United Ijaw * Welcome to United Ijaw on the web. Our preference is national self determination, the independence of Ijawnation as a Sovereign State. A state that promotes sustainable economic and social development, democratic principles, liberty, free enterprise, equal rights and justice. This is our story, this is our struggle. **** On Kaiama Declaration We Stand **** United Nations Under Secretary-General, Dr. Antonio Maria Costa, in Abuja condemned the theft of Nigeria's assets by past corrupt leaders. He said that kleptomaniac leaders stole more than 400 billion dollars from the Nigerian treasury between 1960 and 1999. **** IJAWNATION THINK! THINK. **** Almost $170 billion of the country’s wealth disappeared and ended in the private accounts of individuals between 1999 and 2003 alone... Priye Torulagha ****Nigeria has failed Niger Delta – Nnamani **** Resource Control: Niger-Delta governors are traitors – Evah **** Only the fear of a volcanic social eruption from below can stop barbaric behaviour by holders of political power – Gani Fawehinmi ***** “ if the Confab and Nigerians are not willing to heed to Resource Control, they will take it by force” - Oronto Douglas We Dare To Be Different.
Population: 14,833,421
Tuesday, August 1, 2000

Priye S. Torulagha  (Ph.D., MHR)

Nigeria's Dillema:  Is Petroleum a National Resource or Not?    

The question is "Who owns the petroleum resources in the Niger Delta and other oil producing areas?  The answer to this question might help tremendously in curing the persistent political and economic malaria that has infected Nigeria. 

Currently, two diametrically opposing views seem to dominate the political discourse about finding an amicable solution to the oil crisis.  The first view is that oil belongs primarily to those Nigerian  groups whose territories are explored for the black gold.  Therefore, the oil-producing areas must have the major share of the petroleum revenue. The second or the other view is that oil belongs to Nigeria.  Therefore, the oil-producing areas have no exclusive right to the revenue accruing from oil production. The exponents of this view strongly believe that since oil is a national resource, the federal government should have total control of the production and the revenue that accrues from it. They also believe that the federal government should distribute the revenue across the board for all the states on equal basis without unduely favoring the oil producing states.  

Generally, Peoples from the Oil Producing Areas (POPAs) and their supporters are the main exponents of the first view.  The second view is generally supported by Peoples from Non-Oil Producing Areas (PNOPAs) of Nigeria and those that might be considered to be Nigerianists (ultranationalist Nigerians).  Thus, President Olusegun Obasanjo and many prominent Nigerians believe in the concept of a national resource and want the federal government to dictate the terms of oil revenue allocation.  The second view is also supported by the military/political/business complex whose members benefit the most from federal control.

Citizens from the Oil Producing Areas complained bitterly that while their territories have been the economic backbone of Nigeria for the past 30 or more years, they have been neglected, marginalized and treated as third class citizens.  As a result, their territorial areas, particularly the Niger Delta, is the least developed.  They do not understand why their own areas are so neglected while trillions of Naira have been invested mostly in Non-Oil Producing Areas of Nigeria.  The want a fair deal.  They want the federal government to either increase their share of the oil revenue or transfer the ownership or control of the management of the petroleum resources to them.  In return, they are willing to pay taxes to the federal government.

Nigerians who oppose the increase of revenue allocation or the transfer of ownership or control of the petroleum resources argue that the citizens of the Oil Producing Areas (OPAs) should blame themselves for the extreme underdevelopment in the Oil Producing Areas because their sons and daughters were primarily responsible for managing the federal agencies which coordinated the petroleum resources of the nation. The Minister of Information and Culture in Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar's regime (1998-1999), Chief John Nwodo Jnr. did not hesitate to accuse the indigenes of the Niger Delta for their underdevelopment and marginalization.  He said "... Before we had an OMPADEC which was tied in the hands of the Niger-Delta people.  They plundered and looted the wealth intended to rehabilitate the infrastructure in their places.  Nobody is asking  their children in the Niger Delta what happened to OMPADEC..."  

Pitifully, quite a substantial number of Nigerians from the Non-Oil Producing Areas are convinced that the peoples of the Niger Delta are primarily responsible for their predicament.  Many of these Nigerians also believe that the crises in the Niger Delta are organized by indigenes of the subregion who are bent on seceding from Nigeria.  Hence, high-level political and military leaders have repeatedly warned that any effort to divide the counttry would be crushed.  Vice Admiral Mike Akhigbe, former Chief of General Staff in Gen. Abubakar's regime, warned many times that the federal government  "would no longer tolerate violence in the Niger Delta."  He threatended to use force.  Gen. Victor Malu is the most recent top military officer to say " The army will deal decisively with any attempt to  balkanize the nation.  We fought to keep the nation one, and will always do so."

