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By Idris Abubakar Katagum
First discovered in Oloibiri, a village in the creeks of Niger-Delta, crude oil or black gold as nicknamed in comparison with the precious metal has been a source of controversy for many years, as regards its impact on the development and general economy of the Nigerian nation. Many a pundit has fruitfully argued that oil has been more of a curse than a blessing to Nigeria. Others are of the opinion that oil can never be a curse, since it has brought riches and fame to this part of the world. Whether oil is a curse or a blessing depends on the spectacle through which one chooses to view the entire phenomena behind the three (3) lettered word.
The oil boom, over four (4) decades ago, has brought about dramatic increase in revenue generation and further brought the country in to limelight as the largest producer of oil in sub-Saharan Africa. According to the oil and gas journal, the Nigerian government has received over 500 billion US dollars in oil and gas revenues over the last forty five (45) years. During this time, Nigeria was globally recognised as the largest exporter of crude oil in Africa and was ranked sixth (6th) largest exporter in the world, and as such the country has gained a louder voice in the community of nations.
However, despite the huge wealth and fame it has brought, oil has also brought misery, wretchedness, woes and war. Even with the prodigious revenue realised as the proceeds of oil exploration and processing, Nigeria has over the years sustain a progressively elevated level of abject paucity, underdevelopment, augmented corruption as well as total and senseless defilement of the natural environment. According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), 112.519 million Nigerians live in horrible poverty as at 2012, and a 2014 report by World Bank put the Nigeria’s poverty rate at 33.1%.
The quest and subsequent exploration of oil has brought about issues of environmental degradation, which has continued to leave sour spots across many oil communities. Ogoniland, which until recently was left in anguish as a result of oil spillage, is an example of communities that have suffered serious damages. Many plants and animals species, which are extremely beneficial to man, are day-by-day being confronted with imminent danger of extinction due to the action of harmful chemicals and other hazards, associated with oil drilling and processing. Gas flaring, another lethal operation in crude oil refining has in no small measure polluted the ambient air with carcinogenic and a good number of other deadly substances, beyond the threshold limit value (TLV), thereby rendering it unsafe for inhalation, and at the same time increasing the concentration of greenhouse gases, which are responsible for the incessant warming of the globe. While oil may arguably be a decent source of revenue, the impairment it causes to the environment cannot be quantified in monetary value.
The decline in the competitiveness of other economic sectors such as agriculture and manufacturing was also as a result of the oil boom. The unearthing of oil has deterred us from painstaking planning needed to craft a robust economy that will provide job for our teeming population, generate reasonable revenue for the government and earn the country sufficient foreign exchange. Agriculture which the country was widely known for, prior to the advent of the black gold has now virtually fizzled out, and we have become radical importers of all sorts of foods. The groundnut pyramid in the north and the colossal farming of cocoa in the south have all, to some extent, largely owed their disappearance to the overdependence on oil revenue.
Another woe associated with oil is war. Severe internal crises have continued to thrive in most oil producing communities. The immediate and remote cause of militancy in these regions is nothing but oil. The people of these regions feel marginalised in sharing the resources they considered theirs, and hence their decision to take up arms against the perceived biggest beneficiaries of the oil proceeds.
Even with all these atrocities perpetrated as a consequence of oil, it will amount to blasphemy for one to out rightly infer that “oil is a curse than a blessing”. As countered by many, it is the management of this resource that is a curse rather than the oil itself. But without oil, perhaps one wouldn’t have to bother about the management.
Idris Abubakar Katagum, a 2017 graduate of chemical engineering from ATBU Bauchi writes from Katagum town of Bauchi state. He can be reached on; 08031842564, 08162291360, firstname.lastname@example.org