Nigeria's Niger Delta Conflict. A Critical Analysis from a Peace Researcher Perspective

Thesis (M.A.), 2018

122 Pages, Grade: Austrian befriedigend (B- 7,6)


Table of Contents



List of Table and Figure

Table of ContentV

1. Introduction
1.1 Author’s Perspective
1.2 Background of the Study
1.3 Rationale and Motivation of the Study
1.4 Research Problem and Question(s)
1.5 Organization of the Study
1.6 State of the Art
1.7 Method

2. Literature Review
2.1 Theoretical Perspectives of Conflict
2.1.1 Social conflict theory
2.1.2 Frustration-anger-aggression theory
2.1.3 Stakeholders’ theory

3. Contextualizing Conflict in the Niger Delta
3.1 The Phases of the Niger Delta Conflict
3.2 The Era of Need (1950s – 1980s)
3.3 Era of Creed: 1990s – 2000s
3.4 The Era of Grievance and Greed
3.5 Actors in the Conflict
3.6 Analysis of the Peace-building Process
3.7 Summary

4. Methodology

5. Results of the Critical Discourse Analysis

6. Discussion
6.1 Oil Companies
6.2 The Government
6.3 Militants
6.4 Non-government Organizations
6.4.1 Non-government Organizations from the First Group
6.4.2 Non-government Organizations from the Second Group
6.4.3 Non-government Organizations from the Third Group
6.4.4 Summary of Non-government Organizations’ Position on the Discourse Arena
6.5 Prospects of Peace Negotiations in Light of the Existing Discourse Arena

7. Conclusions and Recommendations
7.1 Conclusions
7.2 Recommendations



I dedicate this thesis to all who have been there for me especially when I was mentally and physically depressed because I have to start all over again and my family for their prayers.


I am using this ample opportunity to express my sincere gratitude to everyone who supported me during my studies in Innsbruck, writing and working process. This is a journey of many years which I personally thought that will not be achievable. I also extend my genuine gratitude to everybody who supported and uplifted me through during this thesis process. I would like to express special thanks to all of you but I know that I cannot list all of you. May all your lives be blessed with kindness, may your open arms, warm heart, positive thoughts and God fearing mind be filled with God abundant blessings of life, Amen. This goes to My Mother, Ezinne Agnes Chukwu. My late father, Chief Andrew Chukwu who did not have a formal education but make sure that his children must have a formal education to the level they want irrespective of the cost. My special gratitude goes to my siblings, Mrs. Patricia Odimia, Madam Margret Chukwu, Honorable Emeka Chukwu, Columbus Chukwu, Roseline Ordu, Stella Chukwu, and Obinna for waiting patiently to see the fruit of their labor. I appreciate your sincere patience all year long for the completion of this program and all your contribution in prayers and monetary form.

To my nephews and nieces Goodluck Uche Odimia, Felix Odimia, Kathrine Odimia, Goodluck Ogechi Chukwu, Faith Ordu, Linda Anthony Ordu, Margret Columbus Chukwu, Stella Columbus Chukwu for being beautiful children, touching my heart and enriching my life.

To my daughter Priya Nnenna Ambrose who was born on the 13th of May, 2018. ; I appreciate you all because I know that this thesis is a blue print to you all.

My supervisor, Prof. Wolfgang Dietrich, for his sincere feed-back that made this thesis what it is today and encouragement to continue this thesis writing, support, editing and re-editing of my thesis to make it a sincere success.

To Peace Family for all your love, the challenges and the energy during the journey of my studies in Innsbruck, Austria.

To Norbert for following your passion and always giving us listening ears and special attention.

To Karin for always being there in the process and whenever we are in need.

To Jenny one of the facilitators who was energetic, present and supportive in academic and physical work.

To African Union as we usually say, Betty, Joy a.k.a Professor, Emo a.k.a Emosssssiiiiaaa, Vera a.k.a Shantabiaaa, Mary a.k.a. Mama who always take responsibility of us all, Shibani a.k.a shishi. I thank you all for being who you are at the time of need and your African decent moral support.

Finally, to all those who I have not mentioned; thanks for sharing your ideas, kindness and experience with me.

List of Table and Figure

Table 1: The Discourse Area

Figure 1: Frustration-Anger-Aggression Axis

Nigeria's Niger Delta Conflict: A Critical Discourse Analysis from a Peace Researcher Perspective

1. Introduction

1.1. Author’s Perspective

Thinking about security and safety evokes many memories about my family and the past. Growing up was bearable as long as I had my siblings and other family members around, despite having an almost-absent father. My father was always busy and we did not bother to ask why he spent most time away from home. As a child, I had little understanding of the insecurity that reined in the village and across the entire region. However, while growing up, I was exposed to many dangers that any other young person would never want to face in their life.

From my personal perspective, the issue of insecurity has multiple dimensions. Many people would think about massive bloodshed and conflicts when the issue is mentioned. However, this does not reflect the entire story about insecurity. Insecurity could also include lack of appropriate shelter and food, human right abuses during times of violence, and inaccessibility of shelter. I have experienced all those dimensions of insecurity while growing. Safety and insecurity have an intrinsic connection; hence, the absence of safety contributes to insecurity.

