Sunday, 4 December 2011

The Role of Ethnicity in Resource Conflicts in the Niger Delta of Nigeria



Abstract


This paper examines ethnic politics as an explanation for conflict in the Niger Delta of Nigeria. Differing views on what causes militancy include political and social arguments examining historical ethnic rivalries and their effect on the political landscape. The economic and environmental narrative expounds the motivations of militant groups’ revolt against the Nigerian government and oil companies against underdevelopment and environmental degradation. It is argued that materialistic economic arguments focus on the politics of oil in the ‘Greed and Grievance’ debate paying insufficient attention to the role of ethnicity. This paper acquiesces with the constructivist viewpoint that a combination of factors is causal and an integrated solution to the crisis is important. It further attests that the politics of ethnicity at the national level should not be sidelined and overplaying the materialistic and instrumentalist perspectives is problematic. Ethnic politics plays the role within economic explanations as a catalyst fuelling conflict. In assessing the impact of oil politics on militancy, the extent to which the terms ‘oil conflict’ and ‘resource curse’ are representative is questioned. This paper illustrates how ethnic politics, though not necessarily more central than oil, is evident within the ‘resource conflict’ view of integrated explanations of conflict.





Introduction


The Niger Delta (ND) is an area of approximately 14,000 square miles in South West Nigeria bordering the Gulf of Guinea. The nine states forming the region are Abia, Akwa-Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Imo, Ondo and Rivers states.[1] In 1956 oil was discovered in the Ijaw town of Oloibiri, Bayelsa State. In addition to Bayelsa[2], two states in the region are leading producers of crude oil and natural gas namely Rivers[3] and Delta. The region accounts for eight percent of global oil consumption making Nigeria the sixth largest exporter of crude oil.[4] Juxtapose that with the ND being in the top five of the worst areas for environmental pollution, underdevelopment and ethnic violence it is understandable why a large number of academic and journalistic accounts attribute conflict in the region to greed, oil as a resource curse and grievance.
What is construed as ‘conflict’ itself is subjective to the dynamics of form, magnitude, scope, duration, escalation and impact on competing groups. The contextual basis for resource conflict used in this paper is at the national level reflecting ‘violent intrastate conflicts that are caused or exacerbated by resource abundance or environmental scarcity.’[5] It excludes ‘resource competition’ or conflict from the pursuit of scarce resources and ‘resource blocked aggression’, conflicts initiated by oil export revenue rich states.[6] These dimensions broaden the variables internationally and ethnic conflict in this paper by its nature refers to the local intra-state. Assuming the impact of oil as a resource curse is overplayed in explanations for militancy, the implications for conflict resolution policy is that development, should not always be seen as the apparent solution.[7] The analysis of historical and existing ethnic rivalries is therefore pertinent.
The use of the term ethnicity or ethnic minority in this paper is synonymous to Osaghae’s definition as a communal entity that shares a name, language, origin, descent, culture, land and socio-political organization as long as these objective factors provide the basis for subjective separatist definition from other ethnic identities.[8] Of these factors, language remains the primary differential of ethnicity.[9] This explains Nigeria’s identification of major ethnic groups as Hausa-Fulani, Igbo and Yoruba speaking and ethnic minorities in the ND as mainly Ijaw and Edo speaking.[10] The United Nations’ definition of ethnic minority includes non dominant groups attempting to preserve ethnicity, religion, language or culture different from the rest of the population of the state of which they are nationals.[11]
Ethnic conflict here focuses on insurgency by minority groups of ‘similar’ ethnicity against state institutions overwhelmingly represented by major ethnic groups. The ethnic narrative within Nigeria’s civil war in Biafra[12] and violence between the Yoruba/Igbo speaking Christian south and the Hausa speaking Muslim North is crucial to understanding conflict between ethnic majority and minority groups. The reasoning here is ethnic politics contributes more to violence than the primordial rivalry between minority groups.[13] Therefore meaningful attempts at resolving conflicts cannot exclusively propose development but must include a bold attempt to answer the ‘national question’: address the review of restructuring federalism and inherited colonial legacy structures.
The first chapter, a literary analysis, compares views on the centrality of oil and ethnicity as causes of conflict. It charts the historical evolution of conflict from colonisation to the present day. This sets the context for revealing the relationship between resource insurgency and historical ethnic rivalries. It challenges presumptions that ethnic rivalries are caused by resource conflict or vice versa. A more cyclical relationship exists between the two and ascertaining what comes first is intricate. The extent to which ethnicity plays a role in all other factors such as political and economic marginalisation, environmental degradation, underdevelopment, colonial legacies, corruption and criminalization is indicative of a loosely primordial element in integrated explanations.
The second chapter substantiates the theoretical backdrop of ethnic and resource conflict by looking at primordial, instrumentalist and constructivist explanations of conflict. The role of ethnicity and associated national politics within the ‘greed and grievance’ and ‘resource curse’ concepts are examined.
The third chapter illustrates this by examining the motivations of major ethnic movements focusing on the prominent Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) and Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP). It highlights ethnicity’s relevance by juxtaposing these Ijaw and Ogoni examples respectively with prominent theoretical frameworks, showing that even in contrasting explanations ethnicity plays a significant role. Examining greed and the resource curse in the aims and activities of MEND and grievance in MOSOP’s quest for political and economic autonomy, indicates politics within the ND is a microcosm (and product) of the ethnic politics at the national level.
The final chapter concludes by summarising the key points and elucidating the policy implications for current and future governments in Nigeria.

Methodology


This research has been conducted primarily by drawing from the extensive literature available. The historical and empirical contexts are pivotal to positioning the arguments herein and therefore extensive research from newspaper and magazine articles facilitated building a timeline of events in Nigerian political history relevant to the ND.[14] The period that stretches from the last decade of colonisation through independence, the Nigerian civil war and to the present time, provide the focus for identifying events illustrating the strength and nature of the connection between ethnicity and other causes of conflict. Email communication and telephone interviews with authors who have written extensively on the subject, ex-officials of the Nigerian government, academics and journalists was utilised to critically interrogate differing views. While no contact was made with militant leaders, statements of prominent groups were researched to provide a balance.[15]



Chapter 1: Differing views on the centrality of oil and ethnicity as explanations for conflict


