The Niger Delta region, Nigeria's oil belt has been the site of a generalized ethnic and regional struggle for self-determination since 1998, the location of often-violent confrontations between local ethnic communities and agents of the Nigerian state and oil companies involved in the extraction and exploitation of oil in the area. What began as community agitation has undoubtedly undergone several transformations. The first involved the flowering of civil society, which mobilized a popular civil struggle. The second saw the extension of the agitation from that against multinational oil companies (MNCs) to include the Nigerian state. The third transformation involved the elevation of the agitation from purely developmental issues to overtly political demands such as restructuring of the federal system, resource control and the resolution of the national question through a conference of ethnic nationalities. The current and fourth stage of the transformation has seen the entrance of youths, youth militancy and youth militias with volatile demands and ultimatums that have accentuated the scale and intensity of confrontations and violence with the multinationals and the state.
The youths presently spearhead and constitute the vanguard of Niger-delta conflict nationalists. They chart the course of methods, tactics and strategies and define the momentum, vitality, vocalization and diction of conflicts. The insurgency has involved diverse well armed and fairly well trained youth militias, which, using speed boats and operating fairly freely in the swamps, creeks, estuaries, rivers and coastal areas of the region, have engaged the Nigerian military and seized oil facilities, ships barges, workers and equipments. Increasingly, the youth militancy has become criminalized, with the region being transformed into an arena of economic crimes, violence, and war. The present Youths-led collective action in the Niger-delta draws inspiration from the 1966 declaration of a Niger Delta Republic by a group of nationalist youths led by cadet sub inspector Isaac Adaka Boro that involved an armed insurrection against the Nigerian state and the seizure of oil facilities.
The recent and ongoing conflicts have witnessed massive deployments of the Nigerian Army, Navy and other security agencies and represent the most prolonged, extensive and intensive internal military action since the Nigerian civil war, with devastating effects on local and national security and stability and on global oil and gas related economic growth.
The negative impact of violence associated with youth-led self-determination struggles in the Niger Delta and the urgent need to resolve the complex crises invite an in-depth examination of the causes of the Struggle, issues in the struggle ,Youth, Militias and Self-determination nexus in the region. In other words, there is a need to understand the history, changing contexts and local and social processes and dynamics of the conflicts in the Niger-delta to guide policy-making.
This explores the nature of the struggle by ethnic minorities in Nigeria’s oil-rich Niger Delta for the right to control their natural resources – particularly the petroleum mined from under their lands and waters. Five decades of oil exploitation has left the people severely marginalised and impoverished, facing a life of alienation and dispossession as their lands are taken up and their fragile ecosystem is polluted by the operations of the oil industry. In response, they have since the 1990s waged a local and international struggle to reclaim their right to the land and the resources under it. Predictably, the oil companies have allied with the state in its attempt to crush local resistance through violence. In response, the resistance has evolved into more complex, though still violent, forms.
Since the 1990s, the...