Africa, a unique continent, has unique cultural values which helps in the sustenance of the practice of development. This is embedded in its communal way of life that preceded colonial rule and has continued to resist the onslaught of globalization. African culture “values” communalization rather than privatization which is what the Western Culture values. The Western tradition is seen in terms of separation, independence and conflict (Ake, 1993:53).
Persons have identity only because they belong to a community, and freedom lies in the concrete capabilities, privileges and immunities which derive from communal capabilities, privileges and communities which derive from communal life (Ake, 1993:53).
It is reported that when Europeans first came to the area considered to be Africa in the 1440s, they came as merchants seeking to trade with Africans. This was sequel to the national limitations to its economic expansion imposed on the European (capitalist) ruling class, who later resorted to imperialism as a way of strengthening it political and economic domination at home and overseas (Ogunrotifa, 2013:58).
In West Africa, in the late 1920s and the 1930s, British colonial authorities began to change their policies and promoted economic development. By the 1940s, economic development was supported by efforts in education and the social services.
These approaches, particularly in the rural areas, involve literacy programs as well as practical skills. Mass literacy began to be promoted but the term was seen as too narrow (connecting only with education) and was replaced with what was thought to be a more appropriate term, called community development.
The development of towns and cities consequent upon the newly introduced colonial economy led to the creation of economic enclaves which were given priority in development plans. In the post-independence era, the rural populations were gradually neglected by subsequent governments as urban areas started springing up in the major cities.
Thus, the phenomenon of urban bias became the norm in the country’s match towards development. This has also brought about gap between the rich and poor in the society. “The rural sector contains most of the poverty and most of the low-cost sources of potential advance, but the urban sector contains most of the articulateness, organization and power” (lipton, 1993:13).
Nigeria being one of the countries colonized by the British is located in West Africa with a coast on the Gulf of Guinea and Atlantic Ocean. Neighboring countries include Benin, Cameroon, Chad, and Niger. The geography ranges from southern coastal swamps to tropical forests, woodlands, grasslands and semi-desert in the north. The government system is a federal republic and head of government is the president. Nigeria has a mixed economic system which includes a variety of private freedom, combined with centralized economic planning and government regulation.
Nigeria is a member of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Social economic development has been one of the primary bases of the Nigeria government in order to achieve sustainable development.
It is common knowledge that socio-economic development is the primary goal of every well-meaning government, and it is essentially dependent on the level of economic activities in a country; the level of economic activities is in turn enhanced by peaceful co-existence by people.
What this implies is that where there is no peaceful co-existence among the people in any nation, economic progression may not be possible. Put in another way in the absence of security, socio-economic development cannot be sustained as it destroys economic, human and social capital.
It is important to note here that socio-economic development is to be closely associated with environmental protection and improvement, to ensure harmony between man-made and natural environment to conserve biodiversity.
A variety of socio-economic and political conditions in Africa – too many to recount here – produce grievances that have been used by militant groups to justify their recourse to violent actions.
Socio-economic development is the process of social and economic development in a society. Socio-economic development is measured with indicators, such as GDP, life expectancy, literacy and levels of employment.
Socio-economic development is a product of development and can be defined as the process of social and economic transformation in a society. They equally noted that, socio-economic development consists of processes caused by exogenous and endogenous factors which determine the course and direction of the development (Ewetan et al, 2014:40).
The goal of economic development is to improve the social and material well-being of all individuals and social institutions with the goal of achieving the highest possible level of human development.
From the foregoing, it can be conveniently said that socio-economic development is a multifaceted phenomenon and man centered.
2.1 Analyses of Nigerian Socio-Economic Indicators
2.1.1 Nigeria GDP Per Capita
Gross Domestic Product (GDP): The gross domestic product or gross domestic income (GDI) is one of the measures of national income and output for a given country’s economy. It is the total value of all final goods and services produced in a particular economy within a country’s borders in a given year.
Per Capita Income: The total national income divided by the number of people in the nation. This is what each citizen is to receive if the yearly national income is divided equally among all.
The GDP of Nigeria is an indicator that all is not well. Indices on paper is nothing if it is not at par with the reality on ground whereby citizens are suffering as they barely eat two-square per day. If there are no functional industries in the country, there will be low GDP. There is failure on the part of the government as there is no diversification of the economy, we have over-relied on oil as our mainstay and this is bad for economic development. All other industries had been in comatose with little or nothing done to resuscitate them and lack of private investors has done us more harm than good.
