Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Corruption in the Underdevelopment of the Niger Delta in Nigeria

Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Corruption in the Underdevelopment of the Niger Delta in Nigeria

Article excerpt


Since the discovery of crude oil in Nigeria, politics has been largely a scramble for petrodollars (Apter, 1998: 141). Drawing on a World Bank report, Afiekhena (2005: 15) estimates that, "about 80 per cent of Nigeria's oil and natural gas revenues accrue to one per cent of the country's population. The other 99 per cent of the population receive the remaining 20 per cent of the oil and gas revenues, leaving Nigeria with the lowest per capita oil export earning put at $212 per person in 2004." Worse still, most of the wealth that accrues to the one per cent of the Nigerians (the elites) who have ransacked the "national oil cake" ends up outside the country. As Afiekhena (2005: 15) again notes, "Nigeria had an estimated $107 billion of its private wealth held abroad." As a result, not only are most Nigerians excluded from the profits of the oil wealth, most of the wealth has not been invested within the country, contributing to most Nigerians living below the poverty line. Thus, Cyril Obi (2010: 443) has argued that oil is more of a curse than a blessing in Nigeria. Such a view is informed by the fact that oil wealth has tended to bleed away the pockets of public officials, warping a country's development and far too often leaving a people destitute. Nowhere is this more obtrusive than in the oil-rich Niger Delta region.

Ordinarily, the Niger Delta region should be a vast economic reservoir of national and international import. Its rich endowments of crude oil and natural gas resources feed methodically into the international economic system, in exchange for massive revenues that hold the promise of rapid socio-economic transformation. Unfortunately, the Niger Delta region remains arguably the poorest and least developed area in Nigeria (Omotola, 2006: 4; cf. Jike, 2004: 686-701; Ibeanu, 2000). The region is home to deep ironies. Life expectancy is falling in an age of blockbuster oil prices. Energy availability is epileptic in a region that provides one-fifth of the energy needs of the United States. The Niger delta needs to import fuel despite producing over two million barrels of crude oil per day! There is an almost total lack of paved roads in a region whose wealth is funding huge infrastructural development in other parts of Nigeria and expensive peacekeeping activities in other parts of Africa (UNDP, 2006: 151-159). For many inhabitants of the Niger Delta region, progress and hope, much less prosperity, remain effectively out of reach.

Conflict theories have shown that when a cultural group's shared grievances about unfair treatment are combined with a strong sense of group identity, there is a tendency for the outbreak of violent responses against the source of their deprivation, either real or imagined (Omotola, 2006; Gurr, 1994: 347-377; Osaghae, 2005: 100-119). Thus, on account of the deepening contradictions in the Niger Delta, "there has been a growing wave of mobilization and opposition by ethnic minority groups against their perceived marginalisation, exploitation and subjugation in the Nigerian Federation" (Suberu, 1996: 2). Any peaceful protest by the people and popular movements is often met with the leviathan of official violence and repression. This became acute under military rule. As Ken Saro-Wiwa (1996: 43) commented during his fathom trial by the Abacha junta: "The Nigerian military dictatorship survives on the practice of violence and the control of the means of violence."

While repression can silence or curtail group action, it has the net effect of radicalizing movement action, "as violence under this condition becomes the easiest of all options available for use by disadvantaged group because it does not have a high threshold of social transaction costs in terms of preparation and is also easier for isolated, illiterate and local groups to imitate" (Osaghae et al 2007: 6).

Given the above, the paper is predicated on the thesis that corruption breeds underdevelopment and political instability in the Niger Delta. …

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