Polio Eradication Efforts: Militant or Ineffective?

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Smallpox has been globally eradicated since 1980, so why is the eradication of Polio so much more difficult? The World Health Organization (WHO) recently released that the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) would be conducting a new targeted 15 country effort to vaccinate 72 million children in Africa. The new campaign follows numerous failed efforts of the past and reemerging outbreaks. Why does the African continent remain prone to Polio outbreaks that spread rapidly? Why did the organized campaign to eradicate Smallpox take only 21 years while Polio is going on almost 40 years?

Since 1796, when cowpox was used to protect humans from Smallpox, eradication efforts have taken place. It wasn’t until the WHO intensified the eradication of smallpox in 1967 that efforts were coordinated around the world. The Smallpox Eradication Program (SEP) was jointly run by the WHO, CDC, and National Ministries of Health in various countries. Doctors and epidemiologists from the US volunteered to help with the efforts. In many instances US volunteers were overbearing and controlling of their local counterparts. A report by Paul Greenough documented the use of intimidation and coercion in the final stages of the SEP. Foreign volunteers were sent to kick down doors (literally), force vaccination of those who refused, and fix the mistakes of local staff members (1995). These coercive tactics evoked resistance from local communities, but the SEP prevailed. The SEP was run in a structured, militant fashion, where individual human rights were overridden for the global public good. Similar issues with resistance have been seen in Polio eradication efforts, but responses to resistance have not been as militant. Could this be why Polio has continued to resurface?

The earliest documented case of Polio in Africa is traced back to 1580 B.C. in Egypt and still the virus continues to spread across the continent. The eradication of Polio relies heavily on National Immunization Days (NIDs), but these events are ineffective because they aren’t comprehensive vaccination efforts, positive cases are missed and some children aren’t vaccinated causing continued Polio outbreaks. Organized Polio eradication efforts began when the World Health Assembly launched the Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) in 1974, a program implemented through the NIDs . In 1988, the World Health Assembly said that by the year 2000 Polio would be eradicated and they launched the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) to make it happen. Many prominent people and organizations put their support behind the program including Rotary International and Nelson Mandela, who in 1996 launched the “Kick Polio Out of Africa” campaign which vaccinated 420 million children. In the 90s, the UN Secretary General negotiated peace treaties to vaccinate in war-torn Liberia and Sierra Leone. Most recently in 2004, 23 African countries coordinated NIDs focused on Polio vaccination.

After all these efforts, Africa remains the only continent where Polio remains alive and well in multiple countries. A series of studies completed across West Africa showed that due to misconceptions about the vaccine, lack of adequate funding and corruption at the local level, and ineffective immunization campaigns, Polio has persisted on the African continent (Melissa Leach & James Fairhead, 2007). The year 2007 marked an outbreak of 25 cases in Angola which spread to 28 cases in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). In 2008, after an outbreak in northern Nigeria, where there have been vaccination conspiracy theories, spread to a dozen other countries, the WHO made Polio eradication their “top operational priority.”

Armed with a “more effective” version of the oral vaccine, the new GPEI organized effort across 15 countries hopes to eradicate Polio for good. However, just yesterday the New York Times wrote that the WHO reported 104 deaths and 201 cases of paralysis from Polio in the DRC. Is the renewed GPEI effort, launched Oct. 28, 2010, even working? Is eradication even a desirable goal at all, if past experience with Smallpox Eradication Program requires militancy?

Originally written for Americans for Informed Democracy (Dec. 4, 2010), where I wrote as a Global Health Analyst.

dictators and democracies for health

Politics can have serious consequences for health. We need look no further than the US legislature for examples of the politics of health. The recent deeply partisan budget cuts threatened women’s health across the country and debates over the Health Care Bill easily demonstrates a democracy’s inability to provide basic health for everyone in its population. Other examples come from the USDA’s support for corporate farms over the population’s health needs amidst the growing obesity epidemic. Some of the best examples of health being politicized come from our own government, yet we rarely have to think about how the form of our government and political system has an impact on our health.

Whether it is a democracy or a dictatorship, politics influences health. Cuba has long held a spot as one of the top national health care systems as well as one of the top countries for medical education. Their system is completely government-run with no private companies controlling hospitals or clinics. Cuba has been innovative with their computerized system for blood banks, patient records, etc. However, their government is a dictatorship and this has created some negative effects on health (depending on who you talk to). During the 1990s, the loss of Soviet subsidies combined with other political and economic factors created a countrywide famine. Manuel Franco describes the Special Period as,

“the first, and probably the only, natural experiment, born of unfortunate circumstances, where large effects on diabetes, cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality have been related to sustained population-wide weight loss as a result of increased physical activity and reduced caloric intake”.

Recently we have seen the horrifying impacts of dictators and authoritarian regimes crushing their own health care systems at the expense of their populations. In Libya, health workers have been shot at, ambulances have been bombed, and hospitals have been razed. Gadhafi has ruled Libya since leading a bloodless coup d’etat against the then King of Libya.

In nearby Syria, similar atrocities have been committed. A recent video from the protest against the Syrian government showed a pro-government Doctor beating an injured protester out of an ambulance. The main hospital in Deraa has reportedly received 37 bodies of protesters killed. Syria is officially a republic with a constitution and elected leaders. The real story is of a country run by one party handed from father to son that has been governed under “The Emergency Law” which suspends constitutional protections since 1963.

Chris Albon, author of Conflict Health, wrote an informative piece on how the protests in Bahrain are centered on the health care system. Protesters seeking refuge in the hospitals have been denied treatment by government troops and ambulances have been blocked. He notes a new report from Doctors without Borders that says, “the government has attacked and militarized the health system, making protesters and bystanders afraid to seek treatment.” Bahrain is a constitutional monarchy where people have long protested over their lack of personal rights and freedoms.

In another example of the difficulties of democratic politics to support health, Nigeria’s recent elections have fueled intense fighting across the country. Hospitals reported that over 300 people were seen for bullet wounds. The ethnic and religious divisions in Nigeria have long plagued efforts to build a unified democracy. Nigeria’s history of military rule and oil wealth has also exacerbated these divisions. When a democracy can’t hold elections without widespread violence, how can they provide health for their people?

Both dictators and democracies have the potential to instigate situations that have serious health impacts. Whether it is frivolous debate or armed conflict, the politicization of health has lead to serious health deficits around the world. No matter what country you live in there is always room for development when it comes to providing for the health of a population.

Featured on the American for Informed Democracy Blog, where I’m writing as a Global Health Analyst.

