VOL. NO: 41      DATE:
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Oil rich Delta has some of the poorest people in Nigeria

The way oil wealth is managed in Nigeria is one of the key issues facing the people who are living there. The government and oil companies have profited by hundreds of billions of dollars since oil was first discovered. Yet most Nigerians living in the oil producing regions are living in dire poverty.

The oil regions in Nigeria seems to be stuck in a time warp, with little real change since oil was discovered 45 years ago.

Away from the main towns there is no real development, no roads, no electricity, no running water and no telephones.

And most people are struggling to survive on less than $1 a day. People who live in the Niger Delta blame the oil companies for the shocking state of neglect, particularly Shell Petroleum Development Company, which produces most of the country's oil. The heart of Shell's operations is Port Harcourt, a small coastal town which actually smells of oil. Donald Boham, Shell's external relations manager, explained why the delta region has been ignored for so long: "We've had a good number of years of military rule in this country, where the government - for one reason or another - failed to address the need for development in the Niger Delta and that has put a lot of pressure on the oil companies to try and fill the gap that the government has created.

"Last year for example, we spent $60m on community development intervention activities, which represented about 3% of the entire joint venture budget." Yet, unlike the rest of Nigeria, Abuja the federal capital - looks like a modern African city. Because money has been spent on the infrastructure most facilities, from phones to electricity, seem to work. Mark Tomlinson, the World Bank's director for Nigeria, believes the government must share some of the blame for ignoring the oil producing regions.

"I don't think the oil companies by themselves should be saddled with the development of the delta," Mr Tomlinson said. "It is an absolutely huge undertaking and much of the tension we can trace back to the state government's not assisting at all with the provision of basic infrastructure services that these villages require to grow."I've travelled in the delta a number of times recently and each community we visited we asked the question, 'what has the state government done for your village in terms of providing basic services?'. "In half the cases they just laughed, and the other half said nothing had been done at all."


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