Oil & Poverty in the Niger Delta
...the oil boom has become, to the people of the Niger Delta region, a doom, and years of official neglect has resulted in the Niger Delta Region of today being the epitome of hunger, poverty and injustice.
Rural & Remote Health Online - 2004
Today, as you read this, the Nigerian government and the oil companies operating in the Niger Delta will gross over US$120 million from pumping oil and gas in the Niger Delta. Tomorrow will be around the same.
Every day, around 2 million barrels of oil are pumped from the Niger Delta. At $60 a barrel, that's $120 million. Increasingly, natural gas is also being exported from the Delta, adding to the millions in revenues generated every day.
The International Monetary Fund calculated that Nigeria earned over US$350 billion in oil revenues between 1965 and 2000. Since 2000, with oil prices soaring, billions more have been earned.
The people of the Delta see this wealth being pumped from around them; the high security compounds of the foreign oil workers a reminder of the wealth being enjoyed by a few.
What they get in return, and what they have gotten for the past 50 years, is pitiful. Not only have they received little but they have been made even more impoverished by the pollution, corruption and conflict that oil production has brought in their midst.
Nigeria is among the fifteen poorest countries in the world and 70% of its people live below the poverty line. Life expectancy is only 51.2 compared to the UK average of 78. In the Delta region, less than 30% of the people have access to safe water and the prevalence of HIV AIDs is the highest in Nigeria.
The villages of the Niger Delta, like many villages across Nigeria, lack basic amenities; running water, sanitation, health care and schools. The cities overflow with slums.
There is no quick fix to the problem of poverty in Nigeria and the Niger Delta. There is no shortage of money. In fact, many observers comment that it is the vast sums of money generated by oil and gas that keeps Nigeria poor. They provide irresistible bounty for corrupt politicians and civil servants to fight over. They allow for massive waste in the operation of state.
The corruption that eats away Nigeria's oil wealth is not carried out in isolation. Multinational oil companies are complicit. For 50 years, Shell has done business with every corrupt official and military dictator that has happened to be running Nigeria. It has always been part of the system that rather than enriching Nigeria impoverishes it. Likewise, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Agip and Total, along with hundreds of smaller oil companies, contractors and service companies have done what ever it takes to do business in Nigeria.
Facilitating the epic theft of Nigeria's oil wealth is an international system of tax havens that enables Nigeria's elites to disappear billions of dollars without a trace. The UK and the US are at the heart of maintaining that system; a system that benefits the rich and harms the poor.
For a detailed account of oil in the Niger Delta, see The Next Gulf.
For more information about tax havens and tax justice see The Tax Justice Network.
For other resources on poverty in the Niger Delta see the links above.
For more on Oil & Poverty go here.