The following discussions attempt to give an overview of the growth and development of the Nigerian economy from independence to present times. Specifically, the following periods are briefly mentioned: the pro-oil boom decade (1960-1970); the period of the oil boom (1971-1977); the period of stabilization and structural adjustment (1986-1993) and the period of guided deregulation (1994-1998). In the period 1960-70, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) recorded 3.1 per cent growth annually. During the oil boom era, roughly 1970-78, the GDP recorded a remarkable growth. It grew positively by 6.2 per cent annually. However, it witnessed a negative growth rate in the 1980s. In the period 1988-1997 which constitutes the period of structural adjustment and economic liberalization, the GDP responded to economic adjustment policies and grew at a positive rate of 4.0.
Between 1978 and 1986, except for 1979 and 1985 when GDP showed positive growth, the economy continued to register negative growth rates. There were also high inflation, high unemployment rate and fiscal imbalance. It is evident that the global economic crisis of 1980s led to the collapse of commodity price at the world market. It is on record that the economy of an oil-based economy such as Nigeria suffered a recession due to deficit balance of payment, external debt crisis, instability and misallocation of scarce foreign exchange, fiscal indiscipline, corruption and weak external demand. The response of the government to the crisis was to introduce austerity measures thus withdrawing some of the social welfare packages that people enjoyed. The stabilization and austerity measures of the Shehu Shagari regime (1979-1983) did not arrest the deepening crisis. This measure eventually gave rise to the implementation of Structural Adjustment Program (SAP).
Prior to the implementation of SAP, Nigeria being a neo-colonial capitalist economy that enriched a few at the expense of the nation, still provides some social safety needs for its citizens. It is reported that during this period the Nigerian Government placed emphasis on the ‘building of an egalitarian society in line with the extended family system of the African people. However, the introduction of the Structural Adjustment Program a policy instigated by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund led to the collapse of the Nigerian economy completely and destroyed the moral fabrics of the society. Such measures as retrenchment of workers, abolition of marketing boards, commercialization of social services, and sale of the assets of the nation, trade liberalization, currency devaluation and other dangerous components of SAP, mass poverty became the order of the day. The middle class was wiped out while the manufacturing sector became extinct. The table below presents a picture of the GDP of the country for twenty years.
Analyzing the table above Nigeria\’s economic increase, especially during the last 20 years is illustrated by the fact that per capita income, which was US $171 in 1994 had increased to US $3,005 by 2013. There is a decline between 1997-1999 when the civilian administration took over.
The major causes of the decline in Nigeria\’s economic fortunes have been attributed to political instability and bad governance manifested in weak policy and lack of political will on the part of the leaders, most especially in the 1990s. Military rule in Nigeria, no doubt led to economic and social stagnation and decline.
The economy remained unimproved and never experienced double-digit inflation during the 1960s. However, the inflation rate stood at 23 per cent by 1976. It slide down to 11.8 per cent in 1979 and increased to 41 percent and 72.8 per cent in 1989 and 1995, respectively. By 1998, the inflation rate had, however, reduced to 9.5 per cent from 29.0 per cent in 1996.
It has been observed that ‘austerity measure put in place by the government between 1982-1986 has caused a lot of hardships to the people that subsequently resulted in a high scale of poverty’ (Ijaiya, 1998:2). This was further corroborated by the World Bank report (1990) that the austerity policies of the Nigerian government had severe effects on the country’s poor as consumption further plummeted in the 1980s than in 1950s (World Bank, 1990:2). The consequences of this increase in poverty include among others; increase in the number of destitute, beggars, prostitutes, and paupers, and increase in the rate of crime in the society. World Bank figures for Nigeria’s gross national product per showed that from a peak of US $780 in 1981, GDP fell to an all-time low of US $220 in 1994.
