Robbing Nigeria blind
By Thomas C. Mountain
As western oil companies loot some $140 billion a year of Nigeria’s black gold, two thirds of the country’s 100 million people live on less than $2 a day.
Nigeria’s “official” oil production figures show about 3 million barrels a day being pumped from their oil fields into the holds of western tankers, though for decades now informed observers have estimated up to one third of all Nigerian oil is actually “stolen”, secretly loaded onto oil tankers after bribes are paid to corrupt government officials.
If 4 million barrels of oil are being shipped out of Nigeria daily at $100 a barrel, times 30 days a month, times 12 months, you arrive at almost $150 billion a year in potential oil revenues for Nigeria.
The problem is not just theft but the fact that the western oil companies are literally looting Nigeria’s oil, paying as little as a 9% royalty.
Do the math, 9% of $150 billion minus the one third oil that is stolen and the Nigerian government only receives about $10 billion a year of this amount.
Simply put, at $100 a barrel, the western oil companies get $91 and Nigeria only gets $9. Or more shockingly, Big Oil makes $140 billion a year vs. Nigeria’s $10 billion.
The Big Oil robber barons famously promote themselves as “investors” in Nigeria, though when looking at the loot they are making from what should be Africa’s richest country it is doubtful that they have invested $140 billion in Nigeria in total over the last decades (Big Oil is notorious for sticking the host countries with a major share of infrastructure expenses, deducted from their royalty checks).
In other words, Big Oil has made its investment back almost exponentially. And all the while Nigerians are hungry, sick, and increasingly fed up.
What have the people of Nigeria gotten from all this wealth being looted from their country?
Malnutrition and disease are rampant across the country. Many if not most of Nigeria’s children have never seen the inside of a school room. Many if not most of Nigeria’s people simply cannot afford even primary medical care. Malaria, water borne diseases, TB, HIV/AIDS, the list of sicknesses killing Nigerians in the thousands every day is criminal.
Nigeria’s environment has been a victim with a large swath of the coast lying under a toxic blanket of oil, mainly as a result of the criminal failure of Big Oil to do even basic maintenance on its pipelines.
Yet Nigeria has the largest, best equipped army in west Africa, the better to enforce Pax Americana. As I write, Nigerian troops are pouring into Guinea Bissau, there to restore “democracy”—something they have done many times in the past.
Nigeria should be wealthy, its people the envy of Africa, if not the entire developing world. Instead its cities are filled with homeless children begging for their daily bread.
Nigeria imports almost all of its fuel needs, selling its oil for $9 a barrel and buying back the gasoline, diesel and kerosene made from its oil for hundreds a barrel.
Nigeria is in constant need of IMF bailouts and pays the price for such predatory loans. Earlier this year after Queen of the IMF, Christine Lagarde, paid a visit, Nigerian President “Badluck” Jonathan was forced to kneel down and kiss her feet, promising to more than double the price desperate Nigerians are forced to pay for their fuel.
The kleptocrats that rule Nigeria under the banner of “democracy”, for they stole the elections fair and square, cannot even provide electricity to their people, with most Nigerians receiving only a few hours a day of electric supply, if any at all.
Nigeria’s other infrastructure, what little there is, decays by the day with even its once functional railroads now barely operational.
Yet this is all applauded by the west, with Nigeria’s President a permanent member of the so called G-20 council of world leaders.
One of the leading candidates for the title of “Queen of African Kleptocracy”, the Nigerian Finance Minister, complained bitterly after she was rejected by Pax Americana to head the USA majority owned World Bank. Talk about the fox wanting to rule the chicken coop.
All this looting and theft has left a once proud and self-sufficient people on the brink of a major explosion with government repression barely containing a cauldron of ethnic/religious violence that continues to erupt in murder and mayhem. Muslims killing Christians, Christians killing Muslims, and the army killing ethnic rebels taking up arms over the looting and destruction of their homelands by the western oil companies.
These days the western media have begun carrying alarming reports of a dramatic decline in Nigerian oil production, down according to some reports by as much as 25% in the last few months. As bad as matters are already for Nigeria’s suffering millions, what is to come may be far worse, for without even the small morsels that their western masters allow to fall from their oil burdened tables the Nigerian economy is headed for a collapse, being almost completely dependent on their oil exports.
What is going to happen if Nigeria’s oil fields begin to run dry? Only time will tell, though thanks to the looting of Nigeria one might be forgiven for holding little hope for what should be one of the jewels of Africa.
>Thomas C. Mountain is an independent western journalist based in the Horn of Africa, and has been living and reporting from Eritrea since 2006. He was a member of the 1st US Peace Delegation to Libya in 1987.