African Tradition "The Identity of a People"
With special focus on globalization and its impact in the Niger delta.
By Annie A. Brisibe
C.O.O.L CONFERENCE BOSTON USA. March 18, 2001
Nigeria is a country of about 120 million people and the most populated country in Africa, also considered to be one of the 6th largest oil producing countries in the world has a pathetic turn to its situation. The situation is pathetic because of the oppressive nature of the government toward the local people whose lands the wealth is coming from, but who have denied their ownership to their lands and natural resources through a fraudulent military government of General Olusegun Obasanjo in 1979. In tones laden with emotions, given vivid accounts of the pains, deprivations and oppression they suffer due to the extractive activities of multinational oil companies (MNCs) and the repressive measures of the Federal Government, which has been desperate to ensure that oil flows at all costs. In their tales of woes, the people of the Niger Delta have been demanding for a better condition of service from the Federal government of Nigeria, but all have landing on deaf ears.
Environmental Rights groups in Nigeria, the people, including women and children who are mostly victims of oil spills and other environmental hazards caused by the oil companies, recount horrifying scenes of killings by agents of the state, destruction of the ecosystem, desecration of sacred sites and the neglect and impoverishment of the people whose lands produce the wealth that sustains the Nigerian nation-state.
Most annoying of all these is the official negligence, aged and archaic facilities and in some cases greed of contractors and company officials, rather than sabotage, to the prevalence of oil spills and pipeline fires in Nigeria's oil region. It also portrays the fact that environmental degradation in the Niger Delta is not limited to the activities of the oil companies as it includes reckless deforestation by multinational logging companies and destruction of the ecosystem by the execution of construction projects without proper Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA).
"Obviously the cries of the people are not heard because the atrocities being committed by the Multinational Corporations (MNCs) and their Nigerian allies are largely muffled because they do not have access to the media and the laws are not in their favor. The people have been beaten, but are denied the space in which to cry" (Nnimmo Bassey, Director ERA, Nigeria)
From the Shell's Jones Creek major spill of October 17, 1998, there are lots of other spills in the Niger Delta which records the worst environmental pollution in Nigeria, if not the world as a whole. Farmlands destroyed, rivers polluted, villages sunk by flood, shrines desecrated bodies of dead relatives carelessly exhumed and grinned by construction companies' bulldozers, women and children killed in avoidable pipeline fires and the callous killing of harmless protesters by agents of the Federal Government. It pointedly raises the issues of resource control, use and management as it concerns the local communities who though, have their means of survival threatened because the environment by the Multinational Cooperation's like Shell, Chevron, Mobil, Texaco, Agip has been degraded, are not allowed to partake from the wealth coming from their lands.
Nigeria is so richly endowed with natural resources that some people tend to think that they are inexhaustible. This is a partial explanation for the unconscionable destruction of our environment. The other reasons include the fact of the greed, irresponsibility and wickedness of the ruling class the technocrats, the beaurocrats pervading extractive activities in our land.
Reports on the environment have been so negative "primarily because the local people do not play any significant role in the manner the resources in their environment are exploited. There have been accusations from commuting leaders, women, men, youths and the people generally that the government has been aiding the Multinational Corporations (MNCS), protecting their evils and supporting their actions by oppressing the local people.
The Demand of the world leaders for a Global economy will not in any way favor the people of the developing countries, especially with the form of rule and the model of democratic applications by the leaders of the developing countries. Nigeria for one which strives on corruption, and ethnocentrism, not minding the existence of the people collects loans from the International Monetary funds for projects that are not visible and do not have any impact on the civil society.
Yet Nigeria is the highest debtor in Africa owing the World Bank $32 billion. One wonders, why do we have to continue to collect loans and for what purpose? It is a collective responsibility of the people of Nigeria to be aware of what the government of the country is doing with all these loans. Most of the moneys, which from findings is believed to be stolen by past military head of states that have ruled the country with iron, fists all because of the wealth in the country resulting from the sale of oil.
Population: The population of the Niger Delta is estimated to be about ten million people, and is growing at about three percent a year. The total population of the Niger Delta is about 14% of the overall population in the country. There are more than 40 ethnic groups in the area with links to the linguistic groups of Ijaw, Edo, and Igbo.