From Oppression to Development: Chevron’s Policy Rethink in the Nigeria’s Bayelsa State

Presenting my research in style (photo credit: Nick Micinski, 2008)

As a Research Assistant to Dr. Rita Kiki Edozie in 2008, I participated in researching for Resource Scarcity and Abundance: Oil Democratization, and Conflict it he Niger Delta. The research proposal was submitted to the Global Area Thematic Initiative (GATI) 2006 in conjunction with two other Michigan State University professors.

My research is focused on the tripartite relationship between the Chevron corporations, communities in Nigeria’s Bayelsa state, and the Nigerian government. A relatively new state in Nigeria, Bayelsa is at the tip of the Niger Delta, but has a long history of oil oppression. Oil corporations have long used government forces to violently repress opposition among communities who are unhappy with the exploitation of their resources. More recently oil corporations have started focusing on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) as well as more community friendly development projects.

Related blog posts:

from oppression to development: chevron’s policy rethink in nigeria’s bayelsa state


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.

Tripartite Troubles: An Introduction

The quotations from the previous page refer to the some of the most horrific events related to access to the oil resource of the Bayelsa State of Nigeria. As with many conflict regions, the facts and statistics are far from absolutely accurate, but what can be deduced from these accounts is the terrible violence being committed against the Nigerian people by their own government forces backed by multinational oil corporations (MNOCs). Women are raped, children are murdered, and communities are leveled all in the name of the Chevron Corporation’s continued benefit and that of the Nigerian federal state.

The oil resource has developed into an issue that is deeply rooted historically, politically and socially. MNOCs have been operating in Nigeria as far back as 1908. They have established themselves in communities and have become a driving force for the continued poverty, conflict and environmental degradation. Chevron’s relationship with local and national governments perpetuates conflict over the oil resource in Nigeria and destroys communities.

Price at the Pump: Death

The most well covered aspect of the Nigerian oil resource conflict is the ever-present violence. Since violence is what makes the story for most media outlets that is all the majority of the world thinks when they hear about oil in Nigeria. Since 1999, large-scale conflicts in the Niger Delta have been between ethnic groups, government soldiers and security forces. A recent World Bank report even goes so far to say that protests in the Niger Delta are being, “transformed into something more akin to American gangland fights for control of the drug trade.”

In Bayelsa, a state of emergency was called from December 1999 through January 2000 where 240 people were killed in clashes between Ijaw youth and Nigerian government forces. Four days before the state of emergency was called in response to the killing of six police officers, federal troops entered the town of Odi. The destruction that followed was comprehensive and severe. Many civil rights groups contend that the Odi ‘massacre’ represented the Nigerian government’s determination to control the three oil wells and be, “a signal to other restive oil communities of the wrath that awaited them should they fail to ‘make things smooth and easy for the oil companies’.” The invasion ‘was for oil and oil alone.’ In May 1999, a group of Nigerians filed a lawsuit against Chevron claiming that the corporation had used government military and police to fire on peaceful protestors as well as kill four villagers. Twenty-four Chevron workers repairing an oil pipeline on the Benin River were kidnapped in 2000 by heavily armed youths. A cycle has developed with the increase of violent suppression by MNOCs and the responses of communities and militias to remove Chevron’s influence.

As a response to the increased violence the Joint Task Force (JTF) was created to stabilize the Niger Delta region. Because of the Niger Delta’s importance, producing nearly 80% of the federal government’s revenue, the JTF was created as a direct national interest to protect the MNOCs from further attacks. However, the armed government soldiers of the JTF are often accused of using “heavy-handed” tactics that result in unnecessary death and destruction. An Amnesty International (AI) report stated, “[…] security forces are still allowed to kill people and raze communities with impunity.” This has caused people to start advocacy and activist organizations to combat the abuses. One such group, the Niger Delta Women for Justice (NDWJ) has organized over 1000 multi-ethnic women and the Ijaw Youth Council in a protest march to deliver a letter to a military leader. The letter was a protest against the ‘military occupation,’ human rights abuses, and rape and assault of women in Bayelsa State. Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported in 1999 that, “no fewer than 34 women were apprehended by the soldiers, stripped and beaten in the open.”

The protests and actions by community groups as well as local militias have been many and are a direct result of Chevron’s disregard for local communities. Unfortunately these actions bring brutal repercussions. The year 2002 marked what seemed to be a second major upswing in community actions as a group of women took over the Escravos tank farm in July, effectively making Chevron’s operations impossible followed by the takeover of 4 swamp flow stations. In May of 2007, protestors took over an oil field in Bayelsa State and the Movement for Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) bombed three oil pipelines, disrupting the flow of 100,000 barrels. Just in 2007 there was a long list of kidnappings. An American, Four Italians and a Croat were kidnapped for a month in May from an off-shore Chevron facility in Bayelsa, four US oil workers were kidnapped from a barge near the Chevron Escravos export terminal, twelve people are freed after a month in captivity in Bayelsa State, and more recently the son of a Bayelsa State government official was kidnapped this year from the Bayelsa State-owned Niger Delta University. As a result of these kidnappings and community actions ChevronTexaco froze nearly all of its assets as increased violence left over 100 dead and up to two dozen villages destroyed.

Chevron, like many MNOCs, plays on the local ethnic rivalries. In the case of Bayelsa State Chevron has lent development support to the Itseriki people and not the rival Ijaw.

“Not too long ago, Chevron was accused by the Ijaws of supplying weapons to the Itsekiri and by the Itsekiri of giving money to the Ijaws to buy weapons. […] In the Ilaje community of Ondo state, the American oil giant Chevron procured and flew in armed soldiers who came down very heavily on defenceless peaceful demonstrators who had occupied their Parabe oil facility. Two youths were shot dead and several others injured in that operation that was supervised and directed by Chevron. The Chevron public affairs manager admitted to American journalists that they called in the soldiers and that the protesters were peaceful.”

Chevron has a history of supporting violent intervention by government forces that will quell civil unrest in response to their corporate irresponsibility. Chevron’s relationship with the JTF and other Nigerian military units comes as no surprise since Chevron has long been involved with the numerous military regimes to gain access to the oil. At a meeting that was supposed to include community members and oil corporations Carwil James, Oil Campaigner with Project Underground, a Berkeley-based human rights organization which has supported Niger Delta communities in their struggle for environmental justice, spoke on Chevron’s absence, “Chevron is clearly much more comfortable behind military guns than face to face with the communities it affects.” A communiqué issued by the meeting’s participants called Chevron’s absence “a continuation of the established tradition of transnational corporations treating local people and groups with disdain.” In 2003, after military security reorganization, a team of government troops (army & navy) intervening in the two week Ijaw-Itsekiri ethnic war that crippled oil production in much of Chevron’s Western Niger Delta base were reportedly using Chevron’s Escravos oil export terminal as a base for launching attacks.