Due to the extreme views expresed by both sides, Nigeria has not been able to seriously resolve the oil revenue allocation issue.  Comparatively, the view expressed by the Peoples of the Oil Producing Areas seem not to make an headway into the hearts of the Peoples of the Non-Producing Areas.  The reason being that the federal government, as well as all the machinery of government, have been deployed to propogate the view that the citizens of the Niger Delta are simply troublemakers.  Therefore, the federal government wants to impose conditions it thinks are fair enough to settle the matter.

Unfortunately, indigenes of the Oil Producing Areas tend to be very defensive and apologetic when the issue of "their sons being responsible for their predicament" is mentioned by the opposition. Recently, one Nwuke tended to raise that question again in an internet article.

This article is intended to answer that question categorically, using Zikian (Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe) and Socratic method of systematic explanation. 

1.  The primary motive of the Peoples of the Oil Producing Areas is to secure a fair deal in the distribution of oil revenue.  This include being treated as first class Nigerians, being consulted before major national decisions are made, being listened to instead of decisions being imposed on them, being included in the national budget, and not as part of a special budgetary arrangement, being considered for national infrastructural development, and not as part of a political gimmick like the OMPADEC, and being rewarded proportionately to their share of contribution to the national income.  Their intention is not to secede from Nigeria but to help develop it in a positive manner so that all Nigerians can share the fruits of success.

2.  The argument that the peoples of the Niger Delta have themselves to blame for lack of infrastructural development in the "fufu plate" of Nigeria is an old political trick designed to blame the victims. Throughout history, conquerors and oppressors have used this trick to morally justify their reprehensible behaviors toward the weak and the politically powerless. Lets see why this is not an acceptable argument to justify the utter underdevelopment of the richest part of Nigeria.

a.  Assuming that the sons of the Niger Delta were utterly guilty of looting the money allocated for the development of the Niger Delta, then why were they not arrested, tried and sent to prison, if found guilty, for embezzlement?  Afterall, there are criminal laws regarding theft in Nigeria.  One of the major purpose of government is to enforce the laws and protect the citizens.  So, why did the Nigerian authorities fail to do their work?  This is a good question.

b.  It can be answered that successive Nigerian regimes failed to enforce the laws concerning theft and misappropriation of public funds because the leaders themselves were the primary driving force for the commission of the crime.  To have enforced the laws against the sons of the Niger Delta who looted would have meant the enforcement of the laws against the leaders of various regimes for embezzlement and corruption.  It would have amounted to stirring the hornets nest because the accused embezzlers would definitely have called upon their masters (Nigerian Leaders) to the witness stand to answer questions.  The trial of Mohammed Abacha has already revealed incredulous facts about the efforts to assassinate certain Nigerians.  The Killing Of Mrs. Abiola and the attempted murder of Mr Ibru have already been revealed.  Is it not true that more than two billion dollars have been recovered from the financial estates of the late Gen. Sani Abacha?  Of this, about a billion was found in the house of the late general. Ofcourse, Gen. Abacha was a Nigerian head of state.  The full story of the missing billions is yet to be uncovered.

c.  The argument that the Niger Delta people are responsible for their underdevelopment and marginalization because their sons were appointed to overseer various parastatal agencies intended to develop the oil producing region is to assume that these sons of the Niger Delta really had the political power to actually carry out developmental programs.  Those who make this implicatory assertion are either ignorant of Nigerian politics or are fully aware of the cronyism of the system but do not want to face the morality of the sad situation.  Or they are so eager to have their own share of the oil loot and do not want any hindrance from the indigenes. 

d.  An explanation is needed here.  It is a fact of Nigerian life that minorities do not have political power in Nigeria.  Likewise, minorities are expected by the power wielders "to serve the masters and not to rock the boat."  For instance, when Chief Joseph Tarka challenged the Northern political establishment in the 1960s, he was threatened repeatedly.  When the late Eyo Ita challenged the NCNC establishment, he was considered to be a rebel.  When Chief Samuel Akintola attempted to break away from the Action Group, the Western region was thrown into a state of anarchy.