Natural Resources: The Niger Delta is one of the world's largest wetlands, and the largest in Africa. The Niger Delta is rich in both renewable and non renewable natural resources such as oil, gas, bitumen, non timber forest products and timber forest products, wildlife, etc. 98% of the total revenue for the Nigerian Government is generated from oil and gas exploration "The Niger Delta encompasses over 20,000 square kilometers. It is a vast floodplain built up by the accumulation of centuries of silt washed down the Niger and Benue Rivers, composed of four main ecological zones-coastal barrier islands, mangroves, fresh water swamp forests, and lowland rainforests-whose boundaries vary according to the patterns of seasonal flooding." (The Price of Oil, 1999: 22)
Mangroves have abundant major uses. Non-timber forest products collected from the mangrove forests include local medicines, dyes, thatching, and food species as diverse as monkeys and periwinkles. In the freshwater swamp forests, there are raffia palms, mango, ogbono (bush mango); ogbono is a common food ingredient in the local diet, which is sold across Nigeria. Land snails and other products are all significant.
Occupation: The occupations of the local people in the Niger Delta are basically fishing, peasant farming, small-scale trading and local income generating projects. The men are considered to be the breadwinners in the traditional Niger Delta home, but in reality the women work three times harder than their male counterparts. The women care for the family; they trade, fish and undertake peasant-farming activities. Their tasks are both productive and reproductive, while the men are mostly involved in palm wine tapping, building canoes and speed boat driving.
Majority of the youths from the region are unemployed. They do not benefit from the presence of the MNCs operating in their communities. Less than 5% of the people from the Niger Delta work in these companies, women from the region working in the MNCs are less than 1%. A majority of the beneficiaries are from other parts of Nigeria.
Significance of the culture: The forest builds the spirituality of the people; it is their link to their gods. Most of the forests in the Niger Delta are considered sacred. They are untouched, preserved and served. The plants, animals, trees, birds, fruits are regarded as sacred. Same attitude is applied to certain streams and rivers. No body is allowed to fish in these streams and rivers. The rivers and streams do not only provide water for life, drinking, washing and bathing, they not only provide fish for food, they are also sacred and are bound up intricately with the life of the community, of the entire Niger Delta people. Destruction of "undeveloped" forest is thus as important to local communities as the destruction of cultivated land. This translates to a deep awareness of the importance of the environment and the necessity to protect and preserve it. The People of the Niger Delta knew that the land that was their inheritance was rich farmland, that the fresh and salt-water rivers that surrounded them were blessed with plenty. They did everything to preserve this rich inheritance.
The people like singing and dancing. Children walk barefoot, naked sometimes, and play traditional games that are significant with their culture. Families live as one, eat together, tell stories and care for one another. Almost every activity is shared amongst community members from local traditional festivals to feasting. Most of the ethnic nationalities in the Niger Delta hold strongly to their cultural heritage. A Strong family tie is a cultural norm in the Delta that bonds family traditions together. The gods of the lands and the rivers are considered to be the protectors of the people.
Every age group of both youths (male and female), men and women have a role to play in issues concerning the family and the community. Every activity is a festival of joy fishing, farming, trading, palm wine tapping, deaths, births, marriages and spirituality. The marriage, birth and death practices between the ethnic nationalities in the Niger Delta have some similarities. The men are considered the head of the families, while the women are the supporters. The people still hold strongly to their traditional religious systems, even with the coming of the western influenced religious systems, the practice is still traditional.
The people of the Niger Delta local communities depend solely on their environment for survival, the trees, the plants, and the animals. The major form of health services is the traditional health care system (THCS). The traditional birth System (TBS) is still the most trusted and used system in the local communities. The local people use the plants from the forest for medications. Like the traditional birth attendants (TBA), the women depend on local herbs for medication.
In most areas of the Niger Delta the source of drinking water is drawn directly from rivers, lakes and creeks. When there is a spill it causes severe health and social problems for the entire local community that consumes the water from the river. According to the report from The Price of Oil, it stated that "Crude oil contains thousands of different chemicals, many of them toxic and some known to be carcinogenic with no determined safe threshold for human exposure." (1999:45)
The Rights of Ownership: The people of the local communities in the Niger Delta do not have rights of ownership to their lands. In the past a typical traditional home believed in preserving lands for generations born and yet unborn. This is a tradition that builds strong family ties and has enabled the local people to contribute to their individual and communal development. They were happy with just constructing a mud house and living in it, without having to go to the cities to look for "white collard jobs" as it is popularly called.
Home was home for the local people; most of whom did not and have never had any interactions with the city. Their home was their roots. The land was their only source of wealth. They ate, washed, lived, died, played, made babies, filled their spirituality, built their dreams and their tomorrows on those lands. It is the most important piece in the lives of the people.
In 1978, things changed for the poor ethnic minorities who had no political and economic power, to confront the situation. Without any consultation or any form of participation by the local people in making decisions affecting them. This singular undemocratic and unconstitutional act changed the form of survival of the local people in the Niger Delta communities.
