Militant Insurgency and Oil Exploitation in the Niger Delta


Militant Insurgency and Oil Exploitation in the Niger Delta


Oil exploitation and exploration which has its root in the Niger Delta was celebrated February, 2008 as fifty (50) years of oil exploitation in Nigeria. In spite of wealth generation by oil exploration and exploitation, opinions of observers on the performance of the oil production sector especially its developmental relation with oil host region/communities has not been impressive. Nigeria’s former two times petroleum minister and former president of OPEC, Rilwan Lukman describes oil production in Nigeria as “a blessing and curse. Similarly, Shamudeem Usman, Nigeria’s former minister of finance observed that Nigeria remains poor in spite of being rich with oil. Our objective for this study is very simple. We examined the Militancy Insurgency and Oil exploitation in the Niger delta. Our focus was to harness the available data at our disposal to find out if there is a relationship between both variables. From the study, it can be concluded that there is a positive relationship between Militant Insurgency and Oil exploitation. What this means is that as insurgency increases, oil exploitation in the country decreases.



1.1 Background of the Study

Nigeria as Africa’s most populated country and is the fifth largest supplier of crude oil to the United States. When pumping at full capacity, it produces an output of approximately 2.5 million barrels per day, making it the world’s eighth-largest oil exporter. The country’s gas resources are just as extensive, with proven natural gas reserves at 184 trillion cubic feet, giving Nigeria the seventh-largest gas reserves worldwide. Ninety-five percent of the country’s export earnings, accounting for 40 percent of its GDP, come from the oil and gas trade. This dependence on the energy trade makes any disruption of exports especially threatening to the Nigerian economy (Angola Press, July 19). Nigeria’s oil and gas reserves are located in the south, in the Niger Delta region. As a result of this uneven resource distribution, there are regular disputes over the distribution of oil wealth; the Nigerian government controls the revenue from energy exports, and distributes this revenue throughout the country. The ethnic groups that live in the delta states believe that the majority of energy revenues derived from their territory and homelands should be controlled locally, rather than by the federal government.

The first significant recent militant stirrings among the residents of the delta began in the 1990s among the ethnic Ogoni community. As a result of the small size of the Ogoni population and the fact that Nigeria was ruled by the Abacha military junta at the time, government forces were able to suppress the Ogoni and they executed nine of their activists. The government’s aggressive response permanently weakened the Ogoni resistance. Since this initial outbreak of conflict, much more serious ethnic resistance in the delta has arisen, stemming from a far more threatening community. The latest guerrilla attacks against the government and international oil interests are being led by the Ijaw, the largest ethnic group in the Niger Delta region.

Out of Nigeria’s 137 million people, the Ijaw number approximately 14 million, making them the country’s fourth-largest ethnic group. They live primarily in the Niger Delta region. The Ijaw are generally Catholic Christians, although they incorporate traditional tribal religious practices into their beliefs. The major grievances of the Ijaw are the wealth distribution policies of the government. For instance, while most of the energy wealth emanates from the Niger Delta region, the Ijaw live in poverty and suffer from extensive environmental degradation as a result of frequent oil spills and gas flaring operations (the burning of unwanted natural gas that rises when drilling for oil; the fumes are a contributor to air pollution and acid rain). The Ijaw demand that a larger proportion of Nigeria’s energy wealth be spent on their communities, rather than distributed throughout the country. For example, under the 1960 and 1963 Nigerian constitution, 50 percent of oil revenue was returned to the states in which the resources were derived. Currently, under the 1999 constitution, this “derivation formula” stands at 13 percent and much of that money never trickles down to the community level due to massive corruption. While the federal government has offered to slightly increase the revenue allocation to the states, the Ijaw community is calling for the derivation formula to reach 20-25 percent. They are also demanding ownership and management of the resources located on their land, including offshore oil fields.

Partly as a result of these disagreements, the Ijaw formed militant groups to launch operations against energy infrastructure and energy workers in the delta, as well as against government authorities. They receive support from the local populations, making it difficult for the government to isolate and eliminate them. Their success in damaging oil infrastructure and terrorizing international oil workers resulted in Nigeria’s oil exports being cut by approximately 500,000 barrels per day through much of 2006.