As a child, my siblings and I would walk for miles into the woods in the search for firewood because that was the main source of energy for household activities. Additionally, we would also walk several miles to fetch water because the area had a problem with piped water. The long distance without supervision was a scary moment because nobody knew what could befall any one of us. In one instance, I remember encountering a group of men who had guns, although none of them bothered us and they allowed us to have our way into the woods. I remember at the age of ten hearing talks about a war happening in Rwanda, what became one of the worst genocides in Africa. I remember grasping the idea of insecurity when my parents talked about the deteriorating security situation in our country because of the constant marginalization of my people. Until then, I only understood insecurity in the absence of first-hand experience with a bloody conflict. A close brush with the atrocious effects of violence and insecurity came when conflicts erupted in the area largely because of the dissatisfaction of the people with the way the government was sharing the revenues from oil resources in the area. After a group of militants destroyed critical oil infrastructure in the region, the government responded by sending the army who indiscriminately caused havoc in the region arresting anybody suspected of participating in the acts. Several people lost their lives. In response, many youths have taken arms and joined militant groups in the region as they consider it a contribution towards their fight for their rights. Many other episodes of attacks and counterattacks between the militants and the armies made me understand the importance of safety and security. After this moment, my family relocated from Omoku in Ogba-Egbema-Ndoni Local Government Area to avoid such close encounters with insecurity.

The flashbacks about my life create a platform for understanding the imperative of security and safety in life. From my experiences, I have understood that safety and security equates life. The constant fear that something bad could happen is detrimental to the social, psychological, and economic wellbeing of any individual. Indeed, much of the insecurity that reined in the region where I grew has contributed to the economic retardation of the region. While many people in the region consider the conflict as a way of fighting for their rights, they have not come into terms with the fact that the conflict has inflicted more harm on them than the good it has caused. Indeed, after visiting the region as a grown up, I realized that many youths are unemployed and have turned to crime to make ends meet.

After relocating from Ogba and acquiring exposure, I have acknowledged other scenarios that create insecurity, especially for children and women living in conflict areas. At the tender age, I did not know that the insecurity was also associated with human right abuses including rape. After talking with my mother and my siblings, I understood that a large population in the area has had to contend with the shame that comes after sexual abuses such as rape. Moreover, I did not understand that HIV/AIDS was a scare at that moment and was easily spread through the sexual abuses perpetrated during the conflict period.

I have visited many regions experiencing conflicts and others recovering from conflicts, especially in Africa. A few years ago I visited South Sudan after it split from Sudan and violence erupted. Memories of my past came and I understood the importance of maintaining peace to avoid the negative consequences of insecurity. My experience with insecurity and deteriorating levels of safety for the population has made appreciate my security. A recent trip back to my motherland revealed the deep wounds that conflicts have had on the people. Although I stayed a night in the city, I heard reports that I could not walk freely in my hometown during the day because the security situation has deteriorated. This brings more worries about the people that live in the area, including some members of my extended family. What will happen to their lives? How will their children school in such a situation?

During my studies and now that I am working with an American company called Armstrong Ceiling Solutions in Rankwil, Feldkirch, Vorarlberg, Austria. I have come into contact with people from various countries experiencing conflicts including people from Congo, Somalia, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Libya, Ukraine, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, and Syria among others. The discussions with these people and the relative quite (security) away from conflict have created my passion and interest in understanding peace and security. I consider the years quiet because I now understand these issues better unlike the years when I was a child and a teenager. Acquiring early knowledge in history during my early years has played a crucial role in shaping my interest in the topic. Interaction with people from conflict regions and sharing our stories created a knowledge base larger than the information I had acquired from the various media accounts about the conflicts. Issues such as war in Sudan and famine in Yemen and Somalia were issues I only read and saw in the media. However, the interactions with these people gave me firsthand information and experience about the conflicts.

Along the journey of acquiring more information about conflicts, I started wondering why security has continually evaded many regions despite the efforts that many stakeholders make to ensure peace. Many stakeholders including national governments, regional bodies, non-governmental organizations, the United Nations, and other players have vehemently worked into establishing security across the globe, yet security remains elusive. My observations about the gap between the efforts and the security in many regions of the world, including the Niger Delta, leave me disappointed and with more questions than answers.

The chance to work as a peace worker provided another chance to understand conflict pertinent to its effects on security, peace-building processes, development aspects, as well as the actual and perceived effects of insecurity. I realized that I could not answer my questions about insecurity without delving deeper into the topic with a focus on a specific conflict. With the background information and first-hand knowledge about different conflicts, I focused my attention on understanding the dynamics of the conflict based on the role of the stakeholders involved. The research does not only involve understanding the dynamics of this conflict, but also reminding policymakers and the involved stakeholders about their role in the peace-building process. The latter emanates from the negative reviews about the steps the government has taken to restore security and the role of the other stakeholders in exacerbating the situation.

1.2 Background of the Study

In 25 June 2009, the then President of Nigeria, Musa Yar’Adua, demonstrated one of the boldest steps towards peace-building in the Niger Delta after granting unconditional amnesty to the militants operating in the region. The region had been a hotspot of low-intensity violence and conflict as the insurgents composed of militant youths waged against the Nigerian state and the Nigerian security agents engaged the counter-insurgency activities to protect oil resources in the region. The Niger Delta has a population of more than 30 million people and represents more than 75 percent of total oil production in the country with over 600 oilfields, 10 export terminals, and 275 flow stations. The region serves as the take-off point for more than 7,000 kilometers of pipelines traversing the country (Aghedo, 2011).

