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Nigeria: Secure the production islands

A fully fledged state has never developed in Nigeria since independence - weak states create part 3

Nigeria can offer a scenario for post-neoliberalism, as an example of how maximum profits can best be realized without any public responsibility. Parts of the country show clear signs of a war economy, in which international companies, ruling parties and armed militias share the income from the oil business. A future model for failed states?

In contrast to Sudan or Iraq, external interventions in Nigeria cannot be seen on the surface. The country rather stands for normality in former colonies. To classify Nigeria as a developing country, however, would be a mistake. Above all, it is a production country. Oil and natural gas have been extracted here since 1958, on a large scale. The largest oil exporter in Africa ships 2.5 million barrels of crude oil every day. However, there are hardly any refineries worth mentioning, so that processed oil products, such as gasoline and diesel, have to be imported in full, which puts a considerable strain on the national budget. Anyway, the Nigerian national budget ...

The state-owned oil company Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) earned $ 67 billion last year alone. The national budget in Africa's largest country - with around 170 million people - is only 20 billion. A significant part of this, namely 17 billion, comes from taxes paid directly by international companies, i.e. not even from the NNPC budget. It is probably not possible to understand in detail where its profits disappear year after year. The largest company in the country does not submit any public accounts.

Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan again dismissed the leadership of the NNPC on August 1st. The current crisis had been looming since February when the head of the central bank, Lamido Sanusi, complained that the NNPC's internally submitted annual balance sheet was missing about $ 20 billion. For this bad news, the messenger was replaced immediately. Six months later, the head of the oil company, Andrew Yakubu, followed the head of the central bank. The president had only used it two years earlier, after the previous line had been shown to have lost nearly ten billion dollars.

Since Nigeria began its oil exports, these inexplicable losses have amounted to at least $ 400 billion, or about half of total revenues, said World Bank Vice President Oby Ezekwesili. Of the remainder, the reported income, over 80 percent ends up in the hands of one (in figures: 1) percent of the population.

According to a correspondent for the Neue Züricher Zeitung, the Nigerian population suffered "environmental degradation, broken promises and above all the persistent poverty of the broader population" from oil exports. In Nigeria today, 70 percent of the population officially live below the poverty line. About 60 percent even in extreme poverty, that is, on less than $ 1.25 a day. From a sociopolitical point of view, the country gives the impression that it has never produced anything of value.

Nigerians today have an average life expectancy of 54 years. Optimistic assumptions suggest that around 40 percent of the population cannot read or write. Every fifth child dies after birth, most of them from malaria and respiratory diseases. This is probably also due to the fact that, statistically speaking, a Nigerian doctor is responsible for 3,700 people. The state reportedly spends just under $ 100 a year on health care for a citizen. This sum is still below the African average. In addition, the existence of a budget for health does not mean that any citizen will ultimately receive benefits worth this per capita sum.

No state far and wide

A look at the slums of Lagos, Nigeria's largest city, gives an idea of ​​the services public health care actually offers. Self-made wooden and tin huts stretch from the edge of the official city to the horizon. The residents built a large part of the dwellings as pile dwellings over swamps and canals. Six to eight million people live here, densely packed in the heat and humidity. Not only is there a lack of health care in this part of society. Its most important characteristic is informality, there is no such thing as the state here at all.

The poor state of health systems is responsible for the rapid spread of the disease, the WHO unequivocally stated with regard to the spread of Ebola. According to the doctors' observations, mortality could be significantly reduced if the infected were immediately taken to a hospital. If the virus from the more rural areas of West Africa should reach the slums of Lagos, what Mike Davis described in his book "Planet of the Slums" as an explosive disease potential, as a formula for biological disasters, will materialize.

It doesn't look any better in other areas of society. All public services that would require a more complex social organization, be it drinking water or sewage supply, power supply and other infrastructures, local public transport or an education system, all of this is at best offered in some parts of the city for the top percent of society. However, mostly as a service provided by private companies. For the absolute majority of Nigerians, these expressions of a modern state do not exist.

When the criticism of neoliberalism, that is, of the global reduction in public responsibility, began, many experts forecast the emergence of security states. The fear was that public institutions would be dismantled globally in all areas except for the military and the police. In order to secure investments and punish delinquency, at least the security apparatus of the historical state will survive, according to the threatening hypothesis.

An IT technician friend of mine who regularly maintains control systems for oil production at a large international energy company recently described how security of investments in Nigeria is guaranteed:

We land in Abuja, from there a helicopter takes us to the facility. Outside there are two high steel fences, behind them the police and the military. We pay them directly to be on the safe side so that there are no problems.

This trend, that raw material companies have their development projects in weak or crumbling states directly secured, is also evident in many other regions of the world. The security forces often still wear state uniforms and national badges, but they are directly subject to instructions and funding from private companies. The responsible minister only approves the quota in return for direct donations. Central state responsibility or even a connection between the judiciary and the executive no longer exists. The security state, once a terrible vision for European civil rights activists, has long since been turned into mercenary and militia rule in these areas.

