Matthew Walsh's EFL ESL website
The Niger Delta Conflict
Natural resources for who?


  Nigeria is the biggest producer of petroleum in Africa. It produces 2.4 million barrels a day. Most of the oil is produced in the Niger Delta region in the south, far away from the government of Nigeria in the richer city of Abuja farther north. The major oil companies working in Nigeria are Shell, Mobil, and Chevron. These multinational oil companies produce the oil in Nigeria and sell it in other countries. The oil has been flowing for over 50 years. Nigeria should be one of the richest countries in Africa and the world, but instead it is one of the poorest. 70% of the people in the Niger Delta region live in poverty (on less than 1$ a day) while the oil companies continue to get richer and richer.

  The oil production causes much damage to the environment, but the oil companies do not take responsibility. Traditionally, people from the area catch fish but the fish are dying and there aren't enough fish to catch.

  When oil is drilled, natural gas is also produced. However, the gas is expensive to keep and sell. The oil companies often simply release it into the air or burn it making continuous fires or 'flares' that smoke the sky 24 hours a day.
There is so much gas released that the amount equals 40% of all the gas used on the whole continent of Africa. The flaring and released gasses in Nigeria are the biggest single source of greenhouse gasses on Planet Earth. In developed countries, flaring is illegal.

  These gasses and smoke also produce acid rain which causes many problems for people living in the countryside.

  Many people who live in the Niger Delta region are angry about 2 things: one is the damage to the environment caused by the oil companies, and the other is that almost none of the oil money is used to improve their area by making schools or roades, etc. When the people in the Niger Delta region protest, the police or military often arrest and even torture them. Over 50,000 people have been killed by the government. The oil companies know about this, but continue paying the Nigerian government large amounts of money to protect their oil wells and refineries.

  People have gotten so angry that some groups from the Niger Delta have kidnapped workers from the oil companies. They ask for money, but they also want people to listen to them and pay attention to the problems the oil companies are causing. Over 200 people have been kidnapped and the problems continue.

  There are similar stories in many developing countries. Natural resources mean big money, but for who? Often the money goes only to the multinational corporations, and a few rich people in that country. Often too, militaristic governments help the multinational corporations by controlling the people if they become unhappy.  Amazingly, finding valuable natural resources in a country can actually make poverty worse. Some people call this 'the curse of the
natural resources'.

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