Peace engineering and building in the Niger Delta has a long history and includes a multi-layered conflict involving ethnic, developmental, and governance issues. For instance, the Willink’s Commission constituted in 1958 aimed at ascertaining the causes of marginalization and propose remedies for minorities’ fear of marginalization. The commission proposed the creation of a Niger Delta Development Board that would ensure peace and minimization the environmental destruction in the region. The amnesty program implemented in 2009 was applauded as the best option in the protracted conflict because it had significant instrumentality for bringing peace and development to the otherwise volatile ND. After his election in 2007, the late President Musa Yar’Adua promised to develop a blueprint to stimulate development of the ND that would bring a permanent solution to the protracted violence in the area. The amnesty program represented the implementation of the policy statement (Aghedo, 2013).

According to Collier and (Hoeffler, 2008), societies recovering from a conflict experience two unique challenges: risk reduction and economic recovery. Indeed, this has become the case of ND because many militants have relapsed to violence because of their failure to recover economically. For instance, the ‘bad old days’ emerged between May and June 2011 when members of the JTF engaged defector John Togo and his soldiers in a gun battle which left many people dead, wounded, and internally displaced. The militant leader claimed that inequality had forced them to ditch the amnesty program and return to their struggle against discrimination.

The above case depicts a common trend in many developing countries. Most developing countries with an abundance of oil resources face similar challenges: impoverished states, weak institutions, authoritarianism, poor economic development, and unbalanced development. Such dynamics are highly observable in Nigeria. Poverty has increased significantly in the state since its shift from dependence on agriculture to dependence on oil. According to Salai-i-Martin and Subramanian (2013, p.3), poverty levels increased from 36 percent to 70 percent since this shift. Indeed, oil resources have been often been described as a curse to most developing countries. The Niger Delta is an exemplifier of the curse emanating from oil abundance in a developing country.

In the view of unfavorable oil politics and environmental degradation, the Niger Delta has witnessed a wave of frequent uprisings and armed violence since the 1990s. Although the government has engaged in various initiatives to reduce violence and instill peace in the region, most of the strategies have failed and resulted in the resurgence of violence. The return of violence in 2013 barely three years after the government announced its amnesty program demonstrated the breakdown of the government-initiated programs. The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) claimed responsibility for the bomb attack in 2013, which acted as a reminder about the existence of the militia in the region. The resurgence of conflict and violence illustrates that the programs initiated have not integrated the militias and have not addressed the causes of the conflict. Indeed, the creation of sustainable peace in the region has been constrained by the failure to include some of the ex-combatants in the demobilization and disarmament process because of internal contradictions within the schemes. The contradictions extend further to the point that some of the youths that did not belong to any militant group came forth for the demobilization because of the financial incentives (Oluwatoyin, 2010). These factors suggests that the programs initiated failed to address several issues in promoting the sustainability of peace.

1.3. Rationale and Motivation of the Study

The background provides the backing for this study that intends to investigate the Niger Delta conflict from a discourse analysis perspective. The study will challenge the programs initiated to restore peace in the region. The study will observe the basis of conflict in multi-ethnic societies through focusing on the demands for self-actualization and control over resources. Essentially, as a peace worker, I understand that conscious efforts associated with the placation of communities leads to repression of demands, which tends to culminate to bloody conflicts. The efforts used in the resolution of conflict in the Niger Delta until 2000 have often involved pacification and the use of force in which the involved parties use both dialogue and force. The efforts have led to little success. The adoption of the amnesty program seemed like an amicable strategy towards the end of the violence and assurance of sustainable peace. However, tensions in the region have been rife since the implementation of the program. Therefore, I will seek to assess the conditions that have impeded the success of the amnesty program and other peace accords in the region as ways of creating sustainable peace. I will interrogate the challenges that have marred the programs and the roles of the different individuals involved in the process.

Previous studies have explored the amnesty deal in the Niger Delta pertinent to the disarmament and demobilization processes. However, few studies have considered a broader view of the topic including the integration of the ex-militants in the process and the role of the local and national politics in the success or failure of the programs. As such, I seek to examine the broader perspective of the conflict with the consideration of the integration process and the role of the authorities and public figures in the processes. Ultimately, the study will determine whether the amnesty program and other initiatives taken so far are likely to have a long-term effect in leading the region to sustainable peace.

The strategic social and economic value of oil in the region and its imperative for the national government justifies the study. Essentially, the Niger Delta serves as the economic nerve of the country and has often been considered as a priority by the federal government. Therefore, disruptions to order and peace in the region affect the production of oil from the region, which constrains the main source of revenue for the country. Moreover, the continuation of conflict and violence in the region is associated with a quantum loss of life, which may blot the national image of the country and create retrogression in the progress of the riverine communities living in the Niger Delta. The sustenance of long-lasting peace in the Niger Delta is of strategic importance to the socio-economic development of the country. Therefore, I will explore the importance of peace and conflict, as well as the mechanisms used to restore peace in the region, to add to the literature focusing on these issues. I will appraise the efforts used in the programs and the developmental drive of the government to create an understanding of the pressing issues. From a peace researcher perspective, understanding the causes of conflict has a significant social imperative in forming the peace-building process. The reason this topic and its orientation towards discourse is interesting because it offer understanding about the contribution of various actors towards conflicts and help in understanding the best ways in managing such conflicts.

1.4. Research Problem and Question(s)

Understanding the Niger Delta conflict as a prerequisite in resolving it has become a challenge and a concern for many scholars. Most work is based on theoretical perspectives. One of the common explanations of the conflict in the region entails the marginalization and frustration thesis. Another explanation is the inequitable distribution of revenue leading to deprivation and the desire for control over the resources. The issue of environmental injustices caused by the stakeholders in the oil industry has also become a common center of focus among scholars. Some scholars have adopted a critical approach in investigating the conflict that shows the interaction of the political, social, environmental, and economic factors in shaping the conflict. However, the declining security in the region has led to the prominence of two competing perspectives in explaining the issue.

