Prepared for Members and Committees of Congress
Nigeria, the most populous nation in Africa, with an estimated 138 million people, has faced
intermittent political turmoil and economic crisis since gaining independence in October 1960.
Nigerian political life has been scarred by conflict along both ethnic and geographic lines and
misrule has undermined the authority and legitimacy of the state apparatus. After 16 years of
military rule, Nigeria made a transition to civilian governance in 1999, when Olusegun Obasanjo,
a former general, was elected president. Efforts to allow Obasanjo to stand for a third term were
defeated in 2006. In May 2007, Obasanjo transferred power to a new administration, marking the
country’s first transfer of power from one civilian government to another.
Nigeria faces serious social and economic challenges. Although Nigeria’s oil and natural gas
revenues are estimated at over $40 billion per year, its human development indicators are among
the world’s lowest, and a majority of the population suffer from extreme poverty. Nigeria remains
relatively stable, although ethnic and religious clashes in parts of the country are common.
Thousands have been killed and many more wounded in periodic religious clashes.
Under former President Obasanjo, Nigeria emerged as a major player in Africa. The government
helped to resolve political disputes in Togo, Mauritania, Liberia, and Cote d’Ivoire. Nigeria also
played an important role in facilitating negotiations between the government of Sudan and the
Darfur rebels. Nigerian troops and police have played a vital role in peacekeeping operations in
Sierra Leone and Liberia, and are currently in the Central African Republic, Cote d’Ivoire, the
Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Kosovo, Liberia, Sudan, Timor-Leste, and the Western
Nigeria is one of the United States’ key strategic partners in Africa. The country is Africa’s largest
producer of oil, and is America’s fourth largest oil provider. According to some estimates, Nigeria
could replace Norway as the world’s third largest exporter of oil by 2010. As the continent’s
second largest economy, Nigeria’s stability and prosperity affect not only those in the market for
Nigerian oil, but the entire region.
Nigeria’s most recent general elections were held in April 2007. The U.S. State Department called
the elections “deeply flawed.” Ruling party candidate Umaru Yar’Adua was announced as the
winner of the presidential contest with over 70% of the vote, according to official returns.
Domestic and international election observers reported widespread fraud, intimidation and
violence. The two primary opposition presidential candidates rejected the elections and called for
new polls. The results of several gubernatorial races have been annulled by election tribunals, and
judicial rulings on a number of other electoral complaints are pending. Despite controversy
surrounding his election, though, public opinion toward President Yar’Adua appears increasingly
positive. This report will be updated as the situation warrants.
Backgr ound ..................................................................................................................................... 1
The Transition to Democratic Rule: 1998 & 1999 Elections....................................................3
The 2003 Elections....................................................................................................................3
Electoral Administration Challenges..................................................................................5
Electoral Malfeasance and Political Violence.....................................................................5
Yar’Adua Takes Office.......................................................................................................7
Politically Motivated Corruption Charges..........................................................................8
Current Economic and Social Conditions.....................................................................................10
Misallocation of State Funds.............................................................................................12
The Effects of Corruption.................................................................................................13
H IV / AIDS ....................................................................................................................... .. 13
Islamic Sharia Law...........................................................................................................14
Conflict in the Niger Delta......................................................................................................14
Background of the Struggle..............................................................................................14
Criminality and Violence..................................................................................................15
Efforts to Address Environmental and Development Challenges.....................................16
Effects on the Oil Industry and the World Market............................................................17
The Bakassi Peninsula......................................................................................................18
Issues for Congress........................................................................................................................18
Administration Policy on Nigeria...........................................................................................18
U.S. Assistance to Nigeria................................................................................................20
Congressional Interest.............................................................................................................21 th
The 110 Congress............................................................................................................21 th
The 109 Congress...........................................................................................................22
Figure 1. Map of Nigeria...............................................................................................................23
Table 1. U.S. Assistance to Nigeria...............................................................................................22
Author Contact Information..........................................................................................................24
Nigeria at a Glance
Population: 138 million
Pop. Growth Rate: 2.38%
Independence: October 1960
Comparative Area: Slightly larger than twice the
size of California
Religions: 50% Muslim, 40% Christian,
10% indigenous beliefs
Languages: English (official), 250 local languages
Infant Mortality: 93.9 deaths/1,000 live births
Life Expectancy: 48 years
Prevalence of HIV: 3.9%
Nominal GDP: $135.5 billion (2007)
GNI Per Capita: $640
Exports: $61.81 billion
Imports: $30.35 billion
External Debt: $5.815 billion
Source: The CIA World Fact Book 2008, Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), World Bank.
Nigeria’s economy is Sub-Saharan Africa’s second largest, and it is one of the world’s fastest
growing sources of high quality sweet crude oil and natural gas. Nigeria has mediated conflicts
throughout the continent, and its troops have played a critical role in peace and stability th
operations in the region. The country ranks 4 among troop contributors to U.N. peacekeeping
missions around the world. Nigeria, which is roughly twice the size of California, is also home to
Africa’s second largest HIV/AIDS-infected population and has the continent’s highest
tuberculosis burden. Some experts hypothesize that Nigerian poultry infected with the H5N1
virus may have been the source for avian flu outbreaks in neighboring countries. According to
one senior foreign policy analyst, “no country’s fate is so decisive for the continent. No other
country across a range of issues has the power so thoroughly to shape outcomes elsewhere in sub-1
Despite its oil wealth, Nigeria remains highly underdeveloped. Poor governance has severely
limited infrastructure development and the provision of social services, hindering economic
development and leaving much of the country mired in poverty. The government’s human rights
1 Robert I. Rotberg, “Nigeria: Elections and Continuing Challenges,” Council on Foreign Relations, April 2007.
record is poor. Ethnic and religious strife have been common in Nigeria, and perceived
differences have been politicized by political elites. The country is composed of over 250 distinct
ethnic groups, of which ten account for nearly 80% of the total population. The northern Hausa-
Fulani, the southwestern Yoruba, and the southeastern Ibo have traditionally been the most
politically active and dominant. Almost half of the country’s population are Muslims, who live
primarily in the northern half of the country. Divisions between ethnic groups, between north and
south, between Christian and Muslim, often stem from perceived differences in access to social
and economic development. More than 12,000 Nigerians have been killed in local clashes since 2
Nigeria is a federal republic composed of 36 states; its political structure is similar to that of the
United States. The country has a bicameral legislature with a 109-member Senate and a 360-
member House of Representatives. Its president, legislators, and governors are elected on four 4
year terms. Nigeria’s most recent elections were held on April 14 and 21, 2007. Many, including 5
the U.S. State Department, maintain that the country is still in political transition, and Human
Rights Watch contends that “Nigeria has not held a free and fair general election since the end of 6
Nigeria was ruled by the military for approximately 28 of its 47 years after independence, and
much of its political history has been dominated by a contest for power between north and the
south. Northern military leaders dominated Nigerian politics until 1999, when the country made
the transition to democracy. Today, the Hausa remain dominant in the military and the federal
government, but have lost significant power in many state governments. Since the election of
President Obasanjo in 1999, there has been a de-facto power sharing arrangement between the
north and the south. The main presidential contenders in the April 2007 election were northerners,
and with the retirement of former President Obasanjo, the office has been transferred to a former
northern governor for the current presidential term.
