by | May 31, 2020

Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan has major challenges ahead. The 2011 election will be a national milestone. The power struggle in the country will continue until the election. Nigeria was plunged into a constitutional crisis when former President Yar’Adua fell ill and died in the winter of 2010. A conflict-filled period ended with Goodluck Jonathan taking over as president. Yar’Adua and his supporters did not want to authorize Jonathan, who was then vice president, to act as president, even though Yar’Adua was deadly ill and stayed for a long time in Saudi Arabia to receive medical treatment. This led to Nigeria being without a functioning head of state for a period.

Behind the conflict over the presidency lies the unwritten principle of power sharing between the North and the South, and positioning before the 2011 elections. The North dominated the country politically until 1999, while financial resources, primarily oil, are concentrated in the Southeast. The ruling party, the PDP, has an unwritten rule that the presidency should switch between the north and the south, and that there is shared leadership between the president and the vice president, which must come from each region. Yar’Adua took over after Obasanjo, who comes from the south, in Nigeria’s first civil power transfer in 2007. He then sat for two periods, and Yar’Adua from the north was to lead for two periods, with Jonathan to represent the south as his vice president.

Massacres in Jos

Under the vacuum of power without a functioning president, land conflicts between Muslim nomads and Christian peasants in the “Middle Belt” ignited. This led to new massacres in Jos, where nearly 400 were killed, mainly Christians. Similar clashes occurred in 2001 and 2008.

Northern Nigeria is considered to be mainly Muslim, while Christianity predominates in the south. Cultural, social and religious groups are mixed in the so-called “Middle Belt”. Climate change and desertification mean that nomads from the north are being pushed south to find pasture for their animals. According to the CountryAAH, 35 percent of the land that was cultivated 50 years ago in the 11 northernmost states today is desert. Christian farmers simultaneously take ownership of new land areas as a result of population increase. Consequently, conflicts of land use rights arise, and these conflicts are often expressed as ethnic and religious conflicts.

Resource allocation and youth violence

The conflicts in the oil-rich Niger Delta can also be linked to land, as oil has destroyed agricultural land through extensive pollution. Millions have had their livelihoods destroyed. The participation is characterized by a high level of conflict and violence. Militia groups have been behind kidnapping of oil workers, stealing oil, attacks and destruction of oil installations. They have effectively contributed to reduced oil production. Oil still accounts for 80 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in Nigeria, but lately oil production has been reduced to somewhere between 50 and 75 percent of capacity due to turmoil, conflict and violence.

The conflict in the delta is affecting the economy of Nigeria, and it is affecting the world by directly affecting international oil prices. By 2015, Nigeria will account for 25 percent of US oil imports. The Chinese have shown interest in all the 23 new blocks on tender.

The pressure and desire for peace is great. Previous conflict resolution agreements have often not been followed up, and the trust between the various players is thin. People in the area have long been satisfied with the “talk workshop.” The question is also whether the state and the international community have made the right diagnosis for the right measures. The conflicts are often defined as a security problem, with violent militia groups being the problem and the solutions being military.

Responsibility of the companies

But many point out that there are three stakeholders in the conflict in the delta area: Authorities (state and local), communities and the international oil companies. The companies are not legally liable for their participation in human rights violations or environmental damage. However, various forms of international and national law are now being tried to make companies accountable.

Shell’s possible involvement in the execution of nine activists and Ogoni leaders in 1995, among them the poet and activist Ken Saro Wiva, was brought to light when family of the nine activists went to trial against Shell in the United States under a law that opens to prosecute a company that operates in the United States for human rights violations in other countries. The parties entered into an agreement so that the law did not come into direct application. Still, many believe that the huge amount of compensation Shell awarded to the survivors – $ 15.5 million – is a first step in recognizing the companies’ co-responsibility for human rights violations in Nigeria.

In January 2008, four local farmers and the local environmental organization ERA, with the support of their international network, Friends of The Earth, went to trial against Shell for the destruction of their land.

In May 2009, the military was deployed to crush the militia groups around Chevron’s Warri area. The civilian population ended up in crossfire, and more than 2,000 were killed. In July, an agreement was signed between the government and several militia groups. The agreement involves impunity and financial compensation for the militia groups, against submitting weapons and declaring that they will stop the acts of violence. The process has been criticized for lack of independent observers and control of the handover of weapons.

There are proposals to amend the Petroleum Industry Act (PIB). The bill may entail, among other things, higher taxes for foreign companies and 10 percent direct ownership of the nine oil states, and also allow for re-negotiation of all the existing oil recovery agreements. The international companies have protested strongly against the proposed tax reforms. Others warn of “instability” and “unpredictability” as the biggest threat.

Both amnesty and revised law may be steps in the right direction, but none of the elements change the corruption or environmental devastation of the Niger Delta, or the area’s underdevelopment and poverty.

Concentration of power and lack of control

The conflicts are an expression of the Nigerian state’s dualism. On the one hand, power, both economic, political and social, is linked to public office, which can give the impression of a strong state. On the other hand, the state has no control, neither civil nor military.

The police are understaffed and lack resources. At the same time, they have a mandate to shoot suspects and arrestees on attempted escape. The combination is obviously fatal for both sides. Amnesty has documented police violence, torture and murder of suspects. At the same time, more than 100 police officers are killed at work annually. The judicial system is characterized by corruption and non-compliance with legal protection for defendants, especially at the lower level. The population lacks confidence in the state, which cannot control, protect or hold accountable.

The Niger Delta has become a symbol of corporate social responsibility and the curse of the oil. Stability and conflict resolution are important in securing and furthering a growing interest from international investors. Nigeria is important to the region and the world.

Country facts:

Area: 923 768 km2 (14th largest)

Population: 151 million

Population density: 164 per km2

Urban population: 48 percent

Largest city: Lagos – approx. 9.5 million

GDP per capita: USD 1450

Economic growth: 14.3 percent

HDI Position: 158