The African ‘Oil-Rush’: A Battle Between new-found international power and domestic instability. What lies ahead for Nigeria?

image IR today

Madeline Sibley is a 3rd year Politics, Philosophy and Economics student at King’s College London, with specific interests in the international politics of energy and climate change policy.

Recent years have seen a substantial media presence concerning the ever-growing demand for natural resources amid the prospect of ‘peak-oil’ and how this has escalated the demand for new oil supplies. Yet what appears commented on to a lesser degree is that this recent global interest in Africa’s natural resources is generating a growing source of conflict between major energy players, in turn laying the foundations for countries such as Nigeria to become vital actors on the international oil stage. When taking a moment to reflect on this phenomenal turn of events it becomes evident that, somewhat paradoxically, it is precisely by virtue of this new-found power that Nigeria is becoming increasingly dysfunctional and unstable.[1]

To give some perspective, Nigeria is one of the identified ‘MINT’ economies, is the largest producer of petroleum in sub-Saharan Africa and the thirteenth largest producer in the world.[2] Endowed with plentiful oil reserves, it has the potential for an incredibly prosperous economy, but currently Nigeria remains remarkably poor, with many of its sizeable population starving. It comes as no surprise that what makes assessing the future of Nigeria in this respect difficult is the lack of transparency of the public bodies that govern the Nigerian oil sector, in particular the National Nigerian Petroleum Corporation. As is the case with many corrupt, state-owned monopolies, it is unclear exactly “how, when and to what extent corruption takes place”.[3] Nevertheless, certain avenues of corruption thankfully can be identified.

231549-nigeria-poverty

Due to Nigeria’s control of vital resources it is becoming increasingly powerful and increasingly profitable; strengthening demands for a more equitable distribution of oil revenues.[4] Yet according to Dr. Charles Ebinger, a Senior Fellow with the Energy Security Initiative at the Brookings Institute, billions of dollars of Nigerian oil money continues to vanish into London and Swiss bank accounts.[5] As a direct repercussion of this, for approaching two decades now, Nigeria’s Delta region has faced escalated insurgency risks and growing instability alongside the persistent security concerns of relentless kidnappings. Not only is this intensifying instability and deepening the poverty crisis, the consequential alienation of the impoverished Nigerian people has created a schism between the people and the elites which has been exploited by Boko Haram militance.[6] It is thus unsurprising to find that the bulk of poverty coexists with Boko Haram strongholds in the Northern regions of Nigeria.

Ultimately, if Nigerian elites continue to loot the rents from their county’s oil wealth the Nigerian people can expect not only to remain “marginalised and excluded from the benefits of oil” but will also be forced to face the reality of an explosive political emergency.[7] Nigerians must be heard clearly in their united call for major reforms to the state in an effort to diminish the corruption that has propelled their country into turmoil. Despite the great challenges that lie ahead, perhaps drawing attention to these issues will help ensure greater oversight of the Nigerian oil sector in pursuit of stability and transparency at a time of increasing international power for Nigeria.

[1] Roland Dannreuther, “International Relations Theories: Energy, Minerals and Conflict” Polinares, no.8 (2010): 3.

[2] Michael Watts, “Resource curse? governmentality, oil and power in the Niger Delta, Nigeria”, Geopolitics 9, no. 1 (2010): 50.

[3] Alexandra Gillies, “Reforming corruption out of Nigerian oil?” CHR. Michelson Institute, no.2 February, 2009 https://www.cmi.no/publications/file/3295-reforming-corruption-out-of-nigerian-oil-part-one.pdf [Accessed September 14, 2018].

[4] Michael Schwartz, “The Nigerian oil industry and renewed instability in the Delta”, Global Risk Insights. July 27, 2018, https://globalriskinsights.com/2018/07/nigerian-oil-industry-instability-delta/ [Accessed September 15, 2018].

[5] Daniel Tovrov, “Nigeria Poverty Rises as Government Deals With Corruption, Rebels”, International Business Times. February 13, 2012, https://www.ibtimes.com/nigeria-poverty-rises-government-deals-corruption-rebels-409810 [Accessed September 14, 2018].

[6] Daniel Tovrov, “Nigeria Poverty Rises as Government Deals With Corruption, Rebels”, International Business Times. February 13, 2012, https://www.ibtimes.com/nigeria-poverty-rises-government-deals-corruption-rebels-409810 [Accessed September 14, 2018].

[7] Michael Watts, “Resource curse? governmentality, oil and power in the Niger Delta, Nigeria”, Geopolitics 9, no. 1 (2010): 51.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s