The Local Communities and the MNCs
The coming of the oil industry has transformed the local economy of the oil producing communities. The people who lived and depended on their environment today have nothing to depend on. This is as a result of the activities of oil and gas exploration. There have been reoccurring conflicts between the local communities and the Multinational Corporations on issues of environmental pollution and destruction of their culture by the activities of the MNCs.
In 1990, the people were forced to question the situation when the Ogonis under the framework of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People. (MOSOP) resisted the actions of the MNCs. The question was "What and who benefits from oil and gas operations and who suffers the pains of environmental pollution?
Ken Saro-Wiwa, was a human rights activist, poet, playwright, 1995 Goldman Environmental Prizewinner, Nobel Peace Prize nominee, and Ogoni tribesman. He and eight fellow activists were executed in Nigeria on November 10, 1995, for battling the oil and gas industry in their Ogoni homeland. Ogoniland is in the Niger Delta area of Nigeria. According to the group "Free Nigeria Movement" in the United States (1997) it stated "Shell Oil discovered petroleum in Ogoniland in 1958, and since then has extracted $30 billion worth of oil and natural gas". The Ogoni people derive little benefit from the oil operations in their land, suffering still from basic services, lack of health care and high poverty rates. Meanwhile, the traditional Ogoni fishing and farming life has been devastated by oil pollution, and in the words of Wall Street Journal the land has become a "ravaged environment."
Ken Saro-Wiwa rose to the occasion of this human and environmental tragedy, and founded the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) in 1990. In a non-violent campaign, MOSOP united hundreds of thousands of Ogonis, who demanded economic compensation for their sacrificed livelihoods, and called for a clean up of the oil spills, pipeline breaks and toxic wastes that were the residue of industrial oil development. The reaction of the Nigerian military led government was swift and deadly. Shell, Mobil, Chevron, Texaco and other oil companies generate 80% of Nigeria's annual revenue, and the military dictatorship sent troops into Ogoniland in a desperate and deadly maneuver to protect these interests. Since 1993, 20 Ogoni towns have been destroyed, 1,800 people have been killed, and 50,000 left homeless.
According to human rights groups, Shell has been linked to some of these human rights violations. An internal Nigerian military memo-written in May 1994, stated: "Shell operations are still impossible unless ruthless military operations are undertaken for smooth economic activities to commence." The document suggested that 400 soldiers should begin "wasting operations" and "wasting" Ogoni leaders who are "especially vocal individuals." Twelve days later, Ken Saro-Wiwa was arrested under fabricated charges.
On November 10, 1995, those charges culminated in the execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa and the eight other Ogoni activists. Since then, other governments have expressed their outrage toward the Nigerian Government's action to silence its critics. Immediate reaction included suspending Nigeria's membership in the Commonwealth, recalling the country's ambassadors and an international discussion about an arms embargo and freezing the Nigerian military ruler's assets held oversees.
Meanwhile, Shell continues its operations, "business as usual." A few days after the executions, Shell announced its plans to go ahead with a liquified natural gas plant and pipeline project in the Niger Delta and Ogoniland, despite international and local
Protest to the project and the withdrawal of the World Bank's private sector arm, the International Finance Corporation.
There has been a series of accusations by human and environmental rights groups against the oil companies for having two faces and operating with double standards. The oil companies were accused of allowing practices in Nigeria that would never be permitted in North America or Europe where they are headquartered.
Environmental Problems in the Delta.
Health Effects of Exposure to Crude Oil
Crude oils are a mixture of 100 or more hydrocarbons, sulfur compounds, and a range of metals and salts in smaller quantities. In addition, a variety of other toxic pollutants are typically generated during oil drilling and production operations, including drilling fluids, drilling cuts, and treatment chemicals that contain heavy metals, strong acids, and concentrated salts. These include polycylic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) compounds (e.g.benzopyrene) and volatile organic compounds (e.g. benzene and its derivatives), toxic and carcinogenic substances that pose a threat to human health. Crude oil and its constituents enter the human body through three primary routes: (i) skin absorption, (ii) ingestion of food and drink, and (iii) inhalation of oil on dust or soot particles.
