West Africa: The Politics of Oil and Poverty
It is almost impossible to imagine, as we sit in a well lit, fully functioning gas station on Main Street, USA, that a community blessed with oil riches under its soil could look as impoverished as Yenagoa in the Nigerian state of Bayelsa.
Yenagoa is the site of one of Nigeria ’s first oil wells, built in pre-independence 1956. Yet as in many communities in Nigeria’s oil rich Delta region, most people of Yenagoa live in mud huts. Some reside only a few feet away from the oil wells. But they lack electricity and indoor toilets. They have no hospitals, no running water, no schools. And there is unemployment too. Oil companies like Royal Dutch Shell, BP, Chevron, and Exxon Mobil bring in foreign workers for even the most menial jobs.
I recently took a trip to Yenagoa as part of a tour of three African countries–Nigeria, Chad, and Liberia– that may well fuel future U.S. energy needs.