e.  It is quite evident that regardless of their positions, minorities do not exercise power.  They are supposed to execute orders given from the above.  Hence, Mr. Allison Ayida, a former high-level federal government official in Gen.Obasanjo's regime, could not stop the general from initiating and implementing the infamous Land Use Decrees.  Infact, retired Gen. David Ejoor and Col. Phillip Effiong have stated through interviews and  writings about how minorities, especially from the south, were treated in the Nigerian armed forces.  Even retired Gen. Bali too had a bad experience with the political and military establishments.  It is not a coincident that Generals Ejoor and Bali and Col. Effiong are rarely consulted by Nigeria's power-wielders.  These guys are minorities.

f.  This being the case, it is obvious that the creation of OMPADEC and other governmental agencies were intended to serve as smokescreens for the transfer of  oil money into personal accounts in overseas.  The minorities were intentionally put in place to deceive the Nigerian public.  Ofcourse, the minorities were supposed to cooperate and do as told.  In turn for their cooperation, they were rewarded by the big players.  It should be recalled that when Prof. Tam David-West got too smart for such games, he was arrested and tried for embezzlement of over One hundred million dollars during the regime of Gen.  Babangida.  Likewise, when one Dr. Amachree of Okirika refused to play the embezzlement game while serving as the Rivers State Commissioner of Health, he had to quit.  The military governor who was suspected of trying to loot the millions from the Rivers State did not suffer any punishment.  He was transferred to another military post.

g.  Based on the aforementioned facts, it is baseless to assert that minorities were primarily responsible for looting the money allocated for the developemt of the Niger Delta.  Morever, it is a common saying that birds of identical plummage tend to congregate together.  Since many of the top players of the various regimes were unclean, they tended to hire people of their kind into various positions.  This is why honest Nigerians rarely get into political offices or made to serve.  They are just too honest to be valuable for those who want to misappropriate.

h.  To claim that the peoples of the Niger Delta are responsible for their predicament because their sons literally ran the petroleum agencies is to purposely deceive Nigerians.  The blame game is reminiscent of what happened before the civil war.  When the Eastern  Nigerian political and military establishments decided to secede from Nigeria, they hurriedly called for a consultative assembly to supposedly decide whether to secede or not.  The Eastern "Leaders of Thought" were assembled at Enugu in which the decision to secede was approved.  The Biafran establishment then used that approval to impress upon the world that the entire people of the Eastern Region had made the decision to secede.  The consultative assembly was a facade because the actual decision to secede was made even before the assembly met.  The minority representatives had to go along with the approval because they were not given a choice.  Can you imagine an Efik or an Ibibio or an Oguta or an Ogoni or an Ijaw person going to Enugu during those tumultuous days and saying that "I do not approve secession" or saying "my people do not approve secession."  Such a person would have been immediately detained at Enugu or made to disappear on the way home.  It is not a secret that many minorities and Igbos who were opposed to the secession were detained or killed.  The truth of the matter is that the Biafran authorities did not actually care about the opinions of the minorities.  They simply wanted the minority leaders to rubber-stamp the decision.

It is obvious that the federal government is making the same mistake that Biafran authorities made in assuming that it can talk to some self-annointed minority leaders who would rubber-stamp federal decisions for the Niger Delta.  If Nigerian authorities are truly committed to finding a peaceful means to the oil problem, it should send officials to tour the oil producing areas and talk directly with the people, especially the youths.  That is the only way the true feelings of the people can be understood.

i.  Perhaps, some Igbos would understand the effects of marginalization better.  After the civil war, the Highest ranking Igbo military officer (Gen Ukiwe) was unceremoniously removed from office without a convincing explanation.  Since then, the Igbos have been treated like the minorities in the Nigerian armed forces.  It appears that the position of the military spokesperson is always given to an Igbo officer.  This is degrading because an officer in that position does not make policy.  He is expected to announce and defend a policy that has been made by others. Basically, for more than 20 years, Igbo officers have been responsible for announcing and defending unpopular military policies initiated by the Northern power-wielders.  Therefore, it will be an overstatement to say that a military spokesperson has power, just as it is an overstatement to say that the minority head of a petroleum agency has power to do anything.     

j.  Some Yorubas too would understand what marginalization is after Yorubas were intentionally denied the opportunity to rule the country, even after a clear victory was achieved by the late Chief Abiola. They would also understand the pain of humiliation after Mrs Abiola and other prominent Yoruba leaders were either detained or killed in order to ensure that competition for the premierleadership position in Nigeria was minimized.

