A PHILOSOPHICAL STUDY OF THE NIGER DELTA CRISIS IN THE LIGHT OF KARLMARX’S POLITICAL THEORIES
THE NIGER DELTA CRISES
2.1. THE NIGER DELTA REGION
The Niger Delta region comprises of Abia, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Imo, Ondo, and River State. They are people under whose feet is buried an inexhaustible amount of oil. Preceding the discovery and exploration of oil, their land was rich and their rivers filled with aquatic lives. Prior to the exploration also, the people gladly tilled the land and the agricultural products got were sufficient. They also sustained their life by fishing in the rivers. However, with the advent of the multinationals and their subsequent oil exploration, these means of livelihood became truncated by the activities of the multinationals. Their once fertile land has become devastated and their rivers poisoned by oil spillage and waste products. Still on the impoverished nature of the area, B. Ransome Kuti writes:
The area is perhaps the most under-developed portion of the country despite forty-three years of exploiting its non-renewable oil wealth. It is a region that is at once rich and poor; rich in natural resources and impoverished by the oil companies and the Federal Government which expropriates its entire resources.
- THE CRISES IN THE NIGER DELTA
- 1. THE NOTION OF CRISES
“Crisis” according to the Longman Dictionary of contemporary English, is “a period of great danger, difficulty or uncertainty especially in politics or economics”. Secondly it also defined it as “a time when personal emotional problem or situations has reached its worst point”. I used crises, the plural form of crisis to include the series of crisis which the Niger Delta has experienced.
For J. Wangbu,
the rebellion in the Niger Delta especially those of the youth, Atake, Asari Dukubo with Isaac Aadaka Boro and Dr. Kenule Benson Saro Wiwa and the Ogini Nine as forerunners manifest in their essence a restiveness of a people who want to reclaim their right to human dignity, justice, equity and fair play.
Describing further the crises in the Niger Delta he writes:
The protest in the Niger Delta, a protest began by Dr. Ken Saro Wiwa is a struggle of those whose humanity has been stolen by some corrupt Army Generals, politicians and their cohorts. It is a struggle against those who oppress, exploit and rape them by virtue of their power. The lingering controversy in this region will continue until the Federal Government helps to transform the reality, which begets their dehumanizing state of affair.
2.3. THE EVOLUTION OF THE NIGER DELTA CRISES
After the Nigerian Independence in 1960, the country’s revenue was provided by the three major ethnic groups namely: the Hausa/Fulanis, the Igbos, and the Yorubas. The Hausas/Fulanis who dominated the Northern part of the country produced ground nut, hide and skins. The Igbos who occupied the East were known for the production of cola, palm oil and palm cannel. The Yorubas who are found in the West were famous for the production of cocoa. All these Agricultural products were sold and the proceeds sustained the economy of the country. As at this time, derivation was 50%. However, with the discovery and exploration of oil in 1956 and 1958 respectively, oil started to gain an uppermost hand in the Nigerian economy. The derivation at this time started to depreciate gradually until it was eventually reduced to 0%. This became the point of departure for the crises. This actually led to an uprising by the Ijaws in the early 1960 led by a former student leader, Issac Adaka Boro. That revolt was put down in twelve days.
The Nigeria Civil War that raged from 1967 to 1970 was indirectly a fight for who controls the Niger Delta oil wealth as part of his causes. Agitation after the war led to a 1% derivation, then 3% derivation formula and later wards a 13% derivation system which was introduced but controlled by the military. The money was put in an Oil Minerals Producing Development Commission (OMPADEC) controlled entirely by the military from the centre.
Unable to fold their hands and watch the oil companies, who are seen to be in the league with the dictators, the Niger Delta in 1990 began to revolt against the human and environmental injustice perpetrated against them. This resulted in the formation of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP); a movement which was formed to draw attention to the plight of the Niger Deltas. The group under the leadership of a prolific writer Ken Saro-Wiwa, felt exploited by the Military government and the oil companies. Consequently they campaigned against their activities.
Saro-Wiwa believed that Royal Dutch Shell and Nigeria’s Military government collaborated in exploiting the Niger Delta. From the Press reports, Internal Shell Memoranda reveals that the Company has been working closely with the Nigerian Military Government. One memo advised that Saro-wiwa should be “closely” monitored because he is “at best a nuisance and at worst a great danger.” The resistance was met with repression. In 1994, the Nigerian Internal Security Task Force attacked and virtually destroyed 30 Ogoni villages killing more than 100 people and arresting hundreds more.
