are required to reverse the situation. The government needs to forge far-reaching reforms to administration and its approach to revenue sharing. Oil companies should involve credible, community-based organisations in their development efforts. And Western governments must pay immediate attention to improving their own development aid.

"Attempts to secure energy production have too often been heavy handed, alienating large segments of the population and boosting support for militants", says Mike McGovern, Crisis Group's outgoing West Africa Project Director. "There have been some laudable attempts to initiate development, but many have been poorly executed or hijacked by outsiders and local elites".

Over the past quarter century, unrest in the Niger Delta has slowly graduated into a guerrilla-style conflict that leaves hundreds dead each year. The battle lines are drawn over the region's crude oil and gas that make Nigeria the number one oil producer in Africa and the world's tenth largest crude oil producer. Since January, fighters from a new group, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), demand the government withdraw troops, release imprisoned local leaders and grant oil revenue concessions to Delta groups.

The Nigerian Federal Government should initiate a credible, sustained dialogue on control of resources with Niger Delta civil society groups, including militants, activist leaders, women and youth drawn from nominees submitted by councils of regional ethnic groups. The state governments ought to engage more fully with professional non-governmental organisations that demonstrate a capability and willingness to assist communities to take responsibility for their own development.

Energy companies should improve measures to ensure transparency of contracts and other community payments, including for surveillance, development projects and compensation for land use and pollution.

The international community should press the Nigerian government to institute resource-control reforms and negotiate in good faith with Niger Delta groups, and encourage oil companies headquartered in their countries to be transparent about revenue and payments.

"Immediate action on these issues is crucial if open conflict is to be averted", says Suliman Baldo, Director of Crisis Group's Africa Program.


Executive Summary and Recommendations

A potent cocktail of poverty, crime and corruption is fuelling a militant threat to Nigeria's reliability as a major oil producer. Since January 2006, fighters from a new group, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), have fought with government forces, sabotaged oil installations, taken foreign oil workers hostage and carried out two lethal car bombings. MEND demands the government withdraw troops, release imprisoned ethnic leaders and grant oil revenue concessions to Delta groups. The Nigerian government needs to forge far-reaching reforms to administration and its approach to revenue sharing, the oil companies to involve credible, community-based organisations in their development efforts and Western governments to pay immediate attention to improving their own development aid.

The root causes of the Delta insurgency are well known. Violence, underdevelopment, environmental damage and failure to establish credible state and local government institutions have contributed to mounting public frustration at the slow pace of change under the country's nascent democracy, which is dogged by endemic corruption and misadministration inherited from its military predecessors. Nigeria had estimated oil export revenues of $45 billion in 2005 but the slow pace of systemic reforms and the lack of jobs, electricity, water, schools and clinics in large parts of the Delta have boosted support to insurgents such as MEND. Militants appeal to the kind of public disaffection that prompted ethnic Ogoni leader Ken Saro-Wiwa to protest the military-led government and Royal Dutch/Shell before his execution in November 1995.

A decade later, the potential consequences of this conflict have escalated in both human and economic terms across a swathe of territory 30 times the size of Ogoniland. Nigerian and international military experts have recognised that the crisis requires a negotiated political resolution. Any attempt at a military solution would be disastrous for residents and risky for the oil industry. Most facilities are in the maze of creeks and rivers that are particularly vulnerable to raids by well-armed militants with intimate knowledge of the terrain. But inaction risks escalating and entrenching the conflict at a time when tensions are already rising in advance of the 2007 national elections.

MEND increasingly serves as an umbrella organisation for a loose affiliation of rebel groups in the Delta. It has not revealed the identity of its leaders or the source of its funds but its actions demonstrate that it is better armed and organised than previous militant groups. Observers warn that a worst-case scenario could lead to a one to two-year shutdown of the oil industry in the Delta, where most of Nigeria's 2.3 million daily barrels of crude oil originate.

Illegal oil "bunkering" - theft - has accelerated the conflict and provided militant and criminal groups with funds to purchase arms. Another source of funding are the discreet payments oil companies make to militant leaders in return for "surveillance" and protection of pipelines and other infrastructure. This practice, frequently cloaked as community development, has fueled conflict through competition for contracts and by providing income to groups with violent agendas. Oil companies also pay allowances, perks - and sometimes salaries - to "supernumerary police", as well as regular duty police and soldiers deployed to protect oil installations. Security forces consider these plum postings and are alleged to use excessive force to protect company facilities and their jobs.

President Olusegun Obasanjo's government has begun important reforms but these must be deepened if peace is to succeed. Yet, his government has downplayed the seriousness of the insurgency. Senior officials have dismissed the militants as "mere" criminals and defended security crackdowns that have embittered locals, making it easier for armed groups such as MEND to gain new recruits. In an effort to deflect growing public impatience, government officials have demanded oil companies spend ever larger amounts on community projects. Oil industry officials counter that, after taxes and royalties, the federal government collects the vast majority of earnings on a sliding scale - 90 per cent of industry profits when oil prices are above $60. The companies rightly place the primary responsibility for political solutions to the crisis - including increased development - on the government but they also chafe at the suggestion that their own development strategies have failed.

