Oil in the Niger Delta: A Blessing or a Curse?

The idea that natural resources might be more an economic curse than a blessing began to emerge in the 1980s. Richard Auty in 1993 described how countries rich in natural resources were unable to use that wealth to boost their economies and how, counter-intuitively, these countries had lower economic growth than countries without an abundance of natural resources. A rape of our commonwealth and high profile corruption are some of the brainchild crude oil in Nigeria has bequeathed to us. The desperate drive to get into public offices and elective positions clearly pinpoint the depth of corruption and curse crude oil in Nigeria has brought upon us.

Before the commercialization of crude oil in Nigeria, Agriculture and effective taxation were the main sources of our national survival. Agriculture contributed over 60% to our export and national Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Although the confederating states that constitute Nigeria were at cold war with each other over some political differences, developments in the various regions were remarkable. We had the groundnut pyramid in the North and cocoa pyramid in the West with a bustling coal industry in the East. The various regions initiated different programmes just to ensure that their regions did not lag behind among the comity of states. Well paying jobs were ubiquitous and the standard of living in Nigeria was remarkable. Quality Education was a hallmark of the government particularly in the West. Nigerians were respected at home and abroad. Nigeria gave out loans to other African countries and we played a huge role in the Independence and liberation of most African countries. Nigerians did not need visas to travel to the United Kingdom (UK) or other developed countries of the world. They saw Nigerians as equals.

However, that once glorious entity called Nigeria, has become today a relic of itself. Those who shared in the Nigerian Dream have deserted us to pursue their aspirations in other countries of the world. Countries like Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, South Korea, China, India, Egypt and several others which shared the same development index with us in the 1960s and ’70s have long outran us becoming some of the biggest economies in the world. Today, Nigerians suffer untold hardship and torture in these countries that once looked up to Nigeria as the Big Brother. Securing a visa to these countries is like a trip to the Promised Land. What is so wrong with Nigeria? Could it be the vast cultural and religious differences? But India and Malaysia have managed to forge ahead in spite of their cultural and religious differences. Maybe it’s the size of our population. How about China? In a matter of 30 years, they have self developed their economy from obscurity to the second largest economy in the world with a possibility of becoming the first in the nearest future.

According to the Niger Delta Congress, it is estimated that over $600 billion worth of crude has been pumped from the Niger Delta states since 1937. Yet high unemployment, environmental degradation, and a lack of basic resources such as fresh water and electricity persist. The persistent neglect of the Niger Delta Region has incited some of the region’s disenfranchised youths to take up arms. The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), the fiercest and most dangerous militant group is a product of the neglect of a region that has fed Nigeria for the past four decades. Compared to other oil producing regions in other countries, the pathetic environmental and weak infrastructural development in the Niger Delta calls for some soul-searching solutions. Abuja like other capital cities deserves a befitting status. Anything short of its present outlook would point Nigeria Surrey Realtor in a very negative posture. And more development is still ongoing without any tough political debates. Not once was the development and transformation of Abuja brought to the Nigerian village square for deliberations. If Abuja could be transformed into such a mega city in a matter of years, then what is so wrong with the development of the Niger Delta region that has fed the nation since Independence?

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