NIGER DELTA CRISIS AND ITS IMPACT ON NIGERIA‘S NATIONAL SECURITY

NIGER DELTA CRISIS AND ITS IMPACT ON NIGERIA‘S NATIONAL SECURITY

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CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

1.1 BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY

One of the fundamental responsibilities of the state is to ensure the security of the life and property of its citizens. Others include the protection of its territoriality and sovereignty and the guarantee of its socio-economic and political stability. Security as an essential concept is commonly associated with the alleviation of threats to cherished values, especially the survival of individuals, groups or objects in the near future. Thus, security as the name implies, involves the ability to pursue cherished political and social ambitions (Williams, 2008:6). According to Palme (1992:9), ―there is a correlation between security and survival‖. Whereas survival is an essential condition, security is viewed as safety, confidence, free from danger, fear, doubt, among others. Therefore, security is ‗survival-plus‘ and the word 'plus' could be understood from the standpoint of being able to enjoy some freedom from life-determining threats and some life choices (Booth, 2007: 15). However, the concept - security, is meaningless without a critical discourse of something pertinent to secure. Indeed, security could best be understood when situated within the context, of a referent object. In the long sweep of human history, the central focus of security has been people (Rothschild, 1995:68). Contrarily, some scholars especially those in international politics have argued that when thinking about security, states should be the most important referents. On the other hand, some analysts have challenged this position by arguing that any intellectual discourse on security should accord priority to human beings since without reference to individual humans, security makes no sense (McSweeney, 1999:127). Notwithstanding these controversial dabates, the focus of this investigation is on micro security. However, micro security deals with the internal security of which Nigeria is currently mired in a state of obfuscation.

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Similarly, the security situation in Nigeria obviously took different dimensions. This period, however, witnessed a consistent pressure on the government by Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), Movement for the Sovereign State of Biafra (MOSSOB), increasing spate of kidnapping in the South - East geo – political zone, incessant bombings in the northern parts of Nigeria by Boko Haran group, Mehem by the Islamic assailants in Jos crisis, politically motivated killings by unscrupulous groups, among others (Ameh, 2008:9).

Before the advent of commercial oil production in the Niger Delta about fifty years ago (in1958), the region was essentially a pristine environment which supported substantial subsistence resources for the mostly sedentary populations. These included among other things, medicinal herbs and barks, fish and shrimp, crabs and clams, wood for energy and shelter, as well as a stable soil for farming and habitat for exotic wildlife. There was the Delta elephant, the white crested monkey, the river hippopotamus, as well as a colorful array of exotic birds, crocodiles, turtles and alligators. The region also accounted for a large percentage of Nigeria‘s commercial fisheries industry. Oil prospecting activities however are associated with the destruction of vegetation, farmlands and human settlements to allow for seismic cutting lines. Severe environmental hazards associated with this activity include destruction of fish and some other forms of aquatic life, both marine and freshwater around the prospecting sites. Noise pollution and vibration from seismographic blasting also affects buildings, fence walls, wooden bridges and access roads. When the impact occurs, as has become routine in the Niger Delta, there is usually no attempt to rectify the damages done to the environment, health and social well-being of the people and ecosystem. No compensation whatsoever is considered (Eyinla and Ukpo, 2006). Oil drilling operations further pollute the underground water. Through a variety of unethical practices in drilling, more fish and fauna are destroyed, farming and fishing grounds polluted by toxic waste materials. Also in the

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production process, waste water is discharged from major production terminals together with other contaminants like sludge from storage tanks, oil debris, gaseous pollutants and sanitary wastes. More of these toxic wastes are released into the already heavily polluted environment during the process of oil refining, during which process several chemicals and pollutants such as hydrogen sulphide, oil and grease, ammonia and toxic heavy metals are discharged into the environment. The process involved in petroleum resources distribution also include disruption of the sea bed by dredging activities for pipeline installation beside malfunctioning flow stations and other oil installations. Sedimentation also occurs along pipeline channels, besides pollution from tank washing, deck drainage and loading operations. The routine destruction of environmentally sensitive regions like the lowlands, wetlands, fish ponds and farmlands are the regular features. Also involved in this is general land degradation and loss of soil fertility. In addition to these are the problems associated with the oil spillage caused by blow-outs, corrosion, equipment failure, operational error and pipeline vandalisation. Other causes of oil spillage include weakness of legislative control and enforcement of regulations, the callous nature of the operations of oil companies which are often shrouded in secrecy. According to Eyinla and Ukpo (2006), it will be correct to indicate that the greatest single environmental problem associated with the petroleum industry in contemporary Nigeria, result from off-shore and on-shore oil spillage. It is estimated that in over 40 years of oil exploration and production in Nigeria, over 60,000 spills have been recorded, and over 2,000,000 barrels were discharged into the regions eco-system from oil spillages alone between 1976 and 1996. In 1997 and 1998, Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) spilled 106,000 from its installations at Jones creek alone. In January 1998, Mobil recorded its worst spillage at the Idoho offshore site which spread within 30 days from Akwa-Ibom to Lagos. Within the first months of 2008 alone, Nigeria recorded 418 cases of oil spills. According to the Minister of Environment, Mrs. Halima Alao: This portends a great danger to

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us as a nation, and particularly to the environment and the social and economic well being of our people (Vanguard, 2008).