According to the report by the Center for Economic and Social Right on Rights Violations in the Ecuadorian Amazon: "The Human Consequences of Oil Development" Vol.1, No.1, fall 1994, stated that;
"The fat solubility of most oil constituents allows them to be absorbed into and through the skin. Repeated or prolonged skin contact with crude oil has been reported to cause skin loss, dryness, cracking, changes in skin pigmentation, hyperkeratosis, pigmented plane warts, and eczematous reactions. Limited evidence suggests that prolonged exposure to constituents of crude oil, such as benzopyrene and other hydrocarbons, can result in dermal neoplasm." Constituents of crude oil ingested in water or food, such as PAH compounds, have been linked to adverse health effects ranging from cancers to toxic effects on reproduction and cellular development. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that exposure to a PAH water concentration of 2.8 nanogram per liter corresponds to an upper-bound lifetime risk of cancer of one in 1 million. This risk could be significantly increased through added skin and inhalation exposure. (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (USDHHS), 1993)
Inhalation of high levels of crude oil fumes can lead to adverse effects on the nervous and respiratory systems, sometimes causing life-threatening chemical pneumonitis and other systemic effects. In the Niger Delta, oil particulates have been emitted into the atmosphere from burning waste pits. These pits also contain drilling fluids with pentachlorophenols, which when burned are a formation pathway for tetrachlorodibenzo-dioxins. In summary, substantial health effects from exposure to crude oil and associated toxic pollutants have been reported in the general environmental health literature.
In the Delta, oil contamination has caused a lot of damage to people's health, contaminated their water, and deprived them of fish, game and crops. Other area health care providers have reported substantial apparent increases in birth defects and skin rashes.
The local communities since the coming of the MNCs have had to deal with problems of oil spills on land and in the water, destroying their entire farmlands and marine life.
"According to the official estimates of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), based on the quantities reported by the operating companies, approximately 2,300 cubic meters of oil are spilled in 300 separate incidents annually. It can be safely assumed that, due to under-reporting, the real figure is substantially higher: conservative estimates place it at up to ten times higher. Statistics from the Department of Petroleum Resources indicate that between 1976 and 1996 a total of 4,835 incidents resulted in the spillage of at least 2,446,322 barrels (102.7 million U.S. gallons), of which an estimated 1,896,930 barrels (79.7 million U.S. gallons; 77 percent) were lost to the environment." (The Price of Oil, 1999:23).
According to Professor Claude Ake of the Center for Advanced Social Science (CASS), in an article published in Tell magazine of January 29, 1996 on page 34, he said Nigeria's major oil-producing states Delta, Bayelsa and Rivers, suffer about 300 major oil spills a year (often covering several miles) which discharge about 2,300m3 (meter cubed) of oil. This estimate would be much higher if it included minor spills, which are far more numerous and invariably unreported. It would be higher still if it took account of the fact that the Nigerian crude oil is Very light and evaporates rapidly, an estimated evaporation loss of about 50 per cent in 48 hours.
Nigeria flares more gas than any other country in the world: "approximately 75 percent of total gas production in Nigeria is flared, and about 95% of the "associated gas" which is produced as a by-product of crude oil extraction come from reservoirs in which oil and gas are mixed. About half this gas is flared by Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), in line with its share of oil production." (The Price of Oil, 1999:23)
A World Bank Study, "Defining an Environmental Development Strategy for the Niger Delta" (1995), estimates that as much as 76 per cent of all the natural gas from Petroleum production in Nigeria is flared compared to 0.6 per cent in USA, 4.3 per cent in the UK, 21.0 per cent in Libya. The flaring is a serious hazard. At temperatures of 1,3000 to 1,400 degrees centigrade, the multitude of flares in the Delta heat up everything, causing noise pollution, and producing CO2, VOC, CO, NOx and particulate around the clock. The emission of CO2 from gas flaring in Nigeria releases 35 million tons of CO2 a year and 12 million tons of methane, which means that Nigerian oil fields contribute more in global warming than the rest of the world together. (TELL, January 29, 1996:34, Forum page).
Oil production, other industrial activities, logging, canalization, toxic waste disposal into the rivers, are just some of the factors that have greatly impacted on the Niger Delta both socio-economically and ecologically. The most common and visible environmental problems related to the oil industries are oil spills, gas flaring, dredging of canals and land taken for the construction of facilities.
However, the biggest abuser of the environment of the Niger Delta has been the MNCs in relation to their activities, which in the last 40 years have gradually destroyed the livelihood and culture of the local people. Land degradation is common throughout the Niger Delta, a situation that is manifested in the destruction of the forests by oil activities, and in relation to seismic operations, pipeline installation, oil spills, gas flares and canalization.
Flooding, which normally lasts from three to five months annually has been made worse by dam construction on the River Niger over the last 30 years of canalization by the MNCs. Other factors that contribute to coastal erosion include the construction of jetties, dredging by the MNCs and removal of vegetation. The spread of exotic species such as water hyacinth has led to rapid clogging of waterways and subsequent damage to the ecosystem.
Environmental Problems in the Niger Delta
Type of Problem Effects
Erosion, FloodingLand degradation caused by large oil ships from the oil companies and canalization of the land, in order to create access routes to the oil companies flow stations.
Spread of exotic speciesDestruction of natural ecosystem effects fishing and transportation.