One side of the argument proposes the marginalization-relative deprivation thesis as an explanation for the increased youth militancy and insurgency. The militancy and insurgency is rooted in inter-group inequalities, historical injustices, as well as socio-economic and political marginalization. On the other side, some consider the conflict from the political economy of war perspective. The perspective considers the conflict as a consequence of greed that has become entrenched in the minds of the stakeholders involved.

Undoubtedly, the two perspectives enrich the understanding of the conflict. However, the tendency to consider one thesis as superior to the other makes the adjudication of the issue problematic. Consequently, some scholars have suggested the need to explain the violent conflict from both perspectives based on a comprehensive understanding of the stakeholders involved (Idemudia, 2009). Moreover, the tendency to restrict the conflict to a specific timeframe creates challenges in understanding the role of the stakeholders in the emergence and accentuation of the conflict. Considering that conflict is not static but highly dynamic and fluid, the study will seek to understand the conflict from both perspectives while incorporating the role of the stakeholders in the exacerbation of the conflict.

The amnesty and the upshot disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) programs experienced several economic, political, security, and social challenges that have undermined their efficacy while making the conflict a continuum, despite their considerable benefits. Essentially, the region has not experienced a clear end to violence because insecurity remains an attribute of the daily life. So far, the region has experienced what can be referred to as: peace of the graveyards’ where hostility between security agents and militants has subsided but sustainable peace has not been achieved. Therefore, questions remain about why there exists no war but peace remains elusive. The study presents a mapping of the progress and challenges of contemporary post-conflict peace-building in the Niger Delta from a peace worker’s perspective.

The main goal of the study is to find the consequences of using discourse by various actors on the protracted conflict in the Niger Delta. The actors selected for the study include the oil companies in the region (for instance, BP and Shell), the federal government, non-government organizations, including the Ijaw Youth Council, Amnesty International, and the World Bank, and militant groups, such as the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta and Niger Delta Avengers, which represent the views of the local ethnic and religious groups. The actors are considered as having the greatest sway in the dynamics of the conflict. The study will seek to answer the following primary question:

How does discourse shape conflict in resource-abundant regions?

The question is broken down into several specific questions to bring it into the context of the Niger Delta. As such, the study will seek to answer the following strategic questions in the context of the Niger Delta.

1. How have the selected actors been using discourse in the Niger Delta?
2. How has the discourse(s) used influenced the continuation of conflict in the region?
3. How has the discourse used by the actors undermined the peace process?

1.5. Organization of the Study

The study will proceed as follows. The second chapter will involve the review of the existing literature about the area (Literature Review and Theoretical Framework). In this case, I will develop a theoretical framework that draws and defines the key concepts that guide the study. The chapter will start with a review of peer-reviewed articles and other sources that outline theories of conflict, an analysis of the involved actors, and peace-building processes including the DDR, and other perspectives of importance to the Niger Delta conflict. Based on the theoretical framework, I will show that conflict is a common phenomenon in human beings but could be avoided. Catalysts such as deprivation drive a sense of unity among the repressed population in rising against their perceived enemy. Based on different perspectives in interrogating the dynamics of conflict in ND, I argue that the conflict reflects deprivation and the socio-economic state in the region occasioned by disregard of grievances that have accumulated.

The third chapter will provide a description of the methodology (Research Methodology) in which I provide a rationale and justification of the techniques and strategies employed in the collection and analysis of the data or information in the study. I adopted a descriptive qualitative design involving Critical Discourse Analysis, as will be explained later. The fourth chapter will present the results from the CDA conducted. In this part, the study will reflect the concepts of discourse that will be discussed later. Chapter five will provide an in-depth evaluation and discussion of the results of the critical discourse analysis. Chapter six will focus on discussion while chapter seven conclude the study, and offer recommendations where necessary.

1.6. State of the Art

Although many studies have focused on the armed conflict in Nigeria, this study conceptualizes the conflict in the Niger Delta in a new light through the incorporation of the personal encounters and experience in the discourse. Before engaging in the research process, I have evaluated the evolution of conflicts and the state of insecurity in Nigeria through the years. Folktales about the traditional warriors that defended and liberated the people are highly prevalent across the country. However, the traditional confrontations differ from the modern dynamics of the modern conflicts that have rocked Nigeria since independence. Traditional battles in Nigeria involved “bare hands” because the strategies were associated with dignity and integrity, as well as the improvement of the warriors’ physical strength. Most folktales suggest that the code of war in the pre-historic period in Nigeria prohibited the use of weapons. However, modernization has led to the abandonment of the code of war because of the weapons that were been introduced. The use of bows, arrows, hunting guns, and other hand craft weapons in battles emerged a long time ago after contact with Europeans.

Many accounts of armed conflicts exist in Nigeria, including poetry, dramas, poses, and journalistic works. However, the scholastic domain features a modern definition and conceptualization of armed conflict. Therefore, the religious, tribal, and ideological conflicts that existed earlier in the history of Nigeria remain outside the scope of the modern conceptualization of conflict in Nigeria. Indeed, most of the accounts about armed conflict in Nigeria start from the civil war that erupted in 1967. The armed conflicts are categorized based on post-colonial understanding of war and peace-building processes.