Tension between the north and the south over perceived inequities in economic and educational
development has the potential to lead to widespread political instability. Nigeria’s 2006 census
has drawn controversy over its representation of the regional breakdown of the population,
reportedly concluding that 53.4% of the population lives in the north. This could ultimately affect
the country’s complex system for distributing oil revenues, which are derived from oil reserves in
Southern Nigeria. Resentment between the northern and southern regions of the country has led
to considerable unrest in the past. According to the International Crisis Group, an estimated 8,000
Nigerians were killed in sectarian clashes between 1999 and 2002, and up to 6,000 may have
2 Ibid., p. 20.
3 For more information on Nigeria’s political history, see CRS Report RL33594, Nigeria: Background and U.S.
Relations, by Ted Dagne and Lauren Ploch.
4 State gubernatorial and state legislative elections were held on April 14. The following week, on April 21, the
presidential and federal legislative elections were held.
5 U.S. State Department, “Nigeria,” Country Report on Human Rights Practices 2006.
6 Human Rights Watch, “Election or ‘Selection’? Human Rights Abuses and Threats to Free and Fair Elections in
Nigeria,” April 2007, and “Nigeria: Presidential Election Marred by Fraud, Violence,” April 24, 2007.
been the target of ethnic or religious killings.7 Some reports suggest those numbers may be much
higher. One local human rights group estimates that some 57,000 people have been killed in 8
religious violence in Plateau State alone since 2001. Violent incidents in the area have
diminished considerably since the federal government declared a state of emergency in 2004.
After years of military rule, Olusegun Obasanjo, who had formerly served as a military head of
state from 1976 to 1979, was elected President of Nigeria on February 27, 1999 in nationwide
elections. Prior to the presidential election, Obasanjo’s party, the People’s Democratic Party
(PDP), won the majority of municipalities in local elections, held in December 1998, while the
All People’s Party (APP) came in a distant second, followed by the Alliance for Democracy
(AD). In the governorship elections in early January 1999, the PDP also dominated. Atiku
Abubakar, a northerner who was elected governor of Adamawa State in the January elections, was
chosen by the PDP as the running mate of Obasanjo, a Yoruba from southwestern Nigeria. The
APP and AD nominated Chief Olu Falae, a Yoruba, as their joint candidate for president. A
former Nigerian security chief and a northerner, Chief Umaru Shinakfi, was chosen as Falae’s
General Obasanjo was elected president by a wide margin. Obasanjo won 62.8% of the votes
(18.7 million), while his challenger, Chief Olu Falae, received 37.2% of the votes (11.1 million).
In the Senate elections, the PDP won 58% of the votes, APP 23%, and AD 19%. In the elections
for the House of Representatives, PDP received 59% of the votes, AD 22%, and APP 20%.
On May 29, 1999, Obasanjo was sworn in as president and the Nigerian Senate approved 42 of 49
members of his cabinet. In his inaugural address, President Obasanjo said that “the entire
Nigerian scene is very bleak indeed. So bleak people ask me where do we begin? I know what
great things you expect of me at this New Dawn. As I have said many times in my extensive
travels in the country, I am not a miracle worker. It will be foolish to underrate the task ahead.
Alone, I can do little.”
In April 2003, Nigerians went to the polls for the second time under a civilian government.
President Obasanjo was nominated by his party to serve a second-term. The All Nigeria Peoples
Party (ANPP) picked another former military leader, General Muhammadu Buhari, as its
presidential candidate. Meanwhile, the former rebel leader, Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, who led
the secessionist region of Biafra in Nigeria’s civil war in the 1960s, was picked as the presidential
candidate of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA). The National Democratic Party (NDP)
picked former foreign minister Ike Nwachukwu as its presidential candidate.
President Obasanjo was reelected to a second term, and his PDP party won in legislative
elections. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared that Obasanjo won
61.9% of the votes, while his nearest rival, General Muhammadu Buhari of ANPP, won 32.1% of
the votes. In the Senate, the PDP won 72 seats out of 109 seats, while the ANPP won 28 and the
7 The International Crisis Group, “Want in the Midst of Plenty,” Africa Report No. 113, July 19, 2006, p. 15.
8 “Jos Voters Angry and Divided,” IRIN, April 9, 2007.
AD 5 seats. The PDP won 198 seats in the 360-seat House of Representatives, the ANPP 83 seats,
and the AD 30 seats. The elections, however, were marred by serious irregularities and electoral
fraud, according to both domestic and international election observers. Among the irregularities
noted, much emphasis was placed on “inadequate election administration.” Controversy
surrounded the voter registration process, the certification of candidates, and poor logistical
preparations for the elections. One INEC official allegedly admitted that the voters’ register was 9
“25-30% fiction.” Reports of electoral malfeasance, or rigging, were also noted. Ballot box
stuffing, falsification of election result forms, and threats of violence were among the most
serious charges. In some states, observers noted “systematic attempts at all stages of the voting 10
process to alter the election results.” Although reports of rigging varied widely among states, the
extent of irregularities caused some to suggest that they “compromised the integrity of the 11
elections where they occurred.” The European Union delegation noted that in at least six states 12
“the minimum standards for democratic elections were not met.” Several election results were
In April 2006, the Nigerian Senate considered a bill to amend the constitution. One of the
contentious proposals would have removed the two-term limitation and allowed a third-term
presidency; Obasanjo supporters had reportedly pushed for this step for months. The Nigerian
Senate rejected the legislation in May 2006.
Nigeria’s third national elections since the country’s return to democratic rule were held April 14
and 21, 2007, amid widespread allegations of electoral mismanagement and fraud. The ruling
party’s presidential candidate, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, governor of Katsina state in northern
Nigeria, who was strongly supported by President Obasanjo, was declared the winner with over
24.6 million votes, or 70%. Yar’Adua’s running mate, Goodluck Jonathan, Governor of Bayelsa
State, hails from the Niger Delta. Some critics suggest that Obasanjo “hand-picked” Yar’Adua in 13
order to retain political influence after he leaves office. President Yar’Adua was sworn into
office on May 29, 2007.
The country’s two largest opposition parties, the ANPP and the Action Congress (AC), rejected
the election results. The ANPP’s presidential candidate, former President General Muhammadu
Buhari, a northerner, received an estimated six million votes. Buhari lost the presidential election
to Obasanjo in 2003, but some opinion polls conducted prior to the 2007 elections suggested that 14
he enjoyed greater support than Yar’Adua. The AC’s chosen candidate, former Vice-President
Atiku Abubakar, who also hails from the north, was not among the 24 presidential contenders
approved by INEC in May, allegedly because of pending corruption charges against him. His
exclusion exacerbated tensions during the pre-election period, and his supporters contend he was
9 Human Rights Watch, “Election or ‘Selection’? Human Rights Abuses and Threats to Free and Fair Elections in
Nigeria,” April 2007.
10 The International Republican Institute, 2003 Election Observation Report, p. 65.
11 The National Democratic Institute, “Statement of the NDI International Election Observer Delegation to Nigeria’s
April 19 Presidential and Gubernatorial Elections,” April 21, 2003.