Fisheries depletionCaused by dredging, oil spills, toxic waste disposal into the rivers
DeforestationLoss of bio-diversity, increase in severity of flooding and erosion due to logging, canalization, construction of facilities
Inadequate sanitary and waste managementHealth risks from water borne diseases, blocked drainage systems leading to floods
Flooding Land degradation, destruction of infrastructure,
Canalization of the landsCanals can also disrupt delicate hydrological systems, especially when they are constructed in the border zone between fresh water and brackish water in the riverine areas. Such disruption can destroy long-established fishing grounds, and cultural degradation.
Oil spillsDestroys marine life, destroys the forest and farmlands of the local people. Pollutes the environment, destabilizes the ecosystem, creates severe heath problems.
Gas FlaresMany communities in the Niger Delta believe that local gas flares cause acid rain that corrodes the metal sheets used for roofing. Skin diseases
Chemical Waste disposal into the Rivers Kills the plants, destroys the river and makes it unfit for drinking. Kills marine animals.
Toxic Waste disposal as fillings during oil explorationUnderwater river pollution, marine life destruction, general health hazards.
Land annexationUsed as toxic storage sites, canalization, construction sites, and causes cultural degradation.
Seismic OperationsDeforestation, destroys the cultural ties of the people, destroys the wildlife in the environment, destroys the farmlands of the people, poverty,
Globalization is considered to be another form of Neo-Colonialism, where the developing countries have transcended from Political colonialism to Economic colonialism. With the Trans National companies and the Multi National Companies indirectly controlling the economies of the world, and enforcing policies and Decisions through self made organizations like the IMF, the World Bank etc that have had and are still having adverse effects on the lives of millions of people in the world all for their own gains "PROFITS".
Economic Implications of Globalization:
In 1979 African's debt stood at 50 billion dollars. By 1988 it has risen to 250 billion. During the same period Africa's export earnings, which is the source of the foreign exchange to repay the debt, have declined drastically. Per capita consumption in Africa, already the lowest in the world, has fallen by 1/5th (if not more as of today) in the 1980's. Malnutrition has stunted the physical and intellectual growth of a generation of African children. Endemic diseases, all but eradicated in the 1970's have re-emerged. The policies of the IMF are to check the spending of governments of developing countries so that they can balance their expenditure with their income. IMF was established in 1944 in Bretton woods. 66 years today, yet with all its applications since 1944 till date, the developing countries with all the loans from the IMF are poorer than the way they use to be. The question now is what benefit is IMF to the developing countries?
In the international political scene, there has being a couple of extra ordinary activities in international political relations that has affected the functioning of developing countries. The clamor for the adoption of Federalism with America being at the forefront of the campaign, the crises of oil and gas and the abuse of human rights, the effect of AIDS and famine in Africa, the wars in Serria Leone, Liberia and the Middle east, the environmental campaigns, the impact of globalization on developing countries etc. The list is endless.
The revolution in international political attitudes has even begun to change our attitudes towards the environment. Finally, the West is beginning to recognize its approach to wealth creation in the rich countries carries with it the seeds of its own destruction.
Who would have guessed the even a few years ago, that the environment would be a key issue in national elections in Canada and the United States? But the penultimate change in international political system relations is of course the astonishing thaw in the relations between the super powers.
There is no denying that the international political developments of the 1980s are spectacular. They preoccupied the media; the minds of the politicians in the West-they were on the minds of everyone in the West. But for me the real story of the 1980's, 90's and now is not the disintegration of Communism in Eastern Europe. The real story of the 1980s, 90s and now is the silent suffering of people, the majority of mankind, in the developing countries where I come from.
All over the developing world, the poor have been forced to contend with the crippling effects of falling prices for their commodities, rising debt service obligations, stagnant foreign aids and investment flows to say nothing of drought and famine. Throughout the developing world there are now more than 30 million street children living literally on the margins of existence, over 10 million deaths from AIDS, what we are experiencing is a gradual and calamitous erosion of hard won impoverishment's in living standards secured in the 1960's and 70's.
WHY LOAN US? Nigeria is believed to be a very rich country with enormous oil and gas, which can pay up its debt anytime. So the International Monetary Funds looks only at the gains of loaning to Nigeria, and getting the interest on it because the country is rich in oil and gas. It does not consider the presence of the military and the undemocratic nature of the ruling class in these countries before giving out loans. On the other hand the IMF/WB encouraged the military coups and the mass corruption of most African dictators in most African countries. Because they are aware that the governments of these countries ruled with iron fists and could get away with such forms of policies that are not known to the people, all because they want to trap countries with resources that they need for their survival. All these boil down to National Interest, But National Interest of whom? "The WEST."