Some prominent scholars have investigated and documented armed conflict in Nigeria across different disciplines. Some of the prominent forerunners with published works include Nkpa Nwakoacha, Chinua Achebe, Claude Ake, Flora Nwakpa, C.C. Aguolu, Chinaedu Nebo, and John Pepper Clark among other. Most of these studies have been conducted from humanities, social science, and political sciences’ perspectives.

In the past four or three decades, the conflict in the Niger Delta has become a center of attention in research. During the research process, I realized that few studies had investigated the conflict based on the critical discourse approach. The approach offers an opportunity for the consideration of the stakeholders’ understandings and meanings embedded in their communication about the conflict, as well as the contribution of these meanings and conceptualization in the conflict and the peace-building process. Consequently, my study conceptualizes the conflict from this perspective to integrate the strengths and practicality of the different discourses in understanding the conflict and peace-building process. In essence, this study has its novelty in that it analyzes the understanding of the stakeholders to bring to attention their contributions towards the conflict and the failure of the efforts at ensuring security in the area.

1.7 Method

The study relies on critical discourse analysis to present the case and resolve the study problem. The method is considered appropriate because it will help in illustrating how specific vocabulary reflects ideological positions and worsens violence in the Niger Delta. Several other studies have applied CDA to investigate the use of discourse in various situations. For instance, Polovina-Vukovic (2004) used CDA to study the presentation of social actors during the break-up of Yugoslavia. The representation shows the use of different discourses and languages including the depiction of the different ethnic groups as villains or victims.CDA in this case will involve an analysis of the discourse used by different actors based on various sources, including print publications and the internet. CDA is selected as the methodology for the study because it offers a string tool for social science research. Moreover, discourse analysis suits the study because the investigation of a conflict in the region poses challenges in the use of other methods including interviews and surveys. CDA is based on several approaches to the analysis of discourse including the reliance on text documents and MP3 transcripts. The focus points to the fact that social science research could be accomplished based on documented or recorded materials in cases that present challenges in the engagement with the social actors and participants.

It would be appropriate to define discourse before moving further. Essentially, individual conversations feature peculiar sequences in the engagement with publics at different spheres of life. The order and uniqueness of the language reflects the discourse. Discourse can be specifically defined as interpretation of meanings that a group or groups of individuals ascribe to the world around them. Therefore, members of a specific group will have similar goals and tend to share the same discourse. Therefore, analyzing the discourse used by specific groups can bring an understanding towards the goals of the individuals.

The concepts of discourse provided by Fairclough (2005) will be applied in analyzing and exploring the case. According to Fairclough (2005), CDA entails “intersexuality” or the possibility that one individual’s text will influence the creation of another individual’s text. Nevertheless, previous studies have shown some challenges associated with CDA that are primarily connected with the vagueness in the articulation of the findings. For this case, the most challenging issue will be conducting the CDA based on the discourses of only the selected actors. The study will rely on several concepts associated with CDA, specifically nodal points, intersexuality and order of discourse, counter discourse, and discourse arena. The concepts are selected based on their relevance in the analysis of the discourses of the selected actors. Although CDA entails a range of concepts, the goal of the study is to explore the case from an in-depth peace worker’s perspective, which makes some of the other concepts irrelevant.

2. Literature Review

The advocacy of human security across the globe affords a chance to reconsider the traditional security agendas. Historically, the concept of security is contingent in nature and the notion of national security is considered a metaphorical expression. However, internationalization, socialization, and democratization are key aspects that drive the conception of human security (Tadjbakhsh & Chenoy, 2007 ). From a general perspective, state’s powers must be strong enough to dispel domestic groups that pose a threat to human security. As such, the maintenance of human security relies on the maintenance of rule and order. Nevertheless, the government must also meet these requirements while not enforcing authoritarianism on its people to meet the challenges and balance between the need for human security and fulfillment of the citizens’ needs. Therefore, the state has the responsibility for the security of the people in any constitutional government.

However, very few African countries could meet these requirements as nation-states during their creation. In essence, many governments have failed to protect the rights of the people, despite the formation of modern constitutions. Additionally, the decentralization of power in the societies has often prevented the achievement of the objectives to meet security requirements. The failure to manage parochial power relations since independence has created conditions for inability to maintain domestic rule and order. According to Mochizuki (2004), the failure to balance their roles and obligations to the societies led to the misalignment welfare and security of the people.

The promotion of identities in most African societies is also double-edged and tends to split the societies into fragments that undermine national integration and development (Jega, 2002). Although nationalism in most African countries survived at the international level in the form of Pan-Africanism, it faced many challenges at the domestic level. The different conceptualizations of identities led to the transformation of the identities into micro-states with individual interests in the political, social, and economic changes that ensued after independence. Based on the personal perspective outlined earlier, the failures in the maintenance of human security are apparent in many African countries. The failures do not emanate from the government alone, but also from the stakeholders charged with ensuring the integrity of the societies.

2.1 Theoretical Perspectives of Conflict

Conflict theory reflects two major perspectives. The first perspective representing the first group of theories focuses on moral obligation of social scientists in critiquing the society. The theories do not admit the need for a separate analysis from judgment or fact from value in the society. Contrary, the second group of theories considers conflict as an inevitable and permanent part of the social life (Wallace & Wolf, 1999, p.69).

Several theorists including Pierre Bourdieu developed their understanding of theory based on the works by Karl Marx. The basic components of the conflict theory based on Marx’s work is that people have an essential nature and a define set of interests. Consequently, disequilibrium in the satisfaction of the interests by the political and economic systems would breed conflict. The theories emphasize the role of ideologies in shaping the interests and insist that the ideas of a group reflect their interests pertinent to the ruling class.

