The Niger Delta of Nigeria is among the richest deltas in the world. Other major deltas are either famous for crude oil and natural gas (Amazon in Brazil, Orionoco in Venezuela, Mississippi in the U.S.A., Mahakarn in Indonesia) or grow mainly rice (e.g. Indus in Pakistan, Ganges in Bangladesh, Mekong in Vietnam). The Niger Delta however has huge oil and gas reserves and ranks as the world's sixth largest exporter of crude oil and the second largest producer of palm oil, after Malaysia, which even obtained its palm seedlings from Nigeria. Environmental conservation and economic development in the Niger Delta depend on the flow of federal funding and goodwill into the region, and on improved understanding of the delta, its petrole um occurrences and its peoples. But the historical background and human dimensions of the unrest in the Niger Delta have, hitherto, not been sufficiently highlighted in the search for lasting peace in the oil producing communities. Since pre-colonial days, the Niger Delta has played a crucial role in the Nigerian economy. Its ports and rivers provided access for the British to penetrate the Nigerian hinterland; the gateway for the trade in slaves, and later export commodities such as palm produce, timber, rubber and even groundnut and cotton from the distant northern parts of Nigeria. The potentates who ruled the Niger Delta city states and neighbouring kingdoms were also the sentinels that guarded the lucrative trade routes of the Niger Delta. They either received or resisted British mercantilism and imperialism. But through negotiations, the Europeans, principally the British secured the co-operation of the rulers of the Niger Delta city-states, who then became the middlemen in the slave and palm oil trade. Participatory conti nuity is what their descendants in present-day petroleum-rich Niger Delta seem to be clamouring for. Whether for peaceful resolution of the unrest in the Niger Delta, or for environmental protection...
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