Saturday, February 20, 2010


Globalization and the Niger Delta Crisis
Ebienfa, Kimiebi Imomotimi
Department of Political Science,
University of Ibadan,

Nwaodike, Chibuzor A.
Department of Political Science and Public Administration,
Babcock University.


It is truism that the Niger Delta region epitomizes a dialectics of wealth and power. However, the fan shaped oil rich Niger Delta as the bedrock of the Nigerian economy remains one of the least developed parts of the country. This scenario has thrown up debate among academics and waves of crisis in the region which are attributed to long years of neglect, marginalization among others in the region. Hence, the advent of restive’ and militant groups, that presently characterize the region.

The paper argues that internationalization of the Niger Delta Crisis is an offshoot of globalization. The reason being that, advances in communication and information technologies, now have serious implications and outcomes on the Niger Delta Crisis.

The paper focuses on the activities of the Nigerian State, Militant Groups and Multinational Corporation and concludes that globalization has helped to reveal the activities of the Nigerian State and Multinationals. More so, it has swell up the capacity of Militant Groups with direct implications on oil and gas production.

Key words: Globalization. Niger Delta, Nigerian State.

Nigeria is again the cynosure of the global eye following the recent crises in the Niger-Delta region. The crises spanning from struggles driven by the quest for equal access to critical oil resources and power, self determination, ethnic autonomy, revenue allocation politics and the decentralization of a hegemonic federal power in the context of shrinking oil reserves (Obi, 2006). The region known to be one of the most blessed in human and material resources and fetched Nigeria over 90% of its revenue is however, left in its trail poverty, frustration and underdevelopment.
The Niger Delta, which derives its name from River Niger, is one of the world largest wetlands covering some 70,000km2 formed by the accumulation of sedimentary deposits transported by the Niger and Benue Rivers (Azaiki, 2007:1, World Bank Report; 1993:1).The Niger Delta Communities have settled in the area for many millennia with the Ijaws being the oldest group, having lived there for over 7,000 years (Alagoa, 2000:3). Geographically, the Niger Delta consist of areas identified with deltaic characteristics in the southern part of Nigeria which include Bayelsa, Rivers and Delta State) and parts of Akwa Ibom, cross River, Edo and Ondo states. This means, the idea of categorizing all oil producing states as Niger Delta is wrong. Over 7 million Nigerians inhabit the area with over 20 ethnic groups and about 800 communities (Okoko and Ibaba 1997:57).
The Niger Delta is the hub of oil and gas production in Nigeria, accounting for about 80% of total government revenue, 95% of foreign exchange earnings, 95% of National Budget and over 80% of National wealth (Tell, February 18, 2008:33). The oil Industry in the Niger Delta is dominated by multinational corporations such as chevron Texaco, Exxon-Mobil, Total, Agip, SPDC, ELF and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).Presently, there are over 600 oil fields 5,284 Onshore and Offshore oil wells, 10 Export Terminals, 275 flow stations, 4 refineries and Liquefied National Gas project (Lubeck, Watts & Lipschutz, 2007:5). As at 2007, statistics shows that about 23,183.9 billion barracks of crude oil were said to have been produced in the Niger Delta which amounts to a staggering national revenue of 29.8 trillion naira (Tell, February 18, 2008:28).
Paradoxically, despite this tremendous natural resource base, the Niger Delta region represents one of the extreme situations of poverty and underdevelopment. Infrastructural development is very low, while poverty and unemployment level is about 80%, and unemployment ranks 85%. Access to basic social amenities is very limited. Indeed the region falls below the national average in all measures or indicators of development (Ibaba, 2005:13-14). The cost of living in the Niger Delta is very high and even the prices of petroleum producers are some of the highest in the country. Various attempt to redress the situation have resulted to government failing to play the role of a father and resorted to brutalization of the peace of the Niger-Delta through her impatience with, and violent intolerance of protest against the quagmire in the sub-region. The arrest, trial and sentencing to death of Isaac Boro and his colleagues for their protest against the suppression of the Izon in particular and the Niger Delta in general in 1966, the inspired murder of the Ogoni four as a preface to the judicial murder of Ken Saro-Wiwa and his colleagues in 1995; the murderous sack of Kaiama in 1998 on the first anniversary of the “Kaiama Declaration”; the massacre of Odi in 1999 are simply a dimension of that violent intolerance of protest (Ekpebu, 2008).