“The oil companies, which hire private security firms to protect their facilities, often support such attacks. Chevron Nigeria (a subsidiary of Chevron Texaco), the leading US exporter of Nigerian crude, lent the federal government its terminal at Escravos and its helicopters, so that government forces could raid communities hostile to the company. The oil firms play on local rivalries. Chevron made the Itsekris, who have been vying with the Ijaws since the days of the slave trade, the main beneficiary of its development programme.”

So far the relationship between Chevron and local communities in Bayelsa State has been oppressive, abusive, and dismissive. Development funding has become a weapon in the Niger Delta to ensure conflict between communities, but that violence has increasingly affected the operations of Chevron.

The Military Had to Make One More

The name of Bayelsa State is taken from the acronyms of BALGA for Brass Local Government, YELGA for Yengoa Local Government, and SALGA for Sagbama Local Government. In 1979, the three local governments, formerly of the Rivers State, were combined into a Senatorial District for the purpose of the federal Senate elections. Because of the arbitrary creation of the name, Bayelsa is most often used by politicians and activists. On October 1st, 1996 General Sani Abacha publicly announced the creation of the State and helped to include more people in its usage. The name gained national and worldwide attention after “disturbances following the youth protests against the exploitation of oil resources, political marginalization, and neglect of the Niger Delta region by Nigerian governments and the multinational corporations extracting its oil wealth.” Located in the heart of the Niger Delta, Bayelsa State is comprised by a majority of Ijo people, who make up the predominant ethnicity in the Niger Delta. Bayelsa is now said to be, “a melting pot of Ijo communities, and a highway of contact among communities of Eastern and Western Delta, as well as up the Niger.”

Historically Bayelsa State, initially a region of Rivers State, was demanded as a way of acting on the fear that majority ethnic groups would dominate. The demand for a Rivers State was granted as a way to weaken the political power of the next Nigerian leader. With its creation, it was hoped that Rivers State would appease all regions, but it soon became evident that regions up-river benefited the most form social and economic policies. After a number of regime changes and subsequent demands for a new state on the basis of creating a region for Ijaw people, the Mbanefo Committee of Abacha’s regime approved the creation of Bayelsa State. The Committee recognized that the region of the Niger Delta had been much neglected by past and present state and federal governments and yet produced 40% of the nation’s wealth. It is important and interesting to note that the evolution and creation of Bayelsa State was strongly supported by high-ranking members of the Nigerian military. All of the current 36 States have been created under military regimes as a way to reward or appease various ethnic groups.

With a history of neglect and a founding based on ethnic and military power, it is no wonder that Bayelsa State has become a region of great conflict in regards to the oil resource. The ethnic difference and power structures have been exploited by MNOCs and now the greatest difficulty is bringing communities back together in order to foster development.

Germany, Gulf Oil, and Growth

Beginning of Oil / Development of Chevron in Nigeria
1895 – Oil seepages discovered by German expedition
1908 – Nigerian Bitumen Company of Germany began to drill boreholes
1937 – Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) arrives as first MNC
1947 – First serious oil exploration
1956 – Commercial quantities discovered in Oloibiri
1964 – Gulf Oil Corporation oil discovery in Okan
1960s-70s – Chevron Nigeria Limited (CNL) oil successes
1985 – Chevron buys up Gulf Oil Corporation in Nigeria and Angola
1992 – CNL conducts updates on the Gulf Oil platforms
1996 – Increased oil production across Nigeria by CNL
1997 – CNL begins operating Escravos oil fields including export platform
2000 – Chevron merges with Texaco taking over all Texaco operations in Nigeria

In 1895 a German expedition reported oil seepages along the beaches of the western Nigeria coast. Later in 1908, the Nigerian Bitumen Company of Germany began to drill boreholes to assess the existence of petroleum deposits. The German oil exploration attempts were interrupted by the start of the First World War. The Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) arrived in 1937 only to be stalled by the onset of the Second World War. The beginning of serious oil exploration was able to begin in 1947 and the first successful discovery of commercial quantities of oil came in 1956 in Oloibiri, which is in present day Ogbia Local Government of Bayelsa State. The Gulf Oil Corporation (now owned by Chevron) began oil operations in Nigeria in 1964 with its first discovery in Okan and became one of the top oil exporters in Nigeria. “Further ‘successes’ were recorded by a number of oil companies, including Chevron Nigeria Limited,” (CNL) in the 1960s and 70s. In 1985 Chevron bought up the Gulf Oil Corporation taking over all operations in Angola and Nigeria. In 1992, Chevron conducted updates for all Gulf Oil platforms and significantly increased production by 1996. In 1997, Chevron began operating the Escravos oilfields and began using the Escravos oil export platform. October of 2000 brought yet another bold move by Chevron as it announced the merger of the Texaco Corporation. With these expanded operations Chevron current has 40% interest in 13 oil concessions covering 2.2 million acres across Nigeria. The company holds 32 oil fields, 380 Texaco service stations, and employs 1800 Nigerians.

Chevron has become one of the top three stakeholders in the resource conflict of Nigeria’s petro-state. The only other corporations that control more oil production in Nigeria than Chevron are ExxonMobile and Shell.

Nationalization, Where Does the Money Go?

In 1971, Nigeria nationalized control over its oil reserves in an attempt to deal with the misconduct of MNOCs. In that same year Nigeria joined OPEC putting the MNOCs on the defensive. The lead up to a nationalized oil resource was prefaced by the 1969 Petroleum Decree which placed petroleum ownership completely in the hands of the state. The Nigerian government took over control of equity stakes in joint ventures with the NNPC’s (Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation) creation. The NNPC creates Joint Venture Agreements (JOA) with oil operators. The MNOCs are called operators, but the NNPC reserves the right to become an operator. The Joint Venture between the NNPC (60%) and Chevron Nigeria Limited (40%) is considered the second largest oil producer with roughly 400,000 barrels per day (bpd). CNL plans to increase production to 600,000 bpd.

The revenue collected by the Nigerian government through the NNPC is supposed to trickle down from the federal level to the states and therefore to the people, but this trickle is evident nowhere. “Political disputes over the allocation of oil money in Nigeria have led to sabotage of oil company equipment and attacks on their workers.” The distribution of oil revenue has fueled much of the recent conflicts. The amount of oil revenue has significantly risen from $250 million a year to well over $60 billion a year in 2005. During this increase in revenue and production Nigeria changed from a military dictatorship to a democracy, but those benefiting from oil revenues did not change. Military elites in the government have remained the primary benefactors of the oil industry. The International Security Group reports that a “cancer of corruption” has continued since the first attempt at federal government in 1999. The government, as the NNPC, lost its bargaining power with Chevron and other MNOCs because of its fiscal instability and its inability to cover its share of joint oil ventures. Because of the Nigerian government’s failure to meet the agreement, the oil companies’ disregard for local communities has been reinforced.

