Developmental Implications of a Region: The Case of the Niger Delta

By Bribena, E. K. | Gender & Behaviour, July 2017 | Go to article overview

Developmental Implications of a Region: The Case of the Niger Delta


Bribena, E. K., Gender & Behaviour


INTRODUCTION

Some amazing paradoxes have come from the development of the Niger Delta region. Ordinarily, the Niger Delta should be a gigantic economic reservoir of national and international importance. Its rich endowments of oil and gas resources feed methodically into the international economic system, in exchange for massive revenues that carry the promise of rapid socio-economic transformation within the delta itself. In reality, the Niger Delta is a region suffering human rights abuse, administrative neglect, crumbling social infrastructure and services, high unemployment, social depravation, abject poverty, filth and squalor, and endemic conflict arising from the untenured operations of transnational oil corporations (UNDP, 2009: 9).

The position of the political leaders on resource control has thrown up a major debate on the vexed issue of federalism in Nigeria. The challenges of the Niger Delta have laid bare the fact that the nation's search for stable society and good governance, has to do with deviations from the principles of the present practice of federalism.

The Niger Delta is Africa's largest delta, covering some 70,000 square kilometres. About one-third of this area is wetland, including the largest mangrove forest and fresh water swamps in the world (Brandom, 2006). Most of Nigeria's oil comes from this heavily populated region and adjoining offshore.

The Nigerian state is a neo-colonial state whose character has been deeply affected by the dynamism generated from the colonial experience and the attendant weak development of capitalist relations in terms and scope allowed the transnational oil corporations in their exploitation and exploration of these natural resources (Festus, 2008: 186). Consequently, it interposes coercion in economic processes, and easily assumes authoritarian form because of its conceptualization by the ruling elite as an agency for the transformation of society (Eboe, 1984: 17). As such, the repression of popular demand and of dissent is justified by the state as playing an integrative political role or what some refer to as nation building (Mariam, 2004: 628). The integrative role results from the inchoate and fragmented multi-form society which colonialism created. Development becomes consistent with centralization of power and repression of dissent.

This paper, then, hinges upon the understanding that the emergence of centralization in Nigeria's post-colonial politics has resulted in the expropriation and under-development of the Niger Delta region (Tobias et al., 2007). The emergence of centralizing trends arose largely from the clamour by political elites for a strong interventionist state to facilitate accumulation (Onimode, 1982: 142). Thus, the high stakes of the central government in the control of crude oil became an important channel for the dominant elite to facilitate the process of appropriating the oil wealth for private use at the expense of oil-producing communities of the Niger Delta.

The interest of the Nigerian state, which represents an over-centralized federation of ruling elites from the larger ethnic groups, is to continuously produce oil. Acting against the background of a neo-colonial state, these forces employ a continuum of strategies to retain control of oil revenue. The expropriation of this revenue has produced a variety of negative consequences for the communities in the Niger Delta. This has led to the emergence of various forms of community movement groups like the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND) led by Ateke Tom and Movement for the Survival of Ogoni Peoples (MOSOP) led by the late Ken Saro-Wiwa, who was brutally and arbitrarily killed by the Nigerian Government for organizing peaceful protests in defence of the massive abuse of human rights and environmental degradation in Ogoniland by transnational oil corporations.

Oil and gas have become one of the most lucrative sources of wealth and now the most important energy source of the world (Amaogbari, 2009). …

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