Thus, these acts of violence could have been targeted at oil corporations and the federal government whom are the primary beneficiaries of the oil region at the expense of the local people, the truth of the matter is that, the crises which had taking a different shape are intended to be heard around the world, and has drawn not only national recognition, but had captured international attention as well. The paper seeks to examine the influences of globalization to the Niger Delta crises, the terrain at which the crises occur, i.e. the Niger Delta, the nature of the Nigerian State, activities of the key players, Oil theft in the region, the effect of the crises to global oil price. The paper employs descriptive and analytical method in examining globalization and the crisis in the Niger Delta. Secondary data is used to source for information. These include relevant textbooks, journals, magazines, newspaper and internet.
The review of related literature on the concept of “globalization” reveals that is the greater movement of people, goods, capital and ideas due to increased economic integration which in turn is propelled by increased trade and investment. It is more or less like moving towards living on a borderless world.
According to Jan Scholte (1997) globalization refers to processes whereby social relations acquire relatively distance – less and borderless qualities, so that human lives are increasingly played out in the word as a single place. Social relations – that is, the countless and complex ways that people interact with and affect each other – are more and more being conducted and organized on the bases of a planetary unit. By the same token country locations, and in particular the boundaries between territorial states, are in some important senses becoming less central to our lives, although they do remain significant globalization is thus an on-going trend whereby the world has – in many respects and at a generally accelerating rate become one relatively borderless social sphere”.
Whereas the above definition views globalization from social relations perspective, United Nations relates it in economic context. That is, “the reduction and removal of barriers between national borders in order to facilitate the flow of goods, capital, services and labour …. although considerable barriers remain to the flow of labour…”
Aja Akpuru-Aja and Emeribe (2000) went further to define it in international political economy perspective, that is, “globalization reflects the greater openness of national and international economies to greater flows of trade, finance, capital, high technology, foreign direct investment (FDI), and market integration offerings. The engineering mechanism of globalization remains the revolution in science and technology, particularly as it affects transportation and electro-communication systems. The net result is the creation of a global village, a single market system, a global factory and global office. One result of globalization is grotesque and dangerous polarization between peoples and countries benefiting form the system and those that are merely recipients and reactionaries of the effects”.
Saskia Sassen (2006) argue that a good part of a globalization consists of an enormous variety of micro-process that begin to denationalize what had been constructed as national – whether policies, capital, political subjectivities, urban spaces, temporal frames, or any other of a variety of dynamics and domains.
Norom Chomsky (2006) opine that the word globalization is also used, in a doctrinal sense to describe the neoliberal form of economic globalization. Whereas, Thomas L. Friedman examined the impact of the “flattening” of the world and argue that globalised trade, outsourcing, supply-changing and political forces have changed the world permanently, for both better and worse. He contend that the pace of globalization is quickening, and will continue to have a growing impact on business organization and practice.
Herman E. Daly (2006) went further to differentiate between globalization and internationalization. Although they are used interchangeably, but he argue that there is a significant formal difference between them. In his words, “the term internationalization refers the importance of international trade, relations, treaties etc. Owing to the (hypothetical) immobility of labour and capital between or among nations”.
Thus, globalization is the sharing of goods, services, knowledge and cultures between people and countries, but in recent years improved technologies and a reduction of barriers means the speed of exchange is much faster. It provides opportunities and challenges. Bigger markets can mean bigger profit which leads to greater wealth for investing in development and reducing poverty in many countries. Weak domestic policies, institutions and infrastructure and trade barriers can restrict a country’s ability to take advantages of the changes. Each country makes decisions and policies that position them to maximize the benefits and minimize the challenges presented by globalization.

