Read the item below before answering these questions:
- Who is benefiting most and who is suffering most from the situation?
- How many different ‘crimes’ are potentially involved?
- Can you find examples of global crime; green crime; state crime?
Nigeria is one of the world’s biggest producers of oil. But the scramble for riches has brought ruin to the region and its people. Report by Steve Bloomfield
This should be paradise – a land of plenty. The finest schools and hospitals, gleaming infrastructure that shames the West, a place where wealth literally oozes out of the marshy undergrowth.
A sweaty, heaving melting pot of 30 million people, the Niger Delta lies on the southern banks of Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country. But while we have been using their oil to drive our cars, fuel our aeroplanes and keep the wheels of our economy turning, those in the Delta have had their land, their lives, their dreams destroyed.
Oil spills have polluted their rivers and land, making fishing and farming impossible. Flares, burning constantly, have filled their air with soot. Billions of dollars have been pumped out of their land with nothing in return. Even the oil industry jobs have gone elsewhere, to well-paid foreigners and Nigerians from less marginalised parts of the country. For those who live closest to the oil fields, the best they can hope for is casual labour when there is a spill or a pipeline bursts and locals are employed for pennies to clear it up.
Nigeria was Africa’s largest oil producer, producing more than 2.5m barrels per day. That number is falling though, as the Delta has become chaotic, a place of armed gangs, of kidnappings, of daily violence. Oil companies, and the people who work for them, have become the target. In the past few years, shadowy militant groups like the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend) have taken advantage of rising anger towards the oil industry. They kidnap foreign oil workers and attack oil installations. Almost all of those kidnapped are returned unharmed once a hefty ransom has been paid. The oil companies and the Nigerian government always insist that no money has changed hands – but no one believes them.
Mend’s attacks on oil installations have cut the country’s oil production by at least 20 per cent. The militant groups like to portray themselves as rebels fighting on behalf of the people, but many of them are little more than guns-for-hire, taking advantage of the chaos. Sometimes they work for gang bosses, sometimes politicians, but the result is always the same. The ransom ends up in some overseas bank account and those living in the Delta get poorer. Those same accounts are also regularly feathered with money made from “bunkering” – stealing oil direct from the pipeline and selling it on the black market.
But within a decade, the United States expects to extract around a quarter of its oil from the Gulf of Guinea. They see it as a safer option than the Middle East, and it has played a large part in the thinking behind the establishment of the US’s Africa Command – a plan for a series of permanent military bases on the continent.
Adapted from ‘The Independent’ 2 August 2008