2.1.1 Social conflict theory

According to Marxist theory, different classes have incompatible interests because the economic gains of one class suppress the gains of another class. In this view, the capitalists in a state or society act as the oppressors while the proletariat is the oppressed group. Therefore, class struggle reflects the dynamics of power and economic status of the society. Essentially, class struggle is an outcome of the irreconcilable differences between the interests of the classes and the common interests that encourage one group to rise against the other. Therefore, these theorists argue that class conflicts emanate from the efforts of one group at disbanding the status quo. The unsatisfied social class mobilizes the masses to extend and propagate its interests, which become part of the “false” consciousness of the group. The episodes may not be actual conflicts because they tend to engross instances of resistance. For instance, the struggle for the plight of the Ogoni ethnic people by Ken Saro Wiwa in ND falls in this category. However, the conflict in ND has traversed various phases starting from agitation to a state in which survival and personal economic interests have beclouded the initial agitation.

Wallace and Wolf (1999) contend that the conflict theory advanced as a substitute to the functionalist method used in the analysis of the structure of the society. Likewise, Ritzer (1996) contends that the theory has other backgrounds including the mainstream Marxist ideologies, other than the response to structural functionalism of the society. The proponents of functionalism acknowledge the existence of conflict but argue that the society evolves the means of controlling the emerging conflicts. Pertinent to this study, it would imply that the conflict in ND is a part of human existence and only the stakeholders could solve the conflict through appropriate interventions and fulfillment of their obligations. However, the social conflict theory focuses on the existence of conflict staged by people without the required power to cause change at the political level. Therefore, rather than mutual coexistence endeared in the functionalist approach, the conflict in ND reflects the capitalist-proletariat divide of the social conflict theory.

The social conflict theory is very effective in analyzing causes of the conflict and exploring its early stages. It can be applied for portraying ND as a crisis that originates from the oil industry. In the 1970s and 1980s, the conflict was developing in accordance with the basic principles of this theory. By owning the means of production, oil companies, such as Chevron and Royal Dutch Shell, were able to exploit locals. Even though their revenues were growing rapidly, local people barely benefited from this process. In this situation, a conflict can be seen as a typical confrontation between the reach corporations and suppressed locals, primarily workers and peasants. The emergence and operation of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (Mossop) can be considered a consequence of contradictions between classes. A similar conclusion can be made after analyzing the case of the Ijaw Youth Council and its actions against the oil companies.

Despite the effectiveness of the social conflict theory for analyzing the causes and early stages of ND, it is much less applicable to the investigation of those events that have been occurring since the 2000s. In particular, a confrontation between the Niger Delta Vigilantes (NDV) and the Niger Delta People’s Volunteer Force (NDPVF) can be barely analyzed with the help of this concept. Most members of these two organizations represented the same class and, moreover, the same ethnic group. In this situation, the instruments provided by the social conflict theory do not provide a convincing evidence to explain why these two groups engaged in hostilities against each other. At the same time, it may be definitely helpful for exploring the practices of oil “bunkering” used by NDPVF. The case of “bunkering” illustrates how a suppressed class struggling with poverty can find a way to benefit from the growing wealth of large corporations.

The available evidence provides a premise to believe that the social conflict theory can be also very useful in determining the best possible solutions for solving the conflict. As it is known, the Presidential amnesty program started in 2009 was seemingly successful. It led to a ceasefire and the resumption of oil production. However, the peace did not turn out to be sustainable in the long-term perspective. In 2016, the two new organizations, the Niger Delta Avengers and the Niger Delta Greenland Justice Mandate, started a set of explosions against oil pipelines, threatening to launch even more if their demands are not met. These organizations claim that members of other groups, such as NDPVF and NDV, were rather interested in personal enrichment than in defending the interests of people living in Niger Delta. The social conflict theory can explain the emergence of these new groups by arguing that the true core of the conflict has not been addressed by the Presidential Amnesty Program. It helped militants to avoid criminal responsibility and integrate in a social life. However, it did not remove the factor of exploiting the region’s oil resources. In addition to depriving locals from almost any benefits from oil production, corporations and the government contributed to the deterioration of the environment via oil spills. In this situation, the conflict in ND can be successfully resolved only after designing a way to help locals benefit from the oil production.

The social conflict theory has helped in the identification of causes of conflict and its ineluctability because of human’s inherent inequalities that lead to class struggles. The theory can be applied in the ND, although it does not offer adequate dimensions of conflicts pertinent to the stakeholders involved in the conflict and the role of the frustrated communities that present their grievances. The framework proposed by this concept is limited and mostly boils down to the confrontation between large foreign corporations and suppressed local citizens, such as Ijaw and Ogoni people. It does not help understand the causes and nature of conflicts between local organizations. Furthermore, it also does not propose any insights into the problem of ecological degradation caused by the unsustainable oil production.

Therefore, while the social conflict theory may help in determining the causes of the conflict, analyzing its early stages, and justifying the necessity of some measures when designing the strategy of resolving the conflict, it cannot become the main component of the theoretical framework utilized in this study.

2.1.2 Frustration-anger-aggression theory

The second theoretical perspective considers conflict as an unavoidable and permanent part of the society. Essentially, the theoretical perspective considers the stratification of the society and the complex status and power distributions ad the interlocking patterns that fuel conflict when they fail to align. The society has an inherent tendency to engage in a conflict as different groups pursue their individual interests. The shift in the balance of power changes the society leading the emergence of conflict.