The chief role of the state is the maintenance of social and political order in society. This however has been a subject of debate and contention between liberalism and maxism. The point of argument here is on whose favour the state imposes order. The liberal view is that, the state is neutral in the exercise of power and therefore, it does not promote one interest against other. The Marxist view of the state on the other hand contends that the state favour the interest of the ruling class that controls it (Ekekwe, 1986:10). Thus, in a capitalist state like Nigeria, the state promotes the interest of the bourgeosie which controls it. And from an available evidence, the state plays this role through legislation (Okodudu & Girigiri, 1998:34). It is thus not surprising that the laws cum policies of the Nigerian state reflects the interest of the dominant ruling class. The obnoxious laws that govern the oil industry such as the petroleum Act of 1969, land use Art of 1978 etc. disempowers the Niger Deltas from benefiting from the resources produced in their domains.
Following a critical performance evaluation of the Nigerian State, particularly after the legendary inflow of petro dollar (since the 1970’s) scholars have described the Nigerian state as exploitative, cruel, and irresponsible (Ake, 1981, Okowa, 2005), illegitimate, oppressive and repressive (Okaba; 2003), weak, captured, dependent and hegemonic (Orugbani 2002) ethnically factionalised and privatized by a class of kleptocratic elites to protect their tenuous relationship to the productive forces (Etemini, 2004) and lacks autonomy (Ake, 2001).The ruling class capitalizes on the character of the state to direct state resources to their selfish interest cum aggrandizement. The people are thus disconnected from the state that purportedly exists to protect their interest, and that captures reality in the Niger Delta.
Hardly a day passes, without reports in the international and local news media on the growing insurgency by armed militias in Nigeria’s oil rich province, the Niger Delta. There are two incontrovertible facts about the Niger Delta region of Nigeria: First, it is a region of strategic importance to both the domestic and international economics. Secondly, it is a region of great and troubling paradox. It is an environment of great wealth as well as inhuman poverty (Inokoba and Imbua; 2008:643).The dilemma of the region is that, its wealth and riches has become a source of poverty, squalor and curse to the people of the oil bearing communities. The truth is that, despite its invaluable contribution to the sustenance of the Nigerian State, the Niger delta is now home to some of Africa’s poorest people and some of its worst cases of environmental destruction. In return for their generosity, and patriotism, Nigeria has rewarded the Niger Delta with severe neglect and abandonment, political and economic deprivation, mindless looting of revenue generated from the region, joblessness, biochemical poisoning through pollution, brutal military assaults (as well as occupation) (www. has been put in the reverse in most Niger Delta communities. For instance, the best Nigerian state could do to immortalize Oloibiri (where oil was first discovered) thus far has been the erection of a commemorative pillar cum foundation stone for a non-existent Nigerian institute for oil and Gas research besides the No. 1. Oil well in March 2001.
It is truism that the power relations of the MNCS with their host states is said to be sophisticated, ruthless, hegemonical, secretive, unorthodox, exploitative, treacherous, greedy, opportunistic, criminalized and corrupt (Watts 1999, Obi 2001). They are self interested, insensitive and poorly responsive to local and regional dimensions of environmental issues (Warper 1996) and hostile to civil society (Makumbe, 1998). In the Niger Delta therefore, interest of the Oil multinational is squarely profit maximization and they thus disregard existing global environmental regulations and laws and capitalized in their weaks and ineffective enforcement and implementation.
Globalization has helped to reveal that, naked and surface gas flaming, non challant attitude to oil spillage cases, surface pipe laying etc are not obtainable in western countries, where same oil corporations operate. Natural gas, a bye-product of crude oil extraction, could earn the Nigerian government huge revenues. But companies choose to flare it, mainly due to the high cost associated with harnessing gas and low penalty that flaring attracts. And because of the weak and dependent nature of the Nigerian state, gas flaring has continued unabated.
Moreso, the Oil Multinational Corporations through their policies have been implicated in local conflicts through their pay offs to “pro-company groups, elites, militias and chiefs. Such pay offs have either been the object of conflicts or division within and between communities, while some of it has ended up for the payment for arms to unleash further violence on the groups or the oil companies themselves (Obi, 2005:18). The impurity of oil multinationals, therefore have also fueled the crisis in the region.
Therefore, it is not surprising that the consciousness of exploitation, marginalization and disempowerment has made the Niger Delta a region of deep rooted frustration, hence the escalating crisis. That is, the refusal of the Nigerian state to respond positively to the pens and placards of the Saro-Wiwa’s era has created an environment of anger and desperation. Moreso, the dialogue option have equally failed because the Nigerian state have refused to implement numerous blue prints for development in the region. The youths have militarilised the resource control struggle to press home their demands.
The most potent militant group engaging in local resistance, but targeting a global audience is the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND). MEND has launched daring raids into fortified oil installations onshore and offshore and kidnapped foreign oil workers, detonated explosive devices near oil compounds, and fought pitched battles on land and sea with Nigeria’s military forces, and publicized its activities on various global media. That is by using the internet to send e-mails and images to the world’s leading news agencies and local newspapers and even taking journalists to its camps in the swamps of the Niger Delta. It has however, gained most attention internationally by its threats to “cripple the Nigeria Oil export (Obi, 2008:16, Junger 2007, IRIN 2006). The advent of GSM in Nigeria, a product of globalization has improved communication. The militants are also using this medium to network and publicize their activities. Obviously, it appears that the militants anger is against government and oil companies which, in tandem with the Oloibiri metaphor are held responsible for the plunder and pollution of the Niger Delta.