With fear of extinction caused by exploitation and negligence, the Ogoni people, a small community in the Niger Delta fired off another protest. The Ogonis, led by the famous playwright, and writer, Ken Saro-Wiwa, linked up with other indigenous people’s organizations in the world and used mass peaceful protests and civil disobedience to tackle Shell, the oil giant, its subsidiaries like the American Wilbros and the Federal Government.
As the resistance was unremitting, the government’s response was that they occupied Ogoni land using the Northern-dominated army. On May 21st, 1994, the government sent soldiers and mobile policemen to Ogoni land. On that day, the famous Ogoni writer and environmentalist, Ken Saro-Wiwa who was refused entry into the community together with 15 other Ogonis, was arrested and detained by the military government in connection with the death of four pro-government Ogoni chiefs who died in the scuffle which took place that same day. He was detained for eight months before he was charged for murder. According to Wangbu, these accusations “were so baseless and devoid of concrete evidence that the Armnesty International declared Ken Saro-Wiwa a Prisoner of Conscience.” In his detention, he was denied access to his family, doctors and legal advocate. As an alternative, the government of Sani Abacha formed a military dominated Special Tribunal who presided over the case. On October 31, 1995, the tribunal unjustly condemned Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight others to death. Governments and organizations worldwide condemned the trial as unfair and enjoined Gen. Sani Abacha and his government to spare the life of Saro-Wiwa and the eight others. Despite these intercontinental appeals for mercy, the dictator went on and executed these human right activists on Friday 10th November, 1995 by hanging. This led to the suspension of Nigeria from the Commonwealth and some international isolation. Rather than the hanging serving as a deterrent to the Niger Delta people, they saw it as a challenge. First, the Ijaws who are perhaps the largest ethnic nationality in the Niger Delta not only continued the struggle, but resorted to guerrilla armed struggle. In December 1998, Ijaw Youths met and issued what has become known as the kaiama declaration in which they declared “We agreed to remain within Nigeria but demand and work for self-government and resource control for the Ijaw people”. They also demanded an end to the unitary form of government in favour of a federal system.
In December 1998 also, the government massacred youths in Yenagoa, capital of Bayelsa State, for demanding control of the oil resources explored on their ancestral lands. A few months later, it sent in troops to flatten Kaiama, a town in Bayelsa State where youths had weeks before made a declaration demanding the people’s control of their oil resources.
Early in November, 1999, there was another scuffle in Odi area of Bayelsa State between the Odi youths and the multinational companies in which seven policemen were killed. It was part of the face-off between the government and foreign oil companies on one hand, and restive Ijaw youths on the other. What the Nigerian Government did was to send in troops to occupy the land killing the inhabitants with brutality. When the troops got to the outskirts of Odi town, rather than enter it to “investigate” and “arrest the bandits”, they brought mortars and shelled it for two days. By the end of this bombardment, only a few buildings remained standing in the town. Then the army moved in killing all male youths they laid their hands on in Odi town and its environs. In the process they blew up and set more buildings on fire.
- CAUSES OF NIGER – DELTA CRISIS
The Niger Delta crises have many factors which can be regarded as the remote causes of the crises. These factors include Nigerian government’s negligence, egoism, injustice, human right abuse, environmental degradation, terrorism, exploitation and dependency. Apart from these remote causes, there is what I consider as the immediate cause. The immediate cause is the unwarranted massacre of their illustrious sons including Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other minority rights activists from Ogoni for challenging the oil giant shell’s exploration on Ogoni soil in 1995 under the regime of Gen. Sani Abacha. These factors are considered to be the primordial factors that necessitated the Niger Delta crises. In a brief way let us examine some of the causes.
- 1. EGOISM
A mind-set where the self is upheld as more important than others is egoism. Egoism is therefore seen as the exhibition of selfishness. It is a fact undeniable that most crises that occur across the whole world are as a result of egoism. In support to this view, W. A. Wallace comments “egoism creates in man a wall of exclusiveness to others. By this exclusiveness, he becomes full of himself such that at times he looks at others as an enemy who should even be eliminated. This phenomenon underscores the social conflicts and intolerance among people, hence violence is the result.” The Governments’ negligence of the Niger Delta people is as a result of ignorance of the fact that these peoples’ basic needs are supposed to be given a maximum attention. Egoism is one of the contributing factors since each successive government is more interested in developing the part of the country from which he comes from.
- 4. 2. NEGLIGENCE
The people are hungry, they are neglected and forgotten as far as the distribution of the oil wealth is concerned. The basic things that make life worth living are not found there. Despite the fact that this place is the source of Nigeria’s oil wealth, this part of the country remains one of the least developed, with health care provision, electrification, communication and supply of drinking water still below the nation’s average.
