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Nigeria: Discovery of oil in Lake Chad Basin could escalate conflicts, says columnist

Author: Hilary Matfess, in Al Jazeera, Published on: 28 December 2015

"Nigeria's Oil Curse: Discovery of more petroleum reserves will impede regional efforts to squash Boko Haram", 25 Nov 2015

On Nov. 8, the head of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation…announced that the state-run company was on the verge of a major oil discovery in the Lake Chad area after years of failed exploration attempts...The area is so valuable that Nigeria and Chad fought a series of border skirmishes in the 1970s over control of the basin. Their disputes remain unresolved. There is still ambiguity over ownership of a number of islands in Lake Chad. There’s been ongoing diplomatic posturing and local communal conflicts between Nigeria, Chad and Cameroon over control of the ecological basin.

Nigeria’s intention to drill new oil fields will only heighten the stakes of these tensions and lead to violence…Boko Haram’s insurgency may have temporarily eclipsed the standoff over drilling rights. But tensions remain. Communities around the Lake Chad Basin have borne the brunt of the insurgency, which has claimed an estimated 20,000 lives and has displaced at least 4 million people since 2009. Even if Boko Haram is subdued to make way for oil drilling, the group has shown a remarkable resilience and could re-emerge to take advantage of the oil bunkering…As seen in Nigeria’s oil-rich Niger Delta, discontent among local communities in the Lake Chad Basin could lend support to Boko Haram or subsequent militant groups…Nigeria has proven incapable of protecting oil pipelines from theft and ensuring that oil extraction does not harm local ecologies and communities. There were more than 7,000 oil spills from 1970 to 2000 in the Niger Delta...

The effects of resource curse and misuse of natural resource wealth, especially in the extractive industries, are well documented. Nigeria appears to be looking gleefully past those lessons and its own experience with oil extraction in the Niger delta. Nigeria’s oil discovery in the Lake Chad Basin should not be taken as a blessing.





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Related companies: Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC)