Friday, April 16, 2010

Oil profits, security impact U.S.-Nigerian relations

By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire

Acting Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan met with President Barack Obama on April 11 at the White House as a prelude to the Nuclear Security Summit held in Washington, D.C.

The newly appointed head of state’s visit comes amid a pivotal point in the country’s history and in its relations with the United States. Nigeria still claims to be the leading exporter of crude oil to the U.S. from the African continent, although reports last year indicated that Angola had surpassed Nigeria in total barrels traded.

“The U.S. is Nigeria’s biggest customer in the international crude oil market and much of its energy security is directly affected by militant activities in the Niger Delta,” according to the April 12 ThisDay newspaper published in Nigeria.

The article noted that discussions between Jonathan and Obama centered around efforts to stabilize the political situation in the oil-producing region of the Niger Delta and the legislative plans under way to restructure the oil industry inside the country through the Petroleum Industry Bill.

The debate surrounding the bill has described it as the most extensive overhaul of the petroleum sector since national independence from Britain in 1960. Nigeria’s oil industry has been dominated since 1956 by British, U.S. and European firms that contributed virtually nothing to the country’s development.

An April 7 Financial Times article states that in this debate over the future of oil in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous state, the character of relations with the U.S. will be determined: “At stake are tens of billions of dollars of potential investments, and reforms that could breathe new life into an industry that provides 80 percent of the government’s income and one in eight barrels of crude that the U.S. imports.”

Osten Olorunsola, Shell’s regional vice-president for gas, says, “The PIB is definitely unlikely to pass [through the national assembly] in its current form before the elections (2011). Not passing anything would magnify the overall level of uncertainty.” (Financial Times, April 7)

Oil minister Diezani Allison-Madueke is a former employee of Royal Dutch Shell where she spent 14 years and rose to become its director of external relations. The Financial Times says, “Some industry groups are said to have lobbied for her appointment, reasoning that her background would make her sympathetic to oil companies’ claims that the bill’s tougher terms would jeopardize $50 billion of planned investment.”

Prior to Jonathan’s U.S. visit, the two countries signed a bi-national commission agreement, the first of its kind with Africa under the Obama administration.

An April 5 French Press Agency article reports, “The State Department said bilateral US-Nigerian trade was valued at more than $42 billion in 2008. Nigeria is the United States’ largest trading partner in sub-Saharan Africa, thanks in large part to its petroleum industry. Nigerian oil comprises 8 percent of U.S. imports, while about half of the oil produced in Nigeria goes to the United States. The United States also is the largest foreign investor in Nigeria, including in the offshore oil and gas industries by Exxon-Mobil and Chevron.”

Nigeria, U.S. ‘security’ and the nuclear summit

Another major item on the agenda during the meeting between Obama and Jonathan was the question of the so-called U.S. war on terrorism. Nigeria has been targeted recently because of an incident involving a 23-year-old passenger aboard an airline flight traveling from Amsterdam to Detroit on Dec. 25.

In response to the Dec. 25 incident, Nigeria and numerous other states around the world were targeted by the U.S. for special scrutiny at airports inside the country and flights bound for it. Nigerians have objected strongly to their country’s listing as a possible security threat to the U.S.

The Nuclear Security Summit meeting held by the Obama administration and representatives of 47 nations is taking place in the aftermath of the signing of a new agreement with Russia. During the signing, Obama made special mention of both Iran and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, threatening both countries by calling them states posing possible threats to international security resulting from their nuclear programs.

Iran has maintained that its nuclear programs are strictly for civilian purposes. The DPRK, which has been living under U.S. threats ever since the U.S. war devastated the country from 1950 to1953, is reported to have developed a limited nuclear weapons capability, and has also tested missiles that have drawn protest from the United States and the United Nations Security Council.

The state of Israel, however, which has been reported to possess nuclear weapons capability, has not been questioned or pressured by the U.S. and other imperialist states about its military intentions. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that he would not attend the Nuclear Security Summit due to the intentions of Egypt and Turkey to question the Zionist state over its reported possession of a nuclear arsenal.

The summit represents another effort on the part of the United States to dictate the terms of nuclear weapons capability. Those states that are allied with the U.S., such as Pakistan and India, are allowed to possess nuclear weapons, whereas nations that take a political line independent of imperialism are threatened with sanctions and military actions for even developing nuclear power.

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