Attempts at explaining the causes of militancy and conflict in the ND have attracted a plethora of approaches. Some have moved towards an integrated explanation identifying political and economic factors as causal, environmental as ‘proximate’ and social as ‘trigger’ factors.[16] Others have categorized the causes of internal conflict into two camps namely ‘redistribution’ and ‘recognition’.[17] In the case of the Ogoni, redistribution depicts the need to secure their environment and livelihood while recognition relates to self determination and inclusivity. According to Agbonifo, ‘... both inadvertently portray internal conflict in materialistic and provincial terms’.[18]
Many explanations that mention oil’s ‘resource curse’ characteristics form the backdrop of conflict evaluation.[19] In these accounts, where greed and grievance play prominent roles, the Gulf of Guinea is portrayed as the new oil supplier to the insatiable western markets triggering the evolution of greed into grievance.[20] According to Michael Watts, militancy represents the interaction of youth politics and corruption in the petro-state.[21] The centrality of oil as a resource has been widely demonstrated[22] and the impact on social conflict in Nigeria’s rentier space is ‘characterized by violence and destabilizing tendencies’.[23] However, the challenge ignored by many accounts, is investigating how much the ethnic politics can be as credible as oil in explaining conflicts. The ND however remains a classical example of ‘oilification’: the ‘process of distorting and reconstructing an extra-oil threat or conflict to give it an oil import in order to justify the state’s security action’.[24] Omeje names the Odi Massacre[25] as an example of ‘oilification’ of a conflict expressed along ethnic lines. This securitization of oil with ethnic overtones is a political tool common in Nigerian politics, its consequences being one reason for inaccurate interpretations of resource conflicts. Omeje admits the constructivist flip side missing in his argument, coined ‘ethnification’[26] here, is an ‘enriching dimension’.[27]
One reason oil remains central to explanations of conflict is Nigeria’s rentier state status having an economy relying heavily on rent rather than the domestic sector. A limited proportion of the state is involved in generation of the rent (ninety-five percent of oil revenues come from the ND) and the state government, the largest employer, is the principal recipient of the rent.[28] This centrality of oil conveniently explains violent conflicts in the region as ‘oil conflicts’[29] making Nigeria another unfortunate country debilitated by the natural resource curse.[30] Even though rentier politics, poverty and marginalization do not automatically lead to conflict, this produces ‘characterized violence and destabilizing tendencies’.[31] In Colgan’s inter-state resource conflict assessment, he acknowledges his multinomial model to determine petro-states’ propensity for violence requires dependent and control variables.[32] Recalling Huntingdon’s perspective that religious cultural factors shape fault lines of dispute[33], he adds Muslim population percentages and the number of contiguous territorial borders as control variables.[34] At the sub-national level, these factors are synonymous with ethnic population and their geographical boundaries.
Ake claims that ethnic conflicts are actually ‘democratic’ in that the objectives include attempting to regain rights as free equal citizens.[35] This view challenges many greed based theories that claim militants are linked to syndicates whose criminal activities benefit from a chaotic security situation and opportunities to do well out of war.[36] For instance Collier offers the argument that oil provides the basis by which militants can finance their activities.[37] The presence of ethnic tension provides a favourable atmosphere for increasing competition for resources, jobs, and other benefits from the oil industry. Additionally it creates fertile ground for ambitious activists, criminals and corrupt politicians to exploit these tensions for their own purposes. Consequently, present day armed militia emerge and the proliferation of criminal activities associated with the oil industry that sustains them.[38] It is no coincidence that youth unemployment and associated socio-economic implications determines the membership of militancy groups.[39] In these arguments, social grievance plays a less prominent role than economic grievance or the states predatory tendency. Noteworthy though, regarding social grievance and conflict, is that ethnic composition along with cultural, religious, linguistic, racial divisions are contributing factors.[40]
The British colonial state’s ‘divide and rule’ tactic, an administrative structure of indirect rule and regionalization, cast doubts on the view that Nigeria’s political independence aspirations were feasible. Nigeria was split along ethnic lines as a result of history and tradition. The ethnic polarization that helped ethnic mobilization and manipulation is partly attributed to the 1910 Land and Native Rights Ordinance making land in northern Nigeria controlled by the colonial governor, limiting southern Nigerians moving to the north. The Nigerian state inherited these legacies and learnt from their colonial masters’ repression and political manipulation. The same way the British colonial administration encouraged communal sentiments, successive governments, both military and civilian, devised their own brands of divide and rule. This generated the complex myriad of well documented ethnic politics.[41] Going further afield, African conflicts like Liberia, Sierra Leone, Rwanda and Sudan, show evidence of being the result of the colonial experience and post independence institutions of governance.[42]
The historical agglomeration of over 250 ethnic groups[43] combined with little regard for the pre-colonial state of affairs generated ethnic conflict and insecurity of minorities.[44] The move from indirect rule to regionalization created a wedge between majority and minority ethnic groups. The oil fuelled resource curse merely exacerbated the resultant ethnic and economic nationalism that demands resource control. Post colonial Nigeria suffers a legitimacy crisis arising from ethnic politics and artificially created boundaries. Very rarely did Africa’s inherited boundaries reflect tribal areas.[45] The boundary between Nigeria and Cameroon[46] for instance divides fourteen cultural areas.[47] The assumption that the conflict is the result of pre-colonial animosities between diverse ethnic communities is characteristic of modernization theory. Before independence the ND comprised of Ahoada, Degema, Opobo, Ogoni, Brass, Western Ijaw and Warri divisions. The Willink Commission appointed in 1957 appraised means of allaying the fears of minorities and constant demands for a distinct political region arising from insecurity and ethnic domination fears.
The evolution of the tripartite link between colonialism, ethnicity and the civil war in Biafra war and their roles in ethnic violence forms the source of ethnic politics. This reflects the grievances and demands of minority groups and the political economy of oil. British colonial policies forcibly amalgamated ethnic groups with incompatible economic systems, traditions, education and religion. The entire period in Nigeria’s political history since independence is littered with coups between the dominant ethnic groups.[48] The last coup before the onset of civil war where the Igbo leader, General Ironsi was killed witnessed the massacre of thousands of Igbos. Of the three majority groups, communities in the ND are closest to the Igbo in terms of location, traditions and ethnic identity. The continuous concern of Igbos for their very existence in this period evidently influenced the decision of the Eastern Region Consultative Assembly voting to secede from Nigeria declaring the region to be the Republic of Biafra.[49] Civil war broke out in July 1967. British policy during the civil war, though initially neutral, quickly changed in support of the Nigerian government. Since much of the discovered oil was in Biafra, Britain wanted to protect British Petroleum’s concession to develop it.[50] For many, the civil war in Biafra is not a distant historical memory. The images of starvation used as a weapon of war during that period mirror the images of environmental degradation and economic underdevelopment plaguing the ND today.[51] The ethnic motivation of the leaders of militancy groups such as MEND is comparable to that of their Igbo counterparts. Ken Saro-Wiwa claims ten percent of the Ogoni population died in the Biafran war.[52]
One limitation found in academic scholarship, due to the focus on crude oil as central to conflict, is engagement of only the period since 1956 when oil was discovered in commercial quantities. Ako and Okonma avoid this pitfall by comparing the ‘palm-oil’ and ‘crude-oil’ eras.[53] They argue that both periods demonstrate conflict triggered by the exclusion of local communities from resource benefits. In the first of these ‘resource wars’, distribution and recognition that resolved the crisis remains elusive today. This alternative history of the oil century explains colonial legacies and previous historical resource conflicts as comparable to the current circumstances. The Akassa rebellion against the British Royal Niger Company over palm oil in 1895 attests towards long standing colonial divide and rule legacies which are now being re-enacted on a different stage.[54] Uprisings synonymous with the conflict in the ND linked to resources and underdevelopment are not new. Many examples predate the discovery of oil. In the 1960’s the Agbekoya uprisings[55], Tiv Riots[56], Adaka Boro[57] secessionist attempts and the Nigerian Civil War in Biafra all occurred before oil. This does not directly raise a challenge to the instrumentalist environmentalist view[58] but throws doubt on suggestions it applies primarily to oil. Numerous parallels can be drawn on the issue of ethnic minority rights. From the British imperialist exclusion of indigenous population of Bonny, Brass or Opobo to a Nigerian elite dominated by an ethnic majority quelling the ambitions of the Ogoni, the roles of ethnicity are similar. Ako and Okonmah highlight the role of cultural identity and mention the similarities of parties as one of four parallels between the two eras.[59]
There is also ethnic identity politics revealed in the history of revenue allocation for which the struggle of minorities is attributed.[60] Before oil, the allocation of minerals like coal and tin was based on the derivation principle that fifty percent of revenues go back to the state or region that was the source of the resource.[61] This favoured the Hausa-Fulani, Igbo and Yoruba majority ethnic groups. Following the discovery of oil this changed[62] continuing to benefit the big three.[63] According to Robinsons
‘The progressive whittling down of the derivation fund was seen by the oil minorities as marginalisation and social injustice especially as they were not consulted, and the rules changed with the decline of agriculture based derivation which had favoured the big three.’[64]

The injustice in the derivation principle kindles revolt tendencies from the peaceful protest of MOSOP to the more violent militancy of MEND. However before examining these groups a theoretical framework for understanding ethnic identity and conflict is important.



Chapter 2: Theoretical Perspectives


2.1.    Ethnic Identity and Conflict


Primordial explanations of ethnic identity evolving into conflict as inevitable, suggest that ancient hatreds going back many years are responsible, exacerbated by the characteristics of the individuals and groups involved. However this does not explain how communities in the ND lived peacefully for almost half a millennium. In Huntingdon’s Clash of Civilization thesis, adjacent groups struggle violently often over territories, resources and each other.[65] In Nigeria, this primordial fault line is drawn between the Muslim North of Hausa-Fulani ethnicity and the Christian South of Igbo/Yoruba ancestry.[66] Kaplan discusses differences of biology, ethnicity and race suggesting that this compromises the trust between individuals and groups who don’t identify with each other.[67] To explain conflicts it is important to go back in history to events that shaped their hatreds.[68] The weakness here is the lack of clarity as to how far back in history is required to identify the source of these ancient hatreds. In the ND it is not ‘ancient’ and suggesting these hatreds always existed (or appeared out of nowhere) is incredulous.
For instrumentalism, the ethnic identities created from colonial legacies changed progressively, apparently as the effects of colonial ‘divide and rule’ strategies became diluted. Conflict is not inevitable and depends on resource scarcity resulting from material, economic and social inequality. Elites take advantage of material deprivations and politicize ethnicity to mobilise power. Instrumentalists see elites as fundamentally capable of manipulation but fail to address how elites formulate hatreds from nothing. ‘Ethnification’[69] of conflicts by a repressive Nigerian government is effective by using existing beliefs in society or inter-subjective tensions and understandings about self and other. Power and material interests are important but elite power has limitations.
The social constructivist views the most fundamental feature of society as the organization of material forces such as natural resources, geography and state power. This means to understand how the world works requires taking these fundamentals into account. For an integrated explanation of the reasons for ethnic violence, examining the role of ethnicity in these fundamentals forms a basis for constructivists’ explanations of how rhetoric that generates ethnic conflict is persuasive especially where it fits with history and beliefs. Constructivism argues that ethnic identities are socially constructed both intentionally and by accident. The constructivist viewpoint in this paper does not ignore the origins of ethnic groups, determines how colonial legacies created identities (and the effects) and highlights identity’s changing nature.[70]  This addresses the weaknesses of the primordial argument (vagueness of ethnicity’s origin), a purely materialistic account (focus solely on oil) and an instrumentalist perspective (no ethnicity changeability). The encompassing constructivist framework used here combines the strengths of primordial, materialistic and instrumentalist perspectives to examine ethnicity’s role in oil conflict as discussed next.