                  The Central Question            

To the central question of this article:  Is Petroleum a National Resource or Not?  The answer is yes and no.

1.  Theoretically, it makes sense to say that petroleum should be considered and treated as a National Resource since it is the mainstay of Nigerian economy.  Thus, when President Obasanjo and others insist that Niger Delta oil belongs to Nigeria, they are saying that the national security of Nigeria depends on the oil and therefore must be treated as a  national security issue.  It is very likely that every nation would nationalize the major source of its economy.  This is to enable the state use the revenue accruing from the product for national developmental purposes.

2.  However, to adopt the position that oil is a national resource, the state must apply the same principle or standard to other minerals.  This is to make sure that every segment of the population sacrifices some economic independence for the general good and wellbeing of the nation-state.  Therefore, other minerals in Nigeria, including gold, diamonds, tin etc. must be nationalized and managed by the state.  So far, it appears that only oil is considered to be a national resource. If this is actually true, then the purpose of the original intention is defeated because Nigerians from the oil producing areas would not sit still while resurces are taken from them without equitable compensation.

3.  The view that oil is a national resource and must be managed by the federal government is fully acceptable if the proceeds of the oil are used for national development.  Ofcourse, it is obvious that proceeds from  oil have not been used for national development.  For the past 30 years, the proceeds have been treated as personal wealth.  As a result, many of the top leaders of previous regimes are now billionaires and millionaires while Nigerians suffered tremendously for lack of development.  It is a contradiction that while the monetary value of oil went up, the living standards of Nigerians went down. Consequently, it is not convincing to say that Nigeria's security depends on the oil.  If that is the case, Nigerian leaders would have worked hard to stop the looting and the oil bungling that went on for years.

4.  If the view that petroleum is a national resource is to be accepted,  the federal government would have instituted measures to ensure that the citizens from  the oil producing areas are treated well.  Nigeria literally abandoned them and allowed the oil companies to do as they wished.  Nigeria did not and has never made any effort to protect or clean the environment and did not even care whether the peoples' means of livelihood were being destroyed.  In short, Nigeria has behaved like a colonial power towards the Peoples of the Oil Producing Areas. 

5.  Nigerians are ethnically based. Each ethnic group has a territory.  It is the responsibility of each ethnic group to protect its territory from destruction.  This being the case, it is proper for the Peoples of the Oil Producing Areas to resist further exploration without an effective arrangement to make sure that the environment is not destroyed further from unrestrained exploration and exploitation by multinational corporations.  If the Peoples of the Oil Producing Areas do not resist and allow their environments to be destroyed, then where will they go for farmlands?  Will the Peoples of the Non-Oil Producing Ares allow them to come and farm their lands and fish their rivers?  This is very unlikely, considering the regional and tribal nature of Nigerian politics.  Infact, if oil suddenly happens to disappear from the Niger Delta, there is no doubt that  Nigerians from the Non-Oil Producing Areas would seriously laugh and mock at the Peoples of the Oil Producing Areas for their studity.  

If oil suddenly disappears, the peoples of the Niger Delta of Nigeria would be totally forgotten by the Nigerian government. Think about it for a moment. Even with oil, the Ibibios, Ijaws, Isokos, Ikwerres, Itsekiris, Ilajes, Isokos, Ogonis, Urhobos, and the Igbos in the oil producing areas are treated with reckless abandon, then can you imagine what would happen if there is no more oil.  The power-wielders would suddenly reverse course and resort to revenue sharing by derivation formula so as to deprive the peoples of the Niger Delta the opportunity to share from the "national resources."  Such is the nature of Nigerian politics.

6.  There is no doubt that the Onshore/Offshore, the Land Use Decrees and other mechanisms designed to nationalize the proceeds from petroleum are illegal because they were instituted during military regimes and the affected communities were not allowed to debate the issues.  Therefore, the argument that petroleum is a national resource cannot be legally defended, both under domestic and international law. This is why the federal government does not want a national conference to discuss the issue.  This also accounts for its hesitancy in using the courts to justify the military decrees. Moreover, any time a constitution is imposed from the above by a military regime, the constituion becomes null and void because a constitution can only become legal if approved by the people through a negotiated and debated compromise and consensus manner.  A law or a constitution that is imposed is not democratic, hence cannot be used by a democratic government to justify its actions.

Nigerians should therefore be more sensitive to the concerns of the Peoples of the Oil Producing Areas and find peaceful ways to resolve the petroleum issue, instead of constantly threatening to use military force, like in Katanga (Shaba)province in the Congo or Southern Sudan.