At the local government level oil revenues are highly contested. Often times this contest ends with local government’s not receiving revenue from the federal government, or local communities not seeing the results of those revenues as communities leaders sit on large sums of oil wealth.

Some ethnic nationality leaders argue that oil producing state governments should directly appropriate the hard currency generated by sale of crude extracted from their territories, and then allocate up to 20% to the Federal Government. Others contend that local, not state, governments should receive revenues from oil extracted in ‘their’ territory and then share it out among all villages under their authority.

In Nigeria at present, some 13 percent of monthly federal oil revenue goes to producer states through local government or through the Niger Delta Development Commission […]. Revenue sharing between local and national governments is problematic at the fiscal and the political levels. At the political level there are so many layers of government that tax collection and accountability are near impossible to uphold and regulate. As such, this makes the local government revenues highly volatile and uncertain.

From the perspective of most Niger Delta people, the MNOCs are the supreme authority and it does not matter as much what control a local government has or what revenue they collect. MNOCs are able to indirectly intervene in communities by way of vigilante groups, private militias, police, federal military, national and international NGOs. This has helped to create a type of ‘military/ war industrial complex’ in Nigeria’s oil producing states. One community stake-holder claimed, “I can easily mobilise youths I know to stir up trouble and put pressure” on MNOCs.

Descendents of ethno-social pressure groups, leaders assembling a followership around the identity of marginalised youth, development brokers, the staff of oil companies, ‘community development’ departments, and state officials strengthened their bargaining power vis-a` -vis the oil companies and the federal government between 1998 and 2003. They succeeded in challenging the authority of the petro-military alliance and its fragmented offspring.

Observers have noted that the business practices and indirect private governance in Nigeria has created a, “lucrative political economy of war.” While there is contention between states and local governments about oil revenue, the MNOCs have the last word.

Since there is no accountability at almost every level, corruption is found at every level in the Nigerian political system. “The head of Nigeria’s anticorruption agency estimated that in 2003, 70 percent of oil revenues, more than 14 billion dollars, was stolen or wasted.” Interestingly a Western diplomat referred to the issue of oil revenue distribution as, “institutionalized looting of national wealth.” In the oldest oil town of Oloibiri, the population has dropped from 10,000 to 1,000 in the past 30 years. There are many signs of abuse and neglect in Oloibiri and the town now stands more as a forgotten memorial with its signpost reading, “This is Oloibiri, the Goose that lays the Golden Egg.” “There are no roads, no hospital, no potable water and not a single modern industry.” Pollution has turned the surrounding creeks into oily and turbid dead seas. The town consists of thatch houses, shanties, dirt tracks and angry men and women (Akpan, 2004:5) Tom O’Neill of National Geographic reported from Oloibiri:

“[…] a dirt road passes between rough-hewn houses, some roofed with thatch, others with sheets of corroding metal. A small shop offers a few bananas and yams. Inside the only freshly painted structure, a lemon yellow, two-story house, Chief Osobere Inengite of the Ijaw tribe apologizes for the appearance of his town: “Oloibiri is supposed to be compared to Texas,” he said. “I ask you, in Texas have the people in 50 years seen one second of darkness? But look here, we have no light, no water, no food, no jobs.”

The chief looked prosperous. He was wearing an ornate black-and-purple robe, a chunky coral necklace, and a black derby, his outfit for a neighboring chief’s coronation downriver in Nembe later that day. Like most chiefs, Inengite has a business—dredging sand from the river for roadbuilding. He always keeps an eye out for visitors to Nigeria’s historic Well No. 1. He wants them to leave Oloibiri with a message for Shell, which owns the local oil fields. “Tell them to help us. Tell them to train 50 boys and girls from here for jobs,” the chief pleaded. Then he sighed, “If we had never seen oil, we would have been better off.”

Oloibiri remains with no electricity, no jobs, and no more oil from the 28 holes drilled in the area. The chief seems to be doing well possibly from past oil successes, but the town is far from prosperous. How has Nigeria’s oldest oil well, that produced so much oil revenue, fallen into a place that is devoid of any constructive development for the people of the area? Where does all the money go? This question echoes across the lips the communities of the Niger Delta. As the MNOCs begin to recognize that leaving communities in the dark leads to violent conflict and jeopardizes their oil revenues, the question remains where does the money go? Are the community development programs initiated in response to increased violence really focused on constructive engagement or just an appeasing handout?

Community Development: Appeasement or Engagement?

The idea of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has taken a strong hold in many MNOCs. This idea has taken such a strong hold that the Chevron Oil Corporation uses the tagline: “Chevron: Human Energy,” attempting to focus on the responsible side of their business and moving away from their focus on revenue production.

“Chevron takes its role as a member of the community in Nigeria seriously and is active in many projects promoting health, economic and educational programs.

Many projects focusing on infrastructure, health, education, power and clean water have been completed while work has continued on ongoing capacity-building programs to promote economic development. These projects include construction of teachers’ quarters, science classrooms and laboratories, classroom blocks, water boreholes, footbridges, and jetties. Other infrastructure development projects include the provision of drainages, dining halls, kitchens, covered walkways and power in some communities’ schools and hospitals to make them functional.

Chevron Nigeria Ltd. provides communities near its operations with power and drinking water, in many cases directly from company facilities. These are either stand-alone projects or are tied to existing Chevron facilities. In many communities, the company has also purchased and installed electricity generators, which the company also fueled and serviced.”

Chevron has had a policy of dashing (giving free) gifts to communities: a school building, a generator, a new road – but more often than not these projects are started and are left unfinished while the oil is pumped out of the community. Creating this ‘host’ community relationship was the first major response to local youth threatening oil platforms. As well as dashing projects, MNOCs handed out cash payments on demand to militant youths, which were later not spent on community development projects. Local leaders often sing the praises of these ‘development’ projects in order to look good for the federal government when the people of the community are the ones impacted the most by these uncompleted projects and invasion by oil MNOCs. Local leaders have become the proctors for development and this role has been formalized with regular stipends and other privileges making their flowery reports all the more necessary for their continued benefit from oil revenues. The youth have spoken out against this control by village elders and chiefs. Keeping the secrets of community benefits in contracts with MNOCs drives distrust among community members, especially between village elders and youth, who have become more militant.

In 2005, Chevron Nigeria said that it had, “adopted a new approach to our community engagement in the Niger Delta that was designed to create participatory development processes to better address the needs of the communities in our areas of operation. The new model is said, “to give communities greater roles in the management of their own development.” This notion is a quick reversal for MNOCs operating in Nigeria. A Shell official in the 1990s reported that more was spent on bribes than on community development projects. Until 2000, there was sufficient evidence to allege that the Chevron oil corporation had ‘wasted’ [given away corruptly] US$28 million for community development projects between 1990 and 1997.