Globalized oil is emblematic of the social relations arising from the globalization of oil production and accumulation. This reflects the growing interconnectedness, world-wide of the following: highly industrialized oil consuming countries and developing oil producing countries, oil multinationals and local oil producing communities, and global and local civil society (Obi, 2004:444).
Due to the inter dependent and interconnectedness of the global economy, activities in a sub-structure, directly affects the whole. It is thus factual that where as globalization have facilitated the exploration and production of oil by multinational corporations from the West in the developing countries, it has also made it possible for the Niger Delta crisis to have an impact in the price of oil in the global market.
Nigeria is a member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) since 1971, to maintain a favourable price for oil, OPEC allocated quotas for oil production to its members. The logic is that, unregulated production will lead to surplus oil for sale which win reduce the global price, while regulated production level will lead to stability and increase in the global oil price.Common sensically, the inability of any OPEC member state to meet up its quota of production will invariably result to the reduction in the supply of global oil and hence, increase in price.The production quota for Nigeria in 2008 was 2.45 million barracks per day. But presently, it is 3.2 million barriers per day (Tell, February 18, 2998:26, The Nation, Thursday May 21, 2009:2). Be that as it, the activities of militants in the Niger Delta has made it impossible for Nigeria to realize its quota for production. Infact, the spate of militancy in the Niger Delta has made Nigerian oil fields among the most dangerous in the world.As a result of insecurity of our national borders and the proliferation of arms, armed militant groups operating in the Niger Delta have graduated to a new level of lethality, technical and tactical sophistication. The availability of AK47’s in the Niger Delta has increased tremendously and the militant groups likely poses remote detonation and night vision equipment, a well as anti-aircraft missiles (Ianaccone, A, 2007:2).Statistics shows that production sometimes decline to as low as 1.6million barrels per day (Newswatch, May 4, 2009:16), which alters the global price of oil.
Oil Bunkering is a major factor in the Niger Delta crisis. There are two basic typologies of bunkering in the Nigerian oil industry, which include legal and illegal bunkering. As the name implies, legal bunkering refers to the activities of those licensed to lift crude oil by the Federal government. While illegal bunkering connotes the activities of those who carry out bunkering without government authorization.
The illegal bunkering that presently characterize militant activities in the Niger Delta is a creation of the Nigerian State. The argument is that, those who are licenced to carry out bunkering legally are predominantly non-Niger Deltans. And secondly, those legal bunkers in collaboration with corrupt states officials and the oil companies introduce illegal bunkering in the region.
Experience has shown and there is no denying the fact that, this infamous Nigerians and their foreign counterparts contacted able bodied unemployed youths in the Niger Delta to secure their illegal Bunkering barges to the high sea, where the crude oil is transferred to waiting vessels and money paid in hard currencies. The boys were then paid peanuts, and provided with arms to secure future trips from Customs and Naval patrols. As time goes on, the boys became conscious that, the job they are doing for their masters is highly profitable, and since they have mastered the trade, they decided to set up their own bunkering networks. Today, virtually all militant groups in the Niger Delta are involved in oil theft or bunkering which is made positive by globalization. All they need to do is to identify pipelines heading to the export terminals and then connect their drilling pipes to them. The violent insurgency in the region is thus driven by the lucrative oil smuggling business, and the proceeds are used to procure sophisticated arms and ammunitions.
There is a direct link between globalization and oil theft in the region, because, crude oil tapped by gangs in the oil rich Niger Delta is sold to vessels waiting offshore for onward shipment to the global market (Gilbert, 2009:1). In February alone, the Nigerian military intercepted 22 barges of stolen crude oil in the creeks of the Niger Delta. Although President Umaru Yar’Adua has called for international action to stop the illegal oil trade, and to categorize stolen crude from Nigeria as blood oil, not much has been achieved in that regard.
Foreign business interests are arming the militants in exchange for stolen crude oil. The fact is that the price for crude oil per barrel in the international black market is very cheap, hence western capitalist want the crude desperately and that has continue to fuel the crisis. Nigeria loses about 100,000 barrels of oil per day to crude oil theft and that translates to about 10 million dollars per day. The report of the Technical committee on the Niger Delta estimated that the country lost about N8.84 trillion or 61.6 trillion dollars to oil theft and sabotage in the volatile region between 2006 and 2008 (Newswatch, May 4, 2009:12).Crude oil is not sold in bottles, they use ships. Oil theft is therefore facilitated by the collaborating global actors which is a disadvantage of globalization.
It is now glaring that whereas oil should have been a blessing to the Niger Delta, the fundamental character of the Nigerian State and the exploitative activities of the Oil multinationals have translated basically to negative effects.
This comes in form of dislocation of the local economics, environmental degradation, inter and intra communal crisis, corruption, development crisis, looting and squandering of oil resources etc.
The resource agitations and militant insurgency in the region is thus facilitated by the information of what is obtainable in other oil producing western states, hence the call for redress. But since the militants are feeding on their global bunkering networks to sustain the struggle, much need to be done (locally, nationally and internationally) urgently to curtail the crisis.
The Nigerian State need to be committed to the development of the Niger Delta, especially, massive infrastructural development to open up the region. The multinational corporations should also abide by global environmental standards and better the lots of their host communities. And in terms of bunkering Nigeria should improve security especially in the high sea to delinks the bunkering networks.
Again, those that have criminalized the struggle and their international collaborators must be brought to book, to allow oil to translate to regional prosperity.

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