Today the Nigerian head of state General Olusegun Obasanjo is the Chair of the G77. He ruled the country as a military Head of State in the mid to late seventies as a military dictator and had trade relations with the MNCs, collected loans and contributed to the destruction of the Natural environment of the people, by encouraging the burning of gas in the Delta, destruction of the environment by the Multinational Corporation without any questions. Today we are crying for debt cancellation. Nigerian leaders in history have embezzled most of the monies gotten from the IMF for their private use, yet the ignorance of the masses on the issues and the form of payment of loans to the IMF is still very unknown. If the Nigerian masses are going to be made to pay Loans they know nothing about, especially the local people whose lands the oil comes from that generates revenue for the government, then the government of the country has to do a rethink.
It is criminal to implicate a people who are not even aware of the debts and the weight of the debts and how it affects them as Nigerians. It is also the National Interest of the people to resist the actions of the IMF/WORLD BANK for their in-human actions especially because peoples live are calculated and exploited for PROFITS only for the ruling class in the WEST.
PETRO-DOLLARS: The world economy recognizes the necessity of the South because of its natural resources especially in oil and gas, but yet the economy of the South keeps going down and down. Even after the formation of OPEC (Oil Producing Economies Countries), which determines and controls for the first time the oil economic situation within oil producing countries in Africa stood as the test for the developing countries after so many years of exploitation by the WEST. In the mid seventies Oil producing countries in the South experienced what was termed the "Oil Boom". This was because the oil prices were increased by OPEC which is largely controlled by the middle east block, with the increase of the oil prices, because the governments of these countries have no proper investment plans, in other to recycle the moneys, some where stolen and dumped in accounts in the North, while some where used for Infrastructural Development projects. In Nigeria, this led to:
·Urbanization: massive movement from the local communities to the urban areas, where people migrated in search of jobs, and stayed back even when they do not get the jobs.
·Inflation, prices of goods went up and it affected the market economy adversely.
·There was employment, opportunities.
·Transfer of petrol dollars to foreign Banks by government and government officials, as was done by most oil producing countries governments.
But after the oil boom, and its resultant positive and negative effects, the government in 1976 took its first loan for Lagos State in the amount of $16 million. Nigeria never stopped borrowing and the dependency syndrome started and has continued till date. The petro-dollars, which were transferred to the banks in the West, were in turn loaned out to Developing countries as AIDS. The interest rates of the loans were simultaneously increased by the west after the increase in the oil prices by OPEC and this affected the developing countries adversely.
Some major negative effects of globalization which has been recorded especially in developing countries are
·It completely reduces the role of the national government in the economic sphere. The national government becomes a figurehead in his own country while the TNCs and the MNCs control most of the policies in a country.
·Because of the large flows of financial capital, smaller markets would not be able to compete with the TNCs and the MNCs, this automatically wipes out the smaller markets from the scene. Lease Developed Countries are particularly at risk to these policies.
·It empowers the developed countries more while the LDCs are left out, because it economic activities are concentrated more in the developed countries, this further widens the gap between rich countries and poor countries.
·It strengthens the powers of the multinational corporations (MNCs). Leaving the local producers at their mercy. Etc.
The INTERNATIONAL MONETARY FUND (IMF): The role of the IMF is to help countries balance their payments, to make sure that a countries income is equal to countries expenditure. Some structures were introduced and the Structural Adjustment Program is an example of the IMF strategy in getting back its loans by reducing government spending. The debt problem was and is still critical because it was obvious that countries have a problem, so they have to adjust, restructure their policies, do things that needs to be done to make the economy function. The IMF observed things that they consider to be the problems affecting Less Developed Countries from progressing are that:
·Their Gross Domestic Product were dropping
·Government was having a Budget Deficit
·Governments have been very successful in stealing the countries finances
·The Expenditures were large. E.g. Health, Education, transportation etc
·Savings are generally low
·Borrowing more from the World Bank and the IMF and couldn't pay back
·They were no signs of Economic growth.
So they decided to put in place the policies of the IMF through the Structural Adjustment Programs known as (SAP). Some of the CONDITIONS that developing countries have to meet to qualify them for loans are
·Devaluation: This means lowering the value of the local currency in comparison to other currencies. Devaluation is said to increase the price of imports to the country with devalued local currency and also decrease the price of exports. This is supposed that prices will fall and exports will rise, thus eliminating the balance of payment problems. But in reality, this principle hasn't really worked out this way, because a country with a devalued currency, tends to attract the inflow of foreign investors, thereby wiping out the already existing local institutions that might not have the means to compete with the big institutions. Sometimes imports, which are expected to fall, do not fall and exports do not increase and this worsens the balance of payment expectation.