Friday, September 8, 2000

Priye S. Torulagha  (Ph.D., MHR)

Multinational Corporations:  Are They a Blessing or a Curse? 

It is quite appropriate at this time to ask this touchy question.  When private corporations metamorphosed into giant mulitinational organizations,

they dramatically change the dynamics of ecnomic development.  Throughout the world, those who support the growth of multinational corporations believe that such large economic entities are crucial, especially for the economic development of the Less Developed Countries (LDCs).  Many leaders of the LDCs have made strenous efforts to encourage  multinational corporations to locate or establish branches in their territories.  Those who oppose the presence of multinational corporations maintain that the MNCs are exploitative organizations that would not assist in the development of LDCs economies.

Therefore, to the question of whether MNCs are a blessing or a curse, it can be conveniently said that the MNCs are more of a curse than a blessing to the world, especially to the Less Developed countries of the world.  Apart from their home countries, MNCs tend to be exploitative, oppressive, corrupting, destablizing, and marginalizing of the citizens of those  countries in which they operate.  In particular, the citizens of the richly endowed regions of the world seem to be much more impoverished than citizens of regions that have very moderate to very little natural resources.

An economic snapshots of various regional crises would help to support the view that MNCs are not a blessing to the world. 

 1.  Nigeria is a very good case study to start. Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa and one of the top fifteen  most populous countries in the world.  Its citizens are very vibrant, sophisticated, intellectually equipped, very determined and ambitous.  Nigeria is rich in both human and other natural resources.  Moreover, Nigeria has one of the best, if not the best (sweet crude) oil.  Thus, for the last forty years, Nigeria has depended on oil to propell its economy.                                         
 The presence of oil attracted the multinational oil corporations.  Evidently, for more than 30 years, Shell British Petroleum Company (SBPC), Agip, Mobil, Texaco, Chevron, Elf etc. have been doing business in Nigeria, especially in the Niger Delta, where most of the oil is located.  The indigenes of the Niger Delta of Nigeria cooperated and allowed the oil corporations to explore for oil by surveying, dredging, cutting, and incessantly polluting and degrading the environment.  The multinational corporations rewarded the indigenes for their cooperation by interacting with them from an arms-length manner, totally ignoring and avoiding them with an attitude that is comparable to apartheidism.  In short, the oil companies totally pretended as if the indigenes did not exist and regarded them as mere nuisance.

The oil companies did not even make efforts to hire members of the ethnic groups who inhabit the Niger Delta.  Most oil company workers are recruited from Non-oil Producing Areas of Nigeria and abroad.  Therefore, the indigenes could not even believe that the vast wealth that has been sustaining Nigeria came from their backyards.  By ostracizing and marginalizing the indigenes and bribibing the military and political elites of the country, the MNCs got a free hand to do as they wanted.  They polluted the rivers, creeks, lakes, farmlands and flayed gas without even claiming responsibility.  They did not even try to clean up the polluted environments. But they made billions of dollars.

Using manipulation and bribery, the MNCs bought off some self-appointed leaders among various communities and pretended that they were paying compensation for the destruction and pollution of the environment. 

As is always the case in most developing countries, Nigeria ended up being ruled by very inept and corrupt military and political leaders.  These leaders saw the oil wealth as an instrument for the accummulation of personal wealth.  Evidently, they sold Nigeria to the MNCs.  So, successive Nigerian regimes turned the other way and allowed the oil corporations to run wild throughout the Niger Delta.  Nigeria even allowed the oil companies to have their own private police forces. Thus, a neocolonialistic relationship was established between the rulers and the oil companies. 

Whenever the indigenes complained, the private police forces and the Nigerian security forces would be used to silence them.  As the situation became unbearable, the indigenes of the Niger Delta became much more vocal in their oppositon to Nigeria's usurpation of their economic rights and the MNCs arrogant and uncaring attitude.  The Late Major Isaac Boro made a small noise and protested in the 1960s. He died mysteriously at the war front during the Nigerian civil war.  Then the Ogonis spearheaded a more frontal opposition to the presence of the oil companies in their ethnic territory.  The oil companies and Nigeria joined forces to crush the Ogonis, including the killing of their leader, Chief Ken Saro Wiwa. Of course, Dr Obi Wali had earlier been killed for his opposition to the colonization and the marginalization of the Oil Producing Areas. The attempt to crush the Ogonis only helped to increase the opposition to the further exploration of oil in the Niger Delta.  The Ijaws, Itsekiris, Isokos, Illajes, Ibibios, Efiks, Edos, Urhobos, Igbos etc. openly made declarative statements ordering the oil companies to stop exploratory activities until Nigeria negotiates with the various ethnic groups in the Niger Delta.  These declarative statements were immediately accompanied by militant reactions, including the seizure of oil platforms, the blowing up of oil pipelines, the kidnapping of oil workers, and threats of further actions if the oil companies continue to operate in their territories without proper and equitable redistribution of the oil revenue. 

