news analysis advocacy
tips on searching

Search AfricaFocus and 9 Partner Sites



Visit the AfricaFocus
Country Pages

Burkina Faso
Cape Verde
Central Afr. Rep.
Congo (Brazzaville)
Congo (Kinshasa)
Côte d'Ivoire
Equatorial Guinea
São Tomé
Sierra Leone
South Africa
South Sudan
Western Sahara

Get AfricaFocus Bulletin by e-mail!

Print this page

Note: This document is from the archive of the Africa Policy E-Journal, published by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC) from 1995 to 2001 and by Africa Action from 2001 to 2003. APIC was merged into Africa Action in 2001. Please note that many outdated links in this archived document may not work.

Nigeria: Elections, Oil, and Violence

Africa Policy E-Journal
April 3, 2003 (030403)

Nigeria: Elections, Oil, and Violence
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Nigerian unions called off a general strike this week after the Federal Government promised to pay the 12.5 percent wage increase it had earlier agreed with workers. But tension and uncertainty remained high as the country approached elections scheduled to take place on April 12 and 19. The most serious threat was from communal clashes in the Niger Delta, centered around the town of Warri, pitting rival communities against each other in the latest round of competition over political control and access to oil revenue expected to come to state and local governments. Major oil companies, including Shell and ChevronTexaco, shut down much of their production facilities, and production dropped by at least 40 percent.

New violence was feared as President Obasanjo sent in troops to arrest Ijaw militants. Earlier this month the Nigerian House of Representatives voted to order Shell to pay $1.5 billion in damages to the Ijaw people for environmental devastation to their land. But the final disposition of this ruling, and of controversial legislation involving the definition of "onshore/offshore" production and division of revenues between the states and the federal government, remains uncertain.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) said they were prepared for elections (see interview with at with 64 million Nigerians registered to vote, but other observers were more skeptical. Large number of domestic civil groups were ready to serve as observers, but critics said procedures for their accreditation was not yet clear. The INEC also stated that they would not be able to carry out polling in areas where there was imminent violence or actual violence.

This posting contains two short updates, one from and the other from the UN's Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN). A commentary with background on the conflict in Warri is available from the Association of Concerned Africa Scholars (ACAS)at ACAS also has available selected articles from its Fall 2002 bulletin on "Debating Oil Development in Africa" (

For additional background see the Great Decisions article published earlier this year at:
as well as earlier E-Journal postings at>

+++++++++++++++++end summary/introduction+++++++++++++++++++++++

Ethnic Clashes Disrupt Nigeria Oil Production, World Markets Hit

March 26, 2003

[reposted with permission. For additional updates, see]
By Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, Abuja

More than a week after an outbreak of ethnic violence in the oil-rich Delta region of Nigeria, the army sent by the government to quell the disturbances claims to have tightened its control on the volatile conflict zone.

But military action has done little to reassure world petroleum markets or steady oil production, with overall output down by around 40 percent since the major companies operating in the Delta closed most of their production and exporting facilities last week.

Nigeria is the world's sixth largest oil producer and number one in Africa.

Reuters reported oil companies saying that daily production of more than 800,000 barrels remained stalled Tuesday, because of ethnic clashes between the Ijaw and the Itsekiri communities.

The fighting helped drive up world oil prices. But Monday's gains were still well short of recent near $40-a-barrel highs.

Nigeria normally pumps about 2.2 million barrels per day (bpd) and exports up to 1.8 million bpd, according to Reuters, making it the eighth biggest oil exporter in the world.

Anglo-Dutch giant Shell, America's ChevronTexaco and French company TotalFinaElf have all virtually shut down operations in the Niger Delta.

“Clearly we won't send workers back until it is safe and all we can do for now is to monitor the situation and hope for a peaceful solution,” a ChevronTexaco spokesman told Reuters, after closing all its facilities in the western Niger Delta Sunday.

He said staff had been pulled out of the company's Escravos export terminal, in western Niger Delta, along with some local people who fled the violence between rival ethnic groups and Nigerian security forces, dispatched to the area by the authorities in the capital, Abuja, to try to bring the situation under control.

In London, a spokesman for Shell said production of 370,000 barrels a day of the company's Nigerian output remained closed. Shell has shut its 50,000 bpd Bonny operations to the east of the Delta and 320,000 bpd output from Forcados in the west.

TotalFinaElf has closed its Uponami field, which produces 7,500 barrels per day.

World markets hit

Reports quoting traders from London said oil refiners were scrambling for alternatives to the popular crude oil supplies from Nigeria, which are easy to refine, in a bid to avoid a shortfall as the demand for high quality gasoline rises.

There is high demand for Nigeria's light-sweet crude output, which is good for converting into gasoline, making it popular for America's gas-guzzling vehicles. Nigeria is one of the top six oil exporters to the United States, topping more than 560,000 bpd.

Options for refiners have already been sharply reduced by disruptions in oil supplies from other countries also facing disturbances, such as Venezuela since December; most recently, they have seen the loss of crude exports from Iraq, since the US-led military offensive began last week.

Traders in Asia said an estimated six very large crude carriers (VLCC) of Nigerian output were scheduled for lifting to the Asian market in March and April, leaving refiners hunting for alternative crude oil supplies.

Ijaw warnings

At the heart of the conflict are youths in the Niger Delta from the local Ijaw community, which claims to be the majority ethnic group in the area. They complain that they have been marginalised by central government and receive virtually none of the benefits from the oil wealth, which they say comes from their traditional lands in the region.

