Ma­jor African na­tion at risk of col­lapse

The Hamilton Spectator - - OPINION -

View­point: Pitts­burgh Post-Gazette With barely con­trolled re­bel­lions in the north and the south of the coun­try and low oil prices, there is some rea­son to be con­cerned that the West African na­tion of Nige­ria is com­ing un­stuck.

It would be easy for Amer­i­cans to say now that it doesn’t mat­ter much over here. The U.S. econ­omy no longer re­ally needs Nige­ria’s oil and its pro­duc­tion is fall­ing in any case.

Nige­ria’s estimated pop­u­la­tion is a sub­stan­tial 180 mil­lion. U.S. armed forces have been drawn into Nige­ria’s con­flict with an Is­lamic group, Boko Haram, which has also spilled over to a de­gree into neigh­bour­ing Cameroon, Chad and Niger. It is not to Amer­ica’s ad­van­tage for a large, im­por­tant African na­tion to sim­ply col­lapse.

Two — or, per­haps, three — re­bel­lions are cur­rently un­der­way in Nige­ria. The first is in its north­east. Boko Haram is a bru­tal, dif­fi­cult-to-stamp-out Is­lamic move­ment that has been ter­ror­iz­ing the re­gion around Maiduguri for sev­eral years now. Its most me­dia-wor­thy event was the 2014 kid­nap­ping of 276 girls from a school in Chi­bok, but its ac­tiv­i­ties have drawn the at­ten­tion of the mil­i­tary of Nige­ria’s neigh­bours as well as its own.

The other re­bel­lion is in Nige­ria’s south­east­ern Niger River delta re­gion, where the coun­try’s oil comes from. One group, which calls it­self the Niger Delta Avengers, is rooted in the long-stand­ing griev­ance that Nige­ria’s enor­mous in­come from oil does not ben­e­fit the peo­ple of the re­gion and takes a heavy toll in en­vi­ron­men­tal dam­age. An­other group op­posed to the govern­ment is a re­born group of the Bi­afra in­de­pen­dence move­ment, which waged war from 1967 to 1970.

Per­haps the big­gest threat to Nige­ria’s sta­bil­ity comes from the ma­jor drop in the world price of oil. Nige­ria at one time had a some­what di­ver­si­fied econ­omy. That fun­nelled down to al­most to­tal de­pen­dence on oil, so that, when the world price drops, Nige­ria’s in­come, em­ploy­ment and gen­eral level of eco­nomic well­be­ing plum­met cat­a­stroph­i­cally.

Ef­fi­ciency and stamp­ing out en­demic cor­rup­tion would make a big dif­fer­ence, but nei­ther flour­ish in mod­ern Nige­ria and, so, dis­as­ter now looms.

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