2.2.    The role of ethnicity in oil conflicts


2.2.1.   Resource curse perspective


The economists’ term ‘Dutch Disease’ refers to the effects of North Sea gas on the Dutch economy where the currency’s rise in value resulted in other exports becoming uncompetitive.[71] This ‘resource curse’ has the impact of oil exports in Nigeria as one of its best illustrations. Nigeria is one of the world’s most oil dependent countries based on fuel exports as a percentage of total exports.[72] As oil revenues became significant to Nigeria’s foreign exchange earnings in the 1970s, other exports like peanuts and cocoa became unprofitable. This led to the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) of economic reform. According to Obi, ‘Structural Adjustment did not merely deepen existing contradictions in Nigeria’s political economy in ways that worsened scarcities, its impact widened inequalities and disparities between individuals, groups and even regions.’[73]
The ensuing competition by ethnic minority groups for a share of shrinking oil resources makes ethnic identity critical for survival.[74] A lot can be deciphered from research samples of conflicts in Africa, especially conflicts over territorial resources, which show very few cases of ethnic homogeneity. However, resource competition between ethnically diverse communities and the state is not merely an indication of a grassroots insurgency or social unrest by marginalised groups against an oppressive state. The prevalent discourse focusing on the tense relationship between the state and ethnic groups must not ignore the ‘ethnicity of the state’. The ethnic composition of most Nigerian elite since independence remains dominated by the three majority groups[75] and therefore the control of oil revenue. The economic incentive for militancy is hence correlated with ethnic politics.
One persistent area of contention constructed as ethnically biased has been the allocation of oil revenues (derivation principle).[76] Ethnicity’s role in the derivation principle pre-dates independence and the discovery of oil. An unfair derivation principle and failing federalism from ethnic diversity have together in tandem fuelled conflict. What is revealing is the cataclysmic effect a multi-ethnic environment has on oil’s resource curse where a zero sum game is at play. Since oil revenue remains fixed (more oil revenue for the north means less for the south and vice versa), this becomes evident in the north-south divide and associated political wrangling on the derivation principle. This dynamic is replayed again at the sub-national level as ethnic minority groups vie for their fair share of the national cake. This has been the factor for creation of states from three regions in the first republic after independence to thirty-six states today. In Shaxson’s view, this just creates more microcosms of this dynamic. This concept can be outlined as one reason why the resource curse can be less permeating in a country like Norway which is essentially ethnically homogenous compared to Nigeria. In this respect the former suffers from the first two economic aspects of the resource curse, currency and export fluctuations, but less from the third, the ethnic and political consequences.
Obi notes correctly that simply relying on economic statistics that link oil dependency to poverty and conflict is inconclusive on its own.[77] The oil curse discourse is about oil abundance being the incentive for corruption, bad governance and the motive for militant groups to engage in conflict. What is absent from this line of analysis is the role of ethnicity, class relations and how Africa’s resources are subject to transnational processes. In this more recent work Obi has also noted a rise in challenge of the resource curse theorists.[78] He contends that ‘... the resource curse thesis feeds certain perspectives on the nature of the African oil-rich states built upon an internal resource conflict nexus that is subversive of development, democratic governance, national, regional and global security.’[79] His view accentuates the need for the connection between the ‘paradox of plenty’ and conflict to be interrogated.             Even before oil was discovered in Nigeria, numerous other examples exist in Africa supporting the ‘resource curse’ paradigm: oil in Sudan, diamonds in Sierra Leone and cocoa in Cote d’Ivoire. While the role of resources in conflict cannot be ignored, Obi outlines a number of factors, other than ethnicity, that are often ignored.[80] Merely measuring resource wealth and not taking into consideration the population to obtain ‘resource wealth per capita’ is inadequate.[81] Extrapolating this argument, it is suggested that ethnic diversity in a population is an even more valuable measure of the potential for conflict from grievances about resource distribution. The contrasting ‘resource wealth per ethnic capita’ for Nigeria compared to Saudi Arabia or Norway for instance could explain Nigeria’s more violent experience.
In the late 1940s, constitutional negotiators dominated by the three majority ethnic groups rejected the creation of a political federation based on ethnic groups. Eventually the creation of Northern, Eastern and Western regions with semi-sovereign status was agreed.[82] According to the 100% derivation principle by the Louis Chick Commission[83] of 1954, mineral royalties were returned fully to the source, at this time the Northern region.[84] Subsequently, ‘The grant of semi-sovereign status to these regions triggered separatist claims by minorities who felt that they would be excluded from the benefits of membership.’[85]
According to George Soros[86] the ‘Dutch Disease’ represents only one aspect of the trio that encompasses the resource curse. The other two are the disruptive fluctuation of prices of other exports and the effect on political stability. This paper does not focus on the first two economic perspectives as numerous works have attempted demonstrating the inversely proportional relationship between resource dependency and economic growth.[87] In her seminal work on the pitfalls of commodity led growth, Karl also rightly refrains from the simplicity of this unitary economic view of the ‘Dutch Disease’.[88] She appropriately incorporates inevitable changes in institutional structure, political life, government preferences and choices in the allocation of resources.[89] In the ND this structure and the choices made are almost entirely driven by ethnicity. It is this political aspect of the resource curse, and its ethnic dimension, though it has the most impact, that is least understood.
Shaxson’s perspective of Sub-Saharan Africa reflects the gradual shift from the view that the resource curse explanation is either imperialistic (oil companies and their western hosts exploiting Africa)[90] to one that blames bad governance within the oil state. In Nigeria both these themes are strong. MOSOP’s confrontation with Royal Dutch Shell and the oil industry is a rejection of imperialistic western interests. The insurgency against the state by MEND and Ijaw youth movements could be construed as a protest against bad governance and corruption. Either way, the complicit collaboration of the tripartite combination of the ethnic majority elite, oil companies and minority groups are the obstacle to realistic governance.[91] The ethnicity of Nigerian President, Goodluck Jonathan, has played a helpful role in resolving conflict.[92] The oil producing states that have attracted the most violence are Bayelsa, Delta and Rivers. In 2008 when he was Vice-President, Jonathan’s two pronged policy of engagement with insurgents and development showed mixed signals of success.[93] In Bayelsa, his home state, diplomatic negotiation with the militants resulted in reduction in hostage taking and attacks on oil installations.[94]
The resource curse twin challenges, bad governance and corruption, are linked to ethnic fragmentation. Shaxson cautions against corruption being simply explained by the behaviour of actors at the domestic level.[95] He contends that the systemic factors and global perspectives such as international money flows that form part of the complex components of ‘corruption’. The ethnic dimension present in this aspect of the resource curse is that corruption, to a certain degree, breeds a culture of collaboration within ethnicities in line with the primordial perception that lack of trust is rife with others you cannot identify with. Ethnic strands are also evident in greed and grievance as elaborated next.

2.2.2.   The Greed and Grievance Perspective


Greed (elite competing over oil rents) and grievance (relative deprivation that fuels conflict) have been used extensively to explain civil unrest and militancy.[96] Both concepts are intrinsically intertwined and independently insufficient as explanations of conflict. The simple straightforward greed or grievance explanation for resource conflict is weak since many other factors like capacity of militant groups, location and resources available matter.[97] What started as an ethnic grievance has metamorphosed into greed manifested by opportunistic criminal activity taking advantage of security deficiencies.[98]
Ethnicity however, is central to both schools of thought. Intra-state conflict often results from grievances about political ethnic dominance, inter-ethnic horizontal inequality and ethnic identity formation. Even multinomial accounts use ethnic hatred and political and economic exclusion to measure grievance.[99] These accounts concur regarding the extent to which ethnic diversity can be used as a measuring variable. Collier and Hoeffler indicate that
‘Ethnic and religious hatreds are widely perceived as a cause of civil conflict. Although such hatreds cannot be quantified, they can evidently only occur in societies that are multi-ethnic or multi-religious and so our proxies measure various dimensions of diversity.’[100]