The oil corporations did not even hesitate to support the Nigerian military forces with logistical support.  They supplied helicopters, arms, and money to the forces.  The Nigerian forces then unleashed terroristic tactics on innocent citizens of the oil producing areas in an effort to teach them a lesson.  The list of communities, towns and villages ravaged by security forces continue to grow:  Egi. Choba, Iriyan, Opia, Imiringi, Okpoma, Ikebri, Kaiama, Odi etc.  Odi, in particular, was totally burnt down by Nigerian troops and the Nigerian government has not made a concerted effort to rebuild the town.

So far, there is no end in sight to the issue of economic self determination.  The Niger Delta continues to deteriorate politically as the youths and the security forces engage in a cat and mouse struggle to outwit each other tactically.  The Nigerian government has refused to allow a national conference to take place, fearing that such a gathering would result in the disintegration of country.  Meanwhile, almost every ethnic group in Nigeria wants a national conference to beheld so that the future of the country can be discussed democratically.

2.  The multinational treatment of the indigenes of the Niger Delta is not unique and follows a pattern of behavior that is exploitative and oppressive.   Before the bloody civil war in Liberia, the Firestone Corporation used to be regarded as a "state within a state."  Like a giant octopus, it literally controlled the country in every way possible.  The political and business leaders of the country had to listen to Firestone before making any political, economic, and financial decision.  While Firestone grew rich, most Liberians were reduced to poverty as the company recycled every money made in Liberia back to its home country.  Liberia remained poor.  During the civil war, unconfirmed reports about Firestone's complicity in supplying arms to various factions captured the airwaves and the print media.  In a way, it could be said that the civil war was a blessing in disquise because it helped to unshackled the country from the imperialistic grip of the almighty Firestone Corporation.  It is quite obvious that Firestone did not contribute to the positive economic or political development of Liberia, even though it had been in Liberia for decades.

3.  In the Congo (Democratic Republic of the Congo, the multinational corporations did not hide their true intentions.  When Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba attempted to nationalize some of the companies doing business there, the multinational corporations, led by Union Minere and other mining interests joined forces and instigated the Katanga rebellion.  Not only that, the MNCs bought arms and helped to train the Katangese. In the ensuing civil war, Patrice Lumumba was killed. The MNCs worked cooperatively with some foreign nations to install Sgt or Col.Joseph Mobutu.  The installation of Mobutu was particularly done to ensure that no able or competent Congolese ever succeeds to the leadership position.  Mobutu performed beyond the expectations of his king makers(MNCs)by being extremely corrupt and willing to allow the foreign interests to hold the country hostage.

Later on, the Katangese rebelled twice in the 1970s. The rebellions were nicknamed Shaba 1 and Shaba 2. During these rebellions, the rebels turned the tide and threatened the Western multinational interests that had helped to forment them in the early 1960s. The French, Belgians and the United States helped Gen. or President Mobutu to stop the uprisings. 

Infact, the people of the Niger Delta are being treated the way the Katangese were treated.  Even though their territory is rich in minerals, most Katangese remain very poor while the political and military elites are very rich.  It is not surprising that one of the causes of the ongoing civil war in the Congo is the allegation of corruption launched against the government of President Laurent Kabila.  Although, he spearheaded the rebellion against the late President Mobutu, he has not changed the corruption that is endemic there, just like in Nigeria.

Thus, in the Congo, it is impossible to say that the multinational corporations have been helpful in developing the Congo, even though the country is blessed with abundant mineral resources, including diamonds and gold.  Instead, the multinational corporations assist in no small measure to corrupt the country and to lay the foundation for the perpetual destabilization of the central African region.