This is however a gross understatement of the severe implications of oil spillage to the region. According to Eyinla and Ukpo (2006), there are several specific impacts of oil spills relating to the destruction of the wetlands. These include loss of fish, crustaceans and other aquatic resources, loss of livelihood through loss of fishing grounds and gears, wildlife migration, destruction of farmlands, reduced agricultural productivity and yield, displacement of inhabitants, spread of water borne epidemics, to mention a few. All of these translate to hunger, grinding poverty and disease where there are neither hospitals nor herbal remedies which have in the mean time been rendered impotent by oil production. In addition, the innumerable gas flares which dot the Niger Delta landscape waters produce heat and light on a continuous basis, day and night. Not only can fish and fauna not breed under such conditions, they are also forced to migrate to more suitable waters elsewhere in the West African coast. Gas flaring is also associated with atmospheric and thermal pollution and the depletion of vegetation and wild life. According to Eyinla and Ukpo (2006), damages to buildings, acid rain formation, depletion of floral periodicity, discomfort to humans and danger of pulmonary disease epidemic are other environmental problems arising from gas flaring. The soil, rivers and creeks of Niger Delta, which used to be alkaline in nature 17-40 years ago, have now, become dangerously acidic.

In line with socio-economic practices in oil bearing communities worldwide, but especially in more advanced civilizations, discovery and exploitations of oil was always a welcome development for the inhabitants of such communities. The hope and initial excitement in the Niger Delta that they would automatically be entitled to benefits that come with being oil producing communities, was therefore legitimate. Oil discovery has brought hope that civilized and modern infrastructure such as electricity, pipe borne water, primary and

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secondary schools, well equipped hospitals, better and more modern equipments for exploitation of the region‘s fish and fauna will become available. There would at last be roads leading through and linking the communities with the rest of the country. There was also the expectation that as oil companies begin to carry out their operations and implement the ideas embodied in their corporate social responsibility, more people would have the opportunity of gainful employment. But in the context of prolonged denials and frustrations, neither the oil companies nor government seem to have come to terms with these pervasive social expectations. One of the most debilitating disappointments was with human capital development. In order to get basic education, the youths have to leave their homes in the creeks to live with relatives and friends in upland communities, most of who often treat them as servants or even beggars. When they eventually get education to tertiary levels, most of them are unable to return to their homeland except as aggrieved and embittered citizens. They had in the process witnessed how the resources of their ancestral lands are exploited and carted away to develop other communities in the country, while their people bear the brunt of this official theft in the form of environmental degradation, political disenfranchisement, social dislocation and economic despoliation They are forced to witness how oil companies provide state-of-the art facilities for the comfort of their employees, most of whom are foreigners to their land, without adequate consideration for the needs of their hosts, even when doing so is relatively cheap and feasible. They are for instance, only willing to build roads, if such would open-up new and lucrative oil fields. They are able to generate electricity to power their numerous sites within the communities, without bothering to link their immediate hosts to the same grid, even when it is cost-effective to do so. Confronted by the stark realities of unemployment in their homelands, even after getting education abroad, there seems to be only one choice open to them – take and sell the resources available, directly from the pipelines if necessary. Hence the incidence of pipeline vandalisation, illegal

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bunkering, and their local imperatives of gun running, cult-gang building and militancy as defence mechanisms (Eyinla and Ukpo (2006) put this succinctly: A popular stand-up comedian once placed the entire scenario….in satirical perspective when he insisted that

youths are up in arms against government and multi-national oil companies…because they are tired of being told that ―something good is in the pipeline‖ for them. Rather than wait any further for those promises to materialize, the youths are taking it upon themselves to break open oil pipelines in order to redeem the benefits promised! (emphasis mine).

1.2 STATEMENT OF PROBLEM

The Niger Delta region harbours one of the world‘s biggest oil reserves of some 34 billion barrels of crude oil (Robinson, 2006:18-24). At some point, the resources of the Niger Delta region made Nigeria the largest oil producer in Africa and the sixth largest in the world (Ajanaku, 2008). With all these attributes, it was expected that oil exploration would bring economic prosperity to the region but has turned out instead to be a curse to the people of the region (Ajanaku, 2008; Davis, 2009; Roberts, 2005) who, until recently, have been neglected by successive governments (Roberts, 2005; Osuntokun, 1999; Oviasuyi & Uwadiae, 2010:110). Rather than transform the area into one of the most developed spaces in the world, oil presence, exploration and exploitation deepened poverty and undermined development in the region. Activities around exploitation of crude oil and natural gas in the Niger Delta region have caused irredeemable ecological devastation to the Niger Delta land over the years (Inokoba & Imbua, 2010). Some of these problems include water and land pollution as a result of oil exploration activities, destruction of natural vegetation, deforestation, destruction of arable farm lands and human settlements, loss of bio-diversity such as flora and fauna habitats, air pollution, acid rain, gas flaring, and so on while economic activities such as fishing, farming and hunting which has been the mainstay of the people and local economy can no longer be practiced profitably. In addition, a range of harsh socio-economic conditions

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such as poverty and underdevelopment, unemployment, high cost of living, diseases and strange health conditions, unemployment, social disintegration and restiveness, infrastructural decay, intra and inter-communal clashes, and general insecurity has gripped the region intermittently.

Though the government offered amnesty to the militants for a very short period that, but a few militants responded. Oil production continues to be seriously reduced by the militants‘ attacks and by the stealing of oil (termed ―bunkering‖) by militants and others which have continued to threaten national security and peace.

1.3 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY

1.      Assess the security situation in the Niger Delta region.

2.      Examine the actions taken towards abating the Niger Delta Crisis.




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