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1.1 Background of Study

Economic development, and indeed human survival, is dependent on the exploration of natural resources. Crude oil has had a more profound impact on the world civilization than any other natural resource in recorded history. Oil has become a very decisive element in defining the politics and diplomacy of states. This fact is adumbrated in a public lecture titled “Oil in World Politics” delivered by a former secretary of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), the late Chief M. O. Feyide, when he asserted that:

“All over the world, the lives of people are affected and the destinies of nations are determined by the result of oil explorations. Oil keeps the factories of the industrialized countries working and provides the revenues, which enable oil exporters to execute ambitious national and economic development plans. The march of progress would be retarded and life itself would be unbearable if the world is deprived of oil. That is why oil has become the concern of governments, a vital ingredient of their politics and a crucial factor in the political and diplomatic strategies.” (Pyagbara, 2007)

Although Nigeria's oil industry was founded in the 1950s, it was not until the end of the Nigerian civil war (1967-1970) that it came to play a prominent role in the economic life of the country. From a primary-producer country depending for her foreign exchange earnings on a few primary commodities, to a petroleum-producer country depending almost exclusively on crude oil exports for her foreign exchange earnings, aptly describes the country's economic history. Countries with a petroleum-sector driven economy were among the few that rose from the poverty line to relative abundance as a result of the world energy crisis of the 1970s. The oil revenues of the 1970s provided the funds required to provide the basic infrastructure for an industrial take-off and for the development of other sectors of the economy. However, lack of foresight and gross economic mismanagement at various times in the country’s economic history made Nigeria neglect pursuing an aggressive policy towards developing other sectors of the economy. The cost of that negligence is today's economic crisis. (Kalu, 1994)


The Federal Republic of Nigeria lies on the Atlantic Coast of West Africa. It is Africa’s most populous country with a population of over 160 million people, made up of about 250 different ethnic groups speaking nearly 400 different languages (World Bank, 2014).

Nigeria became independent on October 1, 1960 with a federal system, designed by the colonial rulers, which from the very beginning was at variance with the aspirations of many of the minority groups in the country. Scholars of political development observed that the federal constitution that was produced suffered from two fundamental and destabilizing flaws. The first was the division of the country into three unequal regions, with the population of the size of the northern region alone exceeding that of the two southern regions put together. The second flaw involved, the political and demographic domination of the northern, western, and eastern regions being the majority ethnic nationalities and the attendant marginalization of the minority ethnic nationalities that comprise approximately one-third of the population of each region. The Niger Delta people form the largest group amongst the ethnic minorities spread over the South-South geopolitical zone of the nation.

Political history maintains that the Niger Delta as a region predates Nigeria’s emergence as a British colony by at least a decade. Britain’s Niger Delta Protectorate and the Niger Delta Coast Protectorate were already well established by the middle of 1880s and the late 1890s before further British interests led to the formation of Southern Nigeria in 1900. In the decades before Second World War, many Niger Delta communities had their own local leaders who distinguished themselves in the service of their people while serving the British. But it was only as a result of the Arthur Richards Reforms of 1946 that regional representation became important in British colonial arrangements (Onduku, 2001).

Figure 1: Map of Nigeria


The above map of Nigeria (Figure 1) numerically shows states typically considered as part of the Niger Delta region: 1. Abia, 2. Akwa Ibom, 3. Bayelsa, 4. Cross River, 5. Delta, 6. Edo, 7. Imo, 8. Ondo, 9. Rivers. Thus, Rivers State is one of the Niger Delta States. Its capital is Port Harcourt. It is bounded on the South by the Altantic Ocean, to the North by Imo, Abia and Anambra States, to the East by Akwa Ibom State and to the West by Bayelsa and Delta states. Rivers state is predominantly Ikwere clan, an Igbo subgroup and also Ijaw, Ogoni etc in its coastal areas. Linguistic scholars have grouped these communities into six major linguistic groups, namely ljoid, lower Niger (lgboid), Ogoni, Central Delta, Delta Edoid, and Lower Cross. The Ogoni group includes a large number of dialects which can be grouped into four Khana, Gokana, Eleme and Ogoi. These four groups make up Ogoni community (also known as Ogoniland) which is interchangeably called Ogoni people in this work.

Apart from the need for an in-depth and intensive study, the choice of Ogoni is based on the fact that the community was among the first places where oil was found in a commercial quantity in Nigeria – Shell began drilling in Ogoniland in 1958 (Nest, 1991). Thus, the community’s historical experience can be considered as a good representation of Niger Delta region vis-à-vis the socio-economic effects of the activities of oil companies. Figure 2 presents the map of Ogoniland.

Figure 2: Map of Ogoniland


Nigeria joined the league of oil producing nations on August 3rd, 1956 when oil was discovered in commercial quantities and was ranked in 2013 as the 1st leading oil supplier in Africa, and the 13th largest oil supplier in the world (see table 1.1).

Table 1.1: Top World Oil Suppliers, 2013 (thousand barrels per day)


Oil Supply


United States



Saudi Arabia












United Arab Emirates







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