Elbadawi and Bodea also built multinomial specifications of domestic conflict supporting the hypothesis that ethnic diversity accentuates distributional conflict.[101]
Interest based rational choice arguments contend that the motivation for conflict is competition for scarce resources in a zero sum game.[102] Such interest perspectives like the greed and grievance model do not accept identity as a sole cause for conflicts.[103] Looking at Nigeria’s ethnic diversity with no single dominant group, Collier and Hoeffler’s contention that in nations with no group having more than forty-five percent of the population, ethnic diversity lowers risk of conflict is weak.[104] This at least calls for a closer examination of their multinomial evidence to support greed theory in countries with abundant resources.[105] Similar other arguments cite political and economic state failure as more causal of conflict than ethnic diversity.[106] However ethnic diversity is instrumental in violent conflicts because evidence suggests identity differences have increased the chance of civil wars.[107] The evolution of the ND conflict requires an interest based approach to understanding it. However it must be noted that identity conflicts are longer lasting based on memories of past ‘chosen traumas’[108] between opposing ethnic groups that have no basis on interests but rather on some conflict between these groups that keep being carried over through generations.
In explaining factors that incite militants some questionably downplay ethnic, political and social variables contending that economic variables such as financial state weakness have more explanatory power.[109] According to Obi ‘... the unequal power relations and (ethnic minority) grievances in the ND were well established before oil became a significant factor in Nigeria’s political economy.’[110]  Collier and Hoeffler say
‘Rebellion needs both motive and opportunity. Political Science literature tends to explain the motive aspect of circumstances that people want to rebel. If the grievances are sufficiently acute then people feel the need to engage in violent protest. Economic accounts explain rebellion in the context of opportunities that enable rebellion to occur.’[111]

Ethnicity is however also central to the greed school of thought. Any attempt to isolate greed, one of two intertwined concepts, as causal to conflict is problematic since the relationship between greed and grievance in resource conflict is cyclical. Oil politics plays an equally evident role in furthering grievance objectives by providing both motive and opportunity for the initiation and sustaining of insurgencies. What is worthwhile is assessing factors like ethnicity which is evident in both explanations. Ethnicity remains a central aspect of economic grievance because differences lead to the discrimination evident in unfair distribution of oil revenue. Such discrimination is the basis of social conflict and there is a connection between discrimination based on ethnicity and the beginnings of hostilities.
Where conflict results from a combination of ‘greed’ and ‘grievance’, ethnicity plays the role of being the basis along which militant groups mobilize to resolve ‘non-ethnic’ political or economic grievances. Carment et al correctly suggest that the expression of a conflict as ethnic arises when ethnicity is the basis of exclusion and confrontation.[112] Their contention however, that this dilutes the primordial element in conflict, is misleading since it is primarily the expression itself that classifies a conflict. Identifying grievances such as human rights, justice or self determination as evolving from ’non-ethnic’ to ‘ethnic’ lacks comprehensiveness especially where the mobilization lines are ethnic. This is illustrated next with brief studies of the Ijaw and Ogoni people.

Chapter 3: Illustrating Ethnicity Within Greed and Grievance


3.2.    MEND and the Ijaws


The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), an armed youth militia, emerged in early 2006 in the Ijaw areas in the western ND. Local resistance and the cycle of government attacks and reprisals by Ijaw militia marked its fiery birth. A prominent insurgent movement, MEND is chosen as an illustration of ethnic militancy due to its ethnic representation, mainly by and for the Ijaws.[113] MEND is an umbrella organization (or ‘idea’[114]) for a lot of the other militancy fringe groups.[115] As a group it evolved from the defunct Niger Delta Peoples Volunteer Force (NDPVF) under new leadership. If the words of Asari, the leader of the NDPVF, are anything to go by, ethnic nationalism is not enough motivation for youth militancy. His open statements declaring ‘I hate Nigeria’ demonstrate the extent of ethnic marginalization felt by Ijaw militants in MEND.[116] It’s important to highlight that the emergence of armed groups combines long standing ethnic rivalries with resource competition, a deadly mix of the primordial and materialistic. Prior to the proliferation of armed groups[117], Urhobos, Itsekiris and Ijaws were already involved in materialistic conflicts over contracts, rent and employment from the oil industry.[118]
MEND has achieved creditability as the most successful militant group partly due to effective use of violent attacks on the state and oil companies’ installations and its media savvy operation in the way it issues threats, demands and statements. Whilst they are able to derive some legitimacy with the ethnic Ijaws and other groups with aims and objectives resonating with community needs, there is still danger of this eroding with time. Pressures for funding its operations have fuelled oil bunkering and kidnapping for ransoms. This evolution from grievance to greed means the lines are increasingly blurred between the activities of a grassroots insurgency with political aims and organized criminal activity. The proceeds of illegal bunkering finance procurement of arms fuelling conflict whilst financially benefiting Western institutions. There is increasing interest of the US, the Western world and China in Nigeria owing to the increasing importance of the oil rich Gulf of Guinea to strategic supplies.[119] This strategic importance is not lost to the insurgent groups and re-enforces their resolve and belief they can hold the state to ransom until their demands are met. This is a key premise of MEND’s strategy in a drive to stop production and paralyse the activities of the main oil companies working in the region.[120] In response many oil companies are taking an inclusive approach by recruiting from within the local communities in an attempt to win loyalties of local people with stakes in the industry.
In addition to loss of legitimacy, another implication of the ‘curse of resource greed’ is the ethnic tension it generates. For this to escalate into violence amongst minority groups, a degree of ethnic diversity is assumed. In a multi-ethnic insurgency there is the tendency for groups to compete with each other. Such a relationship has existed between MEND and Coalition for Militant Action (COMA) for instance. The threat of separatism is reduced where the groups are competing both for limited resources and for political relevance. Even though governments can take advantage of such situations criminalizing the militant groups, there is still the risk of a new ethnic identity created as a result of economic hardship with a nationalist agenda. This is shown in the tension between ethnic minorities and government elite of ethnic majority.
Within the greed and grievance debate, Collier challenges the conventional wisdom that militancy, rebellion and insurgency are the result of long standing deprivation and social injustice.[121] What he fails to point out is that if greed represents a trigger to conflict, most ethnic groups would have rebelled.[122] A purely materialistic account of the roots of MEND ideology might use the illustration of the instance Ijaw youths returned from a rally after a first visit to the glittering Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, built completely from oil revenues. The resultant heightened sense of economic marginalisation spurred the Kaiama Declaration[123] (communiqué issued by Ijaw youths at a conference in 1998) and formation of the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC).[124] According to Barrett
‘Ever since it (Kaiama Declaration) was formulated, it has served to energise the leadership of both the Ijaw youths and their communities throughout the ND and has become the justification for the constant resistance mounted by the other ethnic groups who co-exist with the Ijaws in the territory.’[125]

Since the discovery of oil, what now constitutes the ND’s geographical boundaries is politicised.[126] This occurred as a result of the connotation that being classified within this region precedes rights to oil wealth. The colonial narration, evident in the Kaiama Declaration, shows the Ijaw nation forced to be part of Nigeria and colonial economic interests preventing Ijaw ethnic nationality from evolving as a separate nation with complete political, social and cultural autonomy. This forms the core of Ijaw grievances today. Being the most populous, homogenous and distributed group makes the propensity for violence pervasive.
How much does ethnicity play a part in oil conflicts? At the intra-ethnic level, Omeje notes that ‘Besides the lure of development provisioning and oil security vigilantism, competition for land, forests, creeks and swamps containing oil resources has often provoked thorny conflicts between different ND Communities and groups because of potential rents and ‘gifts’ or dashes.’[127] The ethnic groups that have been most active in the growing advocacy for economic autonomy, resource control and self determination[128] are the Ijaw and Ogoni. The analysis of ethnic composition of militant groups[129] shows the Ijaw having the largest membership in several states.[130] In the Warri Crisis[131] in the 1990s with contentions over ownership of Warri[132], the most populous ethnic groups[133] were the warring parties. The Ijaw, frustrated by an unfavourable geographic location and envious of Itsekiri prosperity began agitations for separation stemmed from social and political marginalization. Even before the emergence of oil, marginalization and protests existed in post-colonial Warri with conflicts between Ijaw and Itsekiri being around land ownership which became more exacerbated with the arrival of oil. Ukiwo argues that insurgency is the consequence of longstanding experiences of political and social-cultural marginalization stating that ‘The Ijaw are aggrieved that successive post-colonial regimes have retained the pre-eminence of the Itsekiri monarch.’[134]
However, viewing local ethnic rivalries in isolation of broader politics of ethnicity in Nigeria would be too simplistic. The ethnic nationalism and quest for Ijaw self determination as a campaign targeted at the ethnic dominant elite at Federal level is more pervasive than with local ethnic neighbours. Conflicts caused by ethnic politics at the sub-national level are usually trumped by contention at the national level. This rejects the sovereign argument that all Nigeria’s resources belongs to all Nigerians but attests that due to the many different ethnicities within the country the political community constitutes a national and sub-national.[135] Ejobowah expounds that conflict between ethnic communities and the state reflects competing dominant liberal view that citizenship represents legal membership of the state with the pluralist account where in a multinational state, sub-national membership is the basis for political membership.[136]
The recent spate of ethnicity linked violence from MEND is not new. More than four decades before the emergence of MEND, the Ijaw were involved with conflict against the state for political rights. Major Isaac Adaka Boro founded the Niger Delta Volunteer Service (NDVS), also an Ijaw speaking militia demanding an independent ‘Niger Delta Republic’. Their rejection of the oil distribution status quo, attack on oil industry practices and propensity for violent reprisals is reminiscent of the insurgency today. This ‘twelve day revolt’[137] was eventually crushed by state forces but woke Nigeria to travails of ethnic communities, re-opening debates about demands to be separated in independent states.[138] The role of ethnicity in this fight for self determination goes beyond the Ijaw ethnicity of members of the NDVS. At the time the Eastern Region was dominated by the more populous Igbo ethnic group, obliging the Ijaw, Ibibio, Ogoni and other smaller groups to band together and ask for a new ‘Rivers State’ once again illustrating the clash between ethnic majority and minorities. Ukiwo agrees both intra-ethnic and inter-ethnic conflicts are important themes in the study of Nigerian political economy.[139] Relations between Ijaw, Itsekiri, Ogoni and Urhobo represent a microcosm of the majority ethnic groups Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba and their relationships with each other.[140] MEND’s violent attempt to gain control of the state is a logical reaction to ethnic marginalisation and represents the Ijaw continuation of the Ogoni struggle by more violent means. Similarly, their vision of the prerequisites for the cessation of militant attacks mirrors the Ogoni Bill of Rights demanding fifty percent of oil revenues, economic and environmental accountability of the oil companies. A political ethnic element seeks greater autonomy for the Ijaws through the state political system similar to the Ogoni secessionist aspirations outlined next.

