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This document is from the archive of the Africa Policy E-Journal, published
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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
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 allafrica.com
http://allafrica.com/stories/200303310413.html) 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 allafrica.com
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
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
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
Nigeria is the world's sixth largest oil producer and number one
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
"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.
Date distributed (ymd): 030403
Region: West Africa
Issue Areas: +political/rights+ +security/peace+
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