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A story posted this week from correspondents in Enugu, Nigeria working with the Agence France-Presse, reveals that raids by the police have found an apparent network of baby “farms” in Nigeria. http://www.news.com.au/story/0,27574,24650838-23109,00.html Twenty teenage girls were rescued earlier this year from a hospital in Enugu.
"Business Not As Usual"
Conflict over the oil resource in Nigeria is not an issue that can be simplified into a single driving cause. The issue is complex and cuts across the topics of violence, environmental degradation, and democratic representation in the Niger Delta. These topics within the issue of conflict over oil encompass political, economic, and social histories where effects can be seen at the local, state national, and international levels. The conflict over oil is largely fueled by the financial interest of western Multinational Oil Corporations. With over 80% of the Nigerian federal revenue being supplied by oil exports to foreign countries, the US in the lead, it is not difficult to identify one of the driving factors of Nigeria's oil conflict. The Chevron Oil Company has established itself as a formidable force within Nigeria's oil fields, particularly in the Bayelsa State. Chevron and its partners have held a presence in Nigerian oil discovery and production since the Gulf Oil Company's first off-shore mining in Okan conducted in 1963. In Bayelsa State there have been frequent kidnapping and attacks carried out by youth, citizens and militias unhappy with the environmental degradation and distribution of the oil wealth. Chevron, among other oil corporations, has been accused of exploiting local rivalries and ethnic differences as well as assisting the government in carrying out raids on communities hostile to Chevron's presence. More recently Chevron has changed its position from one of suppressing local communities' concerns to increasing development assistance and community investment. The effectiveness of these new programs will help to determine the stability of Niger Delta region in the future as other Multinational Oil Corporations recognize the importance of engaging local communities instead of forcibly suppressing their growing concerns.
(disclaimer: lengthy research paper below)
I recently read a recommended article from New York Times about a young woman terribly wounded by the wanton gunfights that have encompassed her neighborhood in the Niger Delta. The violence of the region is usually aimed at international oil corporations, their workers, and the police and government soldiers. But now the violence is focused at the internal as opposed to the external. The very people who are at the heart of the oil issue and conflict are being hurt and killed in the sights of the unhappy gangs of militias. The young and old are forced to flee the fighting when gangs enter and occupy their relatively peaceful villages.
Oil fouls everything in southern Nigeria. It spills from the pipelines, poisoning soil and water. It stains the hands of politicians and generals, who siphon off its profits. It taints the ambitions of the young, who will try anything to scoop up a share of the liquid riches--fire a gun, sabotage a pipeline, kidnap a foreigner.
Nigeria's economic focus on the trade of oil can be reversed from being its greatest downfall to being its greatest achievement. Currently, Nigeria's economy is fueled and supported by the energy sector and the international trade system. Nigeria is Africa's largest exporter of oil, being the number one exporter to China and the fifth largest supplier to the US. However, the corruption of the government, the un-diversified economy, political instability, and poor management has led to an over-dependence on the oil sector. The oil sector currently supplies 20% of Nigeria's GDP, 95% of its foreign exchange earnings, and 80% of its budget revenues. The oil sector has not led to an end to the crushing poverty of Nigeria and this leads many to join the rebel groups combating foreign involvement and trade. Nigeria used to be a large exporter of food, but with an emphasis on fossil fuels and a growing population, the agriculture sector could not keep up and now the consequences can be seen.