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ORIGIN OF THE GLOBAL INTEREST TOWARDS THE GULF OF GUINEA TO THE MILITARIZATION OF OIL IN NIGERIA
1.1 Background to the Study
The Gulf of Guinea consists mainly of the South Atlantic eight (8) west, central and Southern African Littoral States of Nigeria, Sao Tome and Principe, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Democratic Republic of Congo, the Republic of Congo, and Angola. Together, these countries are members of the Gulf of Guinea Commission, established on July 3rd 2001 with headquarters in Angola to “offer an agreed Institutional framework for the peaceful and orderly joint exploration and exploitation of the riches of the Gulf(Obadare1, 1996). The commission is also expected to provide the forum for discussing matters of mutual benefit and exploring new avenues for good relations among member countries.
Historically, the vulnerability of this region to exploitation and domination by external groups is legendary. According to Agwu2(2004), the region has witnessed its fragmentation among the British, French, Portuguese, Belgian, Spanish and even the German Colonial overlords.
Unfortunately, despite the history of foreign domination and exploitation, Agwu notes that the Gulf of Guinea is still not popular in geo-strategic importance and debates. The only Gulf according to him that is immediately recognizable in international geo-political and strategic discussions is the Persian Gulf, perhaps because of its greater riches in hydrocarbon deposits.
However, the Gulf of Guinea in recent years has become attractive for oil thirsty highly industrialized countries of the world.
The reasons according to Lubeck, Watts and Lipschutz 3 (2007) includes:
- Rapidly growing global demand for oil, especially by China, the United States of America etc.
- Declining production among several key global suppliers as a result of rapid depletion, under investment and conflict in the Persian Gulf region and
- Increased political instability in the Middle East, Site of the largest oil reserves due to the U.S. led NATO occupation of Iraq, Suni-Shiia rivalries and Islamic-Fundamentalist resistance Movements.
Lubeck et al. further submits that in the short and medium terms, these instabilities, including the assertive petro-nationalism in Iran and Venezuela, and the political conflict in the Andean and the Caspian Oil Zones pose risks to the Energy Security of the West and other industrialized oil consuming countries especially China and the U.S. Thus, the GOG has emerged fully in the sight and Strategic calculations of the world’s major Powers such as the United States of America, China and France Prompting them to contemplate a renewed interest and even presence in the region. In fact, the most recent development with regards to these foreign interests in the Gulf of Guinea is that the United States is deploying her Naval warships in the area. The Secretary of the U.S. Navy, Gordon England, was even quoted to have said that the presence of the U.S. Navy in the Gulf of Guinea is meant to “enhance our operations in the Ungoverned regions of Africa and that the Gulf of Guinea for example is an area where a navy presence would send a strong message of security, stability and reconstruction operations which are needed in this important region and that the U.S. along with our NATO allies will be there to help (Agwu, 2004).
Also Walter kansteiner, a former Assistant Secretary of State for African affairs, while addressing representatives of the U.S. oil industry puts it bluntly when he said;
African oil is of national Strategic Interests to the U.S. and it will increase and become more important as we go forward, it will be people like you who are going to develop that resources, bring the oil home and try to develop the African Countries as you do it.
Unrelenting, especially with the increased awareness among global strategic players that Africa is a virgin land with many deposits of scarce resources in the world, Saliu5 (2006), posits that the U.S. has come up with a new initiative. According to him, in the last ten years, the amount of oil being exported to the U.S. and China has increased steadily with many other oil deposits being discovered across Africa, leading the oil players to conclude accordingly, that the awareness of the Strategic importance of Africa is the beginning of wisdom. To him, AFRICOM (a United States – Africa high command) is therefore the reaction of the U.S., to the gradual emergence of Africa as a leading source of oil in the World.
