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Why Obasanjo Has Failed Nigerians - Soyinka
"Between 1970 and 2000, the number of Nigerians living in poverty -- less than a dollar a day -- has risen to 70 percent from 36 percent and per capita gross domestic product has fallen to $1,084 from $1,113 in purchasing power parity terms.
At the same time oil revenues have boomed. Since 1965, oil has generated about $350 billion in 1995 dollars for the west African nation of 120 million people." --- IMF 8/1/03
Culled from The San Francisco Bay View,
September 17, 2003
U.S. Corporations Contribute to Corruption in Africa
most of July, 80 Nigerian women, aged 25-60, peacefully took
over a Shell Oil pipeline station near Warri in the Niger Delta, stopping
production of 40,000 barrels of crude oil per day.
Although Nigeria is Africa's largest oil exporter and the fifth-largest source of U.S. oil, residents of the oil-rich Delta are among Nigeria's poorest. The women say the oil companies and the government divert the profits, leaving local people to fight over the crumbs. "Our children and our husbands have never been employed by the company. We want to know why they should continue operating here," one of the women asked Shell.
The story is an old one. The people are poor while corporations and government officials grow rich on the natural resources that should bring benefits to the poor.
Recently Halliburton Co. was forced to admit it paid a $2.4 million bribe to a Nigerian government official in exchange for tax breaks. Payments were made in 2001 and 2002 by Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown and Root. Halliburton has been involved with several large-scale projects in Nigeria. In 1999 Kellogg Brown and Root began what was then one of the largest construction projects in Africa: a major expansion of Nigeria's liquefied natural gas plant in Rivers State.
Halliburton has been active in the Niger Delta and has several collaborative projects with Nigeria's largest oil producer, Shell Petroleum Development Co., including development of the first major offshore oil and gas facility for Shell.
Shell has a sordid history in the Niger Delta. Earlier this year, the company was ordered by the Nigerian Court of Appeals to pay the Ogoni people approximately $2 million for environmental damage. Few Nigerians anticipate Shell will actually make payments to the Ogoni. What Shell has made are direct payments to notoriously corrupt and violent Nigerian security forces during the Ogoni uprising in the 1990s leading to the execution of environmental and human rights activist Ken Saro Wiwa. The company has also imported arms on behalf of the Nigerian police. Recently, Shell was forced to shut down operations due to political unrest in Rivers State related to the oil industry.
Rivers State, where much of Halliburton's interests are concentrated, has drawn attention not only for the political unrest in the state, but it also has been cited because of widespread electoral fraud organized by President Obasanjo's ruling PDP party. Oil companies in Nigeria see Obasanjo as a strong ally due to his oil friendly policies. A summary of findings by Nigerian Civil Society found that a free and fair voting environment across Nigeria was "the exception rather than the rule." In some areas, voting malpractice was "part of a systematic plan to either disenfranchise the voters or distort the votes."
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported:
The Justice Development and Peace Commission which deployed 30,000 observers across Nigeria "described as 'incredible' official results showing nearly 100 percent turnout in southern Rivers State with 2.1 million of 2.2 million registered voters casting their ballot for the ruling party on a day when observers reported a low turnout. And in the volatile oil-rich Niger Delta, ethnic Ijaw militants questioned electoral commission figures showing a 98 percent turnout near the oil town of Warri. Weeks of fighting between Ijaws and people from rival Itsekiri and a boycott organized by Ijaw militants ensured there was practically no voting in the area. An electoral official assigned to work in the area told UN Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN) that top politicians in Obasanjo's PDP had taken home electoral materials and ballot boxes which they filled and returned."
While most Nigerians acknowledge widespread fraud in recent Presidential and National Assembly elections, Official U.S. reaction to the Nigerian elections has been supportive of Obasanjo and his ruling PDP party. U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, Howard Jeter claimed the elections in Nigeria, "had sent a signal to the rest of the world that the country was consolidating its democracy."
Vice President Dick Cheney's former company, Halliburton has helped develop projects in at least 20 African countries, including providing military support in Somalia and Mobutu Sese Seko's Zaire, as well as assist in the development of deepwater exploratory offshore wells in Angola and Equatorial Guinea.
At the same time the Halliburton bribery scandal broke, another scandal was revealed by The Independent, a major British newspaper, involving ExxonMobil and another oil rich African country, Equatorial Guinea. ExxonMobil is facing an investigation into an alleged payoff of up to $500 million transferred into a private U.S. bank account apparently controlled by the president of Equatorial Guinea. Ken Silverstein has written an excellent piece on the politics of oil in Equatorial Guinea entitled "Oil and Politics in the 'Kuwait of Africa", describing rampant corruption and poverty in the oil rich state while oil executives actively court the state for favorable oil deals.
Dena Montague is a senior research associate with the Arms Trade Resource Center of the World Policy Institute and can be contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.