Similarly, surveys conducted by Nigeria’s bureau of Statistics show that: In a 16 year period that began in 1980 (the year the oil boom years of the 1970s began to go burst), the percentage of Nigerians living in poverty rose from 28 percent to 66 percent. Numerically, while 17.7 million people lived in poverty in 1980, the population living on less than US $1.40 a day rose to 67.1 million by 1996. Within the same period the percentage of the rural poor increased from 29 percent to 70 percent, while the share of the poor in the urban areas rose from 18 to 55 percent. Those classified as the core poor (the poorest of the poor – living on about US $0.70 a day), increased from six percent to 29 percent of the population. The geographical distribution of poverty showed that the percentage of the poor ranged between 55-60 percent in the south, in the north they ranged between 70-78 percent of the population.
The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in Nigeria was worth 522.64 billion US dollars in 2013. The GDP value of Nigeria represents 0.84 percent of the world economy. GDP in Nigeria averaged 70.94 USD Billion from 1960 until 2013, reaching an all-time high of 522.64 USD Billion in 2013 and a record low of 4.20 USD Billion in 1960. GDP in Nigeria is reported by the World Bank
The poverty situation in Nigeria is quite disturbing. Both the quantitative and qualitative measurements attest to the growing incidence and depth of poverty in the country (Okunmadewa, et al., 2005:85).
This situation however presents a paradox considering the vast human and physical resources that the country is endowed with. It is even more disturbing that despite the huge human and material resources that have been devoted to poverty reduction by successive governments, no noticeable success has been achieved in this direction. Although, predicted poverty reduction scenarios vary greatly depending upon the rate and nature of poverty related policies, actual evidence suggests that the depth and severity of poverty is still at its worst in Nigeria, and South Asia (Okunmadewa et al., 2005:85).
Within these regions, poverty is largely a rural phenomenon with an average of between 62 and 75 percent of the population living on less than a dollar a day and also tends to be deeper than urban poverty in these regions (Apata et al., 2009:86).
Besides, it has become increasingly evident that within the African region the poor are heterogeneous and that some element of dynamics does exist with a clear distinction between chronic and transitory poverty (Barret et al., 2000:86). Chronic poverty is considered the component of total poverty that is static and transitory poverty component that is attributable to the inter-temporal variability (Jalan and Ravallion, 1996:271).
The isolation of the process underlying chronic and transitory poverty is considered essential in understanding the extent to which each poverty type may obscure the other or even distort the effects of government anti-poverty programs. A national poverty survey carried out indicates that the high tropic areas have moderate poverty while the northern regions have poverty levels that are as high as 60 percent (NBS, 2009:5).
Nigeria‘s main challenges include, reducing poverty, diversifying its economy from the oil and gas sector towards more labor intensive sectors, and improving health and education. The oil has increased economic volatility and inflation while those living in poverty being most vulnerable to volatility and inflation. To add to it, instability of government revenues and a crowding out of agriculture (which provides the source of income to the poor) have made the situation worsen. The oil industry does not employ a sizeable number of unskilled workers, thereby contributing little to reducing poverty.
Ford (2007:27) discussed the oil crisis in the oil producing region of Nigeria. He stated that poverty has been linked to high crime rates, especially in Niger Delta region where there is a sharp contrast between the rich and the poor. The masses cause social unrest because the wealth gotten from their territory does not get to them. In the Nigerian society, the best way to acquire wealth is to enter the political sphere.
Most of the time political success is tied to criminal activities. He ended the article by stating that the link between economic and political power must be broken for progress to be made.
The table below showed that poverty has consistently increased over the years in Nigeria. Another reason for this is corruption. All leakages must be blocked and all corrupt persons should be made to face the full wrath of the law as this will serve as an important lesson to others; and this can only be done by putting in place a strong institution as it is done in developed countries.
There is failure of policy implementation on the part of our policy makers whereas developed countries are known to be good implementers. There can’t be peace in the land if there is no food to eat, no clothe to wear and no place to lay one’s head. Little wonder the Niger Delta militants dwindled our economy by bombing our gas stations due to poverty and lack of sustainable development in their lands.
Government should and must be able to reduce poverty by turning from a mono-economy (that is over-dependent on oil) and be able to diversify the economy by harnessing our vast natural resources and investing more on agriculture which is the mainstay of economic growth for any serious government.
2.1.3 Employment and Quality of Life
Development no doubt directly influences changes in employment and income opportunities in any country. Such changes may be more or less temporary (e.g., construction projects, or seasonal employment) or may constitute a permanent change in the employment and income profile of the citizens. Development project bring long-term job opportunities for country residents (e.g., establishment of industries, manufacturing, or commercial establishment). Assessing these types of changes is an important component of social impact analysis because growth in employment places additional demands on community services and resources. For example, a development that brings lower-wage jobs to a community may generate the need for different types of housing in the area. Changes in income also influence the social environment in a number in various dimensions as raising or lowering the average standard of living for residents.