Pretty best friends: mercenaries for oil production

The development towards a society of militias can be seen in the Niger Delta as an example. In the unique biotope, European and US corporations have been producing a large part of the oil from Nigeria since the 1960s. Of the 2.5 million barrels extracted from the ground in Nigeria every day, two million come from the delta. In 2010 there were around 5,000 boreholes with the associated 7,000 kilometers of pipeline stretch. Shell, Total and Exxon destroyed the livelihoods of the population, who traditionally lived mainly from fishing in the widely branched river arms and their unique mangrove forests, with the production, in which they did not take any environmental standards into account from the start.

Although the Nigerian federal government allegedly received up to half of the revenue from production and officially 20 percent of it flowed back into the region, none of the billions in oil reached the local population. Attempts to gain a share of the oil revenues or to comply with environmental standards through political protests were brutally suppressed by the central government.

Nigerian law regulates the responsibility for contamination in an exemplary manner by stipulating that, regardless of what caused a leak, the oil company must seal it. But a state that would enforce this right hardly exists in Nigeria and none at all in the Niger Delta. Amnesty International describes one of countless cases:

In 2008, thousands of tons of oil streamed for weeks from two leaks in a dilapidated pipeline. Shell's failure to quickly close the leaks and clean up the huge oil spill has destroyed the lives of tens of thousands of people in the city of Bodo: the fishing industry is idle, food is scarce, prices have skyrocketed. The residents have serious health problems and jobs are rare - a situation that is symptomatic of the entire Niger Delta.

Shell has acknowledged that the leaks in Bodo were not sabotage. Nevertheless, the group tries again and again to justify its inaction with alleged acts of sabotage and calls the oil leaks tragedies. The real tragedy, however, is the failure of the corporation and the state to deal with the oil spills. The Nigerian authorities have never prosecuted Shell.

Today the Niger Delta is considered to be one of the most heavily contaminated regions on earth. If, on the other hand, the investment security of international companies is jeopardized, they can very quickly get the state to act.

The protest of the Ogoni gained worldwide fame in the 1990s. The well-known activist and writer Ken Saro-Wiwa founded the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) in 1989, which organized huge protests against oil production in the years that followed. As a result, Shell had to temporarily cease its activities in the Ogoni area at the beginning of 1993. Up to 300,000 people took part in the MOSOP mobilizations, more than half of the Ogoni population. The military then reoccupied Ogoni land in the delta.

They arrested the top management of MOSOP and sentenced the activists to death in a bogus trial for "inciting murder". Despite enormous international protests, Ken Saro Wiwa and eight of his colleagues were executed in November 1995. Ken Saro-Wiwa made it known around the world that these international protests were taking place. The condition in the delta has not improved a bit since then.

Even then it became known that, for example, Royal Dutch Shell AG made direct payments to the military. In June 2006, US Consul General Brian L. Browne described the situation in the Delta in detail in a secret message to Washington. It said that contacts at Shell had informed the embassy that there were plans to buy ships and equipment valued at several million dollars to hand over to the Nigerian military so that they could "increase the safety of the facilities".

In such initiatives, the companies involved Total, Shell, Chevron and ExxonMobil also confront politics together. The embassy staff usually do not speak of individual companies, but simply of the "International Oil Companies" (IOCs). Any demands made by Nigerian politics, such as the economically extremely sensible consideration of investing more in refineries or the consideration of new tax rates, are answered with one voice. In principle, the representatives of the oil companies discuss their problems openly and in detail with the US ambassador, who then appears to the Nigerian politicians as a spokesman for the IOCs.

In the face of this concentration of power, the main source of income for the affected communities became the violent blackmailing of oil companies and the illegal extraction of oil from the pipelines. Over the years, a kind of war economy developed in the delta. The local population set up militias that attacked the infrastructures of the oil industry and kidnapped technicians until the corporations began to make direct payments to the communities.

This war movement took on such proportions at times that Nigerian oil production collapsed by 25 percent. What would be called protection racket under the rule of law was ultimately the only source of income for the communities. In the long term, the oil companies got the protection money or the bribe of local leaders much cheaper than if they had modernized their plants or made a transparent payment of taxes. As a result, 50 years of oil production in the Delta has left an apocalypse of environmental destruction, militarization and militia rule.

Not just a religious conflict

The militia movement in the Niger Delta already had clear ethnic and religious forms of expression. But it is not a global media topic today. In the neighboring region, in the north-east of the country, also one of the poorest regions in Nigeria, the Boko Haram movement has been armed against the central government since 2010. The religious sect achieved worldwide fame with spectacular acts of violence and a radical Islamist program. At first, however, Boko Haram also pursued a nonviolent strategy. Its charismatic founder, the priest Mohammed Yusuf, worked closely with the Borneo regional government in the early 2000s, which granted the Muslim majority of the population extensive religious rights.

