Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Book review: The Next Gulf: London, Washington and oil conflict in Nigeria

(pages: 306; publisher: Constable& Robinson; year: 2006) 
The cover photo of the book summarizes the core of the book which is the destruction of the Niger-Delta environment. Using Ken Saro Wiwa as the focal point, the book examines the relationship between Niger-Delta, the Nigerian government, Shell (International Oil Companies) and UK and US governments.
The book authored by Andy Rowell, James Marriott and Lorne Stockman discusses the roles of above players in Niger-Delta’s underdevelopment, Shell as Nigeria’s Goldman Sachs- a number of Shell staff move into government roles after working with Shell and the deliberate policies by these governments to ensure that unlike the Middle East, the flow of oil from Nigeria is not disrupted.
The book is very detailed in exploring Nigeria as a rentier state, the commercial nature of Britain’s colonial policies in Nigeria, the role of Shell, the politics of Ken Saro Wiwa’s death and the emergence of the culture of violence in the Niger-Delta. The book also identified an un-utilized area of Nigeria’s oil and gas sector
As a reader, I enjoyed the personal touch the writers provide through their own stories in relation to the events mentioned in the book. It is also telling that the the chickens have come home to roost  for IOCs. The peaceful and non-violent requests by the people met with violent reactions by the IOCs through the deployment of State Security forces. These IOCs have become targets of kidnaps and sabotage- oil bunkering. It is also telling that some of the Nigerian Shell staff who were involved in building the culture of violence have become part of the “change process".
The repetition of themes, the adulation given Ken Saro Wiwa and few editing errors detract from the book.
The book is thorough and provides good historical and current accounts of the developments in Nigeria’s oil sector. The book asserts that the global North represented by the UK and US have focussed on Nigeria oil and want to get it at all costs because of the instability in the Middle East.
However, events in the oil sector in the last 5 years demonstrate that countries that rely on oil are seeking alternatives to oil. Countries such as the US are also reducing their reliance on other countries. In addition, the once favourable Nigerian environment is now unconducive for IOCs as a number of them are selling their oil blocs in the country. By extension, this means the energy focus of their home countries would change.
I recommend this book for another perspective on Biafra, the oil connection in Nigeria- Britain relations, corruption in the global North and its effects in Nigeria and how embedded Shell is in Nigeria’s government.
I close with a few quotes from the book:
"Unfortunately, we now have this combination of violence, greed, in terms of illegal oil bunkering taking over from the empowering non violent struggle for the environment and for resource control"( Ken Saro Wiwa Jr on the state of the Niger-Delta today )

"When I travel outside the Country, people often ask me how far away Ogoni is. I tell them it is as far as the nearest Shell service Station" (Ledum Mitee on the interconnectedness of oil and it's consequences on the Niger Delta across boundaries).


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