Nevertheless, some scholars have shown the convergence of the theories. According to Gurr (1973), all empirical theories of conflict elaborate the same premise through the specification of the social conditions and processes that lead to social discontent and conflict. According to the researcher, the social conditions and processes lead to the frustration, anger, and aggression. Revolutions often lead to short periods of reversal in the social conditions in which the gap between expectations and gratification widens and becomes intolerable. Consequently, frustration develops and yields violent action. The violence becomes coherent and obtains a clear direction when it focuses on the governing authorities (Gurr, 1973, p.360).The theories converge in their consensus regarding the inherent nature of human beings in seeking different values: interpersonal, power, and warfare. In extension, the values could be understood as equal esteem, physical needs, dignity needs, social affectional needs, and self-actualization. The revised frustration-anger-aggression principle suggests that frustration motivates hostile or aggressive behavior (Dill, Anderson, Anderson, & Deuser, 1997). The theory could help in understanding the Niger Delta conflict. The frustrations of the riverine populations could have a significant relationship with the discourses of the relevant stakeholders in the region. However, the theory has limitations in that it only explains causes of frustration within the conflict regions with minimal focus on the stakeholders involved and their role in fueling the conflicts.

The frustration-anger-aggression theory can be very useful for analyzing the problem under investigation. It provides convenient and effective instruments for investigating the emergence and development of local groups, such as NPD and NDPFV. In the beginning, the unsustainable nature of oil production in the region did not cause violence among locals. The government’s inability to provide benefits for Ogoni people became the first factor contributing to the emergence of the conflict. Even though they were promised to benefit from the production oil in exchange of abandoning agricultural practices, Ogoni people experienced an increase in poverty levels in the 1970s. In addition, the government has introduced a controversial constitutional amendment in 1979, declaring the right to seize any land. The previous owners of this land would get a slight compensation at the amount of the value of crops on this land. In other words, this amendment allowed the government to seize the land without paying a proper compensation for it. All these factors contributed to the growing confusion and dissatisfaction among Ogoni people.

The subsequent emergence of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People illustrates that the conflict went from the stage of confusion to the stage of anger. After the requests of Ogoni people were not met, the conflict entered the phase of aggression. The events in 1994 illustrate that the confrontation has reached a critical point, resulted in killings.

The Ijaw unrest was developing in line with the same trajectory. At first, people from this ethnic group have established the Ijaw Youth Council, an organization that was supposed to represent their interests in a peaceful manner. At first, they were not aggressive. In December 30, 1998, the peaceful manifestation in Yenagoa was stopped by the soldiers, which led to at least three deaths. After this event, the protest of Ijaw people had been gradually turning into an aggressive stage. They started attacking foreign workers of oil companies and attack their installations. This situation can be easily analyzed with the help of the frustration-anger-aggression theory. At first, Ijaw people suffering from the growing poverty and inability to benefit from oil production tried to create peaceful instruments of promoting their agenda. However, after seeing that their demands are ignored by the government, and, moreover, soldiers use force to stop them from preventing oil production in the region, locals’ movement has become more aggressive. Eventually, it has led to the appearance of the armed groups in Niger Delta, such as Niger Delta Vigilantes and Niger Delta People’s Volunteer Force.

The case of NDPVF is a bright example of the gradual development of the conflict through the stages of frustration, anger, and aggression. Its founder and leader, Dokubo-Asari, was a president of the Ijaw Youth Council, an organization that was initially pursuing its agenda peacefully. Over the time, this individual decided to retrieve from negotiations and choose a new mechanism of opposition. This exemplifies the transition from frustration to aggression.

Many locals living in Nigeria Delta experienced the same change of their attitude to the situation as the one experienced by Asari. At first, they were confused by the absence of any programs that provide locals with benefits from oil production. This confusion was gradually turning into frustration since all the attempts tried by local social organizations did not meet an understanding from the government. The fact that demonstrations of the activists were violently suppressed with the use of force, resulting in the killings of some people involved in manifestations, contributed to the transition to the anger stage. New measures taken by the movements were becoming more violent. Eventually, the spread of aggression has completely destabilized the region, disrupting the oil production and even threatening the state’s sovereignty.

The frustration-anger-aggression theory has some important advantages over the social conflict theory in regards to an analysis of the Niger Delta conflict. In particular, it provides valuable insights into the problem of confrontation between NDPVF and NDP. On the stage of frustration, most locals were focused on pursuing the agenda of the fair distribution of wealth from oil revenues. They were united in an attempt to change the situation, making the production of oil sustainable. However, on the stage of anger, their plans and expectations have changed. They have adopted a political agenda and, as a result, substantial funding from many powerful stakeholders. Asari’s criticism of the 2003 elections led to the emergence of hostilities between NDPVF and NDP as well as other smaller groups. During this phase, the violence became uncontrolled since various groups stated fighting against each other in order to gain control over the maximum amount of oil with the help of “bunkering”. Entering the stage of aggression gave birth to numerous violent groups seeking to gain control over oil resources. Their list of hostilities was gradually expanding as their actions were becoming more violent. The case of NDPV exemplifies this trend since Asadi declared a war against the entire Nigerian state at some point of the conflict.

