Major African nation at risk of collapse
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.