Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Crisis in Nigeria: Oil Inferno

Crisis in Nigeria: Oil Inferno By MICHAEL WATTS

Ryzard Kapucinski, the great Polish journalist, once wrote that 'oil is a fairy tale and like every fairy tale a bit of a lie'. The terrifying oil explosion that engulfed a Lagos neighborhood following Christmas Day--the current death toll is almost 300--says less about vandals who hot-tap the exposed pipelines running through the city's abject slum world than the venality, waste and corruption of a Nigerian petro-capitalism fuelled by windfall profits and modernity's addiction to the automobile. The horrific pictures of charred human carcasses being dragged from the burned-over wreckage of the Awori area of Abule Egba, a suburb of Lagos, is a bleak testimony to the total failure--the great lie--of secular national development in post-colonial Nigeria. The spectacle of an oil nation in which desperate poor city dwellers scramble to scoop petrol and kerosene from ruptured or tapped pipelines stands at the heart of the abject failure of many oil states, what Stanford political scientist Terry Karl calls 'the paradox of plenty'.

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