3.2.    MOSOP and the Ogoni


The Ogoni case illustrates state repression as a catalyst for growing ethnic identity, grievances and conflict. Ken Saro-Wiwa, transformed into a mythical figure by his execution in 1995 by a discredited military regime, was the rallying point for Ogoni youth and became the face of struggles for self determination. The Ogoni called for
‘political autonomy to participate in the affairs of the Republic as a distinct and separate unit, provided that this autonomy guarantees political control of Ogoni affairs by Ogoni people; the right to control and use a fair proportion of Ogoni economic resources for Ogoni development; adequate representations, as of right, in all Nigerian national institutions, and the right to protect the Ogoni environment and ecology from further degradation.’[141]

Whilst this indicates that the ensuing conflict and militancy in the region is a response to the Federal Government’s unwillingness to acquiesce to demands, the prevalence of ethnic tension exacerbated the situation. When MOSOP was established in 1990, its goal was creation of an Ogoni State or Federal Territory and a letter from Ken Saro-Wiwa to Garrick Leton[142] made comparisons with the Yoruba nation (comprising many states) implying that an Ogoni state does not reduce the sense of belonging to ethnicity in the region.[143] MOSOP proposed the idea of revenue allocation whereby each ethnic group would have control over its resources. A needed response to a repressive regime and exploitation by the oil industry superseded intra-ethnic conflict between Ogoni and its neighbours.[144]
MOSOP’s success in drawing national and international attention to injustice fettered upon minorities has triggered the emergence of similar organizations with a propensity for provoking ethnic violence to show political relevance. Okonta argues that
‘... control of the state has historically been the main foundation for class formation in Nigeria, and the astute political and ideological entrepreneurs had constructed and reconstructed new political communities based on region, ethnicity, religion and other identities as the occasion demanded, in order to seize control of the state and its strategic resources ...’[145]

The predominant discourse regarding MOSOP and Ken Saro-Wiwa is around human rights violations by an elitist regime and military dictatorship and environmental degradation and abuses by western oil companies. What is often inadequately addressed is the view that Saro-Wiwa canvassed local support, tapping into environmental rhetoric and grievances as a political tool to the governors’ office[146]. The predominant view, rightly dismissed by some as simplistic[147], accentuates a focus on the oil industry while the less addressed view central to this paper touches on ethnic politics in Nigeria.
The Ogoni case highlights the wide range of views on the reasons for oil as a catalyst for conflict. For Osaghae, it is the states inability or unwillingness to meet political, economic and social demands that leads to the radical orientation of the leadership within groups such as MOSOP.[148] Correspondingly, Ikelegbe attests that despite their contributions, the Ogoni continue to face marginalization, impoverishment and neglect which has created hostility for both the state and the oil industry.[149] Ibeanu likewise cites ‘contradiction of security between local communities, the state and the oil industry’.[150]
However, preceding the environmental politics that dominates literature about the Ogoni are ethnic narratives. In her account of the analysis of the impact of the life, career and eventual execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa by then Nigerian dictatorship, Campbell expounds on his Ogoni ethnicity as an issue in an Igbo dominated region.[151] Whilst vast numbers of Ogoni lost their lives in the civil war in Biafra, most were forced to enlist and Ken Saro-Wiwa did not support the Igbo secessionists. Ogoni identity predated colonial Nigeria and has been a challenge to the ethnically biased patronage system that has favoured the Federal Government and the three main ethnic groups further marginalising the Ogoni.[152] The economic exploitation did not create but fuelled conflict while ethnicity further compounded the acceleration of violence. According to Campbell ‘... it was the politics of ethnic division and exploitation operated against the Ogoni by their governments and by Shell Oil that necessitated their unification and activism.’
A politically insecure environment would benefit from decentralizing power both from majority ethnic groups like the Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba. The secessionist tendencies demonstrated by the Ogoni is the inevitable consequence of this perceived threat. As Steadman highlights:
‘Political insecurity will be most extreme when a particular ethnic group captures the state, or an ethnic group is denied access to state, or when the state is not yet captured but can be seen as susceptible to domination by one group. When a single ethnic group controls all the state apparatus, all other ethnic groups will be threatened, as they can no longer rely on an impartial adjudicator of disputes or an unbiased protector. Instead the resources of the state may be used against ethnic groups out of power in favour of those in power. Again, two responses are likely – attempts to gain control over the state or to opt out of it.’[153]

So whilst MEND is attempting to gain control of the state by resource control, MOSOP tried to opt out by seeking political autonomy and secession.

Conclusion: Implications for Policy


Ethnic diversity in Nigeria which existed before the discovery of oil and the resultant contemporary ethnic politics both play significant roles in accelerating the ability of the ‘resource curse’ to fan the flames of conflict. While oil remains central to explanations of conflict, the inter-ethnic and intra-ethnic elements at play within the resource curse argument has shown that it would be too simplistic to cite greed or the ‘Dutch Disease’ as primary causal factors and other factors as peripheral.
The role of ethnicity in colonial legacies of divide and rule has exacerbated ethnic divisions in Nigeria and the ND is a microcosm of this reality. The civil war in Biafra is another prominent example of the result of ethnic tension at the national level which has now filtered down sub-nationally. The type of ethnic conflict of most impact is that between majority ethnic groups (to which the largest proportion of Nigerian elite belong) and minorities.
For MOSOP (Ogonis), the ‘grievance’ is associated with the quest for political recognition, self determination aspirations and fairer distribution of resources. It has been shown this is essentially a product of ethnic marginalisation both historical and contemporary.[154] For MEND (Ijaws), the ‘greed’ is a result of the politics of ethnicity which has evolved into unfair constitutional resource sharing derivation principles, economic and environmental neglect producing a perception of ethnic marginalisation. The recurrent theme of ethnic narratives seen in the Ogoni Bill of Rights, Kaiama declaration and statements released by MEND militant leaders exemplify the prominent role of ethnicity in conflict.
Because, ethnicity issues do not stand in isolation, the challenge for policy makers is to understand how the politics of ethnicity is accentuated by the oil resource curse and vice versa. Okonta contends that ‘The contentious politics of ethno-regionalism are exacerbated by the political economy of oil and stunted growth, all of which have combined to undermine the possibilities for a dynamic social and political system.’[155]
Conflicts based more on identity politics and ethnicity rather than interests tend to be harder to resolve as identity conflicts usually seem irrational. The proliferation of policy recommendations of recognition[156] to resolve the crisis is an acknowledgement of the role of ethnic marginalisation. Ethnic beliefs, doctrines and ideologies legitimize the principles and purposes of policy. Therefore recognizing that a policy of development is only one facet of any effective solution, solitary explanations of underdevelopment should be avoided.
The two levels of sub-national and national ethnic identity politics that have been discussed here play a dual role and understanding their combined impact is pivotal for policy formulation. At both levels policies seeking to promote inclusivity for minority ethnic groups must first address the issue of common Nigerian citizenship or the ‘National Question’. This has been illustrated as manifesting in several ways: Nigeria versus imperialism; tensions between majority groups with each other and with minorities; the North-South divide; inter-state rivalry; inter-ethnic rivalries within states and inter-sectional rivalries within ethnic groups. Since ethnicity plays multiple roles, it renews the emphasis in resolving the national question. Federalism is now subject to a new paradigm shift ‘exacerbated by the post modern legitimisation of ethnic identity.’[157] The proliferation of state and local governments during fifty years of independence restricts the sovereignty of the state-nation and causes policy being forced further into various combinations of self rule.[158] This shift increases the possibility of more groups seeking political autonomy and gaining legitimacy.[159] In reality, though federalism may be touted as a means to solve ethnic conflicts, it is the ethnic consciousness that makes it necessary that also makes it difficult.[160] Mustapha attests that, ‘Conflicts over the distribution of political and economic goods among its ethno-religious groupings have made it difficult for a coherent national ethos to emerge and a clear definition of its national interests.’[161] Identity politics at the national level, demonstrated in the North-South divide, shown for example in the results of the 2011 presidential elections[162], is further reflected in ethnic rivalry at the regional and local levels. This must be addressed by creating democratic institutions reflecting a more representative ethnic balance and restoring legitimacy. Okonta re-iterates this theme in underscoring the notion that for a constitutional amendment to be accepted it must be truly federalist.[163]
The marginalization of minority ethnic groups makes it mandatory that policy seeks ways for creating new channels of engagement. Decades of state repression, corruption and bad governance has created mistrust and lack of faith in institutions. Power has been manipulated for the benefit of self and the ethnic groups to which the elite are a part of and has led to a loss in legitimacy. Ethnic minorities almost feel they are fighting for their very survival. This perpetuates a high level of insecurity from both the ethnic communities and the state. A constitutional and democratic structure and policy that limits the power of the government could create an environment where the government is less likely to take risks in a clampdown. This has potential to dissolve this security dilemma by building more trust between the state and the citizenry. The combination of ethnic diversity with constraints on state action help overcome security concerns.[164]
Since the propensity to escalate rapidly is an important characteristic in defining conflict, the role of ethnicity as a catalyst for other causal factors has rightly been examined. By showing ethnicity’s role in resource conflict, this paper has highlighted the need for policy to do three things: avoid the misleading approach of overplaying materialistic economic factors by examining the role of oil in isolation; scrutinize ethnic politics at the national level without the distraction of concentrating on intra-ethnic rivalry and lastly present integrated solutions where all factors are given more evenly balanced roles as causes of conflict.