Persistent inequality, poverty and inequity in access to social services and economic opportunities, particularly for youth, the aged, persons with disabilities and women, are creating deficits in human development, and slowing progress towards achieving development and democracy goals. It is no doubt that most countries in Africa are potentially rich in men and materials resources, they are found among the poorest countries in the World. For example, extant and empirical statistics show that Nigeria ranked forty (40) out of one hundred and nineteen (119) developing countries on the global hunger index (The Punch Newspaper, 2006:2)
Unemployment rates averaged almost 5 per cent for the period 1976-1998. However, the statistics especially on unemployment must be interpreted with caution. Most job seekers do not use the labor exchanges, apart from the inherent distortions in the country\’s labor market. Based on some basic indicators, it appears that the economy performed well during the years immediately after independence and into the oil boom years. However, in the 1980s the economy was in a recession. The on-going economic reform program is an attempt to put the economy on a recovery path with minimal inflation. The analysis that follows tries to discuss the developments in the economy for different periods. A recent survey by the National Bureau of Statistics put the number of Nigerians living below the poverty level at about 112 million.
Many have thought that the advent of a democratic dispensation in 1999 after almost three decades of military rule would have afforded Nigeria the opportunity to arrest the decline in her socio-economic development and embark on economic revival.
Economic diversification and strong growth have not translated into a significant decline in poverty levels – over 62% of Nigeria\’s 170 million people live in extreme poverty. The National Bureau of Statistics reveals that 112.519 million Nigerians live in relative poverty conditions. This figures when compared with the country’s estimated 163 million population one could describe the situation as disheartening. Officially 60% of the population lives in poverty. While for a time the severe drop in living standards had limited inflation, prices are now rising sharply again with annual inflation back over 16% and expected to reach 20% by the end of this year.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics, Nigeria’s unemployment rate increased to 23.9 percent in 2011 compared with 21.1 per cent in 2010 and 19.7 per cent in 2009. The country has a youth population of 80 million, representing about 60 per cent of the total population with a growth rate of 2.6 per cent per year, and the national demography suggests that the youth population remains vibrant with an average annual entrant to the labor force at 1.8 million between 2006 and 2011. National Bureau of Statistics has it that in 2011, 37.7 per cent of Nigerian were aged 15-24 years and 22.4 per cent of those between ages 25 and 44 were willing to work but did not get jobs. The current level of social insecurity is alarming and unacceptable. The United Nations Children’s Fund reports that every day, Nigeria loses about 2,300 under-five year olds and 145 women of childbearing age, making the country the second largest contributor to the under-five and maternal mortality rates in the world. A greater proportion of the population do not have access to pipe borne water, health care facilities, electricity and affordable quality education. Although Nigeria is a signatory to the UN resolution on the MDG goals the attainment of these goals by 2015 remains elusive and doubtful (Ewetan, 2013:16).
The Special Assistant on Sustainable Banking, CBN, Dr. Aisha Mahmood, disclosed that unemployment remains a severe threat to Nigeria’s economy.
He stated that “In Nigeria, there is the issue of youth and employment. 70 per cent of the 80 million youths in Nigeria are either unemployed or underemployed. The NBS stated that the economy created about 1.2 million jobs in 2013 fiscal year.
The statement has it that more than half, about 54 per cent of youth population was unemployed”, adding that of this figure, “females stood at 51.9 per cent compared to their male counterpart with 48.1 per cent”, who were unemployed. It said out of 46,836 youths recorded against different types of crimes, 42,071, representing 75.5 per cent were males, while the remaining 24.5 per cent were females.
The general failure to make substantial positive impact in the massive employment crises facing Nigeria in the last two decades represents a major challenge to this employment promotion program in Nigeria. This failure on the part of this program have been attributed, amongst others to the application of flawed policy regimes; collapse of investment ratio and financial intermediation; failure of infrastructural policies; deficient governance structure and mismanagement, poor projects/policy design; problems of the education sector, inadequate mainstreaming of employment issues in guiding policy instruments like NEEDS (National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy) and the poor implementation, monitoring and evaluation of projects and annual budgets for Nigerian Vision 20-20 Program, (Marcellus, 2009:20).