·Cut back government spending: This is mainly Expenditure reduction. Government spending restrictions are carried out through fiscal policies and monetary restrictions. This includes reducing the amount of money in circulation. Governments are expected to cut back on their spending rate, by retrenching workers, remove subsidies from social services, etc. The Less Developed countries are always victims to such inhuman policies from the International Monetary Funds without any though of what the impact would be like for the LDCs.
·These policies created all sorts of developments from the Fiscal Policy, The countries Budgets is made, and there is a calculation of the countries revenue, the income through trade taxes and the expenditure. The revenue is generated from taxes imposed on goods and services, borrowing, and enterprise (government), these policies tends to have its implications because for the government to make more monies, they start thinking about PRIVATIZATION. The Expenditure most times is mostly spent on the Military, social services e.g. education, health services, transportation etc.
·But the problem is that in many developing countries income taxes don't yield very much, so they rely on the trade taxes called the tariffs that are put on importation of goods. This also becomes profitable if the country has a product that is off high demand in the international market.
·The Monetary policy indicates that government reduces the amount of money in circulation. Thereby people have less money to spend and they are forced to consume less leading to less inflation. High interest rates, this reduces the credits especially for the smaller producers.
·Liberalization: Liberalization encourages an open market between boarders, where there will be reduced tariffs, because the governments of the Nation States need capital the Multinationals are allowed to come in and take advantage of the devalued currency. This automatically reduces the revenue of the government. Because if the one major point of revenue generation is removed, it destroys the survival of the country and opens it to the dangers of exploitation by the foreign organizations. This also is not ideal because most developing countries will not have that technology and opportunity to move into developed countries for trade, instead it will be the other way round and considering the fact that most of these policies are made by the powers that be in the developed countries, then the LDCs do not have a role to play but only to abide by the rules of the game by being the losers.
·In other words for any country to get the IMF loan, the country has to do the above-mentioned objectives.
·Most of the TNCs and MNCs are from the developed countries and they exploit the aspects of cheap labor. Why would there be a policy like reduction in Tariff to encourage international trade, when most LDCs do not have the power to invest in the North? Also it is very clear that LDCs are not economically and financially buoyant, still they have to be the ones to abide by the policies of some few "Northern interest".
·What then are we ADJUSTING? The lives of the poor masses in the LDCs or the empowerment of the Northern Interest at the detriment of the South, with the rule of the TNCs and MNCs.
The first loan collected by Nigeria in 1976 from the World Bank in the amount of $16 million showed no positive impact in the development of the country. Since then its been borrowing from the IMF for government projects which are not visible and are not seen by the masses. The countries Gross Domestic Product is mostly gotten from the sale of oil and gas to other countries like American, which consumes 50% of the countries oil, Canada, Japan etc. Today in the 21st century Nigeria is considered to be the highest debtor in Africa.
The point is what was the money used for. Today a lot of people are unemployed in the country, there are more poor people in the country, the educational system is bad, Health is inaccessible, no accommodation, there is the problem of urbanization etc.
In 1989, the masses reacted to the policy of the Structural Adjustment Program where so many people were killed during the protest on the streets in Lagos. These are some of the reactions of the governments from LDCs. And of course the corrupt nature of the governments from developing countries does not help matters as such.
·The Clamor by local people from the Niger Delta region to Oil multinationals to respect the environment and stop the pollution.
· The resistance of youths and community groups to end oil drillings and avoid the worsening condition of global warming.
·The destruction of the environment in the Niger Delta region where more than 100 local communities have lost their livelihood to pollution brought about by the Oil companies operating in the region such as Shell Oil, Agip Oil, Mobil, Chevron and a couple of others.
·The promotion of the Chad-Cameroon pipeline by IMF and the World Bank in West Africa, even with the campaign by environmental organizations and human right activists that the project will displace millions of poor rural dwellers, pollute their source their source of livelihood, encourage gross environmental problems and drive their communities into extinction.
·Gross abuse of human rights in the Niger Delta by the Oil companies leading to the death of Ken Saro-Wiwa in 1995.
·Encouraging fraud and corruption within the government where oil companies use the Military to promote their evil activities. A situation where Chevron used its helicopter filled with Nigerian Military men to bomb two small Ijaw communities Opia and Ikinya in 1998.
·Encouraging communal wars in the Niger Delta such as the crises in Ogbolomari and Bassambiri instigated by Shell Petroleum development Company.
The IMF and the World Bank have both being criticized severely, because they are also seen to be wearing an "Inhuman Face". Their operations to developing countries have not only robbed these countries off their resources but have at the expense of the lives of the people in developing countries developed their own institutions and lives in the WEST.