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Steinberg, David A, and Stephen M Saideman. 2008. “Laissez Fear: Assessing the Impact of Government Involvement in the Economy on Ethnic Violence.” International Studies Quarterly 52 (2): 235-259.

Stewart, Frances. 2004. “Development and security.” Conflict, Security & Development 4 (3): 261-288.

Stokes, Doug. 2007. “Blood for oil? Global capital, counter-insurgency and the dual logic of American energy security.” Review of International Studies 33: 245-264.

Suberu, Rotimi. 2001. Federalism and ethnic conflict in Nigeria. Washington: United States Institute of Peace.

Sunstein, Cass R. 2002. “Why They Hate Us: The Role of Social Dynamics.” Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy 25 (2): 429-440.

Taber, Robert. 2002. War of the flea: the classic study of guerrilla warfare. Brassey’s. http://books.google.com/books?id=w4v2Jf2auW8C.

Tamuno, Tekena N. 1970. “Separatist Agitations in Nigeria since 1914.” The Journal of Modern African Studies 8 (4) (December 1): 563-584.

Tebekaemi, Tony, ed. 1982. The Twelve Day Revolution. Benin City: Ethiope Publishing Company.

Tschirgi, Necla. 2004. “Political economy of armed conflicts and peace building.” Conflict, Security & Development 4 (3): 377-382.

Ukiwo, Ukoha. 2005. “The Study of Ethnicity in Nigeria.” Oxford Development Studies 33 (1) (March): 7-23.

———. 2007. “From ‘pirates’ to ‘militants’: a historical perspective on anti-State and anti-oil company mobilization among the Ijaw of Warri, western Niger Delta.” African Affairs 106 (425): 587-610.

Volkan, Vamik. 2001. “Transgenerational transmissions and chosen traumas: An aspect of large-group identity.” Group Analysis (34): 79-97.

Watts, Michael. 2004. “Resource curse? governmentality, oil and power in the Niger Delta, Nigeria.” Geopolitics 9 (1): 50-80. doi:doi:10.1080/14650040412331307832.

———. 2007. “Petro-Insurgency or Criminal Syndicate? Conflict and Violence in the Niger Delta.” Review of African Political Economy 34 (114) (December): 637-660.

———. 2008. “Imperial Oil: The Anatomy of a Nigerian Oil Insurgency (Imperial Oil: Anatomie eines nigerianischen Ól-Aufstandes).” Erdkunde 62 (1) (January 1): 27-39.

Waugh, A., and S. Cronje. 1969. Biafra: Britain’s shame. M. Joseph. http://books.google.com.ng/books?id=GbKaZwEACAAJ.

Welsh, David. 1996. “Ethnicity in sub-Saharan Africa.” International Affairs 72 (3) (July): 477-492.

Woodward, Susan L. 1995. Balkan tragedy : chaos and dissolution after the Cold War. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution.

Zalik, Anna. 2004. “The Niger Delta: ‘petro violence’ and ‘partnership development’.” Review of African Political Economy 31 (101): 401-424.

———. 2009. “Zones of Exclusion: Offshore Extraction, the Contestation of Space and Physical Displacement in the Nigerian Delta and the Mexican Gulf.” Antipode 41 (3) (June): 557-582.

Reports

Agbu, Osita. 2004. Ethnic Militias and the Threat to Democracy in Post-Transition Nigeria. Research Report no. 127. Uppsala: The Nordic Africa Institute.

Asuni, Judith. 2009. Understanding the Armed Groups of the Niger Delta - Council on Foreign Relations. Council on Foreign Relations, September. http://www.cfr.org/nigeria/understanding-armed-groups-niger-delta/p20146.

Bodea, Cristina, and Ibrahim A Elbadawi. 2007. Riots, Coups and Civil War: Revisiting the Greed and Grievance Debate. Policy Research Working Paper. The World Bank Development Research Group, November.

Economist Intelligence Unit. 2009. Country Report - Nigeria. London: Economist Intelligence Unit.

NDES. 1997. Final Report Phase 1: Environmental and Socio-Economic Characteristics. Niger Delta Environmental Survey.

Obi, Cyril. 2001. The changing forms of identity politics in Nigeria under economic adjustment : The case of the Oil Minorities Movement of the Niger Delta. Research report no. 119. Uppsala: Nordic Africa Institute.

———. 2006. Youth and the generational dimensions to struggles for resource control in the Niger Delta : Prospects for the Nation-State Project in Nigeria. CODESRIA. Dakar.

Ojo, J. 2002. The Niger Delta: Managing Resources and Conflicts. Research. Ibadan: Development Policy Centre.

Okonta, Ike. 2006. Behind the Mask: Explaining the Emergence of the MEND Militia in Nigeriaʼs Oil-Bearing Niger Delta. Working Paper. Niger Delta - Economies of Violence. Berkeley: Institute of International Studies. http://oldweb.geog.berkeley.edu/ProjectsResources/ND%20Website/NigerDelta/WP/11-Okonta.pdf.

Osaghae, Eghosa, Augustine Ikelegbe, Omobolaji Olarinmoye, and Stephen I Okhomina. 2011. Youth Militias, Self Determination and Resource Control Struggles in the Niger-delta Region of Nigeria. Dakar: CODESRIA.

Robinson, Deborah. 1996. Ogoni: the struggle continues. Geneva: World Council of Churches.

Sachs, Jeffrey D., and Andrew M. Warner. 1995. Natural Resource Abundance and Economic Growth. National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, NBER Working Papers: 5398. http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=cookie,ip,url,shib&db=eoh&AN=0718646&site=ehost-live.

Shehadi, Kamal S. 1993. Ethnic Self-Determination and the Break-up of States. Adelphi Paper. International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS).

Ukiwo, Ukoha. 2005. On the Study of Ethnicity in Nigeria. Working Paper. Oxford: University of Oxford Department of International Development.

United Nations Economic and Social Council. 1950. Report of the Third session of the Sub-Commission on the prevention of discrimination and the protection of minorities to the commission on Human Rights. New York:  January 30.

WAC-Global-Services. 2003. Peace and Security in the Niger Delta. Conflict Expert Group Baseline Report.

Newspapers and Magazine Articles

‘Nigeria: Blood and oil’, The Economist, 15 March 2007

‘Nigerian Oil’, National Geographic, February 2007

‘The curse of oil: The paradox of plenty’, The Economist, 20 December 2005

‘Shell has admitted liability but has a long way to go to make amends’, The Guardian, 4 August 2011

Barrett, Lindsay. 2006. “Nigeria Bonny, The Travails of an Oil Kingdom.” New African, November.

———. 2008a. “Niger Delta: The True Story.” New African, January.

———. 2008b. “Mixed signals from the Niger Delta.” New African, April.

Pini, Jason. 2005. “The ‘Cold War’ at the Presidency.” New African, October.

Robinson, Simon. 2006. “Nigeria’s Deadly Days.” Time, May 14.

Internet Sources

“Nigeria’s shadowy oil rebels,” BBC, accessed 21 August, 2011, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/4732210.stm.

“Blood oil dripping from Nigeria,” BBC, accessed 18 August, 2011, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/7519302.stm.