12 The European Union, EU Election Observation Final Report: Nigeria, p. 2.
13 International Crisis Group, “Nigeria’s Elections: Avoiding A Political Crisis,” Africa Report No. 123, March 28,
14 “Yar’Adua Prepares for Power,” Africa Confidential, April 13, 2007.
unjustly excluded because he had opposed Obasanjo’s third term. A last-minute ruling by
Nigeria’s Supreme Court restored Abubakar to the ballot, and he placed third with an estimated
The ruling PDP won the majority of the state and federal elections, including 27 of the 36 state
governorships. Opposition gubernatorial candidates won in at least six states, including the most
populous states of Lagos and Kano. INEC rescheduled elections in five states (Delta, Edo, Enugu,
Imo, and Ondo) because of widespread allegations of fraud, threats of violence, or the inability of
voters to cast their ballots. The results of several of those repeat elections have been challenged in
the courts. To date, the results of 10 of the 36 gubernatorial races have been overturned, and the
elections of several legislators, including Senate President David Mark, have been annulled. A
tribunal hearing the challenges to President Yar’Adua’s win reached its verdict in February 2008,
finding insufficient evidence to overturn the election.
With an estimated 60 million registered voters and 120,000 polling stations, the challenges in
electoral administration are daunting in Nigeria. Prior to the 2007 elections, some observers
expressed concern over the pace of election preparations, and INEC’s credibility and capacity to
conduct a free and fair election was questioned. Nigeria’s voter registration process began in
October 2006 under a new computerized system. INEC originally allotted a six week period for
the process, during which reports suggested the process had “so far fallen only a little short of 15
disaster,” but later extended the registration period. Although concerns over the slow start of the
registration process were largely resolved, criticism remained that the voter registration list was
not widely posted so that voters could ensure their names were registered, in accordance with the
Electoral Act of 2006. INEC later drew fire from critics who charged that the commission had not
made contingency arrangements in the event of a court ruling that would allow Abubakar’s
candidacy. According to press reports, over 60 million ballots were printed in the weeks prior to
the election that did not include his name. After the April 16 Supreme Court ruling, new ballots
had to be produced, arriving from South Africa less than 24 hours before the vote. Distributing 16
those ballots to the 120,000 polling stations was deemed a “logistical nightmare.” Some
observers questioned the Administration’s influence over INEC’s leadership and its finances; they 17
alleged that INEC lacked independence and would not conduct elections fairly.
Pre-election reports by several domestic and international monitoring groups suggested that the
credibility of the elections had already been undermined prior to April 14, and many analysts and 18
observers expected a high level of electoral fraud. In addition to concerns over INEC’s ability to
administer the election, there were reports by human rights activists and media sources of
harassment of domestic observers, opposition candidates and supporters, as well as reports of
15 The National Democratic Institute, “Is Nigeria Ready to Vote?,” Nigeria Election Watch, November 2006.
16 Oxford Analytica, “Nigeria: Flawed Polls Affect Democratic Stability,” April 23, 2007.
17 The International Crisis Group, “Nigeria’s Elections: Avoiding A Political Crisis,” Africa Report No. 123, March 28,
2007, p. 14.
18 Rotberg, p. 8.
detention of journalists who had written articles critical of the government.19 The State
Department documented numerous incidents of police disbanding opposition gatherings, at times 20
with excessive force, in its annual human rights report for 2006. According to the report, police
used the 1990 Public Order Act to prevent meetings critical of the government in spite of a high
court decision rejecting the authority of the police to do so. The State Department also tied the
Nigerian government or “its agents” to politically motivated killings.
Tension between political parties and candidates during the election campaign led to violence in 21
several locations; three gubernatorial candidates were assassinated in 2006. Clashes between 22
party supporters reportedly resulted in over 70 deaths during the pre-election period. The threat
of violence was high in the Niger Delta region and other “hot spots,” including the cities of
Lagos, Kano, and Kaduna, as well in states such as Anambra, Benue, Plateau, and Taraba. The
U.S. State Department has accused several state governments of funding vigilante groups to
“detain and kill suspected criminals,” and suggests that police have done little to investigate or 23
stop the violence. There is considerable concern that these groups were used for political
purposes during the electoral period. Some election observer groups, including the European
Union and the Commonwealth, did not send observers to the Niger Delta region because of
threats of violence and/or kidnapping.
The threat of violence and legal disputes surrounding the elections led many observers to question
whether elections would be held as scheduled. On April 16, the Nigerian Supreme Court ruled
that INEC must include AC candidate Atiku Abubakar on the presidential ballot. On the same
day, an estimated 300 armed members of an Islamic group known as the Taliban stormed a police
station in Kano State and killed 13 policemen, reportedly in retaliation for the April 13
assassination of a prominent Islamic cleric in a city mosque. Four days prior to the presidential
and legislative elections, on April 17, opposition parties called for the postponement of the
elections and disbanding of INEC on account of problems associated with the April 14 polls. The
ANPP and the AC also demanded the cancellation of the state election results and threatened to 24
boycott the April 21 election. The ANPP reversed its boycott threat later in the week, as did the
Political violence during the elections was sporadic. Several police stations and INEC offices
around the country were burned, and there was a failed attempt to blow up the INEC headquarters 25
in Abuja. Some estimate that as many as 200 people may have been killed during the elections.
Preliminary statements from domestic and international observer groups were highly critical, and
many questioned the credibility of the election results. Most cautioned, however, against making
a final judgment on the elections until after the adjudication of electoral disputes. Violations and
irregularities reported by election observers included polling locations opening late, closing early,
or not opening at all; errors in printed ballots for the legislative races and presidential ballots
19 “Nigerian Secret Police Detain Journalists,” Voice of America, January 11, 2007.
20 U.S. State Department, “Nigeria,” Country Report on Human Rights Practices 2006.
21 The gubernatorial candidates assassinated were vying for positions in Ekiti, Lagos, and Plateau States.
22 Human Rights Watch, “Election or ‘Selection’? Human Rights Abuses and Threats to Free and Fair Elections in
Nigeria,” April 2007.
23 U.S. State Department, “Nigeria,” Country Report on Human Rights Practices 2006.
24 “Presidential Polls: Buhari, Atiku, Others Call for Postponement,” This Day, April 18, 2007.
25 “Landslide Win for Yar’Adua is ‘Flawed,” Financial Times, April 23, 2007.
lacking serial numbers and some candidates’ names; underage voting; vote buying; ballot box
stuffing and theft; and falsified results sheets. Media reports also documented widespread 26
incidents of thuggery and coercion at polling places. The largest domestic monitoring group, the
Transition Monitoring Group, suggested that elections were so flawed that they should be held 27
again. According to the U.S.-based National Democratic Institute (NDI) delegation, led by
former U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright and several former world leaders, “in many
places, and in a number of ways, the electoral process failed the Nigerian people. The cumulative 28
effect ... substantially compromised the integrity of the electoral process.” The Chief Observer
of the European Union delegation said that the elections “have not lived up to the hopes and
expectations of the Nigerian people and the process cannot be considered to have been credible.”
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) delegation was similarly critical,
suggesting that “irregularities and the sporadic violence characterized and challenged the validity 29
of the elections.” The U.S.-based International Republican Institute (IRI) called the elections
“below acceptable standards,” noting that the resolution of election disputes would be “critical” to 30
restoring the credibility of the country’s democratic process.
Former President Obasanjo reportedly acknowledged some electoral irregularities, notably
“logistical failures,” violence, and ballot box theft, but announced that elections would not be re-31
held, saying “the magnitude does not make the results null and void.” Opposition calls for mass
protests went largely unheeded, although according to media reports thousands gathered in the
streets of Kano, northern Nigeria’s largest city, on April 23, before being dispersed by police with
tear gas. World oil prices rose to $68 a barrel in the week after the election, reportedly based in 32
part on concerns surrounding the disputed polls. Despite speculation that questions surrounding
the credibility of the election results might trigger a military coup, Yar’Adua’s inauguration was
Although many observers suggest Umaru Yar’Adua’s presidency faces a “crisis of legitimacy,”
due to the reportedly systemic fraud that underlay his electoral victory, some observers have 33
responded with cautious optimism to his promises of reform. The new president conceded in his
inaugural speech that the electoral process was flawed, and has appointed a panel of government
officials, former judges, and civil society representatives to recommend changes to the country’s
electoral institutions. He weathered early challenges to his administration, including a general
strike by Nigeria’s labor unions over a rise in fuel prices and value-added tax. In response to the
strike, Yar’Adua reduced the price hike and announced a review of privatization deals on two of
26 See, for example, “Nigerian: Forced to Vote Against My Wish,” BBC, April 23, 2007.
27 “Call for Nigeria Street Protests,” BBC, April 24, 2007.
28 The National Democratic Institute, “Statement of the National Democratic Institute International Election Observer
Delegation to Nigeria’s April 21 Presidential and National Assembly Elections,” April 23, 2007.
29 “Nigeria: Elections Fraudulent; EU, Others,” Daily Trust (Abuja), April 24, 2007.
30 The International Republican Institute, “Nigeria’s Elections Below Acceptable Standards: Preliminary Findings of
IRI’s International Election Observation Mission,” April 22, 2007.
31 “Obasanjo Appeals to Nigerians Over Election Results,” Radio Nigeria-Abuja, April 23, 2007, and “Nigerian
President Olusegun Obasanjo Says Elections Flawed, But Not Fatally,” Associated Press, April 25, 2007.
32 “Landslide Win for Yar’Adua is ‘Flawed,’” Financial Times, April 23, 2007.
33 “Nigeria: Yar’Adua Faces Immediate Challenges,” Oxford Analytica, May 29, 2007, and Lydia Polgreen, “After
Rocky Election, Nigerians Warm to New Leader,” New York Times, October 4, 2007.
the countries refineries. He has also voiced commitments to countering corruption and
restructuring the country’s oil and gas industry. An October 2007 report by Human Rights Watch
(HRW) noted “encouraging gestures of respect for the rule of law and the notion of transparency 34
in government.” In January 2008, however, HRW suggested that “the credibility of President
Yar’Adua’s rhetoric about promoting the rule of law is at stake,” after changes were made to the 35
country’s lead anti-corruption agency.
The Obasanjo Administration won praise for some of its efforts to combat the rampant corruption
that has plagued Nigeria, but some charge that the former president used corruption charges to 36
sideline critics and political opponents. Investigations by the Economic and Financial Crimes
Commission (EFCC), a Nigerian law enforcement agency created in 2003 to combat corruption
and fraud, have resulted in the arrest of over 2,000 responsible for illegal email scams and in over 37
130 convictions for fraud. The International Crisis Group (ICG) suggests that the EFCC has
been “used as a political weapon to whip political foes, especially state governors likely to stand 38
for the presidency and their supporters, into line.” Five state governors, some of whom were
considered contenders for the PDP presidential nomination, were impeached in 2005-2006 for 39
corruption. The ICG charges that the impeachments were conducted under heightened military 40
presence in those states and lacked due process. Three of the impeachments have been reversed
by appeals courts. In October 2006 the head of the EFCC warned that investigations of alleged
financial crimes were underway for 31 of the country’s 36 state governors, and several now face 41
prosecution. In February 2007, the EFCC released a list of 135 candidates in the April elections
who were “unfit to hold public office because of corruption,” 53 of which were PDP and 82 42
opposition candidates. The legality of INEC’s decision to bar candidates on the EFCC’s list 43
from the elections remains in question.
Nigeria’s most controversial corruption scandal has centered on former Vice President Atiku
Abubakar, whose own political ambitions may have been sidelined by allegations of corruption.
Abubakar, once an ally of Obasanjo and a founding member of the ruling party, publicly opposed
Obansanjo’s third term bid. Abubakar was suspended temporarily from the PDP over corruption
charges in late 2006 and was thus unable to participate in the PDP’s primary. He subsequently
changed his party affiliation, joining the Action Congress party, and the ruling party sought to
have him removed from office. In December 2006 a Nigerian court ruled that as Vice President,
34 Human Rights Watch, Criminal Politics: Violence, “Godfathers” and Corruption in Nigeria, Vol. 19, No. 16(A),
October 2007, p. 105.
35 Statement of Peter Takirambudde, Africa director of Human Rights Watch on January 1, 2007, available at
36 “Strong Convictions: Nigeria’s First Anti-Corruption Czar,” Christian Science Monitor, February 8, 2007.
38 International Crisis Group, “Nigeria’s Elections: Avoiding A Political Crisis,” Africa Report No. 123, March 28,
2007. p. 3.
39 The impeached governors represented Bayelsa, Oyo, Ekiti, Anambra, and Plateau States.
40 Ibid., p. 3.
41 See, for example, Alex Mabayoje, “Closing in on Corrupt Governors,” Newswatch, October 9, 2006, and “Nigerian
Ex-Governors Are Charged,” BBC News, July 17, 2007.
42 “Strong Convictions: Nigeria’s First Anticorruption Czar,” Christian Science Monitor, February 8, 2007.
43 The Economist Intelligence Unit, Nigeria: Country Report, March 2007.
Abubakar was immune from prosecution for corruption charges while in office. In February 2007,
a Federal Court of Appeals in Abuja confirmed Abubakar’s constitutional right to remain Vice
President regardless of his change in party affiliation, but his legal troubles were not over.
Abubakar’s name appeared among those on the EFCC’s February list of corrupt candidates, and
INEC subsequently excluded him from the presidential ballot.
The March 2007 decision by INEC to exclude Abubakar from the ballot was part of a complex
series of legal battles between the Obasanjo Administration and the former Vice President. In
June 2006, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) allegedly requested the assistance of
Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in the investigation of a U.S.
congressman who had been accused of taking a bribe from Nigerian officials of the Petroleum 44
Trust Fund, a state agency which Abubakar had chaired. The EFCC inquiry allegedly uncovered
evidence linking Abubakar with the bribery case and charged him with stealing over $125 million
in federal oil funds; Abubakar denies the charges. In August 2006 the results of the inquiry were
provided to the President, who turned the matter over to an Administrative Panel of Inquiry,
which in turn recommended prosecution. The indictment was passed to the National Assembly in
September. In November, a Lagos justice nullified the EFCC report and “set aside” the Panel of
Inquiry, ruling that the report had no legal foundation. The EFCC appealed the judgement.
According to Nigeria’s constitution, a presidential aspirant is ineligible to run if “he has been
indicted for embezzlement or fraud by a Judicial Commission of Inquiry or an Administrative
Panel of Inquiry.” In early March, 2007, a Federal High Court ruled that INEC lacked the
authority to disqualify candidates unless ordered to by a court of law. On April 3, a Nigerian
appeals court ruled that the disqualification of candidates was in fact within INEC’s authority.
Hours later, the Federal High Court in Abuja contradicted that ruling, determining that INEC
lacked the authority to exclude Abubakar from the election and ordering that the electoral body
place Abubakar’s name on the ballot. Although the appeals court is the higher of the two judicial
bodies, according to some legal analysis neither court has jurisdiction over the case of the other,
leaving the issue unresolved.
The final decision rested with the country’s Supreme Court, which had been expected to consider
the matter during the week of April 9, 2007. On April 11, President Obasanjo declared April 12
and 13 public holidays to allow voters to travel home for the elections on April 14, effectively
postponing any ruling by the Supreme Court until the week of the presidential elections. On April
16, five days before the elections, the court ruled that INEC could not disqualify candidates and
thus Abubakar’s name should be included on the ballot.