With their history of supporting militias and supplying federal military groups to keep favor in various communities, a ‘decisive’ shift was taken from 2002 to 2004 in relation to the relationship between local communities and MNOCs. In that time period MNOCs exponentially raised their spending on ‘community development’ projects in order to gain ‘license to operate’ in the Niger Delta.

“Thousands of secondary and university students receive scholarships from oil companies each year. A row of national and international NGOs are engaged by the companies in order to implement programmes, conduct workshops and realise infrastructural projects. In a range of villages and towns, official and inofficial ‘development finances ’ from oil companies and the command over these resources are today one of the most important material foundations of power.”

This represented a radical shift, but one that may not be the most effective. Those involved in this exponential development investment were paid per diem in ‘substantial cash payments.’ Support for university scholarships was part of the major push in the community development. However, of the sixteen federal and state-owned universities in the Niger Delta, ‘none are properly funded.’ The primary and secondary educational infrastructure is ‘deplorable.’ So as community development is pushed by way of university scholarships, who is to benefit from these scholarships when those who may benefit do not have even an adequate secondary education? The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) had said, after its creation in 2000, that its main focus was to build schools and other educational infrastructure. Akpan, who completed extensive research in the Niger Delta and Bayelsa State in 2005, saw no such development.

Local observers have actually called for an end to development aid in the Niger Delta because it ‘aggravates the struggle’ for government jobs and those that hand out payment for ‘facilitating’ development projects. Observers say there are no checks and balances, all the money goes to government agencies, and there is absolutely no accountability. In 2007, as part of its corporate social responsibility to host communities, CNL along with the NNPC, committed Naira 53 million to support human capacity building and micro credit schemes. These were said to support 15-month training programs to help communities in poverty alleviation programs. The idea is that people will be able to, “generate gainful self- employment or secure employment with established firms.” This is yet again a paradox of CSR and development in the Niger Delta because the MNOCs are leaving many of the communities as oil wells dry up and do not hire people from the communities where they operate. Unless there is a shift in the employment of community members this will be another wasteful program that will fail. Chevron and the NNPC also announced that 1300 students were benefiting from their universities scholarship scheme and from 2001 to 2006 over 5000 successful awardees had gone through university education. This is hard to believe with the current education system in the Niger Delta and the access to education of Niger Delta communities.

The models for community engagement are varied, but all have an ineffectual impact. Chevron has so far followed the standard model of Western development groups – throw money at a problem without really look into the best practices for community development or evaluating the effectiveness of that community engagement. Chevron’s varied programs include a notable riverboat ambulance clinic, but all other programs have not shown any real effects in the communities of Bayelsa State and the Niger Delta. MNOCs are working diligently to appear that they have CSR, but that CSR does not translate to anything worth noting at the community level, beyond the perpetuation of violence and more advanced exploitation of communities with oil by creating the notion of responsible development.

Conclude to Exclude

What would be the best relationship for the communities of the Bayelsa State in the Niger Delta of Nigeria with the Chevron oil corporation? If the MNOCs operating in the Niger Delta do not move away from an exclusionary policy in community development programs then conflict will continue. With the new shift in policies there have been good intentions, but ineffectual outcomes. The best option for local communities is if MNOCs are out of Nigeria, but that is not about to happen any time soon because the extraction and production of the oil resource requires such large and sophisticated operations. As a response there needs to be constructive engagement models.

The good intentions of MNOCs by way of micro-credit, scholarship, and health service programs need to do more than just be programs for Nigerians. CSR programs need to address the root causes of conflict in the Niger Delta and give Nigerians agency in their own community development. These programs need to have more than a mediating role between communities and MNOCs as a way to appease. In that same sense, multi-ethnic and multi-state community advocacy groups need to be strengthened to act as a watchdog for the Nigerian federal government as well as MNOCs. These groups need to be dedicated to community development that is beyond simple handout programs.

Ultimately there will need to be a strong tri-sector partnership between local communities, MNOCs, and the federal government. To promote positive community development, the federal government will need to firmly support democratic governance and accountability. Stronger democratic governance will allow the Nigerian government to check MNOCs and ensure the non-exploitation of local communities. Community groups need to demand this accountability from both its government and the MNOCs operating in their areas. With these tripartite checks in place the negative effects of the oil industry can be reversed and constructive community development models can be implemented.

Nigerians living in the Niger Delta, and specifically the Bayelsa State, have absolutely no agency in the development of their own communities. MNOCs come in and start programs and then leave them to fail. They create programs that do not address the underlying issues surrounding an exploited oil resource. The underlying issue is the disregard for people. Constructive development models would include a respect for the environment to ensure the health of the local community. Creating jobs for Nigerians that centered around the environment of their community by containing the harmful effects of the oil industry could employ a great number of people, cut violent conflict, allow people to make their own income, and give people ownership of a commodity extracted from their own community. In this same regard, a model based in the technology of the oil industry would give an even greater agency in community development. Growing the educational infrastructure of the Niger Delta, continuing to provide university scholarships, and teaching Nigerians to work in oil extraction and production fields at all levels (worker to administrator) can guarantee oil wealth owned and operated by Nigerians for Nigerians. This model will work especially well if there is a stronger democratic governance at the federal level.

Having Nigerians involved in the production of oil and environmental protection from oil will solidify the tripartite relationship and mandate constructive community engagements based on a model of accountability at every level. What most may see is a failure and conflict surrounding the oil resource in Nigeria, even a curse. However, while there may continue to be terrible consequences with the discovery of oil, there is also great potential for a reversal of negative effects when root causes are address and people are given agency in their own social, political, and economic development.

Works Cited:

Akpan, Wilson Ndarake. Between the ‘Sectional’ and the ‘National’: Oil, Grassroots Discontent and Civic Discourse in Nigeria. A Thesis Submitted in Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy of Rhodes University. Oct 2005.

Alagoa, Ebiegberi Joe. “Introduction.” The Land and People of Bayelsa State: Central Niger Delta. Port Harcourt: Onyoma Research Publications, 1999.

“Armed Conflicts Report – Nigeria (1990 first armed combat deaths).” Project Ploughshares. January 2007. .

Brown, Steven E.F. “Chevron venture to develop oil field off Nigeria.” San Francisco Business Times. 29 February 2008. .

“Chevron and Texaco Agree to $100 Billion Merger Creating Top-tier Integrated Energy Company [Press Release].” Chevron. San Francisco & New York: 16 October 2000. .

