Monday, February 06, 2006

Who's "unstable"? Nigeria & oil

As always, Gwynne Dyer identifies the underbelly for us: Bush's addiction to oil
Last year, less than one-fifth of that imported oil came from the Middle East, so achieving Bush's stated goal would only bring the share of imported oil in U.S. consumption back to the level of 2001.
And much of it would still come from "unstable parts of the world."
The three largest sources of American oil imports are Canada, Venezuela and Nigeria.
Canada is stable but Venezuela is definitely not, mainly because the U.S. keeps trying to destabilize it.
[...] Since mid-December two major pipelines have been blown up in the Niger Delta, home to all Nigeria's oil. Nine people were killed in an attack on the Italian oil company Agip.
Four foreigners were kidnapped from an offshore rig (and later released, presumably on payment of a large ransom).
And at least 17 people died in a motorboat raid on a Shell flow station in the swamps around Warri.
MEND [Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta] is the latest expression of the seething dissatisfaction of the region's 20 million people with the fact that all that oil has brought them so little prosperity.
All Nigeria's 129 million people have a legitimate grievance, for most of the $350 billion the country has earned from oil exports in the past fifty years has been stolen by a narrow politico-military elite, but only the people of the Delta live amidst the pollution the oil causes and only they can take direct action.
This is not a new problem. For more on the trouble in the Nigerian Delta, see last week's Knight Ridder article "Unrest in Nigeria's Delta region could fuel rise in oil prices" e.g.:
Even in the territory of the Ogoni tribe, which Shell personnel abandoned in 1993 in the face of nonviolent opposition from villagers, little has improved since the company left. Its pipelines still run through Ogoniland, and occasional ruptures lead to oil spills.
In the Ogoni fishing village of Goi, about 50 miles east of Port Harcourt, a spill from a Shell-owned pipeline in September 2004 flowed into the lake and decimated the fish. The spilled crude subsequently caught fire, burning down nearly all the village's mango trees.
There's been no attempt to clean up the spill. Murky brown crude still sits atop the lake, where naked children like to swim.
"They are used to it," said Joseph Gini, 45, a sinewy fisherman.
"We are still suffering," he said. "The people you call politicians are stooges. They make empty promises, and then they take money from oil and carry it away."
Spilled oil can run into creeks, spoiling drinking water. And farmers say that heavy construction has compacted the once-soft dirt, making it hard to grow even hardy crops such as cassava, a regional staple.
Oil companies continue to flare, or burn off, huge quantities of natural gas, which comes up in drilling for crude oil but is less valuable. Plumes of black smoke fill the sky across the Delta, causing air pollution and acid rain.
Last but most importantly: do yourself a favour and checkout Amy Goodman & Jeremy Scahill's piece on the Nigerian Delta "Drilling and Killing: Chevron and Nigeria's Oil Dictatorship"


Blogger tryingtolearn said...

I agree with your post about the anchor effect oil can have in the development of civil society in countries with a good governance deficit. But, Rome, or the Niger Delta in this case, wasn't built in a day.

Both the Paris Club and Fitch Credit Rating have demonstrated a fair level of confidence in the reform schemes of President Obasanjo. Perhaps better days are ahead for the Niger Delta.

Although the time period before the 2007 elections could be difficult.

2/06/2006 2:10 PM  

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