Transparent and participatory development schemes can foster hope and accountability in Delta communities. Development efforts led by the European Commission and Pro-Natura International provide models for an approach that could reverse the cycle of poverty and violence - but only if their scale is significantly broadened to include a wide range of groups in oil producing areas. Government must also tackle corruption by making development initiatives more transparent. Otherwise, even dramatic increases in spending will be wasted.

Recommendations

To Nigeria's Federal Government: 1. Initiate a credible, sustained dialogue on control of resources with Niger Delta civil society groups, including militants, activist leaders, religious leaders, women and youth drawn from nominees submitted by councils of ethnic groups in the Niger Delta states.

2. Institute while this dialogue is proceeding a derivation formula of between 25 and 50 per cent of mineral resources, including oil and gas, to all Nigerian states, and phase this in over five years in order to avoid budgetary shock to non-oil producing states and to encourage exploration and production of other mineral resources throughout Nigeria.

3. Amend or repeal the 1978 Land Use Act to expand the opportunity for communities to seek compensation for land through legal means and to allow a more transparent adjudication process of potential land seizures.

4. Seek in parallel with the dialogue on control of resources an agreement with militants that includes a phased withdrawal of troops from Delta towns, concurrent with a weapons-return amnesty program that pays militants and gang members market rates for guns and enrols them in skills and job training and that pays attention as well to the needs of girls and women who may not carry guns but have roles within those bodies (such as forced wives or cooks).

5. Bring the increasing number of quasi-independent local government institutions formally into federal structures as part of an effort to rationalise local governments in Niger Delta states, particularly in areas where these are unworkably large or combine substantively distinct ethnicities or communities.

6. Ensure that security force personnel are paid on time and in full in order to help prevent dependency on oil company payments and illicit and corrupt practices; increase enforcement of penalties for corruption and consider raising salaries; clarify the chain of command; and change the uniform of the "supernumerary police" that provide security services for the energy companies.

7. Refashion the government/transnational oil company joint ventures that control production to offer residents a substantial ownership stake along the lines of what corporate majors including Royal/Dutch Shell, ExxonMobil and Conoco have done in Canada's Arctic.

To the State Governments:

8. Engage more fully with professional, non-governmental organisations that demonstrate a capability and willingness to assist communities to take responsibility for their own development.

9. Accelerate steps to implement poverty reduction strategies outlined in State Economic Empowerment and Development Strategies (SEEDS) that have been developed in conjunction with Nigeria's national umbrella anti-poverty strategy, NEEDS.

10. Make budget details publicly available and respond to queries about specific spending patterns and projects.

To the Energy Companies:

11. Improve measures to ensure transparency of contracts and other community payments, including for surveillance, development projects and compensation for land use and pollution, and in particular:

(a) honour company commitments and ensure that payments are made in full, by bank transfer - not in cash - to the intended recipients;

(b) conclude agreements wherever possible that provide for individuals and local communities to be compensated for land use and pollution; and

(c) seek independent mediation or arbitration when agreements are in dispute.

12. Prioritise long-term ability to operate in Nigeria over short-term production goals and seek community assent before proceeding with production-related projects.

13. Develop partnerships with non-governmental, community-based bodies with a demonstrated ability to provide skills training and capacity building for development projects, including women's and religious groups that have played significant roles in mediating among various ethnic groups and actors in the past decade.

To the U.S., the EU and EU Member States with major oil interests in Nigeria (the UK, France and Italy):

14. Press the Nigerian government to institute resource-control reforms and negotiate in good faith with Niger Delta groups, and encourage oil companies headquartered in their countries to be transparent about revenue and payments.

15. Condition assistance to the government upon greater transparency in federal and state budgets, particularly with regard to energy revenues.

16. Lobby China and India to sign the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.

To the United Nations and the wider International Community:

17. Offer the good offices of a neutral country without oil interests in Nigeria to mediate between the federal government and Delta groups, an idea already accepted in principle by MEND.

18. Consider delaying or postponing cooperation with state governments that have a poor record for delivering public services or controlling graft, and do not work with government or party officials who provide weapons or funding to armed groups for political purposes.


No respite for people of Niger Delta

July 26, 2006

Integrated Regional Information Networks
http://www.irinnews.org

[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

Yenagoa, 26 Jul 2006 (IRIN) - When oil began seeping from pipelines owned by Italian oil company Agip recently, Nigerian newspapers reported that the spill was caused by sabotage.

Agip denied it had been forced to cut production because of an alleged attack, but acknowledged that its network had been damaged and that repairs were underway.

It is unclear exactly what happened to the Agip pipelines but that is nothing unusual in Nigeria's troubled delta region, where sabotage, accidents, oil siphoning and deteriorating infrastructure all mean the same thing to millions of local villagers: more pollution.

"Oil spills have become a great environmental tragedy in Nigeria, polluting streams, farmlands, the air and destroying lives," said Nnimmo Bassey, head of Environmental Rights Action (ERA), which is affiliated with the international environmental group Friends of the Earth.

