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Nigeria: Swamps of Insurgency
Aug 13, 2006 (060813)
(Reposted from sources cited below)
"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
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
++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++++++++
The Swamps of Insurgency: Nigeria's Delta Unrest
Africa Report N 115
International Crisis Group
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
(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
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
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
No respite for people of Niger Delta
July 26, 2006
Integrated Regional Information Networks
[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United
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
"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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
"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
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.
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