“Chevron Nigeria – Death and Devastation by Gunboat.” Amnesty International. 2007. .

“Chevron, Oil Pollution and Human Rights.” Africa Resource. 6 November 2005.

“Chronology – Nigerian Militant Attacks on Oil Industry.” Reuters. 15 June 2007. .

Dickson, Prince. “Son of Bayelsa State Deputy Speaker Kidnapped.” USA Africa Dialogue Series (Google Groups). 27 March 2008. .

Douglas, Oronto and Doifie Ola. “Defending Nature, Protecting Human Dignity–Conflicts in the Niger Delta.” in Monique Mekenkamp et al (eds), Searching for Peace in Africa. Utrecht: European Platform for Conflict Prevention and Transformation in cooperation, 1999: 337.

Eberlein, Ruben. “On the road to the state’s perdition? Authority and sovereignty in the Niger Delta, Nigeria.” Journal of Modern African Studies. Cambridge University Press, 2006: 573-596.

Ekundayo, Kayode. “Nigeria: NNPC, Chevron JV Commits N53m on Capacity Building.” AllAfrica. October 2, 2007. .

Ibeanu, Okey and Robin Luckham. “Nigeria: political violence, governance and corporate responsibility in a petro-state.” Oil Wars. Eds. Mary Kaldor, Terry Karl and Yahia Said. London: Pluto Press, 2007.

Ikelegbe, Augustine. “Engendering civil society: oil, women groups and resource conflicts in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria.” Journal of Modern African Studies. Cambridge University Press, 2005: 241-270.

Ifeka, Caroline. “Oil, NGOs and youths: struggles for resource control in the Niger Delta.” Review of African Political Economy. 1 March 2001.

James, Maxwell. “Making Oil Revenue Work.” The Daily Trust. 22 August 2007. .

“Joint Venture Operations.” NNPC. .

Kaldor, Mary, Terry Karl and Yahia Said. “Introduction.” Oil Wars. Ann Arbor: Pluto Press, 2007.

“Kidnapped Nigeria oil workers freed.” BBC News. 19 June 2000. .

Marquardt, Erich. “Intelligence Brief: Nigeria.” PINR. November 8, 2005. .

“Nigeria – Highlights of Operations.” Chevron. Updated: March 2008. .

“Nigeria – Chevron Operations.” APS Review Gas Market Trends. 8 August 2005. .

Odocha, JNK. “Organisations Must Serve The Needs of Communities.” NAPETCOR 2nd Quarter, 2002: 25.

“Oil and Violent Conflicts in the Niger Delta.” Eds. Charles Ukeje, Adetanwa Odebiyi, Amadu Sesay, Olabisi Aina. CEDCOMS Monograph Series No. 1, 2002: 17-19.

Okoko, Kimse A.B. and A. Lazarus. “The Creation of Bayelsa State.” The Land and People of Bayelsa State: Central Niger Delta. Ed. Ebiegberi Joe Alagoa. Port Harcourt: Onyoma Research Publications, 1999.

Omeje, Kenneth C. High Stakes and Stakeholders: Oil Conflict and Security in Nigeria. Ashgate Publishing Ltd: 2006. .

O’Neill, Tom. “Curse of black gold: Hope and Betrayal in the Niger Delta.” National Geographic. February 2007. .

Polgreen, Lydia. “Nigerian Oil Production Falls After a Pipeline Hub is Overrun.” New York Times. 16 May 2007. .

Servant, Jean-Christophe. “Nigeria: the young rebels.” Le Monde. 06 April 2006. .

Shelley, Toby. Oil: Politics, Poverty and the Planet. New York: Zed Books Ltd., 2005.

“US judge lets Chevron Nigeria lawsuit continue.” Reuters. 16 August 2007. .

innocent impacts in nigeria

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.

Democracy returned to Nigeria in 1999, but since then it is known that politicians have used the gangs as spheres of influence around the Niger Delta. The government has claimed that it has cracked down on the gangs. They recently sent in an elite military unit to restore order and stop the violence in the streets. The violence has spread beyond the streets now and into the outlying villages. Traditional chiefs and village councils attempt to deal with the gangs and cults, but that only brings more violence to their doorsteps. In the NYT article a village meeting was said to be overrun by men on motorbikes with machine guns and grenades. The village leaders were killed and dumped in the river. One man is quoted as saying that such violence was completely bound up with politics, “Our politicians cannot stand on their own, so they find those who will stand with guns for them,” Dr. Ogan said. The fragile ceasefire could not last as the Nigerian militias continue to feel disenfranchised for the vast oil wealth flowing from their country.

The conflict in Nigeria is complex with many different sets of actors: individuals, groups, and communities; local, state, and national governments; police, paramilitaries, and navy; and oil company employees, officials, and management. I was recently chosen to be a research assistant to one of my professors working on dissecting the Nigerian oil conflict. This is the project’s goal:

Our project seeks to unpack the complexity of the conflict over oil, environmental degradation, and representation in the Niger Delta. Reducing this conflict down to a single issue-dimension—oil wealth—oversimplifies matters and obscures the linkages between different aspects of this problem, a problem which encompasses the political, economic, and social realms, and is manifested at the local, state national and international levels.

My professor is from Nigeria and has completed extensive work on the conflicts in Nigeria surrounding the oil resource. I have high hopes for the coming semester of research and further education on this pressing issue.

the crouching tiger and the curse of black gold

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.

What more can I say. The National Geographic article lays it all out in the first few lines. Nigeria represented a story of hope and promise, NG asks ‘What went so wrong?’ “Everything looked possible – but everything went wrong.” The NG article goes on to describe a trash heaped scene with black smoke filling the sky, streets with craters and ruts, peddlers and beggars crowd car windows, and vicious gangs rule the streets. This is a description given about Nigeria’s oil hub, Port Harcourt, right in the middle of oil reserves bigger than both the US’s and Mexico’s. But where does the oil money go?

Nigeria’s oil boom began back before their independence in 1960. Still a British colony, oil was discovered in a creekside village not far from Port Harcourt. Few people at the time ever thought that Nigeria would become a world oil giant from this seemingly small discovery. Decades later multinational oil companies moved in and turned the inaccessable wetlands into an industrial jungle of 4,500 miles (7,200 kilometers) of pipelines, 159 oil fields, and 275 flow stations, their gas flares visible day and night from miles away. This was an amazing technological achievement, but the physical environment was the easy hurdle as the social and cultural environments remained to high to jump. WIth over two dozen ethnic groups having a history of fighting over the riches of the delta, the oil companies had no idea what they had just jumped into for the idea of a sweet profit. Laying of pipelines and construction of oil infrastructure disrupted the fragile environment of fishing seasons, animal habitats, as well as splintering ethnic tensions.