In August 2007, the government announced plans to “streamline criminal prosecution of
corruption-related offenses” by requiring that all prosecuting agencies, including the EFCC and
the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), report and initiate criminal proceedings 45
with the consent and approval of the attorney general. Prior to this announcement, the EFCC
and ICPC prosecuted offenses independently from the ministry of justice. Critics have expressed 46
concerns that the new procedures could impede prosecutions.
44 “Strong Convictions: Nigeria’s First Anti-Corruption Czar,” Christian Science Monitor, February 8, 2007.
45 “Nigerian Minister of Justice Takes Charge of Corruption Prosecution,” VOA News, August 7, 2007.
In late December 2007, Nigeria’s Inspector General of Police announced the transfer of EFCC
head Nhuru Ribadu to the state of Jos to attend a one-year course at a Nigerian policy institute.
Some observers have questioned whether Ribadu’s transfer may be linked to his order two weeks
earlier for the arrest of former Delta State Governor James Ibori, one of the primary financial
contributors to Yar’Adua’s presidential campaign. The Executive Director of the U.N. Office on
Drugs and Crime wrote a letter to President Yar’Adua on January 7 suggesting Ribadu’s removal
could be detrimental to ongoing investigations and might damage the reputation of the EFCC in 47
the view of international donors. The EFCC has continued to prosecute high profile cases,
however, and in January 2008 ordered the arrest of Lucky Igbinedion, former governor of Edo
State, who is alleged to have stolen $25 million. In the Senate unanimously approved the
appointment of a former high-ranking police officer, Farida Waziri, to replace Ribadu. Some in
Nigerian civil society have expressed concerns that Waziri may have been appointed to derail the 48
prosecution of Ibori and others.
Who is Umaru Yar’Adua?
Until he was elected to be the PDP’s presidential candidate in the ruling party’s primaries in December 2006, Umaru
Yar’Adua, who was declared the winner of the April 2007 presidential race, was largely unknown to most Nigerians.
The former chemistry professor served most recently as governor of the northern Katsina State since his election in
1999. The reclusive Yar’Adua, 57, is reported to be a devout Muslim, and is one of few politicians in Nigeria that have
been untainted by corruption scandals.
His better-known older brother, the late General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, served as Vice President under Olusegun
Obasanjo in Nigeria’s first military government to transfer power over to civilian rule and was reported to be one of
the wealthiest and most powerful men in the country. He died in prison in 1997 after having been sentenced by a
military tribunal in 1995 for treason after calling for former dictator Sani Abacha to reestablish civilian rule.
Yar’Adua’s father was a prominent minster in the country’s first government after independence.
Many observers suggest that President Yar’Adua will uphold his campaign promise to fight corruption; in 1999 he
became the first governor to publicly declare his assets before he was sworn-in. Others suggest that given the lack of
credibility surrounding his election, Yar’Adua may have to resort to a system of patronage to garner support for his
rule. There are also concerns that former President Obasanjo hopes to use Yar’Adua to maintain his hold on power,
although some analysts suggest he may not be as easily controlled by Obasanjo as many expect. There have been
questions about the new President’s health—in early March 2007 he reportedly received kidney treatment in
Germany, and has traveled to Europe several times for medical treatment since his election.
Nigeria has the second largest economy in Africa and generates almost$50 billion a year in oil
and gas revenue, and yet many of its people are among the continent’s poorest.Over 50% of
Nigerians live on less than $1 per day, and the average life expectancy is only 48 years. Nigeria
has the world’s third largest HIV/AIDS population (after South Africa and India), and in 2004 49
was home to two-thirds of the world’s polio cases. The country ranks 158 of 177 countries on
47 Matthew Green, “Nigerian Anti-Graft Police Arrest Governor,” Reuters, January 22, 2008.
48 See, for example, “Nigerian Group Criticizes Choice of a New Corruption Chief,” Voice of America, May 27, 2008.
49 Nigerian Muslim clerics in 2002 called for a boycott of the polio vaccine, citing safety concerns. In 2003, the
Governor of Kano State, which had one of the world’s highest incidences of polio, instituted an 11-month ban on the
vaccinations. The ban was lifted in summer 2004. The World Health Organization linked a rise in Nigeria’s polio cases
U.N. Development Programme’s (UNDP) Human Development Index.50 The U.S. State
Department attributes Nigeria’s lack of social and economic development to “decades of 51
Nigeria’s economy depends heavily on its oil sector. According to the World Bank, oil and gas
production account for 85% of government revenues, 99% of export earnings, and 52% of the
country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The European Union is a major trading partner, and the
United States is a significant consumer of Nigerian oil. The Economist Intelligence Unit forecasts
growth of 7% for 2008, due primarily to expanded deepwater oil production. As the country’s
extractive industries have grown, many of its other industries have stagnated or declined. Once
thriving agricultural production has been on the decline for years, and Nigeria now imports food
and refined petroleum products. In an effort to increase its refining capacity, the government has
granted permits for the construction of several independently owned refineries.
The Yar’Adua Administration has stressed its commitment to reforming the oil and gas industry.
In August 2007, the government announced plans to dissolve the Nigerian National Petroleum
Corporation (NNPC), which oversees regulation of the industry and has been criticized for its
lack of transparency. Under Yar’Adua’s proposal, a new National Energy Council (NEC), headed
by the president, will oversee the industry. The President has appointed Rilwanu Lukman, a
former OPEC secretary-general, as a member of the NEC and as chairman of the Oil and Gas
Reforms Implementation Committee. Lukman’s committee is now reviewing the contracts of 52
foreign oil companies, suggesting “we may have to reconsider some of our generous terms.”
The government reportedly has plans to consolidate its joint ventures under one company, similar 53
to Malaysia’s state-run oil company, Petronas. Some analysts suggest the international oil
majors would respond positively to such a consolidation, which could increase efficiency in the 54
approval of new projects.
The Obasanjo administration made significant commitments to economic reform, including
efforts to deregulate fuel prices and to improve monitoring of official revenue. But the country
has made slow progress in privatizing state enterprises and eliminating trade barriers. According 55
to the U.S. State Department, corruption in Nigeria is “massive, widespread, and pervasive.”
Nigeria ranks 147 out of 179 countries on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions 56
Index. Many observers suggest that the country’s development will be hindered until it can 57
reverse its perceived “culture of impunity for political and economic crimes.” President
and strains elsewhere on the continent to the interruption in vaccinations. For more information see “Nigeria: Restoring
Faith in the Polio Vaccine,” IRIN, August 30, 2006.
50 UNDP’s human development index is a composite measure of life expectancy, adult literacy and school enrollment,
and income. More information is available at the UNDP website, http://www.undp.org.
51 U.S. State Department, Congressional Budget Justification for Foreign Operations FY2008 Budget Request.
52 Matthew Green, “Nigeria Considers Oil Contracts Review,” Financial Times, October 23, 2007.
53 “Nigeria Seeks Energy Industry Control Amid Rising Oil Prices,” Dow Jones International News, November 20,
55 U.S. State Department, “Nigeria,” Country Report on Human Rights Practices 2006.
56 The Corruption Perceptions Index measures the perceptions of business people and country analysts regarding the
degree of corruption among public officials and politicians. For more information see http://www.transparency.org/
57 International Crisis Group, “Want in the Midst of Plenty,” Africa Report No. 113, July 19, 2006.
Yar’Adua has ordered the review of all privatization agreements approved by former President
Obasanjo, amid charges of corruption associated with the sales, and has already reversed several
contracts. Deals related to electricity production have received particular focus, amidst a
nationwide power crisis. President Yar’Adua has pledged to triple electricity production by 2010.
Former Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha reportedly stole more than $3.5 billion during the course of
his five years in power. Switzerland, the first country to repatriate stolen funds to Nigeria,
transferred an estimated $505.5 million to Nigeria between 2005 and 2006. According to study by
the World Bank, a significant percentage of those funds were used by the Nigerian government
toward meeting the country’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The government has also
recovered $149 million of the funds stolen by Abacha and his family from the autonomous British
island of Jersey and an estimated $150 million from Luxembourg. Other Abacha funds remain
frozen in accounts in Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.
The EFCC estimates that over $380 billion has been expropriated by Nigeria’s political and 58
military leaders since oil sales began in the 1970s. In 2005, Nigerian Senate Speaker Adolphus
Wabara was forced to resign after President Obasanjo accused him of taking more than $400,000
in bribes from the Minister of Education, Fabian Osuji. The Education Minister was also
dismissed. The Minister of Housing, Alice Mobolaji Osomo, was also fired for allocating more
than 200 properties to senior government officials instead of public sale. In October 2006, the
governor of Ekiti State was impeached by local legislators on corruption charges. In a
controversial move, Obasanjo declared a state of emergency in Ekiti, suspending the state’s
democratic institutions and naming a retired general as governor until the 2007 elections. In the
view of some observers, Obasanjo’s anti-corruption campaign was seen as the most serious and
effective of such efforts in decades, but others contend there were political motivations behind
some investigations. More recently, the Speaker and Deputy Speaker of Nigeria’s House of
Representatives resigned under threat of impeachment amidst allegations that the they used $5
million in government funds to renovate their official residences and to buy 12 cars.
Former President Obasanjo himself has not escaped charges of corruption. In March 2007, a
Nigerian Senate committee report recommended that both Obasanjo and Abubakar be prosecuted 59
for illegal use of government funds. Obasanjo has rejected the charges. Other parliamentary
panels continue to investigate allegations of corruption during his tenure as president. His
daughter, who chairs Nigeria’s Senate Health Committee, was charged by the EFCC in 2008 with
Several multinational corporations are now under investigation for paying bribes in Nigeria. The
U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has subpoenaed documents from Royal Dutch Shell
related to a probe of an alleged bribery case at a Nigerian gas plant. The alleged bribery case is
being investigated in several countries, including France, Nigeria, Japan, and the United
Kingdom. The companies involved in the natural gas project and the alleged bribery include
Halliburton; Total of France; and Italy’s Eni. The U.S. Justice Department is leading the probe 60
into Halliburton’s role, and officials have reported evidence of bribes paid. In December 2007,
58 “Strong Convictions: Nigeria’s First Anticorruption Czar,” Christian Science Monitor, February 8, 2007.
59 “Obasanjo Rejects Graft Indictment,” BBC News, February 22, 2007.
60 “The Gas Ghost Keeps Haunting,” Africa Confidential, May 9, 2008.
Nigeria suspended its contracts with the Siemens after a German court found the company guilty 61
of paying an estimated 10 million euros in bribes to Nigerian officials between 2001 and 2004.
Due to decades of economic mismanagement, political instability, and widespread corruption, the
education and social services systems have suffered from lack of funding, industry has idled,
refineries are in poor condition, and the sixth-largest oil-producing country in the world suffers
periodically from severe fuel shortages. In 2005, President Obasanjo stated that he would stop
Nigeria’s foreign debt payment if parliament passed legislation requiring him to do so. Nigeria’s
House of Representatives subsequently passed a motion recommending that Obasanjo “cease
forthwith further external debt payment to any group of foreign creditors,” but then included $1.3
billion in debt service payments in its 2005 budget. Speaking on behalf of African leaders at the
G-8 Summit in Scotland in 2005, President Obasanjo welcomed the proposed aid package for
Africa. Meanwhile, Nigeria reached a separate agreement with the Paris Club to reduce its
external debt burden, and in 2005, creditors wrote off 60% ($18 billion) of Nigeria’s estimated
$30 billion in external debt to the Club’s creditor nations. Nigeria paid the remaining $12.4
billion from oil revenues. According to World Bank estimates, the country’s debt elimination
frees $750 million for programs aimed at poverty reduction and reaching the country’s
Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
Nigeria’s HIV/AIDS prevalence rate of 3.9% is relatively small in comparison to some Southern
African nations with adult seropositivity rates of over 30% . However, the West African nation
comprises nearly one-tenth of the world’s HIV/AIDS infected persons with 2.9 million infected
people (UNAIDS 2006 estimate), the largest HIV-positive population in Africa after South Africa.
Nigeria’s population is expected to double by the year 2025, which will multiply the spread of the
HIV virus considerably. In addition to the devastation HIV/AIDS has caused and continues to
cause among Nigeria’s adult population, half of the current population is under the age of 15.
With just over half of primary-school-aged children in school and the large number of
HIV/AIDS-infected adults, Nigeria faces serious challenges and significant obstacles in the
education and health care sectors.
In February 2007, the World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed the presence of H5N1 virus,
which causes avian influenza, or bird flu, in a 22-year-old deceased female from Lagos. She is
believed to be the first human to have died from the disease in Sub-Saharan Africa. The H5N1
virus had previously been identified in poultry outbreaks in the country, and may be the source 62
for infected poultry in neighboring countries. According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture 63
Organization, Nigeria has not yet been able to successfully contain the disease.
61 “Nigeria to Blacklist Siemens After Bribery Scandal,” Reuters, December 5, 2007.
62 For more information on the Avian Flu in Nigeria, see CRS Report RL33871, Foreign Countries' Response to the
Avian Influenza (H5N1) Virus: Current Status, by Emma Chanlett-Avery et al..
63 U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, “Fewer Bird Flu Outbreaks This Year,” April 2, 2007.
Nigeria is home to Sub-Saharan Africa’s largest Muslim population. Twelve of Nigeria’s states in
the Sunni Muslim-dominated North of the country have adopted Islamic Sharia law since 1999.
In some states, the introduction of sharia has proved to be a flashpoint between Muslims and
Christians—sectarian clashes in Kaduna state in 2000 resulted in an estimated 2,000 deaths. The
introduction of sharia has also resulted in much-publicized rulings, several of which have been
criticized by human rights groups as well as by Nigerians in the Southern and mostly Christian
part of the country. However, while sharia courts have issued several controversial stoning and
amputation sentences, the U.S. State Department reports that none of these sentences have been 64
implemented. Kano state ruled in 2003 that all school girls attending government schools were
to wear the hijab, Islamic head scarf, regardless of whether they are Muslim. Former President
Obasanjo reportedly said that the best way to respond to Sharia is to ignore it: “I think Sharia will
fizzle out. To confront it is to keep it alive.” In 2002, in Katsina State, Amina Lawal was
sentenced to death by stoning after a court found her guilty of adultery. In 2003, Ms. Lawal
appealed her sentence to the Katsina State’s Appeals Court and won after the court ruled that her
conviction was invalid. The court ruled that “it is the view of this Court that the judgment of the
Upper Sharia Court, Funtua, was very wrong and the appeal of Amina Lawal is hereby discharged
and acquitted.” In another highly publicized case, a Sharia court in the State of Sokoto sentenced
Safiya Hussaini in 2001 to death for adultery. Ms. Hussaini appealed her sentence and was
exonerated on the grounds that she was impregnated by her former husband and that the affair
took place before Sharia law was enacted. Despite such cases, many observers see the
interpretation and implementation of Nigerian sharia as moderate in comparison to that of some
other Islamic countries.
Oil from the southern Niger Delta region has accounted for over 75% of the country’s oil
production since the 1970s, and yet the area’s political history remains one of conflict and
marginalization. The Delta is home to an estimated 31 million people. Among them are the
Ogoni, an ethnic minority whose members have received international attention for their efforts to
highlight the extensive environmental damage done by oil extraction in the region. In 1994 author
and activist Ken Saro-Wiwa, president of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People
(MOSOP), and 14 others were accused of involvement in the murder of four prominent Ogoni
politicians. They pled not guilty, but nine, including Saro-Wiwa, were convicted and sentenced to
death in 2005 by the Ogoni Civil Disturbances Special Tribunal. The execution sparked
international outrage against the regime of Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha, who was accused of
extensive human rights abuses. The United States recalled its ambassador and pushed a resolution
at the U.N. General Assembly that condemned Nigeria’s action.
64 U.S. State Department, “Nigeria,” Country Reports on Human Rights Practices 2006.
Nigeria oil wealth is a source of continuing political tension, protest, and criminality in the Delta,
where most of it presently originates. The conflict has been linked to the vandalism of oil
infrastructures; massive, systemic production theft known as “oil bunkering,” often abetted by
state officials; protests over widespread environmental damage caused by oil operations; hostage
taking; and public insecurity and communal violence. Several thousand people have been killed
in pipeline explosions in southeast Nigeria since the late 1990s; the largest single toll from an
explosion was approximately 1,000 in October of 1998. These explosions are triggered when
people siphon off oil from holes punched in the above-ground pipeline for personal use, resulting
in a reported loss of up to 200,000 barrels of oil per day. The government established a national
task force on surveillance of petroleum pipelines in order to prevent a recurrence of the 1998
pipeline explosion tragedy.
In 1998, militants from the Delta’s largest ethnic group, the Ijaw, initiated “Operation Climate
Change,” triggering violent conflict between the Ijaw and the Nigerian military and disrupting oil
production in the region. Threats of an “all out war” against the government and the oil
companies by Mujahid Dokubo-Asari, one of the leaders of that group, in 2004 reportedly played 65
a role in the unprecedented rise in the world price of oil above $50 a barrel. The threat was later
called off after negotiations with the government.
In September 2004, a new rebel movement, the Niger Delta People’s Volunteer Force (NDPVF),
led by Dokubo-Asari, launched a series of attacks against government forces and threatened to
attack foreign oil workers. The NDPVF is demanding autonomy for the region and a share of oil
revenues. An estimated 500 people were reportedly killed that month in the ensuing violence,
according to Amnesty International, though the Nigerian government disputes this figure. On
September 29, 2004, the NDPVF and the Nigerian government reportedly reached a cease-fire
agreement. Dokubo-Asari stated that “there should be a cessation of hostilities on both sides.
Apart from that, we have not agreed on anything else for the time being.” He was arrested in
September 2005 and charged with plotting to overthrow the government. In November 2005, the
Nigerian army deployed additional troops to the oil-rich Bayelsa State after lawmakers began
impeachment proceedings against State Governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha. In September 2005,
British authorities had charged Alamieyeseigha, while visiting in London, with money
laundering. The former governor, who returned to Nigeria, was found guilty of money laundering
and embezzlement in July 2007. He was later released by President Yar’Adua on a plea bargain to
help advance peace talks in the Delta. The British government has returned over $2 million in
assets allegedly stolen by Alamieyeseigha to Nigerian authorities.
Conflict between the Delta’s militants and the Nigerian military has escalated since early 2006,
and the kidnapping of foreign oil workers increased exponentially in 2007. A new rebel group, the
Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), emerged in late 2005, and has used
the kidnappings to bring international attention to its cause and to demand that the government
release the NDPVF leader and former Bayelsa State Governor Alamieyeseigha. Media reports
suggest over two hundred foreigners were kidnapped in 2007, including several American 66
citizens. Attacks by militant groups like the MEND have cut Nigeria’s oil production by as
much as 25% in the last year, and analysts partially credit supply disruptions in Nigeria with
65 “Pumping Up the Oil Price; the Price of Oil,” The Economist, October 1, 2004.
66 “Nigeria Launches New Development Plan for Niger Delta,” Voice of America, March 27, 2007.
raising the world price of oil.67 Nigeria’s deep-water production has proven vulnerable to militant
attacks as well, and the threat of sea piracy is high. According to some estimates, up to 10% of
Nigeria’s oil is stolen every year, and some experts suggest that the heightened violence and 68
criminality in the Delta has been used to fund local political campaigns.
In June 2007, MEND declared a one-month truce, declaring it would cease kidnappings and
attacks on oil facilities during that period in exchange for dialogue with the new Yar’Adua
government. As part of the truce, the group released several hostages taken from a Chevron 69
facility, including at least one American. The NDPVF extended a similar 90-day truce offer a
week later, and groups represented under the so-called Joint Revolutionary Council (JRC) also
declared a temporary ceasefire. Other smaller militant groups remained active; an unidentified
group invaded a flow station in Bayelsa State on June 17. In July 2007 the truce unraveled, and in
August MEND announced that it would resume attacks on oil installations. Gang violence in Port
Harcourt, the region’s main city, escalated into running street battles until government troops
imposed a curfew on the city. Street clashes erupted again in February 2008, and random violence
in the city continues. MEND spokesman Henry Okah, also known as Jomo Gbomo, was arrested
in Angola in September 2007 on suspicion of arms-trafficking. He was extradited to Nigeria in
February 2008 and now faces trial.
Oil production in the Delta has caused major damage to the area’s fragile riverine ecosystem, and
ultimately to the livelihoods of its inhabitants. Some reports suggest up to 2.5 million barrels of 70
crude leaked into the Delta’s fragile ecosystem between 1986 and 1996. Gas flares, which burn
unwanted natural gas when drilling for oil, have plagued the Delta with acid rain and air 71
pollution. This pollution has severely limited locals’ access to clean water, and has largely 72
destroyed the fishing stocks the majority of Delta inhabitants depended on to make a living. In
2006, Shell Oil was ordered by a Nigerian federal court to pay $1.5 billion to compensate local
communities for environmental damage; Shell has filed an appeal. In June 2008, President
Yar’Adua announced that Shell would be replaced by another company in the oil fields of 73
Ogoniland; the decision has been praised by the Ogoni. In part to reduce gas flaring, the
government is now backing projects to store and export natural gas.
The new government appears to be taking steps to engage the Delta’s disaffected communities.
An unprecedented 20% of Yar’Adua’s federal budget proposal for 2008 has been allocated for
security and development projects in the Delta, although Delta activists have expressed concerns 74
that the amount allocated for security far outweighs funds dedicated to development. President
67 See, for example, “Oil Steady Over 70 USD as Concerns about US Gasoline Supply, Nigeria Continue,” AFX News
Limited, May 22, 2007, and “Assault at Gas Pumps Related to Attacks on Nigerian Pipelines,” CNN, May 23, 2008.
