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« The Ndigbo Attitude | Main | 3rd Term Funeral: Give us Step by Step Middle Class Revival Plan »

May 18, 2006

The Curse of Oil

by Lawrence Chinedu Nwobu (Dundalk, Republic of Ireland) --- Nigeria’s demise began from the very day crude oil was discovered in Oloibiri in the old Rivers state. Crude oil has only served in every practical way to further drive Nigerians deeper and deeper into the poverty trap.

The regional agricultural exploits of yore, that gave rise to groundnut pyramids in the North, Palm oil in the East, and Cocoa in the West was quickly abandoned. Technical know how and brain power as the surest means of attaining a sustainable and advanced economy was quickly thrown in the garbage bin.

More than 50 years later, with crude oil selling for over $70.00 a barrel, Nigerians are among the worlds poorest people, with practically the lowest life expectancy in the world.

Nigerians are not just poor, Nigerians are desperately poor. All the minimum basic prerequisites of a normal or sane society are inexistent. The environment is junk, the roads (if you can call them that) are death traps, the hospitals are better described as morgues. The education system has virtually collapsed. There is a total absence of morality and dignity.
The standard of living of the average Nigerian is somewhat subhuman, closer to what obtained in George Orwell’s “Animal farm”.

In the development rating of nations, Nigeria has moved from being a 3rd world country, to being on the verge of being reclassified a 4th world Country for evident reasons. Little wonder that some hapless citizens, stung by unbelievable poverty, in a bid to get their own share of the national cake, perished while scooping petroleum from underground high pressure pipes.
At the last count about 200 of them died. They died not because they deserved to die, but because the same oil which under normal circumstances would have made them achieve a reasonable standard of living, ironically only served to make them destitute. And the corresponding struggle to survive meant that no risk was too great to take.

No doubt the presence of crude oil in Nigeria, will continue to take thousands of life. Most of the power struggle and strife in the Niger-Delta, is directly linked to the struggle to control the oil resources by regional power blocks. So many massacres have already taken place in the Niger-Delta, and more might yet come, in the federal governments bid to maintain and control access to the oil wells. The presence of crude oil in the erstwhile Biafran republic was one of the dynamics that led to the war. Oil has all, but made Nigerians throw away their thinking caps, and creativity which remains the greatest asset in building modern economies, has gone with the wind..

The struggle for the control of oil has notoriously become the greatest killer within the Nigerian geographical space. Nigeria would have been a better, richer, better organised, and more peaceful nation if oil had not been found. The trend had already started. Nobody can forget so soon the many trail blazing feats achieved by the western region relying entirely on cocoa as the money spinner, neither can we forget the feats and development strides achieved by the East and North, with palm oil, and groundnuts, as the mainstay of their respective regional economies. Indeed the infrastructure and institutions built by the erstwhile regions has to date not been rivalled by the oil dependent succeeding states inspite of the megabucks earned from the sale of crude oil. Malaysia and Ivory Coast thriving on an economy powered by palm oil and cocoa respectively, are great showcases of success, and the greatest indictment of Nigeria and her burden of crude oil.

What happens when the oil runs out? This is one question Nigerians never ask. Crude oil is a wasting asset and will sooner or later be depleted. In the absence of any initiatives being taken by the federal government to build local capacities that can sustain the economy, when the oil does run out. Nigerians must gird their loins, because the worst is yet to come!

Lawrence Chinedu Nwobu
Dundalk, Republic of Ireland

Posted by Administrator at May 18, 2006 08:31 AM


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