Oil in the delta looked so promising and held so much potential, but Nigeria still failed to help its people. Addicted to oil money, the people grew increasingly corrupt, using sabotage and murder to get a fix of the wealth. The people who could have lived better lives are now left nearly hopeless and poorer than before the discovery. The world has reached its peak oil production so we will see prices rise from here on out, but every time there is a killed security guard, an attack on a pump station, kidnapped foreign oil worker, car bomb set off, or oil rig overrun the market price of oil shoots up. It is not difficult to see why these frightening occurances happen. This increased frustration among the people of the Nigerian delta is creating a worrisome environment teeming with militias ready to escalate violence. With little or none of the oil money reaching the people how can they remain satisfied? The oil money grows on trees and remains in the uppermost branches without getting to the roots (Micinski 2007).

In July, the shining example for Africa, Ghana discovered oil deposits. Ghana has been in an energy crisis for a while now. While I studied there in May and June we expereinced frequent power outages. When we visited the Okosombo Dam, which provides all the power for the country as well as some for Togo, Benin, and Cote d’Ivoire, it was explained to us that with such low water levels at the dam, enough power could not be produced. President John Kufuor has said that this find will make Ghana the ‘crouching tiger’ of Africa since its discovery of oil. I only hope that Ghana does not become another Nigeria.

Index of blog post series on Ghana.

. . . keep your promise!

Congratulations big sister Molly on graduating from Kettering University! Now the lifelong education starts which no school or curriculum can offer.

At the end of this week we traveled to the Ashanti Region to visit Kumasi and some of the surrounding villages. We began our travels just as the G8 Summit was ending and the news has been all over the importance this summit held for Africa and Ghana.

8 June 2007
The eggs and toast constant has finally been broken with some glorious french toast – syrup, cinnamon, and a delightful change. No one in our group has ever appreciated or enjoyed french toast as much as we did that morning. The heat and sun have also returned from an absence. It has been a rainy and overcast week, but the sun emerged to greet us. Before hitting the road we stopped at the Forex to exchange some money. Aljazeera News was playing and the topic was the G8 keeping promises to African aid. They reported that $25 million is sent to Africa in aid each year, but that there is an $8 million shortfall. During this summit the G8 pledged to give $60 million to fight HIV/AIDS, TB, and malaria in Africa. Will these be promises kept?

We hit the road for the 5 hour trek to Kumasi. It would have been a very boring and tiresome ride, but I had my book and BBC radio to keep me company. Top stories included the role of the G8 in keeping promises and African nations also keeping promises, J.A. Kufor, President of Ghana, speaking on behalf of the African Union as chairman asking for G8 commitment, and a stunning story about female genital mutilation (FGM) in Cameroon – a boy ran from home with his younger sister to protest and to protect her from the harmful practice. Their father then went to the village council to plead with them to abandon the practice as it had taken his son and daughter away from him. The village then banned the practice and the children returned home knowing that now many girls would not have to suffer FGM. I had also purchased a novel from the University bookstore, The Last Duty. The book is about the Nigerian Civil War of 1964, which I knew nothing about in all of my studies of Nigeria. The book tells of the war and its effect from six different people’s views, all six are linked, and all six represent a different side of the story – except for the rebel view.

Our first stop before Kumasi was Bonwire village where we visited a Kente cloth weaving shop. We were mobbed by children here and people trying to get us to buy their stuff. It must have been one of those tourist common spots. It was interesting to see all the Kente cloth and Eric, out bus driver, helped me bargain for a Kente cloth tie – very awesome. Some of the sellers were very persistent. One, I forgot his name, stuck with me and haggled me for a long while. He tried to sell me bookmarks, then helped his friends sell me stuff, then asked for money for his grandmother, sister, and himself – the story always changes.

Gracious Living Hostel was situated on a road that I knew well. It was the typical African roads that I had come to know from Uganda and feel always in my hindquarters – not a smooth surface to be found, dust kicked in the air blinding all, and a tense body ready for the next impact. At the hostel there was some trouble with rooms and so we were a bit crowded in the beds, but hey this is Africa, we can deal. Some of us played a card game called ‘peanuts,’ but which I later found out was the game I knew as ‘nertz.’ It reminded me of some great afternoons with Grandpa.

9 June 2007
We began our day with a nice breakfast and went to the Kejeta Market in Kumasi. This is the largest open air market (in the world? in Ghana?). The market was much like Makola market, but much bigger and crazier. It was also much more fast paced and there were narrower alleyways and more grabby stall owners, there was just so much more happening. In the market is where I also witnessed the ‘travels of a t-shirt in the global economy.’ There were many stands sporting the latest Western fashions, but these were obvious imports. There were large groups of people sorting slacks, jeans, and t-shirts from piles of clothes imported from the ‘developed’ world.

Afterwards we headed to the village of Kurofuforum where we learned how brass figurines are made. It is such a long and tedious process with so many steps. It gave us a new appreciation of the artwork. The man showing and teaching us had scars all over his knees and arms and could pick just about anything directly out of the fire – so calloused and hardened by his work. We then went to Bosumtwi Lake. Here we were accompanied by local fishermen on their fishing boats to swim in the lake. The fishing boats are comprised of half of a tree log, that is it. It was a very good workout to paddle all the way to the middle and a joy to swim in the, what felt like, 90 degree water. What a great experience.

10 June 2007
We began today by stopping at an Adinkra village to see how cloth is stamped. We bought a cloth and witnessed some of our professor’s skill at arguing and bargaining in Twi to get a good price. We then all took turns stamping the cloth to take back with us as a reminder of our trip.

We happened to pass the regional bottling station for Coca-Cola in Kumasi. Coca-Cola is the drink of Ghana. It holds about 90% of the soda industry here against Pepsi.

We visited the Royal Court and Palace Museum of the Asantehene, the ruler of Asanteland in the Ashanti Region. No pictures were allowed and the outrageous price for foreigners followed us into the compound. We were first subjected to a propaganda video about the Asante people. The video claimed that the Asante were peace loving people, yet if you look at their history it is clearly evident that they were quite to use violence and were very aggressive people who instigated many conflicts. It was very interesting to learn about the history of the Asante people from the very place where their kingdom resides. It was especially interesting to learn directly about a people that I have studied so much.

On the way back to Accra from Kumasi, BBC doesn’t come in until you get closer to the greater Accra region, I finished my book and was finally able to listen on the BBC to debates about the G8 summit from an African’s perspective as callers from Tanzania and expats from other parts of the world voiced their opinions and reactions. Another interesting story was about the Burma Boys of Nigeria who fought in WWI for the British in Burma. The story was of colonized Nigerians fighting in Burma and being addressed by the Japanese fighters in perfect Hausa, one of the major language groups of northern Nigeria.