2.1.4 Education and Literacy Levels
Nigeria is the largest country in Africa in terms of population, with approximately twice the population of both Ethiopia and Egypt, which is the next biggest African country by population size.
In the Nigerian education system, there are incredibly new demands that the government is currently hard pressed to meet. At the tertiary level alone, the number of students has grown from under 15,000 in 1970 to approximately 1.7 million today.
Due to the huge surge in demand, hundreds of thousands of aspiring Nigerian tertiary students are annually missing out on places due to the lack of more private institutions in the country.
No country can survive without the participation of the private sectors. Education is the bedrock of sustainable growth and development of any country and if Nigeria wants to grow, government must make education a matter of top priority but putting in place adequate policy to attract private investors to fund our education.
But policy alone is not enough, basic amenities like good roads, constant electricity supply, affordable and safe drinking water, to list a few should also be put in place coupled with making the environment safe for rapid investments.
Poor education especially in the Niger Delta region contributed to the carrying of dangerous arms by the youths which has resulted in the economic situation of Nigeria taking a downward turn. Education is power. The North Eastern parts of Nigeria too are suffering from boko haram now because of lack of education. An uneducated country is a poor country. Government must rise to their responsibility by increasing the yearly budget of education to about 35% of the total budget.
Teachers at all levels of the educational system-from primary, secondary, and tertiary-are not properly motivated to effectively perform their duties. As a result, the teachers are always on strike to force the government to pay their basic salaries and benefits; the government has over the years been promising to improve their conditions of services, but has each time failed to honour its promises. The teachers’ frequent industrial actions have more often than not disrupted regular academic calendars (NBS, 2009:17). Experienced and high-quality teachers who are disgusted with what is happening in the system and cannot any longer tolerate the poor conditions of services they found themselves in are leaving in droves to other neighbouring countries with better working conditions (Judge, Thoresen, Bono, & Patton, 2001:16). These are among the major causes of the dwindling standard of education in Nigeria.
Without the needed growth and development in education (Krueger & Mikael, 2001:8), Nigeria’s economy may remain stunt. Poor investment in human capital development (education and health), and, particularly, the neglect of technical and vocational education and training (TVET) and science-based technology education have contributed in no small measures to a lack of highly skilled technical manpower and technological capabilities (Mohan, 2003:4), to drive the economy and transform Nigeria into an industrialized society and improve the living conditions of the teeming population.
2.2 Conflicts in Nigeria
Conflicts refers to some form of friction, disagreement, or discord arising within a group when the beliefs or actions of one or more members of the group are either resisted by or unacceptable to one or more members of another group. Conflict can arise between members of the same group, known as intra-group conflict, or it can occur between members of two or more groups, and involve violence, interpersonal discord, and psychological tension, known as intergroup conflict.
The history of human conflicts shows clearly that wars often begin from minor personal, sectional, economic, political, social and even religious disagreements. No one must pretend to be indifferent to what is happening in Nigeria.
It has been generally agreed that ethnic conflicts is one of the greatest obstacles to meaningful development in Africa due to the general negative outcome. Looking at Nigeria with over 300 ethnic groups, the various competition and rivalry among these various ethnic groups has been seen as a product of colonial contact.
The ethnic factor, however, did not diminish with the advent of independence. Rather, it became a yardstick for measuring contribution to the national development effort and especially for allocating and distributing power and national resources (Edlyne, 2000: 61). With the current trend of Nigeria’s exercise which aimed at establishing a sustainable form of democracy, there is urgent need to look into perceived factors that may work against the success of this endeavor.
Most developing countries are ethnically diverse. For many years, social sciences preferred to ignore the brute fact of ethnic identity. More recently, evidence is accumulating that is detrimental to economic performance. Journalistic accounts of wars in Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan, and several other countries of sub-Saharan Africa in the 1990s have raised concern that ethnic cleavages and overlapping affiliations of religion and race may undermine prospects for economic and political development in much of Africa (Kamla-Ra, 2006: 101).