As a critical actor in the Gulf of Guinea and an acknowledged sub-regional power, Nigeria’s response to these foreign interests in the Gulf of Guinea is variegated in nature. Some argue that, if they want to deploy a military naval vessel, it is their own business because the Gulf of Guinea is a very vast area, and that what Nigeria will not condone is a deployment inside its territorial waters without due consultation, as that would be a violation of international law. (Thisday Newspaper6 (Nigeria) Sunday, June 20, 2004 P. 26). But beyond the legal status of the deployment, there are serious considerations of concrete strategic National Security Implications of these Foreign Interests especially within the domain of the Concern that the South Atlantic within which the Gulf of Guinea falls had been declared a zone of peace and cooperation by the 50th plenary meeting of the UN General Assembly via resolution A/RES/41/11 of October, 27, 1986. (www. UN.org)7.
The resolution of the General Assembly which was initiated by Brazil and supported by almost all the states of the South Atlantic calls on all states of the zone of the South Atlantic to promote further cooperation, Inter alia, for social and economic development, the protection of the environment, the conservation of living resources and the peace and security of the whole region. Particular attention was dedicated to the question of preventing the geo-political proliferation of nuclear weapon and of reducing and eventually the elimination of military presence of countries from other regions.
Allied to the above, UN resolution A/RES/45/36 of 27 November, 1990 also reaffirms the determination of the states of the zone to accelerate their cooperation in political, Economic, scientific, Technical, Cultural and other spheres. Furthermore, articles 56 and 57 of the UN Convention on the law of the sea established in 1982 states that Littoral States are allowed claims of 200 nautical miles – Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). The Coastal States within the regions are empowered by article 74 (3) of the UN Convention on the Law of the sea to create an enabling and workable instrument for regional Cooperation to protect their collective Interests. (Uchegbu 2004)8.
How Nigeria can handle the incursion of these external forces into her Maritime domain remains a contentious issue among politicians, policy makers and military strategists. This is even more worrisome when one views the Gulf of Guinea as Nigeria’s main shipping route in the Atlantic Corridor and an area which harbours Nigeria’s most vital resource – oil, which is the mainstay of our National economy. Serious threats to this vital interest may well spell doom for the country which is yet to fully recover from the militancy that engulfed her Niger-Delta region located within the Gulf of Guinea.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
From the background analysis, it can be gleaned that the epicenter of world oil production is gradually shifting to weaker and unstable developing countries of the global south. One problem that bothers most analysts is the security needed to meet, considering the vastness and porosity of the maritime boundaries shared by the Gulf of Guinea States. It is also instructive to note that policing is particularly tedious for logistical and other reasons. First, apart from the Nigerian Navy, none of the other Gulf of Guinea (GOG) and West African Countries sharing Maritime boundaries with Nigeria has a sizeable and well equipped navy or Coastal capability. On many occasions, the naval authorities in Nigeria have frankly acknowledged that paucity of funds continue to make it difficult for them to repair broken down patrol boats and service ships, or to acquire new ones capable of meeting the growing demands of sea patrol, Interdiction and counter – insurgencies. This is mainly why the GOG countries have become major recipients of controversial external military largesse; principally from the United States, France and China (Ukeje9 , 2010).
This raises the point about the basis for the recent global interest towards the GOG and how these interests are contributing to the militarization of oil in the area. Because oil is a commodity now “intimately intertwined with national security strategies and global politics” (Lindsay10, 2005), the petro-states of the GOG have become notable beneficiaries of growing International engagements with major oil importing countries in North America, Western Europe and Asia. Indeed what is being witnessed is that Africa is fast becoming an arena of different kinds of geopolitical calculations and competitions between Western and emerging powers seeking new oil sources to meet critical domestic needs. The point is that such global quest especially by the U.S., China and some countries of the E. U. to gain control of the GOG oil resources is the driving force for the deployment of hard-power (a militarist, zero-sum approach to oil security) rather than soft power (assisting weak and underdeveloped oil producers to meet their socio-economic and developmental needs).