The Swamps of Insurgency: Nigeria’s Delta Unrest
A potent cocktail of poverty, crime and corruption is fuelling a militant threat to Nigeria’s reliability as a major oil producer. Since January 2006, fighters from a new group, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), have fought with government forces, sabotaged oil installations, taken foreign oil workers hostage and carried out two lethal car bombings. MEND demands the government withdraw troops, release imprisoned ethnic leaders and grant oil revenue concessions to Delta groups. The Nigerian government needs to forge far-reaching reforms to administration and its approach to revenue sharing, the oil companies to involve credible, community-based organisations in their development efforts and Western governments to pay immediate attention to improving their own development aid. The root causes of the Delta insurgency are well known. Violence, underdevelopment, environmental damage and failure to establish credible state and local government institutions have contributed to mounting public frustration at the slow pace of change under the country’s nascent democracy, which is dogged by endemic corruption and misadministration inherited from its military predecessors. Nigeria had estimated oil export revenues of $45 billion in 2005 but the slow pace of systemic reforms and the lack of jobs, electricity, water, schools and clinics in large parts of the Delta have boosted support to insurgents such as MEND. Militants appeal to the kind of public disaffection that prompted ethnic Ogoni leader Ken Saro- Wiwa to protest the military-led government and Royal Dutch/Shell before his execution in November 1995.