In some certain view, the annulment of the democratic transition program by the military in 1993 at the conclusion of the presidential polls, is believed to have been motivated by ethnic sentiments. On a similar note, the 30-month senseless killings occasioned by the Nigeria Civil War from 1967-1970 was anchored on ethnic rivalry. This was due to the efforts on the part of the predominantly Igbo people in the South-eastern region to carve out an independence nation for themselves.
In Nigeria, the colonial masters provided urban setting, which constitutes the cradle of contemporary ethnicity. The British colonialist while pretending to carry out a mission of uniting the warring ethnic groups consciously and systematically separated the various Nigerian people thereby creating a suitable atmosphere for conflict. With the heterogeneous nature of the country, the tendency of the various nationals is towards parochial consciousness at the expense of national consciousness.
A far reaching and in-depth survey of Nigeria public opinion carried out by the International Foundation for Elections Systems-IFES on behalf of United States Agency for International Development-USAID in 2000 found out that ethnicity is the strongest type of identity among Nigerians. Almost half of all Nigerians (48.2%) choose to tag themselves with an “ethnic” identity (Osinubis, 2006: 3).
Ethnic conflicts in Nigeria and Africa in general arise as result of scarcity of political resources, multi-culturalism, religion, militarisation of ethnicity among others. These conflicts cannot be ignored. It is therefore patently clear that realistic measures to solve these problems are needed.
2.2.1 Causes of Ethnic Conflicts in Nigeria
All across Nigeria there is an ever-lengthening thread of ethnic violence. These are not isolated events but are interconnected. Powerful social and economic factors gave rise to them.
One such factor, the most powerful, is the ever-increasing level of poverty typified in joblessness, deteriorating infrastructures, to list just a few. All these clashes are due to the fundamental crisis of underdevelopment; there is widespread poverty and this gives rise to a scramble for limited resources. Most of these communities are no better than slums. Industries are shutting down with the attendant consequences of job losses; most families find it difficult to feed themselves.
There are no potable water, good roads, proper medical facilities, social infrastructures, and no good schools. Environments such as these generate fear, distrust, hatred, frustrations, anger, to mention but a few. Under such circumstances, it is easy to believe that if the other ethnic groups go away, there will be enough.
According to the multiple indicator cluster survey published by the federal office of statistics in 1996, only one in every ten Nigerian can be described as non-poor. The other 90 per cent are described as either “core poor” or “moderately poor”. Taken in context, what one sees is the harsh reality of a nation where less than 11 million people can be described as “living people”, while the remaining 99 million people are best described as the “living dead”.
These factors provide classic hot beds for ethnic clashes. Recognizing this, the ruling class consciously exploits the poison of ethnicism as a means of keeping the working class permanently divided and diverting their attention away from the real problems confronting them – the crisis of Nigerian capitalism. Nor is this policy of “divide and rule” an exclusive phenomenon. It is the resort of the ruling class internationally. It is a conscious policy of the ruling class that allows for their continuing oppression and exploitation of the poor working masses, their continuing hold onto power.
The manipulation of ethnic differences reflects the fear of the ruling class of the potentials of the Nigerian working class and its capacity for unity – a unity that cuts across ethnic lines. The conscious manipulation of ethnic consciousness under terrible social conditions gives rise to periodic explosions of ethnic clashes. This is also a reflection of the inability of the ruling class to foster genuine unity among the masses. It confirms the fact that capitalism and ethnic violence are interlinked; you cannot have the former without the latter.
2.3 Niger Delta
Nigeria is a multi-ethnic society, consisting of different ethnic nationalities joined together by the Lord Luggard amalgamation of 1914. Although these groups co-exist, their ethnic and cultural values are different. These cultural differences are sometimes accentuated resulting in various kinds of communal clashes such as the Ijaw-Itsekiri, Urhobo, Benue-Cross River, Ife-Modakeke crises, to mention a few.
During the years of military dictatorship, communal clashes and ethnic conflicts were rather minimal because they were suppressed by military might. However, in the current democratic dispensation, every citizen tends to have more room and opportunity to self-expression, but at times, this right is often misunderstood for vulgarism. The resultant effect is conflicts amongst the ethnic groups, tribes, kindred and even clans.
Another crisis of big magnitude in the entity called Nigeria is the conflict between ethnic groups in Niger Delta area and the Multinational oil companies. These areas have not known peace since the past eight years. Examples of such conflicts, include Obobutu vs Elf (October 1989), Umuechem vs Shell (October 1990), Uzere vs Shell (July 1992), and Ogoni vs Shell (1990 till date).
