In the aftermath of the destruction of Libya, Nigeria is now the top oil-producing country in Africa. It’s also home to vast natural gas and mineral reserves.
However, despite all these lucrative resources, Nigeria’s 173 million people are some of the poorest on Earth. According to the CIA World Factbook, Nigerians have an average life expectancy of just 53. Illiteracy is rampant, infant mortality rates run high, and roughly 70 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. Of Nigerians ages 5 to 14, 29 percent work as child laborers.
So why is it that Nigerians, who live in a country with such an abundance of human labor and natural resources, live in such horrific conditions? The reason is that these economic assets do not belong to them and they are not controlled by them. Western corporations like Royal Dutch Shell and Chevron — not the Nigerian people — have control of the country’s wealth.
According to the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the Niger Delta region itself contains “20 billion of Africa’s proven 66 billion barrels of oil reserves and more than 3 trillion cubic meters of gas reserves.” The region accounts for some 70 percent of Nigeria’s national income. Though Nigerian oil production is dropping, the exports continue to rise. U.S. imports of Nigerian crude oil are currently rising. In mid-March, the U.S. was importing an average of 559,000 barrels per day, up from just 52,000 barrels for all of 2015.
Yet the people of the Niger Delta region live in shacks. Photographs published by the Daily Mail in 2013 showed Niger Delta residents drying their clothes on the oil and gas pipelines that crisscross their neighborhoods. Niger Delta residents feed themselves by slaying wild animals, and fishing from heavily contaminated ocean waters. Children play on beaches blackened by crude oil spills.