“Will amnesty bring peace to Niger Delta?,” BBC, accessed 22 August, 2011, October 5. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/8291336.stm.

“Nigeria peace talks fruitful,” BBC, accessed 22 August, 2011, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/8361330.stm.

“Nigeria militants in oil attack,” BBC, accessed 3 August, 2011, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/8422165.stm.

“Nigeria group ends Delta truce,” BBC, accessed 2 September, 2011, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/8488772.stm.

“Nigeria militant backs Jonathan,” BBC, accessed 4 September, 2011,
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/8686224.stm.

“Oil battles on the Niger Delta,” BBC, accessed 5 September, 2011,
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-11399155.

“Who are Nigeria’s Mend oil militants?” BBC, accessed 5 September, 2011,
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-11467394.

“Oil workers seized in Niger Delta,” BBC, accessed 5 September, 2011,
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-11765381.

“Nigeria militants behind attack,” BBC, accessed 5 September, 2011,
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-11820294.

“Charges over Nigeria oil kidnaps,” BBC, accessed 19 September, 2011,
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-11845355.

“Massive security as Nigeria votes,” BBC, accessed 5 September, 2011,
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-12128421.

“Nigeria timeline,” BBC, accessed 19 September, 2011,
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/1067695.stm.

“Volunteers kidnapped in Nigeria,” BBC, accessed 25 August, 2011,
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-13713100.

“Decades to clean up Nigeria oil,” BBC, accessed 25 August, 2011, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-14398659.

“ Niger Delta Working Papers at UC Berkeley,” UC Berkeley, accessed 3 August, 2011, http://www.adakaboro.org/reports.

“The Adaka Boro Centre - The Twelve-Day Revolution,” Adaka Boro Centre, accessed 3 August, 2011, http://www.adakaboro.org/the12dayrev.

“Asari Dokubo: Me, Henry Okah Jomo Gbomo, Judith Asuni and the Niger Delta Insurgency,” Sahara Reporters, accessed 3 August, 2011, http://saharareporters.com/interview/asari-dokubo-me-henry-okahjomo-gbomo-judith-asuni-and-niger-delta-insurgency.

“MEND Destroys Three Pipelines in Niger Delta; Pledges to Cripple Crude Exports,” IHS Global Insight: Country & Industry Forecasting, accessed 4 September, 2011, http://www.ihs.com/products/Global-Insight/industry-economic-report.aspx?ID=106598115.
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“CFR’s Campbell: Niger Delta Insurrection Threatens Nigeria’s Stability,” Council on Foreign Relations, accessed 4 September, 2011, http://www.cfr.org/nigeria/cfrs-campbell-niger-delta-insurrection-threatens-nigerias-stability/p24743.

“Oil Pollution in the Niger Delta: Whose Fault?,” Council on Foreign Relations, accessed 4 September, 2011, http://www.cfr.org/africa/oil-pollution-niger-delta-whose-fault/p22809.

“Understanding the Armed Groups of the Niger Delta,” Council on Foreign Relations, accessed 5 September, 2011, http://www.cfr.org/nigeria/understanding-armed-groups-niger-delta/p20146.

“MEND: The Niger Delta’s Umbrella Militant Group,” Council on Foreign Relations, accessed 5 September, 2011, http://www.cfr.org/nigeria/mend-niger-deltas-umbrella-militant-group/p12920.

“The Niger Delta Blues,” Council on Foreign Relations, accessed 5 September, 2011, http://www.cfr.org/nigeria/niger-delta-blues/p11775.

“Nigeria’s Volatile Delta,” Council on Foreign Relations, accessed 5 September, 2011, http://www.cfr.org/nigeria/nigerias-volatile-delta/p12896.

“50 years of independence - Ethnic violence : Africa’s curse ? (Part 2)”, FRANCE 24, accessed 10 September, 2011, http://www.france24.com/en/20100421-france-24-debate-african-independence-ethnic-conflicts-part2.

“Nigeria: Seizing the Moment in the Niger Delta,” International Crisis Group, accessed 10 September, 2011, http://www.crisisgroup.org/en/regions/africa/west-africa/nigeria/B060-nigeria-seizing-the-moment-in-the-niger-delta.aspx.

“Nigeria: Ogoni Land after Shell,” International Crisis Group, accessed 9 September, 2011, http://www.crisisgroup.org/en/regions/africa/west-africa/nigeria/B054-nigeria-ogoni-land-after-shell.aspx.

“Nigeria: Ending Unrest in the Niger Delta,” International Crisis Group, accessed 9 September, 2011, http://www.crisisgroup.org/en/regions/africa/west-africa/nigeria/135-nigeria-ending-unrest-in-the-niger-delta.aspx.

“Nigeria’s Faltering Federal Experiment,” International Crisis Group, accessed 9 September, 2011, http://www.crisisgroup.org/en/regions/africa/west-africa/nigeria/119-nigerias-faltering-federal-experiment.aspx.

“Fuelling the Niger Delta Crisis,” International Crisis Group, accessed 28 August, 2011, http://www.crisisgroup.org/en/regions/africa/west-africa/nigeria/118-fuelling-the-niger-delta-crisis.aspx.

“The Swamps of Insurgency: Nigeria’s Delta Unrest,” International Crisis Group, accessed 28 August, 2011, http://www.crisisgroup.org/en/regions/africa/west-africa/nigeria/115-the-swamps-of-insurgency-nigerias-delta-unrest.aspx.

“Niger Delta Development Commission,” Niger Delta Development Commission, accessed 28 August, 2011, http://www.nddc.gov.ng/.

“George Soros,” accessed 28 August, 2011, http://georgesoros.com/.

“Bayelsa State Government,” Bayelsa State: Official Government Website, accessed 10 August, 2011, http://www.bayelsa.gov.ng/about-us.html.

“CIA: The World Factbook,” Central Intelligence Agency (US), accessed August 25, 2011, https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2176rank.html?countryName=Nigeria&countryCode=ni&regionCode=afr&rank=6#ni.

“Rivers State: Official Government Website,” accessed August 25, 2011, http://www.riversstate.gov.ng/

“Ogoni_Bill_of_Rights_1990.pdf ,” The Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People, accessed August 25, 2011, http://www.mosop.org/Ogoni_Bill_of_Rights_1990.pdf.

Theses

Lionberger, Brian. 2007. Emerging Requirements for U.S. Counterinsurgency: An Examination of the Insurgency in the Niger River Delta Region. Pomona, California: California State Polytechnic, June 15.

Novack, Edward. 2007. Criminals and Insurgents: The role of ethnicity in state responses to internal resource competitors. Monterey, California: Naval Postgraduate School, June.

Nwajiaku, Kathryn. 2005. Oil Politics and Identity Transformation in Nigeria: The Case of the Ijaw in the Niger Delta. Oxford: University of Oxford.

Interviews

Akpovwa, Dan. (Editor of The Abuja Inquirer. Former Director, Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC)). Telephone Interview, September 1, 2011.

Anyanya, Lancelot Major (Rtd.). (Board of Directors, International Maritime School. Executive Secretary, Presidential Implementation Committee on Maritime Safety and Security (PICOMSS)). Telephone Interview, August 28, 2011.

Dappa, Joel. (Editor and Publisher, Nigeria Today.) Telephone Interview, September 5, 2011.

Isumonah, Victor Dr. (Senior Lecturer, Department of Political Science, University of Ibadan, Nigeria and Research Fellow at the Centre for Advanced Social Science, Port Harcourt, Nigeria.) Telephone Interview, August 28, 2011.

Film, Videos and Documentaries

Attwood, David. 2010. Blood and Oil. Drama. British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).

Cioffi, Sandy. 2009. Sweet Crude. Documentary. Virasana Productions.

Johansson, Lars. 2008. Poison Fire. Documentary. Maweni Farm Media.