The latest brewing conflict include the one from the issue of “resource control”, which if not properly handled by the Federal Government as quickly as possible, may hasten tension that may lead to more wanton destruction of lives and properties. This conflict, if allowed may mar the corporate existence of Nigeria (Ojo & Alao, 2001:3).
The Niger Delta, the oil-rich region in the south of Nigeria, has faced an increase in violence in recent years. The region’s wealth in natural resources stands in contrast to its deprivation and underdevelopment. The Nigerian economy is heavily dependent on the oil sector, which accounts for approximately 95 percent of total export earnings and 80 percent of federal government revenue. All of Nigeria’s onshore oil production takes place in the nine states of Niger Delta. Unrest in the region has led to significant losses in onshore production, particularly since late 2005. Addressing the crisis in the Delta region therefore has important implications for the rest of Nigeria both in economic and security terms.
The developmental challenges facing Niger Delta are closely intertwined with the current patterns of violent conflict and instability in the region. These challenges are multi-dimensional; and tackling them will require a thorough understanding of the drivers and dynamics of conflict escalation and de-escalation, as well as the links between conflict and poverty.
The percentage of people living in poverty in Niger Delta is lower than the national average, according to figures for (NBS 2004:16). However, Niger Delta performs poorly in comparison with the rest of the country on social indicators such as education, health and the quality of the natural environment. For example, the region has among the highest levels of infant mortality in Nigeria; some estimates place the level of youth unemployment at 40 percent in Niger Delta. Rates of unemployment and underemployment in Niger Delta states with large oil revenues are especially high, a condition that has contributed to youth restiveness.
Within the oil-rich Niger Delta, a multitude of ethnic groups, such as the Ijaw and Ogoni, have competed for control of the region’s natural resource since the early 1990s. This competition has now further subdivided ethnic minorities that were all exploited at one point or another in the oil production business. As the area has become much more militarized and hostile, the Nigerian people have become less coerced and united in an already-fragile nation.
In order to try to bring about the terminus of the violence in the Delta and to develop the area, in June 2009, the Nigerian government decided to take an offensive approach against MEND (Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta) to attempt to return peace to the diverse region, but had to fall back onto amnesty of the militants of the region; hence, much skepticism has fermented as to whether or not the ethnic conflicts of the Nigerian people will cease in under the Yar’Adua regime.
Nonetheless, why have ethnic interests overridden national interests or wittingly undermined national patriotism? According to Ikporukpo (1998:15), the causes of the Ogoni-Andoni and the Okrika-Ogoni inter-communal conflicts are all related to the role played by resource control agitations on ethnic identities from colonial times to oil exploitation activities in the area. Ikporukpo asserts that: The policies and programs of government and oil companies address mainly the conflict between petroleum exploitation and livelihood, the collapse of rural –urban leakages and the land disputes/ communities crisis. Ikporukpo (1998: 48).
However, the situation in Niger Delta is better explained by Ololajulo (2006:3) who pointed out that resource control has become a permanent feature of the instability in the region leading to hostilities and affecting the economic well-being of the people.
One important element of conflicts in the area is the attachment to development. Development in this regard means the people’s ability to maintain their cultural values and sustain their traditional economic resources. Development is expected to improve and advance the condition and standard of living of the people. But development in Niger Delta is elusive, according to Ibeanu (1997:10), the persistence of violence distorts and destroys resource flows, thereby threatening development and the people’s livelihood.
Therefore, efforts are directed toward agitation to control resources like crude oil – the ‘black gold’ – that is being exploited for external interests. Weighed against the background of the immense resources the nation generates from the area, Niger Delta region could be said to be relatively underdeveloped especially when compared to places like Lagos, Abuja, Kano and Kaduna, which without oil are yet developed with oil money.
Apart from references to conflict and agitation to control resources as obstacles to development in Niger Delta, there are also identity agitations by the various ethnic groups who want to break off from the Nigerian federation. As Bassey (2003:10) observed, the unique combination of these features, like ethnic identity agitation, constitute the spectrum of conflicts in Niger Delta. The people in Niger Delta believe that they are underdeveloped economically and socially despite the enormous revenue made from oil in their areas.
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