July 10, 2008

HARRISONBURG—Today in his weekly “Strategic Interests” column for the World Defense Review, Dr. J. Peter Pham, Director of the Nelson Institute for International and Public Affairs at James Madison University, calls attention to the direct global impact of events in Nigeria’s hydrocarbon-rich Niger Delta region where, last month, near-simultaneous sea and land attacks by dissidents shut down production of nearly 340,000 barrels of oil and 150 million cubic feet of natural gas per day.

With the price for a barrel of crude oil trading around $136 on the New York Mercantile Exchange this week—almost double the year-earlier price—Dr. Pham observes that “the fact that Nigeria’s vast proven reserves, estimated to amount to at least 36.2 billion barrels, are being held virtual hostage by a long-simmering conflict” in which attacks by militants as well as criminal activities have “ kept some approximately one-quarter of Nigeria’s petroleum production capacity of more than 2.5 million barrels offline and cost the West African country its standing as Africa’s biggest oil producer” can no longer be ignored.

Reviewing both recent developments in Nigeria as well as the risk that outside forces may exploit vulnerabilities both in the West African country’s petroleum and security infrastructure and Western dependence upon energy production there, Dr. Pham argues that the United States and other countries face a choice: either establish “adequate international security partnerships with the [Nigerian] federal authorities to ensure that they have the capacity to root out the militants” or apply “sufficient global political pressure to motivate [the Nigerian government of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua] to undertake serious redress of the underlying root causes of the conflict.” In either case, “as energy prices soar further…it is unlikely that diplomats, military officers, and intelligence officials in Washington and other capitals can continue to ignore the waves, increasing in both number and intensity, rippling out of the Niger Delta.”

(In late breaking news this morning, Ibrahim Gambari has been forced to resign as the head of the steering committee for proposed Niger Delta peace summit and the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta announced that it was abandoning its two-week-old unilateral ceasefire as of midnight Saturday.)

To read the full text of the article, “Global Ripples from the Niger Delta,” click here.