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The ISN Quiz: Nigeria Navigates Turbulent Times

What do you know about the eighth most populous country in the world? Take this week’s ISN Quiz to test your knowledge of Nigeria, our theme for this week.

[QUIZZIN 13]

ISN Weekly Theme: Nigeria Navigates Turbulent Times

Niger Delta picture from space

The Niger Delta from space, north is to the left

Africa’s most populous country is staring down scrutiny from outside and political turmoil – not to mention fractious intra-state conflict – from within. Now the question remains: Can this fragile, young democracy turn turbulence into triumph?

This Special Report contains the following content:

  • An Analysis by Center for Security Studies’ senior researcher Jennifer Giroux examines the rocky political terrain acting President Goodluck Jonathan must navigate – and the tremendous opportunities he holds to help put this young democracy on a path to peace.
  • A Podcast interview with activist Annkio Briggs explores the troubled history of, and lack of development in, the Niger Delta region.
  • Security Watch stories about Nigeria’s troubled political leadership, sectarian violence, illicit arms trade and much more.
  • Publications housed in our Digital Library, including a US Army War College paper that examines whether oil exports fuel defense spending, while another analysis asks whether Nigeria provides a prime example of the ‘resource curse.’
  • Primary Resources, like Nigerian National Planning Commission reports on topics ranging from the Niger Delta to foreign policy.
  • Links to relevant websites, like MEND’s official web platform and National Geographic’s insight into the impact of Nigerian oil on society and security.
  • Our IR Directory with relevant organizations, including the Lagos-based Nigerian Institute of International Affairs and the Africa Strategic and Peace Research Group.

Electricity in Nigeria: (Sort of) Off and On

Power outages are a Nigerian norm, photo: Annemiek van der Kuil/flickr

This blog is part of a series of contributions documenting time spent in southern Nigeria to attend a conference and gather data for the targeting energy infrastructure (TEI) project.

In Nigeria, people celebrate when the lights come on. Admittedly, after barely a week in the country I too found myself joining in the collective, nationwide jubilee. The regular power outages throughout the country have created an emotional rollercoaster, whereby the mere act of sitting in a dark room that is at one moment illuminated by nothing more than a few flashlights (most of which are from mobile phones) and then at another buzzing with electricity. It’s nothing short of thrilling.

Yet the thrill soon dissipates in exchange for bewilderment. How can one of the top oil and gas producers in the world be short of energy to power its economy? Unfortunately, the irony doesn’t stop there. While millions of barrels of sweet, easily refined crude oil are shipped out of here daily to feed other economies, domestic fuel shortages have been a common feature in Nigeria. Years of militancy and criminal exploitation aimed at the oil and gas infrastructure in the energy-rich Niger Delta region mean there has been no development of new infrastructure, and overall mismanagement has limited the amount of supplies needed to feed domestic consumption. It wasn’t until last month that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) announced that fuel supplies exceeded national daily consumption rates for the first time in months. Accustomed to such scarcity, I found that most people frequently note when they see a station with short lines.

But the Nigerian civil society (and I would go further, to say African civil society) are extremely powerful, resourceful and innovative. What the state doesn’t provide, the community finds a way to supply. In the case of the energy shortages, Nigerians manage considerably well. For instance, the lively cyber café in Warri (which has become somewhat of a second home for me) is being powered by a generator as I scribble this blog. The actual power went off a long time ago. In fact, stepping outside one finds that the traffic noise is almost overwhelmed by the sounds of generators humming from most businesses. » More

A Rumble in Warri

MEND rebels and hostages, Niger Delta, photo: Dulue Mbachu/ISN Security Watch

This blog is part of a series of contributions documenting time spent in southern Nigeria to attend a conference and gather data for the targeting energy infrastructure (TEI) project.

Monday morning, while sitting in my host office at the Institute for Dispute Resolution (IDR) – a NGO based in Ekpan, Nigeria (a community next to Warri) and headed by Innocent Adjenughure – a thunderous noise caught my attention. I paused as the word bomb came to mind. After all, I was sitting in the heart of the Niger Delta, where up until October 2009 when an amnesty deal was achieved, the resource rich region was wrought with militancy and criminality. The emergence of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), a militant umbrella group, in 2005/6 introduced an intensified campaign of violence aimed largely at the country’s oil and gas sector that crippled production by as much as 30 percent.

So I waited and listened. In the absence of emergency sirens or some type of notification, I shrugged, passing it off as an approaching storm.

What I didn’t realize was that nearby the post-amnesty dialogue “Restoring Hope in the Niger Delta”, initiated by the Vanguard Newspaper in Nigeria and sponsored by the federal government and the nine states in the Niger Delta region, was kicking off at the Delta State Government Annex building in Warri. In fact, Innocent and I were scheduled to attend this meeting but mistakenly thought that the program began the following day. So as prominent government officials and stakeholders began to gather just before 11:00, the first of 2 car bombs, planted by MEND and parked on the street outside of the compound, were remotely detonated. Shortly after, the second bomb went off. By noon, participants were fleeing the area in panic, numbers were injured and at least two civilians were reportedly killed. » More

Serendipitous Beginnings…

Lagos, Nigeria from the air, photo: Wayan Vota/flickr

This blog post is the first of a series of contributions documenting time spent in southern Nigeria to attend a conference and gather data for the targeting energy infrastructure (TEI) project.

“Was that Wole Soyinka?” I said to myself as I walked passed a man in the Charles de Gaulle airport that looked strikingly similar to renowned Nigerian author, activist, and Nobel laureate. After all, it was barely 2 weeks ago that I was watching a segment on CNN where Christiane Amanpour interviewed Dr. Soyinka on Nigeria’s political stability in light of President Yar A’dua’s deteriorated health and the subsequent stalled peace process in the volatile Niger Delta region where local militants have attacked the energy sector and fought government forces in a campaign for a greater share of oil revenues. In addition to his literary success, Mr. Soyinka is a respected figure in Nigeria where he has been a longtime critic of political corruption and advocate for electoral reform. More recently, he has played a key role in mediating the Niger Delta amnesty process. Needless to say, watching the interview reminded me that this was a person I hoped to meet one day…

Arriving at the gate to catch a flight to Lagos, Nigeria, the same man entered the area and took a seat. After seeing a few people approach and shake his hand, it was clear that this was Dr. Soyinka. Gathering my nerve (yes, I had butterflies), I crossed the room to say hello. As we began to talk (honestly, I don’t think he had a choice since I proceeded to move his bag to the side to make room for me to take a seat), I was thinking to myself how fortuitous it was to meet such an important figure from the very country that I would be spending the next three weeks performing research and attending a conference on security issues in the Niger Delta. Though he may had been wondering to himself “who is this woman and where is the ‘off’ button?”, he was entirely gracious and engaging.

Boarding the plane, energized this chance encountered, I couldn’t help but wonder about the other exchanges that lay ahead. In the coming days I will be interacting with all parts of Nigerian society – ranging from people working in restaurants, students, educators, members from the NGO community and government, to those that have engaged and/or been affected by the militancy and criminality in the Niger Delta. As someone who researches the security issues in this region and the role of the energy sector, I hope to get a flavor of the local perceptions and opinions. In doing so I will document those exchanges and share my observations here.

Next stop, Lagos.

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