The Ijaws are demanding greater compensation and political representation from President Olusegun Obasanjo, who is facing re-election next month. They also want the Independent National Electoral Commission (Inec) to redraw electoral boundaries before the April polls.

In the run-up to crucial general elections scheduled for 12-19 April, Ijaw youths have warned Obasanjo, and the Delta State governor, that they will make things difficult for the authorities in their part of the country. A spokesman said "If the federal government and state government do not address these issues, we will make this area ungovernable for them."

The same spokesman also had a warning for multinational oil companies: "We have informed Chevron and Shell, we have informed everybody - withdraw your workers from all installations." Militant Ijaw youths have made clear their threat to target and sabotage the oil companies' facilities, including pipelines and flow stations in the area, if their demands are not met.

The Ijaw have been fighting with another local community, the Itsekiri, prompting the intervention of Nigeria's security forces.

Blaming the Ijaw for the clashes, one Itsekiri woman told the BBC: "They came with some ammunition to attack our village, attack our men, our children, burn our village. They have burnt more than 10 villages now." She added: "The Ijaws are attacking us. The Urhobos are attacking us. We don't know what is happening."

"We need war. W-A-R," screamed one Itsekiri man. "If the world could come to our aid now, let them know what is happening to a tribe, a mini tribe in Nigeria called Itsekiri."

Another of the Itsekiri villagers fleeing the strife said the government should withdraw, so that the rival ethnic groups could "fight it out once and for all." This, said the BBC reporter in the area, was an apparent reference to the 1000-strong force from the army and the navy sent to restore order.

Angry Ijaw youths have complained that only Itsekiri villagers have been evacuated from the trouble spots, while the Ijaw have not been offered the same protection.

Army responds

The army said more than a dozen people had been killed in the fighting and claimed to have pacified Ijaw youths. Troops and armoured vehicles have been sent to the Delta region and roadblocks set up in the main oil-producing city of Warri.

Refugees fleeing Ijaw settlements claimed the army had imposed a state of siege, with navy gunboats and soldiers blockading and firing on their villages. The navy is reported to have put a 24-hour ban on any movement in the affected areas.

Military spokesmen have previously denied targeting civilians, saying the security forces use minimum force when necessary. But Ijaw militants say their villages are threatened by the presence of the troops.

An Ijaw youth leader, who said he had fled from his home to Warri 40km away, told the BBC Tuesday that soldiers had burnt some of their villages in unprovoked attacks. "The army yesterday and today has been massacring our people. About four villages have been burnt down,"he said.

He appealed to the international community to intervene: "What has happened is that the army has released genocide on the Ijaw people," he concluded, denying that the Ijaw were armed and responsible for acts of sabotage on oil installations and petroleum facilities.

Communities in the rivers and creeks south of Warri have been caught up in the violent clashes. Trapped in the crossfire are local villages from both the Ijaw and the Itsekiri, in an escalating situation that the security forces seem unable to bring under control, despite their assurances.

Analysts say the ongoing unrest in the Niger Delta erupts periodically and is a major problem which the Nigerian government has failed to tackle convincingly. In addition to the communal violence are problems of environmental pollution, surrounding some of the world's richest petroleum deposits and affecting thousands of impoverished fishermen and farmers in the area.

U.S Monitors Fear Poor Preparations May Mar Poll

UN Integrated Regional Information Networks

March 31, 2003


With just about two weeks to go before the first in a series of elections in Nigeria, "crucial aspects of the electoral process are unresolved" and poor preparations may mar the polls, election monitors of the U.S-based Carter Centre and National Democratic Institute (NDI)said on Friday. [The full statement is available on the web at]

In a joint pre-election assessment report, the groups expressed concern that the voters' register was not yet ready and that there was no "well-publicised national security plan" to deal with a growing wave of political violence.

Elections to Nigeria's federal parliament are to be held 12 April followed on 19 April by presidential polls and elections to the post of state governor. Should a second round be required to determine the country's president, it is to be held on 26 April, followed on 3 May by elections to state legislatures.

Friday's report also expressed concern that the process chosen by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for accrediting Nigerian civil society groups as election observers was cumbersome and likely to undermine their effective participation.

Equally troubling, it said, was the "absence of public scrutiny of campaign finance" and the lack of a "mechanism for investigating reports of abuses" despite the well-known "corrosive influence of money" in Nigerian politics.

Both organisations said they were "deeply concerned that deficiencies and other flaws related to the organisation and conduct of the upcoming elections, if not addressed and corrected, could irreparably harm public faith in the country's democratic process".

The Carter Centre and the NDI said they formed the opinions after a one-week trip to Nigeria between 16-21 March by a joint team which met with Nigerian political party leaders, INEC, civil society groups, the private sector, media and the international community.

"The team and many Nigerians with whom it met fear a repeat of the serious flaws that were evident in the 1998-99 election process," the report said.

Both organisations monitored the 1999 elections that brought President Olusegun Obasanjo to office and ended more than 15 years of military rule. They had expressed dissatisfaction with the conduct of the vote, citing many malpractices.

+++++++++++++++++++++Document Profile+++++++++++++++++++++

Date distributed (ymd): 030403
Region: West Africa
Issue Areas: +political/rights+ +security/peace+

The Africa Action E-Journal is a free information service provided by Africa Action, including both original commentary and reposted documents. Africa Action provides this information and analysis in order to promote U.S. and international policies toward Africa that advance economic, political and social justice and the full spectrum of human rights.

URL for this file: