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A SWAMP FULL OF DOLLARS by Michael Peel Kirkus Star


Pipelines and Paramilitaries at Nigeria’s Oil Frontier

by Michael Peel

Pub Date: July 1st, 2010
ISBN: 978-1-56976-286-8
Publisher: Lawrence Hill Books/Chicago Review

A dynamic exploration of the geopolitics of oil that link Nigeria with its two biggest customers, Great Britain and the United States, revealing the corruption and poverty—and vitality—that permeate that oil-rich country.

Financial Times legal correspondent Peel, who served as the publication’s former West Africa correspondent for many years, calls Nigeria “a little laboratory for the arrogance of a fossil-fuel-obsessed world” and the Niger Delta region a “Mad Max world of roving bandits.” How it got this way is a long, complicated story, dating back to the palm-oil wars of the 19th century, when Nigeria was created as a state by and for the benefit of the British. Peel’s brief history of European colonialism in the area pulls no punches. His present-day report opens and closes with his intrepid visits to militants in the lawless swamps and jungles of the delta who are determined to get their share of the country’s oil wealth. In between he talks with oil-company executives, an urban hustler and warlord and drivers of Lagos's motorbike taxis and buses; he challenges police bribery; and he spends time aboard a U.S. Coast Guard vessel patrolling Nigeria’s coastal waters for oil-thieving pirates. The author’s message is clear: If the West is looking to Nigeria as insurance against oil-supply problems in the unstable Middle East, the bet is a shaky one. Peel’s vivid reporting reveals the systematic plundering of Nigeria’s assets by native politicians and foreign businessmen alike. While the alleged complicity of Western financial institutions in Nigeria’s internal corruption is not news, the author’s judgment that London is in many ways no better than Lagos is surprising. In both cities he sees the same disparity between the haves and the have-nots, with Lagos being more open and blatant in its injustices and abuses of power. In a note of hopefulness about Nigeria’s future, Peel asserts that its very newness as a nation makes radical change more possible than in older countries like Great Britain, where wrongs have been entrenched and concealed for centuries.

A gripping account of a disastrous situation in the making.