Prior to the oil boom of the 1970s, Nigeria's main exports were agricultural products. Although the majority of the population identifies farming as their livelihood, investment in the agricultural sector over the years has been sidelined in favour of oil.

Since December last year, more than 10 major oil or gas pipelines have been blasted allegedly by militants belonging to the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND). Foreign oil workers are routinely taken hostage, although they are released within days or weeks unharmed.

Nigeria's oil output has been slashed about one-quarter because of recent leaks, sabotage and unrest in the delta.

Royal Dutch Shell, Nigeria's biggest oil producer, said on Tuesday that a leak to an oil pipeline in Rivers State had cut its output there by 180,000 barrels per day. The source of the leak was not immediately clear.

Militants claim to be fighting for an increased share of oil wealth for the delta's inhabitants, many of whom live without electricity, running water or access to education. Although the country now has a democratic government after decades of military rule, the people of the Niger Delta complain that little has changed in terms of their standard of living.

Environmental Damage

Each pipeline blast has caused a major oil spill, and in one case in December at least eight people were killed when a fire borne by an oil slick swept through their homes.

In the report "Nigeria: Want in the Midst of Plenty," the Brussels-based Crisis Group said recently that despite more than US $400 billion in oil revenue over the past three decades, nine out of ten Nigerians live on less than US $2 a day.

Crisis Group said growing tensions in the delta were a direct result of decades of environmental harm and political neglect. While oil companies blame most of the spills on sabotage and vandalism, activist groups insist that more of the damage and spills come from poorly maintained pipelines.

"The spillage has been there long before the militants," said Peter Ajube, spokesman for Ijaw Youths Council (IYC), an influential activist group campaigning for the rights of the delta's dominant ethnic group, the Ijaw.

"We don't like what the militants are doing because we're non-violent, but we know that most of the spills are caused by aged pipelines," said Ajube. "And whenever you have a spill it is the communities in the area that suffer, losing their fishing areas, losing their farms and source of drinking water."

Inhabitants of Igbomotoro, in Bayelsa state, suffered short- and long-term effects from an oil slick that came from a ruptured pipeline on Nun River in July.

"I lost my fishing nets used to trap fish in the river along with a night's catch," said Inikro Alaowei. "I don't expect any harvests either later this year from my cassava farm, which was also affected."

A communal forest serving Igbomotoro was also swamped by the oil, destroying a source of food and traditional plant medicines.

Alienated from Land and Resources

Community members expect no solace since oil companies as a tradition do not pay compensation for ecological damage caused by sabotage. The rationale is to discourage wilful vandalism in expectation of compensation, a practice the companies blame for a larger share of oil spills than the activists and the communities accept.

In other cases, residents damage pipelines in an effort to siphon oil to sell. The practice, known as 'bunkering', is highly dangerous. Scores and sometimes hundreds of people die each year if the gushing fuel catches fire as they scramble to scoop it up.

The heightened threat to the environmental health of the Niger Delta resulting from oil operations are highlighted in a recent human development study published by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Nigeria.

"Oil spills and gas flares in particular have destroyed natural resources central to local livelihoods," said the report. Gas flaring produces greenhouse gases and exposes communities to heat, noise and air pollution.

The UNDP report said people in the delta have been alienated from their land and resources, leaving them frustrated with both the oil companies and governments that have failed to regulate them.

Royal Dutch Shell, the biggest international oil operator in Nigeria, accounting for roughly half the country's exports of 2.5 million barrels daily, also has more onshore operations in the delta than other major oil companies. Figures released by the company show it has more than 1,000 oil wells in the region linked by more than 6,000 km of pipeline network.

Shell acknowledges the extent of its presence in the delta poses a major environmental challenge, which it says it is working hard to manage.

"Our environmental programme is geared towards reducing the negative impact of our operations on the environment," Shell states on its website. In this regard the company has since 1997 made environmental sustainability a key principle to be considered in all business undertakings. This has resulted in increased environmental monitoring and more rapid response to remedy situations created by spillages.

Lack of Enforcement

Inyang Duke, an environmental expert from the University of North Carolina visiting Nigeria, said strict enforcement of regulations is key to improving environmental practices in the delta.

Nigeria recently acquired patrol boats to help monitor the delta. However, observers say it is difficult to affectively monitor much of the region because of dense mangroves.

"Nigeria has the right (environmental) regulations and policies but lacks the technical capacity to implement and enforce them," Duke said.

One major reason for this failure is the government's awkward position as regulator and primary beneficiary with the majority stake in joint venture operations run by oil multinationals that produce nearly all the country's oil, said Duke.

"You have to separate the regulated from the regulator; there must be no conflict of interest," he said.


AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

AfricaFocus Bulletin can be reached at africafocus@igc.org. Please write to this address to subscribe or unsubscribe to the bulletin, or to suggest material for inclusion. For more information about reposted material, please contact directly the original source mentioned. For a full archive and other resources, see http://www.africafocus.org


Read more on |Nigeria||Africa Peace & Security||Africa Politics & Human Rights||Africa Economy & Development|

URL for this file: http://www.africafocus.org/docs06/nig0608.php