Two Oils, Same Phenomena: Historicizing Exclusion, Poverty and Contemporary Violence in the Niger Delta
AbstractFrom a subsistence economy, remote from the mainstreams of trade, the
Niger Delta communities moved to a position in the forefront of the trans-
Atlantic trade and became vital to European economic interests in the
nineteenth and twentieth centuries. These communities were offered, and they seized, new opportunities for acquiring wealth, power and prominence,
heralding their rise from isolation and obscurity. During the era of the slave
trade they made wealth from the trade acting as middlemen between the
hinterland slave producers and coast-based European traders. They also
accumulated wealth from the palm oil trade following the abolition of the
slave trade. However, these communities whose elites enjoyed profound
prosperity, power and prominence subsequently declined in grandeur. This
paper locates the roots of contemporary poverty and violence in the Niger
Delta communities in the vortex of European imperialism, which suppressed
the growth of a viable class of indigenous accumulators and entrepreneurs in
the palm oil economy. It demonstrated that contemporary trends and
phenomena only heightened when the crude oil economy penetrated and
reconfigured Niger Delta communities.
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