- Created: Thursday, 14 May 2009 14:10
- Written by Charles Chinweizu
Nigeria is Africa’s largest crude oil exporter, shipping 42% of its oil to the US and 19% to the EU in 2006, and overtaking Venezuela and Saudi Arabia to become the third largest oil exporter to the US. However, exports from Nigeria have been cut by up to 40% since 2003 through the actions of armed groups such as the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) which are demanding greater benefits from and local control of the wealth generated by oil production, and insisting that foreign oil companies leave the country. Over this period, thousands of foreign oil workers have fled, and more than 150 have been taken hostage in the last eight months alone.
Although the origins of MEND lie in the local corrupt Niger Delta elites, there are signs that the organisation has been moving in a more progressive direction, breaking its links with corrupt politicians it has previously defended. In July 2007, MEND was quoted as saying that ‘companies are moving away from the Niger-Delta region...The same companies...have been there for nearly 50 years and what have we got from their presence? Pollution and menial jobs for the people of the Delta. They will not be missed. As long as there is oil, I assure you, they will return at our terms... The temporary exit of these dubious oil companies is a very small price to pay for freedom.’ The southern Niger Delta region is where all of Nigeria’s oil is extracted, generating 95% of government revenues.