The conflict happening in the Niger Delta stated in 1990. The tensions involve foreign oil corporation and members of some Niger Delta’s minority ethnic groups, particularly the Ogoni and the Ijaw. The instability continued from the 1990s until recently even though there are major changes in the government structure. The area surrounding the Delta is now heavily militarized by the Nigerian army and police forces, and numerous armed groups belonging to the ethnic groups (Barrett). According to the Center for International Development and Conflict Management (“Minorities at Risk.
A Country Case Study”) violence and high crime rate is a common scenario in the Delta because of the stiff contest for oil. Government atrocities with civilian as victims are also recorded in the area. One of the most conflicted areas in the Delta is Oganiland. Located in the southeast of the Niger Delta, Oganiland is a region comprising 404-squale-mile of the area. Shell and Chevron set up their exploration and drilling facilities in the area upon the discovery of oil deposits in 1957.
The rich oil deposit in Oganiland is considered as Nigeria’s first petroleum deposit for commercial purposes. During the exploration of the two largest foreign oil companies, government authorities and agents forced residents of the area to leave. This government-initiated forced evacuation on the area affected almost half a million ethnic minorities belonging to the group Ogonis and other ethnic groups (Agbu). They also attest that the government and the foreign oil companies did not conduct any consultation with them and offer any damages.
Despite the strong opposition from the affected minorities, the federal government supported the atrocities by amending the Constitution that the government has the full ownership on all lands within Nigeria and compensation will be based on the crops and products located in the land during the taking and not the actual value of the land. These further allow the taking of foreign oil corporations on almost all of the lands in Oganiland with the help of the government (“Minorities at Risk. A Country Case Study. ”). In the 1980s, the situation of Oganiland and the Oganis deteriorated economically, socially, politically and environmentally.
Dissatisfaction and discontent among the people in Oganiland steadily mounts that in 1992 they formed the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP). It became the main organization campaigning for various issues of the Oganis, primarily ethnic and environmental rights. MOSOP became the main opposition of the Nigerian government and foreign oil companies in Oganiland (Agbu). The conflict between MOSOP and oil companies escalated that it resulted to violence disrupting some of the oil companies’ major activities in the area.
MOSOP required $10 billion as royalties since the companies started and for the degradation of the environment in Oganiland (Olusakin). However, according to Agbu (2004) the oil companies, Shell, Chevron and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, with the help of government authorities answered the MOSOP’s demand through violence also. Mass actions and protests started to occur in a daily basis in Oganiland that resulted the banning of public assembly by the government. It also pronounced as acts of treason any disturbances of oil production and related activities in the area.
Militarization and repression rose in 1994 where in four village chiefs were murdered. The head of MOSOP, Ken Saro-Wira was detained because of the killings. Hundreds were also arbitrarily arrested and detained because of the killings. By June of the same year, there were almost 30 villages totally ruined, almost 2,000 deaths and leaving nearly 100,000 Oganis as internal refugees (Human Rights Watch). In 1994 Saro-Wira with other eight Ogani activist were arrested and sentenced to death. They are executed though hanging by the Nigerian government.
The deaths of Saro-Wira and his companions enraged the people of Oganiland that resulted to more disruptive and violent actions against the oil companies. The militancy of the Oganis inspired other ethic groups to start their own struggle against the government and the foreign oil companies (Olusakin). The Ijaws organized the Ijaw National Congress and Ijaw youth organized the Ijaw Youth Congress. These two groups raise the political consciousness and militancy of the Ijaw people. They started to lay down their demands against the irresponsive central Nigerian government and to the foreign oil companies.
They are asserting that these companies should have direct and concrete plans to uplift the lives of the people in the Niger Delta (Obi). Recently, armed and more militant groups like Niger Delta Peoples Vanguard (NDPV), Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), Niger Delta People’s Volunteer Force (NDPVF) and the Nigerian Delta Vigilante (NDV) were organized. Although these groups were formed because of the continuous environmental degradation, government neglect and social and political unrest in the area, they are now in conflict on varying ideologies and forms of actions (Obi).
Most of them aim to gain control of the area’s rich oil resources. NDPVF and NDV are in conflict with each other. Violence between the groups rose resulting to disruptive activities in Port Harcourt, the Delta’s oil capital. Supporters of NDPVF transferred to NDV escalating more the conflict between the two groups (Agbu). After the local and national elections of 2003, NDPVF announced their all-out war against the government (Olusakin). However, MEND is closely affiliated with NDV. They reached their international reputation when they hijacked oil tankers crossing through the country and nearby countries.
They arbitrarily detained workers in the tankers for months and demanding for ransom for their release. Last year, they attacked various oil installations and facilities of oil company Shell that resulted to oil price increase. They also attacked a facility of Chevron, forcing the company to halt operations in the region for that year (Obi). In 2005, the central government called the National Political reform Conference. Representatives of the Niger Delta raised various concerns on the development of the region.
Numerous non-government and human rights organization have also called the attention of the central government to introduce reform in the region. There are proposals to divide the region into two, Eastern Niger Delta and Western Niger Delta, to make developmental projects easier to implement (Taylor). The ventral government should also convert new states in the region with at least one city in every state. Taylor (2007) said that federal offices and ministries should also set-up their branches in the region to make government services more accessible to ethnic minorities in the region.
The government is also urged to enact legislations compelling oil companies to implement developmental projects in their host communities and strictly follow environmental laws. International civil society groups have also suggested that the central government implement policies to have more transparency in the revenues and fiscal matters on the oil industries. The Washington-based Human Rights Watch (2002) also strongly recommends that state security forces should be investigated and persecuted on their abuses on the civilians in the region (p. 5).
The conflict in the region is already decade-old and seems will never end. The Nigerian government should seriously implement reforms and developmental projects in the region to alleviate poverty among its people. The more delay on these developments needed, the more people will be agitated to join the armed resistance fueled by inequality among the oil company and the ethnic minorities of the Niger Delta. Works Cited: Agbu, Osita. (2004). Ethnic Militias and the Threat to Democracy in Post-Transition Nigeria. Uppsala: Nordic African Institue. Barrett, Ejiroghene.
“Why the Troubles in the Niger Delta. ” New African 456 (2006): 40-45 “Minorities at Risk. A Country Case Study. ” 2 April 2009. Center fro International Development and Conflict Management. <http://cidcm. umd. edu>. Olusakin, Ayoka Mopelala. “Peace in the Niger Delta: Economic Development and the Politics of Dependence on Oil. ” International Journal on World Peace 23 (2006): 3 Obi, Cyril (1997). Globalization and Local Resistance: The Case of the Ogoni versus Shell. Ibadan: University of Ibadan. Obi, Cyril (2001). The Changing Forms of Identity Politics in Nigeria under Economic
Adjustment: The Case of the Oil Minorities Movement of the Niger Delta. Uppsala: Nordic African Institute. Taylor, Darren. “Niger Delta and Lack of Infrastructure: Major Issues in Nigeria Elections. ” Voice of America. 22 March 2007. 2 April 2009 <http://www. voanews. com/english/ archive/2007-03/Niger-Delta-Conflict-and-Lack-of-Infrastructure-Major-Issues-in-Nigeria-Elections. cfm> “The Niger Delta: No Democratic Dividend. ” October 2002. Human Rights Watch. 2 April 2009. < http://www. hrw. org/legacy/reports/2002/nigeria3/nigerdelta. pdf>