In 2016, the Nigeria saw a resurgence of militant attacks on oil and gas facilities in the Niger Delta, causing oil production to plummet to near 30-year lows of around 1.6 million barrels per day in August same year. “This round of attacks will be the most deadly and will be targeting the deep sea operations of the multinationals,” as described by the militants. Areas of targets include places in the seas off the swampland delta region, would include the Bonga Platform and the Agbami, EA and Akpo fields. The militants also said they would target the Nigerian oil company, Brittania-U. Shell operates the Bonga and EA fields, while Chevron is the operator of Agbami. Akpo stakeholders include Total, China’s CNOOC, Brazil’s Petrobras and Nigeria’s Sapetro. “As for the Egina FPSO, operators were advised to cease operations until further notice. We mean it when we say they (the oil installations) shall dance to the sound of the fury of the Niger Delta Avengers,” the militants threatened. The attacks on pipelines and other facilities in the Niger Delta in 2016 cut Nigeria’s crude production from a peak of 2.2 million barrels per day to near one million bpd, the lowest level in at least 30 years. That, combined with low oil prices, pushed the country into its first recession in a quarter of a century as crude sales make up two-thirds of government revenue and most of its foreign exchange earnings. The militants agreed to a ceasefire in August 2016, a development that helped pull the country out of recession in the second quarter of last year. But they called off the truce in November. Any resumption of attacks will pile pressure on President Muhammadu Buhari, who is also facing separatist groups in the South-East, Islamist militants in the North-East and elections in 2019.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

The militant insurgency in the Niger Delta can be described as a horrible situation whose its permanent solution has not been found nor is it in view. This is because, the problem is backed up by internal, insincere and selfish desires of some power intoxicating few who had and still is holding the country in ransom for a good number of years. The rise of insurgency by history, literatures and observation was an outburst of deep groanings and bitter pains by the victims of oil exploitation in the Niger Delta region. Their heritage was been utilized for a national good while the inheritors were abandoned to the negative effects of oil exploitation. The country basked in much resources but the source of that resource is constantly neglected. One would sincerely imagine why such situation exists in a country filled with religious and God-seeking fellows coupled with litters of degrees that brandishes their intellectual attainment. This outburst which replicated militancy in the Niger Delta region was left untamed or would we say poorly tamed. This is because from time to time we hear threats from these militants about undertaking one form of deadly attack or the other. The resultant effect has been on the dwindling of the nation’s number one major source of revenue. This situation cannot be easily discarded as we see daily its effect and prospects if left unattended. This situation formed the premise of this study and on this the concern for such a study was undertaken to examine in clear terms militant’s insurgency and its corresponding effect on oil exploitation in the Niger delta.

1.3 Objective of the Study

This study seeks to examine the relationship that exists between militant insurgency and oil exploitation in the Niger delta. Specifically, the aims are:

a. To determine the kind of relationship that exists between militant insurgency and oil exploitation in the Niger Delta.

b. To highlight the impact of militant insurgency on the socio-economic status of the country.

1.4 Significance of the Study

This study is an added voice to the call of quick and lasting solution to the militant’ insurgency in the Niger Delta. This is because it is visibly acceptable that for now, there is no lasting solution to the insurgency in the Niger delta, thus there is a need to consider meeting this need and this is what this study is advocating for. Secondly, from statistics, insurgency in the Niger Delta affects the economy in terms of its revenue and national peace, hence this study is also a pointer to an unsecured future where the nation’s revenue should be considered now as well as the national peace first, tribalism aside.

1.5 Research Question

This study attempts to answer the following research questions:

a. Does a relationship exist between militant Insurgency and Oil Exploitation in the Niger Delta Region?

b. What is the socio-economic effect of Militancy in Nigeria?

1.6 Scope and Limitation of the Study

This study has been expanded to accommodate literatures and facts concerning militancy both national and international. Several works by authors and erudite scholars were also recognized in this study. However, it is limited to the Niger delta region of Nigeria. More so, the study is limited in its methodology. It is agreed that several methods of analysis can probably yield different results but if the facts are right, their difference may not be wide. Therefore, this study is opened to further study using other forms of methodology.

1.7 Definition of Working Terminologies

Militant: One or group engaged in warfare or combat

Insurgency: a condition of revolt against a government that is less than an organized revolution and that is not recognized as belligerency

Exploitation: the action or fact of treating someone unfairly in order to benefit from their work.

1.8 Organization of the Study

This study is organized into five chapters. The first chapter gives an overview of militancy and insurgency, thereby highlighting the problem statement, research questions and the study’s significance. The second chapter reviewed related and relevant literatures on the militant insurgency and oil exploitation in the Niger Delta. The third chapter explained the study’s adopted methodology and the data analysis pattern.

The facts and figures were presented in the fourth chapter thereby giving credence to the study. The study concluded and gave a brief summary while recommending some salient way forward. This was captured in chapter five

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