Below are some products/services consumed/produced in our communities that can be associated to the process of GLOBALIZATION
BOTTOM-UP GLOBALIZATION (The MASK)
The alarming concentration of economic power and the irresponsible imposition of neo-liberal, macro-economic policies are destroying the environment, generating poverty and desperation, widening dimensions and fomenting wars.
In developing countries, the situation is quite pathetic. One would wonder, if really the government advisors were not foresighted enough to see the implications of borrowing and the dangers of the IMF/World Bank policies. The adverse effect of their own corrupt nature (governments). The Western elite class and their compatriots from the developing countries control the entire policies that affect the world trade in the less developed countries.
Nigeria as a developing country does not have any other product to compete with in the international market other than oil and gas. The issues of globalization which on the other hand is a neo-colonial, SAP application agenda which is not different from the economic applications in the early 50s, 60s and 70s to exploit the poorer countries and to continue to keep them as the underdogs, while the richer countries who majorly make up the TNCs and the MNCs can have total control of the world economy and decisions without being questioned.
With the so-called intention to improve and to aid the development of these countries the reverse has been the case yet there is no solution to the problem by the initiators and their allies from the developing countries
World Trade Organization (WTO): In remembrance of the World Trade Organization, one of the scenes that come to mind is the Seattle protest in the United States Washington DC in the year 2000. Protesters were harassed flogged and some arrested by the police. The Demands of the people were that WTO, IMF/World Bank should have a "Human Face" in world economic policies and there should be cancellation of all debts. This obviously landed on deaf ears. This is how the World Trade Organization intends to rule with its policies that are obviously oppressive more towards the developing countries.
The WTO have practically formed rules that will give them the total control of all economic activities in the world, These rules were made, planned and are being implemented by representative of a few powerful people from the West. The WTO does not favor and will not favor the development of developing countries, they are considered to be institutions representing the western elite, the TNCs and the MNCs all for PROFIT.
Globalization, the IMF/World Bank, WTO and the OECD should have "human faces" and not wear masks blanketing itself as the policy of Liberation for all. NO! it does not favor the less developing countries and it helps to destroy the entire survival of the existence of a people. "It is the EVIL" of LDCs and must not be encouraged unless the policies are open and beneficial to all alike not regarding the status of the country or the people.
The people of the Niger Delta are very traditional. Destroy their environment you have succeeded in destroying their source of livelihood. The local people are believers of their culture; they promote and live with it as it portrays them. They are a simple and very self-satisfied people. Their small farming and fishing activity is their life. Their various colorful festivals are their heritage and their identity. Their humble and accommodating heart is their gift from their gods.
They were a happy people until the Oil companies owned by countries in the West decided to destabilize that balance in their lives. The people have been squeezed into a corner where they are left with no voice, no power to complain, deprived so poverty is used to control their sense of control.
The people of the Niger Delta as compared to the Uwa people of Columbia, the Mic-Maks in Canada…. all over the world the poor have been silenced with massive oppression, policies formulated by the initiators criminally added as constitutional matters. All the poor have done is demand for a fair treatment of the poor, non-violently protested and many have lost their lives in these just for trying to create a change for the generality of the masses.
In the Niger Delta:
·The murder of Ken Saro-Wiwa and the nine Ogonis for demanding for justice for the Ogoni people in 1995
·More than 800 Ijaw youths killed between 1998 and 200 for resisting oil activities and the destruction of their environments.
·The mass killing of over 3000 people in Odi community in the Niger Delta by General Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999
·The rape of young girls and women by Nigerian soldiers in 1999 in Yenagoa and 1999 in Choba for demanding for the stoppage of military brutality in their communities.
·Continues harassment of local people in the Niger Delta communities by Nigerian soldiers guarding the locations of the oil companies.
The list is endless. The Niger Delta people are just one of so many local people suffering in the hands of MNCs and TNCs operating their regions. The Colombia, Ecuadorian and Louisiana Communities and still struggling just like we are…
When will Globalization respect the traditions and culture of a people and listen to their voice instead of imposing?
African Tradition "The Identity of a People"
With special focus on globalization and its impact in the Niger delta.
Workshop Objective: At the end of the workshop, all participants would understand the implications of Globalization on the traditions of a people in Africa.
·Introduction: There will be a one page summary of the Impact of Globalization on the Tradition and Identity of Africans (Case study the Niger Delta)
·Brainstorming: Participants will divide into little groups and discuss the topic as they understand it.
·Presentation: There will be presentations by the participants on the paper based on questions formulated by them.
·Questions and Answers: There will be a general question and answer session where participants will debate the issues discussed.
·Summary (Rap up)