However, after Mohammed Yusuf continued to attack the government for the pervasive corruption and his movement spread to other states, the Nigerian State Security Service (SSS) arrested him. Until then, Boko Haram was a religious social movement that granted small loans to the poor, built youth and refugee homes and organized popular kitchens.

Numerous clashes between Boko Haram activists and the police finally resulted in a violent uprising in 2009. The four-day revolt was put down by the military. Hundreds of activists were killed. The security authorities destroyed the Boko Haram mosques. The military arrested Mohammed Yusuf and handed him over to police, who claimed he was killed in an exchange of fire.

In a comment from the US embassy, ​​however, it says: "There are relevant statements that Yusuf was badly beaten before they shot him in the head." It will be made clear to the Nigerians how important the rule of law is and that "extrajudicial murders are unreasonable". At the same time, the embassy doubts that "many Nigerians will be disturbed by Yusuf's death".

As for the followers of Boko Haram, it was a grave misjudgment. They then went underground and started a guerrilla war against the Nigerian government. It is not always clear what the actual political actions are, when they may be provocations in the context of counterinsurgency and where kidnapping is a criminal business. Foreign security services assume that there is no unified leadership at Boko Haram, as in other Islamist movements.

First, she carried out attacks on police officers, police stations and the military. In the course of the confrontation, there were also acts of terrorism in the true sense of the word, such as the murders of social workers and students from secular schools, Christians and local leaders who support the government.

In some cases, as in the case of the girls kidnapped in April 2014, it is purely a logic of retribution. As part of the counter-insurgency, the Nigerian military and police had arrested hundreds of relatives of alleged Boko Haram activists since February, almost exclusively women and girls. The insurgents then kidnapped 200 schoolgirls from the boarding school in Chibok and demanded an exchange of prisoners. The Islamist militants are currently demanding the release of 30 prisoners. However, the International Red Cross was only able to find 16 of them in Nigerian prisons, presumably because the others had already "died in custody".

According to Amnesty International, suspects are systematically tortured in Nigeria. It does not matter whether it is women, men or children, according to the Secretary General of Amnesty in Germany, Selmin Caliskan. The organization presented testimony from a young woman who shot tear gas into the vagina of a policewoman to extort a confession. Numerous reports speak of systematic mistreatment with rifle butts, machetes and melted plastic. Detainees are forced to roll in pieces and watch extrajudicial executions of fellow prisoners.

In particular, Amnesty calls the counter-insurgency action against Boko Haram "devastating". While looking for members or supporters of the group, the soldiers arrested hundreds of people. "The number of cases of torture has increased with the fight against Boko Haram, but not only alleged members are tortured. Torture can affect anyone in Nigeria."

The protonations

When Jean Ziegler, who later became the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, examined how the states in Africa developed after the end of colonialism in the 1970s, he described countries like Nigeria as "protonations". On the one hand, Ziegler observed those countries that achieved a developed national independence, such as Algeria. In extreme opposition were countries that had been devastated by a soldier on the direct instructions of international capital interests. The Congo was certainly the most dramatic example of this.

In addition, however, something third arose, including in Nigeria, a strange hybrid of new nation-states and pure oppressive states. Political supremacy in Nigeria depends on constant disputes and negotiations between different regional and cultural groups. According to Jean Ziegler, the Haussa ethnic group constitutes a "westernized elite". However, it has to negotiate its privileges and its position in the state on an ongoing basis by arbitrarily distributing the pension from the oil revenues - one can add today.

An "alternative consciousness that had broken with the symbolic tyranny of multinational capital" never emerged here, as Ziegler, today an advisor to the UN Human Rights Council, called it. "On the contrary: the protonational consciousness has a strong tendency to imitate, to reproduce consumption habits and strange thinking habits." Formally, the imperial powers transferred power to "autochthonous groups". But these were still completely dominated by the international system of violence.

If you look at Nigeria from the west today, at first glance you see an incredibly corrupt political class that is making billions of oil revenues disappear year after year. The fact that this Nigerian upper class has been acting in direct dependence on international, i.e. western, companies for decades is often ignored. Especially since this company, namely the big oil business, has learned to be extremely discreet. Exxon, Shell, Chevron and Total act as a bloc vis-à-vis the rulers in Abuja. They offer them solutions for every kind of problem, especially of course of a financial nature. As long as their investment conditions don't worsen.

Bribing a tiny elite is always cheaper for international companies than a transparent, democratic and environmentally friendly government policy. Anyone who wants to share in the national wealth in countries like Nigeria either has to work in an international company, get hold of a political position, or forcibly blackmail the rulers or international companies. This war economy consists on all sides of a lack of legalization and a lack of institutionalization. Its main characteristic is informality. Both the international companies, especially the political elite, but even the various militias act in particular interests at the expense of a fictitious community. (Painted Daniljuk)

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