- 3. INJUSTICE
In every society, it is expected that there should be equanimity, order, love and justice. When such is found wanting, it can be said to be injustice. Most of the clashes that are found in the Niger Delta are as a result of the peoples’ complaint of injustice being meted upon them. In order to understand the concept of injustice as found in the Niger Delta, we shall first of all discuss the concept of justice.
When one takes a close look at what is happening in the Niger Delta, there is the tendency for one to recline to the Thrasymacus’ understanding of justice and injustice where by injustice is preferred to justice. Thrasymacus did not see injustice as a defect of character hence he considers the unjust person as the superior in character and intelligence. Injustice according to him pays especially those who carry injustice to perfection and make themselves masters of the cities.
According to him, Justice on the contrary, is being advocated by the simpleton and leads to weakness. He thus encouraged aggressive pursuit of self interest in virtually unlimited form of self assertion. For him therefore, “might is right”. 
Justice according to St. Thomas Aquinas is “the firm and constant will to give to each other his due”. Its notion is established based on the fact that all men are fundamentally equal. For the fact that all men are fundamentally equal, all men should therefore be treated equally.
- 3. 0. CLASSIFICATION OF JUSTICE
Justice can be classified into four by the scholastics. These classifications are as follows. commutative justice, legal justice, distributive justice and vindicative justice.
- 3. 1. COMMUTATIVE JUSTICE
Commutative justice is the aspect of justice which demands respect for the right of others and the exchange of things of equal values. This aspect of justice condemns cheating, fraud, theft and vandalisation of other peoples property as a violation of justice.
- 3. 2. LEGAL JUSTICE
Legal justice demands an observance of all laws aimed at the common good. Legal justice demands that common good should not be sacrificed for private interest of an individual. Sequel to this, the violation of any law directed towards the common good is a violation of legal justice.
- 3. 3. DISTRIBUTIVE JUSTICE
Distributive justice demands the fair and equitable allotment of the goods, privileges, works and obligations of a society to all the members of the society. On account of this, unfair distribution of goods of the society to her members is a violation of distributive justice.
- 3. 4. VINDICATIVE JUSTICE
Vindicative justice demands appropriate punishment for an offence, not out of the spirit of vengeance but in the interest of the community or for the correction of the offender, and it should not be more than is deserved by the offence.
As we have indicated above, justice has its foundation on the elemental equality of men which insist on equal treatment, distribution of goods, rewards, punishment, etc under normal circumstances. When these are found wanting, it is injustice. By this I do not in any way intend to undermine the fact that there are special circumstances in which there could be justifiable reason why some sections of a country should have a greater share of the goods of the country than other sections. Frantically speaking, in such a situation where there is the need for some sections to have a greater share of the goods of the country, it becomes injustice for the goods to be distributed equally among its citizens. In isolation of this kind of exceptional situations, justice demands equitable distribution of the benefits of the country to the citizens otherwise, it is injustice.
The goods of Nigeria as a country belong to all the citizens of the country and so it goes without saying that justice demands a fair and equitable distribution of the wealth among the different ethnic nationalities according to their economic processes; according to their contribution to the general welfare and in accordance to their rights to a happy life. This simply means that any disproportion of in the distribution of goods or burden and partiality in the award of favours is contrary to the demands of justice.
We see at present a flagrant injustice in the sharing of the goods of the country among the inhabitants including the Niger Deltas. Few people who are at the fore front of decision making have unjustly appropriated to themselves most of the resources of Nigeria leaving the vast majority in extreme poverty. The most painful part of the injustice is that even the Niger Delta people from where the major part of the Nigeria Revenue is gotten live from hand to mouth.
What’s more, since the demand for justice are basically prerequisite for peaceful co-existence and human development, their violation can not be endured but calls for reparation for injury inflicted on the person injured and active punishment of the offender. This is why the crises in the Niger Delta have continued to rise from day to day.
Now to what extent has the Nigerian Government met the above demand of justice both from social and political ambient with particular reference to the Niger Delta conflicts? Nigerian Government and its people have got this question to answer.
It is possible to rule people by force but impossible to have peace while you keep others in chains. It is possible to unjustly force an unwilling people to submission but you can do that only at a greater lost to your person, your integrity and honour.
We really need justice in this country in general and in the Niger Delta in particular since we cannot live without it. It is a sine-qua-non in a heterogeneous country like ours. A kingdom according to Usman Dan Fodio, can endure with unbelief but cannot endure with injustice. Injustice as we have seen is one of the major factors that escalate the crises in the Niger Delta.