[1] These also form the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
[2] Bayelsa contributes over 30% of Nigeria’s oil production (Bayelsa State Government)
[3] Rivers is the heart of the industry, responsible for significant foreign exchange earnings, accountable for over 48% of oil produced in the country and 100% of liquefied natural gas. (Rivers State Nigeria 2011)
[4] 2007 estimates - (CIA - The World Factbook)
[5] (Colgan 2010, 663)
[6] ibid.
[7] (Osaghae et al. 2011)
[8] (Osaghae 1986 quoted in Ebeku 2006)
[9] (NDES 1997). A view also shared by Dr. Victor Isumonah from comments expressed in a telephone interview on 28 August 2011.
[10] (Ebeku 2006)
[11] UN Doc. E/CN 4/358
[12] For a detailed account see (Forsyth 2007)
[13] Ijaw, Ogoni, Itsekiri and Urhobo
[14] See Appendix 5 – Nigeria’s political and ND timeline
[15] See Appendix 2 – MEND statements
[16] (Idemudia and Ite 2006)
[17] (Agbonifo 2009)
[18] (Watts 1999)
[19] (Colgan 2010; Watts 2004; E. Osaghae 1995; Omeje 2005; E. E. Osaghae et al. 2011; Okonta 2008a; Okonta 2008b; Karl 1997; Obi 2004; M. Ross 2003)
[20] (Collier 2007)
[21] (Watts 1999)
[22] (Karl 1997; Watts 1999; Frynas 2000)
[23] (Omeje 2006)
[24] (Omeje 2004)
[25] Excessive state response to Ijaw gangs where troops killed over 2000 civilians.
[26] Oil conflicts between groups constructed as ethnic by the state
[27] E-mail communication with the author.
[28] For characteristics of a rentier state see (Beblawi and Luciani 1987)
[29] (Omeje 2006)
[30] (Ross 2003)
[31] (Omeje 2006)
[32] (Colgan 2010)
[33] (Huntington 1996)
[34] (Colgan 2010)
[35] (Ake 2000)
[36] This body of work is dubbed the ‘rebellion as organised crime’ theory of oil.
[37] (Collier 2007)
[38] (Asuni 2009)
[39] The ‘Ijaw youth factor’ and student activism has led to movements like Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) and Egbesu Boys of Africa (EBA) amongst others.
[40] (Gurr 1994)
[41] See (Nnoli 1978; Ukiwo 2005a; Ukiwo 2005b; Suberu 2001; Osaghae 1996; Ejobowah 2000) regarding ethnic politics in Nigeria.
[42] See (Clapham 1998) for an examination of the relationship between African insurgencies and their societies that provides context to the analysis of militancy in the ND.
[43] (CIA: The World Factbook 2007)
[44] (Ebeku 2006; Tamuno 1970)
[45] (Griffiths 1986)
[46] Nigeria and Cameroon had disputes over the oil rich Bakassi peninsula.
[47] (Griffiths 1986)
[48] Nigeria’s first republic with Nnamdi Azikwe, an Igbo as President and Tafewa Balewa, a Hausa as Prime Minister was prematurely interrupted by a coup of mid level Army Officers. A counter coup six months later toppled the Igbo leader General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi.
[49] The name comes from the Bight of Biafra
[50] See (Waugh and Cronje 1969; Diamond 2007) for Britain’s role in Biafra
[51] See (Cookman 2011) for a photographic account of Biafra’s horrors
[52] Quoted in (Campbell 2002)
[53] (Ako and Okonmah 2009)
[54] See (Peel 2009) for a comprehensive journalist’s account
[55] Cocoa farmers revolted against government increases in taxation.
[56] The Tiv demonstrated against unfair ethnic distribution and political dominance by majority groups.
[57] See (Tebekaemi 1982)
[58] (Reno 2000)
[59] (Ako and Okonmah 2009); The other parallels are high demand and low supply of resources, the repressive nature of the ruling elite and recognition with participation.
[60] (Ejobowah 2000; Omeje 2006; Omeje 2005; Naanen 1995; Suberu 2001)
[61] (Robinson 1996 quoted in Obi 1999)
[62] Reduced from fifty to three percent between 1960 and 1992
[63] (Obi 1999)
[64] (Robinson 1996 quoted in Obi 1999)
[65] (Huntington 1993)
[66] See Figure 4 for a map illustrating this divide demonstrated by presidential election results in 2011
[67] (Kaplan 1993)
[68] ibid
[69] Oil or resource conflicts constructed as primordial conflict between ethnic groups.
[70] (Ukiwo 2005a)
[71] (Collier 2007)
[72] (Economist Intelligence Unit 2009)
[73] (Obi 2001)
[74] ibid
[75] Hausa-Fulani, Yoruba and Igbo
[76] (Pini 2005) examines the ‘cold war’ between southern Nigerian President and his northern deputy on the issue of revenue allocation and resource control.
[77] (Obi 2010)
[78] ibid
[79] (Obi 2010, 484)
[80] (Obi 2010, 488)
[81] (Basedau and Lay 2009)
[82] (Ejobowah 2000)
[83] Chaired by the British commissioner Louis Chick recommended how best revenue should be distributed considering the need to provide the centre and regions, an adequate measure of fiscal autonomy and the importance of applying the principle of derivation to a degree compatible with meeting all needs.
[84] (Ejobowah 2000)
[85] (Ejobowah 2000, 32)
[86] The prominent Hungarian-American financier
[87] (Dunning 2005; Rodríguez and Sachs 1999; Sachs and Warner 1995; Ding and Field 2005) An IMF study of Nigeria from 1970 to 2000, showed earnings of $350 billion. In the same period the income per capita fell significantly and the percentage of poor rose from 36% to 70%.
[88] (Karl 1997)
[89] ibid.
[90] (Okonta and Douglas 2003; Okonta 2008b; Shaxson 2007)
[91] (Okonta 2008b)
[92] View shared by Joel Dappa (Editor of Nigeria Today) in a telephone interview on 6 September, 2011.
[93] (Barrett 2008b)
[94] ibid.
[95] (Shaxson 2007)
[96] (Omeje 2006; Okonta 2008b; Collier and Hoeffler 2004; Bodea and Elbadawi 2007; Ballentine 2003)
[97] (Ikelegbe 2005; Collier 2007)
[98] See (H. I. Grossman 1991; H. Grossman 1999): The criminalization of militancy and widespread illegal oil bunkering in the ND seem to substantiate this economic model of insurrections and Kleptocracy’s role in revolutions.
[99] (Collier and Hoeffler 2004; Bodea and Elbadawi 2007)
[100] (Collier and Hoeffler 2004, 571)
[101] (Bodea and Elbadawi 2007)
[102] (Monroe, Hankin, and Vechten 2000)
[103] (M. H. Ross 2007)
[104] (Collier and Hoeffler 2004)
[105] ibid.
[106] (Elbadawi E. and Sambanis N. 2000)
[107] (Bodea and Elbadawi 2007)
[108] (Volkan 2001)
[109] (Fearon and Laitin 2003; Collier and Hoeffler 2004)
[110] (Obi 2010)
[111] (Collier and Hoeffler 2004, 563)
[112] (Carment, James, and Taydas 2009)
[113] With over 10 million people, the Ijaw are the most populous and distributed minority group in the ND. See Figure 1.
[114] (Okonta 2006); In 2007, Dokubo-Asari, in an interview with Sahara Reporters said MEND was created not as an organisation but as a name for the purpose of issuing unified statements.
[115] See Appendix 1 for a list
[116] The News, Vol. 25, No.3 25 July 2005
[117] According to research by Academic Associates Research Works in 2007, in Delta State there were 48 recognizable groups with 25,000 members and more than 60,000 in the region.
[118] (Asuni 2009)
[119] See (Peel 2009)  for an account of his visit to the US Warship Dallas, patrolling West Africa’s Gulf of Guinea. He refers to Nigeria as the ‘fulcrum of a great game’ between the USA and emerging economic powers, the result of which will define the future of big oil and the world.
[120] See Appendix 2 for MEND statements
[121] (Ukiwo 2007)
[122] Ibid.
[123] See Appendix 4
[124] (Barrett 2008a, 18)
[125] (Barrett 2008a)
[126] See Figure 2 for map showing the states in the ND.
[127] (Omeje 2004)
[128] See Appendix 3 for MEND statements that demonstrate  aims and objectives
[129] See Appendix 1
[130] See Figure 1
[131] See (Human Rights Watch 2003) for a study on the Warri region detailing the lack of governance, corruption and organized crime stemming from oil’s curse.
[132] Warri is the ‘economic capital’ of the oil rich Delta State of Nigeria with significant commercial value to the region.
[133] Ijaws, Itsekiris and Urhobos
[134] (Ukiwo 2007)
[135] (Ejobowah 2000)
[136] Ibid.
[137] (Tebekaemi 1982); See (Nwajiaku 2005) for the political context of Isaac Boro’s revolt in 1966
[138] The last time was during Willinks hearing 1958
[139] (Ukiwo 2005b)
[140] See (Ebeku 2006) for a historical account of ethnicity and its composition in the ND
[141] See Appendix 2: Ogoni Bill of Rights
[142] First MOSOP President
[143] (Okonta 2008a)
[144] The Andoni for example.
[145] (Okonta 2008a)
[146] This view was also substantiated in an interview given by Ben Naanen, then the General Secretary of MOSOP as quoted in (Okonta 2008a)
[147] (Agbonifo 2009)
[148] (Osaghae 1995)
[149] (Ikelegbe 2005)
[150] (Ibeanu 1997)
[151] (Campbell 2002)
[152] (Campbell 2002)
[153] (Saidemen 1998)
[154] (Ojo 2002)
[155] (Mustapha 2008, 371)
[156] (Ako and Okonmah 2009; Okonta 2008b)
[157] (Elazar 1996, 419)
[158] (Elazar 1996)
[159] ibid.
[160] ibid.
[161] (Mustapha 2008, 370)
[162] See Figure 4
[163] (Okonta 2008b)
[164] (Carment, James, and Taydas 2009)

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