A HISTORICAL OVERVIEW OF THE STUDY
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,... [continues]
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