- 4. HUMAN RIGHT ABUSE
Among the most frequently used term in the society, right is one of them. And yet, the usage of the term has a lot of problems surrounding it due to its varied meaning and different connotations. The word “right” according to C. Ekwutosi, “is almost in the danger of loosing its meaning and power because of over use and misuse.” The human right of an individual can be defined as a justifiable claim to obtain anything to which one is entitled to. It can also be defined as that justifiable claim to behave or to act in a certain way if one is entitled to act or behave as such.
We have some rights that are natural and basic to human existence. These are referred to as the fundamental human rights. They reflect human nature and are universalistic. For all intents and purposes, they are human and the denial of them offends the very nature and the dignity of man. Some of these fundamental human rights include : the right to live and exist; the right to freedom; the right to self expression; the right to own private properties; the right to education; the right to just wages for one’s labour; the right to marry and have children; the right to be treated with good name, and many others.
The fundamental human right can be classified into legal and moral right. A moral right is a right that is justifiable on moral ground and hence it cannot be enforced by any legal procedure. On the other hand, legal right of an individual is a right conferred on the individual by law and it can be enforced by legal a procedure.
Right is a legitimate and moral capacity or power (as against physical power) to do, posses or demand something. It is a founded and justified claim to act or not to act in a particular manner so that the act or its omission is not wrong or evil. The rights of a person carries in itself a true security which shields the individual from an undue interference by another.
From the above understanding of the fundamental human right, it becomes crystally clear that any action carried out upon an individual or a group of people that goes against their legitimate and moral capacity or power to do, posses or demand something is an abuse of the fundamental human right.
Rights are the primitive properties of individual and must be preserved from society encroachment. In the opinion of Theodore Roosevelt, the aim of government is “the welfare of the people. The material progress and prosperity of a nation are desirable chiefly so far as they lead to the moral and material welfare of all good citizens.” In the case of the oil producing areas, they have been abused and exploited by the multinational oil companies that are operating in the areas and their collaborators. The multinationals in their activities have destroyed wild life and have poisoned the environment, the water, and human life is put in great peril. The oil companies instead of setting standards to promote a positive relationship with local people, as well as sound environmental and social policies, have seemingly done little or nothing to make up for this ecological devastation done to the people. The government itself has paid lip service to the people’s welfare.
- 5. ENVIRONMENTAL DEGRADATION
The environs of the multinational companies have experienced lots of devastation. Beside the physical destruction of plants in the gas flaring areas, thick sooth are also deposited in the roofs of their buildings and when it rains , the water that runs down the roofs are ink–like and contains chemicals which affects the fertility of the soil and also aquatic life when the water runs into the river. “Oil spill and gas flare” according to Eddy Obi “have ruined the land and the vegetation, decimating aquatic life, nearly wiping out the hitherto dense mangrove forest. Loud drilling and excavation of oil wells and seismic flow path have cut into pristine ecosystems and disfigured the landscape dispersing wild life and endangering habitats”. The oil pipelines are constructed above the ground through the villages and hence render the agricultural land useless.
 B. R. Kuti, The Niger Delta crises and Nigeria’s future http:// www.nigerdeltastrugle.com,htlm (access 08.08.06).
 J. Wangbu (ed.), Niger Delta Rich Region: Poor People (Enugu: Snaap Press Ltd), p. xii.
 Ibid., p.25.
 B. R. Kuti, loc. cit.
 S. Braithwait, “Earth Arc, Eyewitness Account After Site Visit, January 4, 1993,” Daily Sunray, in J.
Wangbu, op. cit., p.37.
 Ibid., p. 39.
 B. R. Kuti, loc. cit.
 W. A. Wallace in C. Ekwutosi, “ Violence: The Greatest Enemy of Peace” in Justice Magazine, Vol. I,
(June, 2002), p. 5.
 E. Obi “Environmental Justice And The Quest For Equitable Economic World Order: Reassessing The
Engagement Of Multinational Corporations In The South-South Of Nigeria” in J. Wangbu, op. cit. p.49.
 S. E. Stumpf and J. Feisser, Philosophy: History and Problems, 6th ed. (New York: Mc Graw-Hill
Companies Inc., 2003), p. 34.
 J. Omoregbe, Ethics: A Systematic and Historical Study (Lagos: Joja Educational Research and
Publishers Ltd, 1993; repr., 2003), p.113.
 J. O. Odey, This Madness Called Election 2003 (Enugu: Snaap Press Ltd., 2003), p. 19.
 C. M. Ekwutosi, Basic Issues in Ethics (Anambra: Rex Charles & Patrick Ltd., 2006), p. 80.
 M. J. Himes and K. R. Himes, Fullness Of Faith: The Public Significance Of Theology