This weekend we have seen the greatness of the very western oriented Kumasi and the kingdom of the Asnatehene. We were able to see part of the reason that the British gave Ghana the colonial name of the Gold Coast from the wealth of the Asnate. We have experienced a region deeply rooted in tradition, powerful traditional rulers, and great wars with imperialist countries.

On the way to Kumasi our professor commented on how much has changed since the last year. She noted that there was so much money flowing into the country now as opposed to just a year ago. Is the G8 keeping promises in Ghana? we have passed so many road improvement projects that it is almost as if I am back in Michigan and experiencing the common ‘summer of orange barrels.’ Except that there is no such thing as orange barrels here, there is just random stuff in the road to divert traffic. The money and aid flowing into Ghana makes me wonder if there are any G8 promises not being kept here. The promises for keeping aid promises by G8 countries is rebuttled by the G8 calling for promises to be kept for good governance in Africa, and is again clashed with the argument by many African intellectuals to have foreign countries leave ‘development’ to the Africans.

Check for new pictures of drumming and the Peace Corps in older posts.

Index of blog post series on Ghana.

inside africa

It is very interesting to be actually in Africa and get the news about Africa. I am actually in the continent that I have covered and studies so much.

2 June 2007
Woke up at noon from a late Friday night. I jumped in the plan with some other students to go to the Makola market and then the beach. There is just something about Makola market that I love. It is not like the other markets or anywhere else in Accra. It may be crazy and seem very frightening and insane to some people, but I love it. The people are hospitable, they are nice, they are business people. They are there to make an honest sale, to run a business, to get you what you want. Many store owners who do not have what you want will direct you to where you need to go. They will not hold you up and try to get you to buy something that they have like most other places. I did not go to buy anything, but people watching is a favorite pasttime of mine. Sure, I am usually the one being watched, but I have come to find out how to be a less imposing and conspicious Obrooni. I have taken to wearing my flip flops often, as many Ghanaians do, my clothes are not flashy or ‘American,’ I have learned more Twi, and I carry only small bills, nothing larger than 10,000 cedi note ($1 USD). I am still obviously an Obrooni, but now after 3 weeks I am slightly more accepted because I know – to a tiny degree – Ghana.

The next day I watched the CNN special show called ‘Inside Africa.’ From being in Ghana (Africa) and getting the news about where I am is really exciting. Namibia is having troubles with illegal ivory trade, Tanzania is developing its gold production industry with foreign investment, Uganda is constructing a power plant on the Nile, Tony Blair is taking his last official Africa tour. He is calling for the West to keep promises of aid because it is a duty and in self-interest. During his term British aid tripled, and some citizens have called it, “… a waste of English time and tax dollars.” Bono was interviewed about the G8 summit in Germany – as usual he stated to keep the promises. He noted that now in the 21st Century people die from a simple mosquito bite – why? how? He also can see a social movement growing in the US and Europe. Finally in the news, the Nigerian president is sworn in, but are the people really happy with the status quo? In Nigeria 77% of the people live on less than one dollar a day, yet their president is re-elected.

Index of blog post series on Ghana.

oil to the people?

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.

Nigeria’s focus on international trade in oil has developed the problems that Nigeria now faces. International trade is the oldest and most controversial subject within the international political economy. International trade is the production structure of the international political economy, this means it deals with relations between states and non-state actors such as international businesses. Controversy on the international trade structure comes about when the state governments and international businesses grab the economic benefits and limit the negative effects on themselves. This controversy could not be more evident in Nigeria’s case as the government works to fight corruption of politicians, angered rebel groups, and the hunger of foreign governments and investors for raw materials. From Nigeria’s agreements and interactions with other countries in the international political economy we can view Nigeria’s place within the international system.

If you were to look at Nigeria’s international dealings with China and the US, you would notice two different perspectives on international trade. One perspective is China being mercantilist as they work to create bi-lateral agreements and the other, the US, with a push for a more liberal global system to allow multinational corporations access to the market. Hu Jintao, President of China, visited Nigeria for a second time in 2003 and secured four oil-drilling licenses for China in exchange for investing nearly $4 billion in infrastructure projects. In the international trade system, China is looking for a market to place its abundance of cheap goods and Nigeria is looking for a reliable importer of its oil who will also support the country financially. China is also on the search for natural resources to fuel its growing population. Yet the US is also seeking a place to receive oil as it looks to become less dependent on the Americas. US corporate interests are high in the energy sector and the US government has offer much help in the way of democratic reform. However as the world’s powers seek to find sources of energy, the instability of the Niger Delta region of Nigeria causes much concern as both US and Chinese workers are held hostage. This creates a strain on the pricing of production and consumption of oil. Likewise the kidnapping of foreign oil workers creates political tension, which could potentially lead to future problems in trade with Nigeria.

Nigeria now holds a prominent position as the world searches for its fossil fuel fix. With their abundance of oil, Nigeria has the potential to reform its political system and create positive trends from its trade in oil. The flow of oil brings in investors and in turn these investors can be used to build the countries dying infrastructure. As has been evidenced by China’s recent push in Nigeria, countries are willing to invest in Nigeria to have access to its oil. However, investors will not be able to help with ethnic tensions in the oil-producing region. Nigeria will need to solve its internal problems if they are to keep a hold on their oil-trading niche. There is now a significant push to calm those problems through social and economic development programs run by government agencies and multinational corporations. As Balaam writes, “If wealth is power, then trade is both.” Nigeria needs to be sure to use its trading power as both an internal development tool and a foreign policy tool. Nigeria needs its investors and MNCs to focus on more then just their international responsibility to provide oil to consumers. They need to have these international partners assist in focusing on domestic issues in order to be a trading partner.

In February 2007, the Nigeria Oil and Gas (NGO7) Strategic Conference was held. The conference held attendance from over 550 delegates from almost 70 companies in the Nigerian oil and gas market. Interesting to note is that although China has recently become a front-runner in Nigerian assistance, speakers at the conference included country managers and directors from the large US oil companies, however only one from a Chinese company. Was this a political move or are the US companies most prominent in Nigeria at this time? Time will tell.

The greatest hope for Nigeria is foreign investment. With foreign investment focused on development and reforms focused on eliminating corruption Nigeria will be able to become a more important regional and international trader. Investments are increasing in Nigeria. Companies are seeking long-term investment and are especially searching for trade in raw materials. Nigeria holds a huge potential and it needs to use its power in the international political economy to reverse past trends and push for greater development assistance from investors. Along with bringing in foreign investors, Nigeria needs to stress an understanding by investors of local conditions and make partnerships carefully.