4.  The activities of the MNCs in other parts of the world are similar to those in Africa.  Although the South Eastern subregion of Asia is popularly regarded as the "Asian Tigers,"  the picture is not something to be really very proud of.  Ofcourse, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Malaysia, Hong Kong, and Singapore are exceptions.  These aforementioned countries have achieved great economic successes.  Japan was already a military and economic power before the 2nd World War.  Nevertheless, Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan benefitted greatly from the Cold War.  In fact, it can be said that they were the main beneficiaries of the Cold war.  The United States and the Western nations encouraged their economic and political successes.  The purpose was to demonstrate to the Soviet Union, Communist China and North Korea that a capitalistic economic system was much more superior to a communistic economic system.  It should be recalled that both South Korea and Taiwan were very abusive of human rights but the Western nations did not condemned such abuses.  The threats from the Communist northern neighbors compelled these states to develop at all cost in order to avoid being communized.

They are now heading toward the First World. Of course, Japan is already a super economic giant since it is the second largest economy in the world.  Even among these successful countries, multinational corporations were not overtly responsible for the economic successes.  Thesepeople sacrificed in other to be where they are now.  China is joining them even though it is a Communist state.

However, Indonesia and the Phillipines are economic and political basket cases.  They have been primarily used to advance the strategic interest of outside powers. The MNCs played their devilish role in exploitng and pauperizing the populace.  In both Indonesia and the Phillipines, two corrupt leaders were installed and protected by outside forces.  Both the late Ferdinand Marcos and the former Gen./President Suharto turned their respective countries into their financial empires.  They enriched themselves, their families and cronies at the expense of the general population.

In particular, the Nike Corporation gained tremendously from Indonesia by paying Indonesian workers very little and then charging high prices for their shoe products beyond reasonable limits.  Nike got rich and the Indonesians got poorer.  Americans had to pay steep prices for Nike shoes that were being produced with cheap labor.  Therefore, Nike presence in Indsonesia did not help the Indonesians.  Thailand goes up and down economically.  However, it should not be forgotten that prostitution was almost officially sanctioned in that country as a way to create employment.  Many young Thai girls were recruited into the oldest profession to provide services to tourists who poured in there for such services during the 1970s and the 1980s before the AIDs epidemic struck there. Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam are still trying to recover from the Vietnam War.  Burma is only in the news during political upheavals. 

5.  The picture of MNC exploitation is not different in Latin America.  Perhaps, Latin Americans suffered MNC exploitation more than any other continent.  First of all, the Native Americans were almost wiped out and their lands seized.  Those who survived the onslaught are so pauparized to the extent that most of them are barely existing.  The legendary tales of MNCs turning Central American countries into "Banana Republics" are still fresh in memory.  Countries like Nicaraqua, Guatamela, Honduras, Costa Rica etc. were literally ran by the leaders of the MNCs who generally picked the poltical and military leaders of these countries.

No wonder, ideological conflicts in this part of the world are very common.  Chile, Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Nicaragua, Guatamela, Mexico, El Salvador, Cuba, etc., went through a series of civil conflicts as the marginalized groups fought to have a piece of the economic and political pie.

6.  The situation in the Middle East resembles the situation in the Niger Delta of Nigeria.  Oil is abundant in this region.  However, the Shiites in Iraq and Saudi Arabia are marginalized even though a substantial amount of oil is explored in their territory.  They are treated like enemies and carefully watched for fear that they might cause trouble and stop the flow of oil.  Generally, the oil wealth is not as beneficial to the Shiites, the Kurds and other minority groups in the Middle East.

Having briefly described the universal situation, one can make the following observations about the behavior of multinational corporations:

1.  Multinational corporations do not like able and well-intentioned leaders.  Such leaders are considered to be impediments to the acquisition of wealth.  Such leaders are considered to be too smart and therefore, not good for business.  It is not surprising that competent and able leaders generally do not last long in office because they are always overthrown and replaced by incompetent and corrupt leaders.  Patrice Lumumba of the Congo was overthrown and replaced by incompetent and corrupt Mobutu.  Dr. Mossadegh  was overthrown as the president of Iran and replaced by a monarch who was willing to obey the command of the multinational oil companies and their foreign supporters.  Gen Murtala Mohammed of Nigeria was killed in an abortive coup because he had an agenda to turn Nigeria into a respectable regional power.  The list of names of able leaders that were tactically prevented from achieving their developmental goals is very long.

