Niger Delta Saga, Fuel Subsidy, Now Boko Haram, Which Way Nigeria?
-Masterweb Reports (Submission By Makanjuola Olaleye Ademola)
It is a known fact that the arrival of Europeans in Nigeria, just like in other West African countries, was as a result of the desire to establish and expand trade. The slave trade, which originally dominated foreign interest in Nigeria, automatically dimmed with the discovery of palm oil and palm kernel, which later became more lucrative and attractive avenues of wealth for British investors.
According to historians, “the people of Old Calabar have exported seven to eight hundred tons of palm oil beside bar wood annually” as far back as 1789. As a result of the nature of the newly found trade and business, palm oil and palm kernels developed steadily and speedily to replace trade in long period of time until 1894 when British government, through the foreign office, posted a consul to the area to help in the protection of the interests of British merchants. The consul and others were then instructed to act only as traders and not colonist. Nigeria was now colonized by the British.
Nigeria gained her independence from the whites after colonization and exploitation of her natural resources in 1960, and became a federation in 1963. We all thought the pace was set, but some tasking questions are now left for us to answer.
First and foremost, oil exploitation started in 1956 at Obiri in Niger Delta; oil exportation started in 1958. The Niger Delta area is a place where most oils in Nigeria are being generated, yet the people still live in abject poverty with no education and employment opportunity to boast of. What’s the way Nigeria? Isaac Boro fought for the right of the Niger Delta in the 1960’s, after which he was arrested; he also fought in the civil war where he later died. Ken Saro-Wiwa who was an environmental activists, also created the movement for survival of the Ogoni people (MOSOP), he was equally hanged in November 10th 1995. What’s the way Nigeria? Military started in the late 90’s and Amnesty was introduced in 2009. The people in Niger Delta live on water, but there is no water for them to drink or fish because most of their vegetation has been destroyed by oil due to the oil spillage. Niger Delta is a high oil drilling area yet, they are not close to development.
In a related development, fuel subsidy came to play. From 2007 to 2010, the average budget spent on subsidy was 240 billion naira but in 2011, it increased to over 1.3 trillion naira. The government says the fuel subsidy removal would be used to execute a programme called “Subsidy Reinstatement Programme” (SUREP). Fuel subsidy has now become the tradition of past Nigerian heads of states. Many people however argued that there was never a subsidy, rather there is an over bloated government with wasteful spending. The money realized from the fuel subsidy is not being used for its primary purpose. Nigerian’s still find problem to acquire petrol even as we have abundance of oil in the country. Transportation fare is not being regulated as owners of public transport choose any price which suites them and the masses are left with no choice but to comply.
As if this was not enough, Boko-Haram now poses a threat in most parts of Nigeria especially in the North. Boko-Haram started by saying “Western education is evil”, there by threatening various Nigerian universities and blowing up different places in the North and other parts of Nigeria leaving scores of people dead. Surprisingly, churches and mosques are being blown up without prior knowledge of what this Islamic sect wants. The problem in the North is that there is low revenue allocated to them for development. Nigeria is a land of abundance of milk and honey, yet there is none to eat bread. The big question now is: which way Nigeria?
Makanjuola Olaleye Ademola (University of Lagos, Akoka, Yaba.)