2.1.3 Stakeholders’ theory

For the purpose of this study, the term stakeholder refers to the group(s) vital to the success or survival of an organization or individuals directly affected by the existence of an organization. According to Hatch (2018), an organization that tends to the demands of its stakeholders outperforms organizations that ignore those demands. The stakeholder theory provides an avenue for the analysis of the role of the different social actors involved in the Niger Delta conflict. The theory reflects the role of capitalism in driving conflicts, for instance, the economic interests of the capitalists in the maximization of profits at the expense of the needs of the involved societies. Moreover, the theory outlines the role of governments in fueling conflicts through its activities including the collection of taxes and the use of the taxes in the development of the communities with the specific resources.

The main advantage of this theory is that it provides tools for analyzing the specifics of each stakeholder involved in the conflict under investigation. It is especially useful for investigating the positions of oil companies, such as Shell and Chevron. These corporations did not put enough effort into considering the perspective of locals. Even during the violent stage of the conflict, they failed to respond to it in an adequate manner. The strategy employed by Shell in the 1990s shows that the company failed to conduct an adequate evaluation of stakeholders. Instead of negotiating on finding a mutually beneficial solution of the problem, this corporation gave money to the military as indicated by the 2001 Greenpeace report. In a similar manner, the stakeholders’ theory allows analyzing the position and actions of each stakeholder, explaining its relationships with other actors involved in the conflict as well as possible instruments that could convince them to work towards finding a resolution of the conflict.

3. Contextualizing Conflict in the Niger Delta

Situating conflict, describing and analyzing its structure, as well as articulating the modes and themes of conflict pose significant philosophical challenges in the discussion of this topic. Moreover, the existing literature does not have a concrete definition of conflict, which leads to its frequent misuse in research. For instance, the terms conflict, crisis, and violence are related and often used interchangeably, although they mean different things. According to Soremekun (2011), conflict often occurs through the interaction between two or more individuals or groups with differing objectives and goals. Therefore, conflict may not always be destructive as in the case of violence. According to Forsyth (1990), conflict occurs when one or more members of a group hold beliefs considered unacceptable to the group collectivities or their social agenda regarding claims of power, status and scarce resources.

Different scholars have outlined the forms and variants of conflicts including elite conflicts, mass conflicts, factional conflicts, communal conflicts, and popular conflicts. Elite conflicts often occur at the political level in which the elites from different backgrounds and divergent policy positions pursue and support different interests leading to the promotion of separate policies that could be detrimental to the well-being of the entire political system. According to Soremekun (2011), mass conflicts entail political movements that seek the induction of rapid and complete alteration of the existing power structure. Mass conflicts often involve revolutions that challenge the validity of the authorities in power. However, most mass conflicts tend to involve quiet rebellions against the authorities in response to exclusion and limited access to the central institutions.

Factional conflicts signify the existence of factional strife. The conflicts are often organized by elites, although they extend to various social groups and proliferate to the lowest social levels. Essentially, they tend to involve extensive mobilization to enable access to the center of power, increase participation in power processes, control the government, or influence specific political decisions and policies. Contrarily, communal conflicts entail strife posed by a proportion or a group of people within a state. They tend to challenge territorial integrity and mass confrontations through protesting the existing distribution of power. Popular conflicts tend to emerge from the conditions created by the state structures including the existence of weak and capricious leaders.

Researchers have conceptualized the resistance and conflict in the Niger Delta as a collective action to check continued alienation, environmental degradation, and expropriation through self-determination and mass restitution (Ayoola, 2010). Much of the ND conflict centers on oil resources (exploration, exploitation, and sharing of revenues). Although the increased production of oil starting in 1976 led to an egalitarian principle for the sharing of resources, communities in the ND have constantly argued that the operations led to increased dispossession of their God-given resource and marginalization, although the local and global media has often failed to depict this in their discourse. The conflict has also reflected the environmental problems in the region. The region has experienced rampant environmental degradation, economic disempowerment, worsening poverty, and increased intra- and inter-communal tensions.

Evidence also shows that the exploration and exploitation of oil in the region has motivated and intensified bloody conflicts between the interests groups between and within communities (Ayoola, 2010). Most of the conflicts involve economic, historical, political, and survivalist agendas (Aghalino, 2009).For instance the relocation of the headquarters of the Warri-South Local Government from Ogbe-Ijoh to Ogidigben in 1997 led to bitter protests and the death of dozens of people (Ayoola, 2010). However, the reasons for such conflicts remain hard to understand without an appropriate understanding of the discourse engendered by the actors during each phase. Therefore, it is important to discuss the phases of the conflict and create an understanding of the actors involved in the conflict.

3.1 The Phases of the Niger Delta Conflict

According to Lederach (1995), conflict is not static but demonstrates dynamism with different long-term and short-term trajectories or phases and thresholds over time. A close examination of the conflict in the Niger Delta supports the view because different phases in the conflict with specific triggering or causal factors appear. Idemudia and Ite (2006) concurred with the view when they suggested that the Niger Delta conflict has gone through different phases suggesting that different factors and actors at different times have exacerbated and accentuated it.


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Nigeria's Niger Delta Conflict. A Critical Analysis from a Peace Researcher Perspective
University of Innsbruck
Peace, Development, Security and International Conflict Transformation
Austrian befriedigend (B- 7,6)
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The topic is well chosen in terms of scope and relevance within the discipline of Peace Studies. Working with Discourse Analysis as method certainly is a consistent choice for the topic. The textualization of the findings is coherent and well elaborated, the red thread easy to follow, the findings clear. Academic Award: MA in Peace and Security.
nigeria, niger, delta, conflict, critical, analysis, peace, researcher, perspective
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BA, MA Chukwu Ambrose (Author), 2018, Nigeria's Niger Delta Conflict. A Critical Analysis from a Peace Researcher Perspective, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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