Nigeria

Adam Mayer’s book on Marxist currents in Nigeria is what it says on the cover — a rich history of Marxist and revolutionary thought and struggles that are little known outside the West African nation.

Sixty million people are on the run worldwide, most from countries in the global South. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says one third of the refugees originate from Africa.

Wars, human rights violations, political instability, discrimination, poverty and the consequences of climate change and natural disasters are often named as causes for flight. But there is also ecocide — the destruction of livelihoods through the ruthless exploitation of raw materials and the subsidy politics of industrialised countries in the West.

Tens of thousands of Nigerian fisherpeople and farmers were given the green light to sue energy giant Shell in a British court on March 2 for a series of destructive oil spills in the Niger Delta over the past decade.

The action, brought by London-based law firm Leigh Day on behalf of Nigeria’s Ogale and Bille communities, alleges that decades of uncleaned oil spills have polluted fishing waters and contaminated farming land.

As well as a compensation package, both groups want the Anglo-Dutch oil company to clean up the land devastated by the spills.

On November 10, it was 20 years since Ken Saro-Wiwa, president of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), and eight other Ogoni leaders were hanged by Nigaria's military dictatorship in Nigeria.

Known as the Ogoni Nine, their crime was demanding a share of the proceeds of oil exploitation.

The Niger Delta covers a huge area of some 27,000 square miles on Nigeria’s southern coast. Once almost all tropical rainforest, it has one of the highest levels of biodiversity on earth and is home to 31 million people. Ogoniland comprises 400 square miles in the eastern delta.

The fishing community of Baga, by Lake Chad in Borno state, Nigeria, was under siege by armed Islamic fundamentalist group Boko Haram for a week at the start of January. Amnesty International described the bloodbath as Boko Haram’s “deadliest massacre”.

Amnesty estimated about 2000 people were killed. Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan, who condemned the “dastardly terrorist attack” against Charlie Hebdo cartoonists within hours of the tragic event in Paris, did not say a word about this tragedy.

As the deadly disease Ebola spreads throughout West Africa, some in the West have been engaging in fear-mongering and racism. Others are seeing this deadly outbreak as a golden chance to profit off desperation.

But the high death toll is caused by the intersection of Ebola and poverty.

Ebola is a hemorrhagic fever with symptoms that include headache, vomiting and diarrhoea, as well as the signature symptoms of internal and external bleeding. It is caused by a virus that is spread through contact with fluids such as saliva, urine, blood and semen.

More than 270 female secondary students were kidnapped on April 14 as they sat matriculation exams in the north-east Nigerian town of Chibok.

The kidnappers were members of a religious cult that calls itself Jama‘at Ahl as-Sunnah lid-da‘wa wal-Jihad — Arabic for Congregation of the People of Tradition for Proselytism and Jihad.

The group is more commonly known by its Hausa nickname, Boko Haram, which translate — very loosely — as “Western education is filthy”, although this is not a name that the group itself uses.

The nationwide strike in Nigeria against a petrol price hike ended under rather curious circumstances on January 16. The strike called by trade unions had crippled the economy, save for the fact that the oil pipelines continued to deliver their load.

Labour leaders and civil society coalitions entered into dialogue with a government that favours monologues. It was not surprising that the game was over before the labour leaders knew it.

A union representing 20,000 oil and gas workers in Nigeria announced on January 12 that it would shut down all production from January 15 unless the government restored a petrol subsidy it scrapped on January 1.

The Pengassan union said if the government refused, it would be “forced to go ahead and apply the bitter option of ordering the systematic shutting down of oil and gas production”.

Pengassan president Babatunde Ogun had told members to “be on red alert in preparation for total production shutdown”.

Multinational oil companies in Nigeria spill more oil every year than has been spilled by BP in the Gulf of Mexico. Unlike the gulf disaster, most people are unaware of this ecological crime.

There have been major spills in Nigeria since BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on April 20, but they have received hardly any attention from the international media.

A May 12 explosion at a Shell installation turned 39 hectares of the Niger Delta into an oil slick, BBC News said on June 15.

Two weeks earlier, an Exxon Mobil oil pipeline ruptured. It spewed a million litres a day for a week.

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