.NIGERIA – Progress yes but issues of injustice remain
Nigerians have much to feel positive about. In the past decades democracy has strengthened and Nigeria has witnessed improvements in infrastructure, banking, communications and also greatly reduced its indebtedness. It has however been dogged by social strife often caused by longstanding divisions within Nigeria’s diverse population. These are visible and sometimes erupt along the intertwined lines of politics, religion and ethnicity.
There are also socio-economic tensions not entirely of Nigeria’s own making. One contentious area is oil production. Nigeria has proven oil reserves of 25 billion barrels and natural gas reserves of 100 trillion cubic feet. Here Nigeria has definitely scored an own goal – these resources and the revenue they bring, are being misused. The oil industry and the complex interaction of multinational companies, politicians and officialdom have become synonymous with corruption, environmental destruction and shady dealings that have bred anger, violence and distrust among those who are dispossessed and excluded from the benefits that oil wealth should bring.
The Oil Industry is a major cause of social and environmental injustice in Nigeria. While this injustice is particularly visible among the local people in the Niger Delta region where the oil is produced it also affects the wider population. Nigerians have gained far too little benefit from what should be a national resource. Instead billions of oil-dollar profits have gone into the coffers of Multinationals or have disappeared into the pockets of corrupt officials and leaders. At the same time the environment and health of local people in oil producing areas is being destroyed and poisoned. In spite of the huge profits accruing to Shell, ENI, Exxon and Chevron these companies, although responsible, do little to clean up their mess or prevent it continuing. On the wider level the disappearance of oil revenues has prevented social investment in education, health, agriculture and infrastructure. This is a huge injustice.