2.  Evidently, multinational corporations prefer to do business with incompetent and corrupt political and military leaders in the Less Developed world.  Incompetent and corrupt leaders are easily persuaded with the offer of bribes.  Such leaders do not think about long term implications and neither do they think about the national security of their states.  Such leaders want to become rich at all cost and are willing to sacrifice the interests of their citizens for the purpose of amazing personal wealth.  It is not surprising that leaders like Gen/President Mobutu, Gen. Suharto, Gen. Pinochet, President Ferdinand Marcos, Gen/President Somoza of Nicaragua, Gen Siad Barre of Somalia, etc. remained so long in power.

3.  Multinational corporations are singularly driven by the need to make as much profit as possible.  Hence, they have no regard for human rights and are quite willing to lie, manipulate, cheat, neutralize, and possibly kill in order to achieve their objective. Didnt the tobacco executives lied to the US Congress about the addictive nature of cigarettes?

4.  Multinational corporations are a threat to the democratic system of government.  They are hateful of debates and any argument that would compell them to explain their intentions.  Even a powerful country such as the United States is fearful of the power and influence of the multinational corporations.  No wonder, the US broke up the giant AT&T in the 1980s.  The US too has been waging a battle to bring Microsoft down to a level in which it is managable by the state.
5.  They have voracious appetide and do not know when to say enough is enough.  Consequently, left unsupervised, they can literally destroy the world by over exploitation of natural resources.

6.  Multinational Corporations have a tendency to lie and to refuse to claim responsibility for their deeds.  The tobacco companies still do not believe that their products are a major health hazard.  As the US attempts to force them to become legally liable, they are rushing overseas to continue their businesses.  Asian youths are particularly being targeted and encouraged to smoke.  Youths of other continents too  are being influenced through tantalizing commercials to light up. Firestone knew for sometime that some of its tires were defective,yet, the company refused to pull those tires off  the market.  After many deaths around the world, countries, including the US, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela etc., want answers.  Caught in the scandal, the Ford Motor Company is pointing an accusing finger at Firestone.  If Ford knew long ago about the tire problem, why dit it not inform the world and stop putting those tires on its vehicles?

7.  Multinational Corporations are like robber barons. They are incessantly attracted to cheap labor. It was recently reported that some McDonald's fast food restaurants in China employed children and made them work for long hours.  As soon as the  allegations were about to be released to the public, the children were immediatley fired.  Many US corporations moved to Mexico and other LDCs, instead of complying with American labor laws.  Mexico eagerly welcomed the MNCs in the hope of using them to develop itself.  That hope has not materialized, instead, pollution and environmental degradation seem to be the rewards of the Mexican hospitality.  
8. As far as they are allowed to continue to do business as they wish, many countries in the Less Developed world would not rise above what they are now.  The MNCs pay very little for the raw materials  they buy from developing countries.  Yet, they charge so much for the prices of their finished goods.  For example, it is a known fact that the prices of pharmaceutical products are exhorbitant, hence, many citizens of the world cannot afford to buy critically needed medications.  Even some American citizens are forced to go to Canada and Mexico to buy needed medications because the US prices are always exhorbitant. Since most LDCs depend on the supply of raw materials as their primary means of economic intercourse, they would not be able to grow economically to a level in which they can provide for their citizens conveniently.

Two schools of thought have developed regarding whether MNCs should be morally responsible for assisting in the development of the countries in which they do business.  The first school of thought believes that MNCs should not be held liable because they primarily exist to do business and to make profit.  The proponents of this view believe that itis the responsibility of political leaders to develop their countries, not MNCs.  The second school of thought believes that MNCs should be held morally accountable, in some way, for the development of the countries in which they do business.  There is no end to this debate.

Nevertheless, since it is a fact that MNCs are increasingly becoming a threat to the environment,  peoples health, and the sociopolitical stability of many countries of the world, the United Nations need to get involved in the debate.  Perhaps, A universal Declaration of Economic Rights of Citizens of Territories in which Business is Being Conducted would be a starting point to hammer out a universal operational conditions for multinational corporations. The Calvo Doctrine was intended to prevent the MNCs from interferring and destabilizing countries in which multinational corporations do business.  The UN needs to strengthen the Calvo Doctrine by coming up with a universal statement.  Affected  citizens of the world should become much more active in defending their interests and not allow tjemselves to be exploited.

So far, it is quite clear that MNCs are not a source of economic development.  Countries that have developed economically did so on their own, not through the altruistic tendencies of multinational corporations.  Likewise, MNCs have made life very unbearable for many people in territories that are richly endowed with natural resources.  In short, it is like a curse to have oil or other essential raw material in your territory.
Multinational Corporations: Are They a Blessing or a Curse?


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