68 Human Rights Watch, Criminal Politics: Violence, “Godfathers” and Corruption in Nigeria, Vol. 19, No. 16(A),
69 “Nigerian Militants Free Six Hostages, Suspend Attacks for a Month,” Agence France Presse, June 2, 2007.
70 “Blood and Oil,” The Economist, March 15, 2007.
71 The government has ordered an end to large-scale flaring by 2008, but several major oil companies have reported
they will be unable to comply in that time frame.
72 International Crisis Group, “Fueling the Niger Delta Crisis,” Africa Report No. 118, September 28, 2006.
73 “Nigeria’s Removal of Shell Hailed,” BBC News, June 5, 2008.
74 “Nigeria’s Pledge to Increase Niger Delta Spending Elicits Skeptical Response,” VOA News, November 11, 2007.
Yar’Adua reportedly requested U.N. assistance in resolving the crisis during an introductory
meeting with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. NDPVF leader Dokubo-Asari was released
from prison on bail on June 14, 2007, allegedly because of the militant’s failing health. According
to media reports, upon his release he denounced the practice of hostage-taking in the region and 75
has been assisting in government’s negotiations with militants. In December 2007, the Bayelsa
state government announced the signing of a peace agreement with the state’s militant groups,
although MEND has rejected the truce, declaring it will increase its attacks until Okah is released.
Most observers agree that the crisis in the Delta must ultimately be solved politically, rather than
militarily, but there is considerable disagreement on the details of such a solution. The current
federal system provides states with a 13% share of local revenues (predominately from oil sales).
Groups like MEND argue that the states should receive a 50% share, as was stipulated in the 1960
constitution. Some analysts, however, suggest that corruption within the state governments is so
high that the local populations would see little improvement even if the state share were raised.
Some of the oil-producing states have reported revenues of up to $1.3 billion per year but have 76
dismal records of development or service delivery. The Obasanjo Administration launched a
new development plan for the region in late March 2007 under the auspices of the Niger Delta
Development Corporation (NDDC), which was established in 2000 to improve social and
environmental conditions in the Delta. Improvements in infrastructure and education will be a 77
major focus for the 15-year, $50 billion plan, according to reports. The government’s 2008
budget includes $566 million for the NDDC, more than double the 2007 allotment. Some analysts
suggest that given the level of corruption endemic in the Delta, the international community
should work with the Nigerian government to establish a new development fund that would have
Nigeria produces an estimated 2.5 million barrels per day (bpd), but instability, criminality, and 78
oil leaks in the Delta have, at times, reportedly cut production by as much as 800,000 bpd. By
comparison, Saudi Arabia produces an estimated 10.5 bpd, Iran an estimated 4.1 bpd, and 79
Venezuela an estimated 2.9 bpd. In 2005, a group of former senior U.S. national security
officials convened a working group to develop a possible U.S. response to a simulated world oil 80
crisis. Under the scenario given to the participants, civil unrest in northern Nigeria required the
Nigerian government to move troops from the unstable Niger Delta region to quell violence in the
north. Unprotected, oil companies in the Delta ceased production, and the country’s contribution
to the world oil market was reduced by 800,000 bpd for an extended period. Combined with an
unseasonably cold winter and hypothetical terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia, oil prices rose to
$120 per barrel and U.S. gasoline prices at the pump rose to $4.74 per gallon, triggering a
recession and potential job losses of up to 2 million. As was seen in 2004, even the threat of a
75 “Freed Militant Opposes Kidnappings,” This Day, June 17, 2007.
76 “Blood and Oil,” The Economist, March 15, 2007.
77 “Nigeria Launches New Development Plan for Niger Delta,” Voice of America, March 27, 2007, and “New Hope for
Old ‘Master Plan’ on Niger Delta,” IRIN, November 19, 2007.
78 Economist Intelligence Unit, Nigeria,” Country Reports, February 2007, p. 29.
79 Production figures acquired from Securing America’s Future Energy (SAFE), a non-profit organization that aims to
reduce U.S. oil dependence.
80 For more information on the exercise, known as “Oil Shockwave,” see http://www.secureenergy.org/reports/
coordinated militant attack against oil targets in the Delta can affect the price of oil on the world
market. A longer and more sustained disruption of the country’s oil supply, particularly if
combined with the disruption of another major supplier’s product, would have a significant
impact on the world economy.
Since the 1990s, Nigeria has emerged as an important player in regional and international affairs.
Nigeria is one of the eleven members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries
(OPEC), and is a key member of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
The government has helped to resolve political disputes in Togo, Mauritania, Liberia, and Cote
d’Ivoire. Nigeria has also played an important role in facilitating negotiations between the
government of Sudan and the Darfur rebels. Nigerian troops have played a vital role in
peacekeeping operations in Sierra Leone and Liberia, and are currently in the Central African
Republic, Cote d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Sudan, and the Western
Sahara. Nigerian police and military observers are also participating in UN missions around the
world in such areas as Timor-Leste, Kosovo, and Haiti.
In 2006, Nigeria and Cameroon reached agreement on a long-standing border dispute regarding
an area known as the Bakassi peninsula. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled in 2002
that the peninsula belonged to Cameroon, but that its residents, most of whom reportedly consider
themselves Nigerian, could retain their Nigerian nationality. Despite the ruling, tension remained,
and the transfer of possession was delayed. The presidents of the two countries met with UN
Secretary General Kofi Annan in June 2006, and President Obasanjo agreed to withdraw Nigerian
troops from the area and transfer complete control within two years. Nigeria formally handed
control of the peninsula to Cameroon on August 14, 2006, although it remains under Nigerian
civilian control until August 2008 while a mixed commission conducts a demarcation of villages
along the border. Some have refused to accept the transfer; in November 2007 militants killed 21
Cameroonian soldiers on the peninsula. Two weeks later, the Nigerian senate approved a motion
declaring the transfer illegal because it had not been ratified by the National Assembly. Under
pressure from President Yar’Adua, the agreement was ratified and a final deal was signed in
Cameroon in March 2008.
After a period of strained relations in the 1990s, U.S.-Nigeria relations steadily improved under
the administration of former President Obasanjo. The Bush Administration has praised the
government’s improved budget practices, banking sector reform, and efforts to eliminate the
country’s foreign debt, although the Administration remains critical of the country’s human rights
record and questions its commitment to ensuring free and fair elections. President Bush visited
the country in July 2003, and First Lady Laura Bush visited Nigeria in January 2006. Following
the April 2007 elections, though, the Bush Administration has expressed concern with what a
State Department spokesman called “a flawed election, and in some instances, deeply flawed.”81
The White House reportedly denied a request from Obasanjo for a farewell visit to Washington
following the elections, and the Administration did not send a high-level delegation to President 82
Yar’Adua’s inauguration. Nevertheless, the State Department has stressed the need to “engage”
rather than isolate the country in order to “nurture Nigeria’s fragile democracy,” and President 83
Bush met Yar’Adua at the White House on December 13, 2007.
Nigeria is an important trading partner for the United States, and is the largest beneficiary of U.S.
investment on the continent. The country is eligible for trade benefits under the African Growth
and Opportunity Act (AGOA). The country’s AGOA-eligible exports, which account for over
Nigeria is the United States’ fourth largest source of imported oil (behind Canada, Mexico, Saudi
Arabia); it surpassed Venezuela in March 2008. U.S. imports of Nigerian crude account for an
estimated 42% of that country’s total oil exports, and the United States is Nigeria’s second largest
trading partner after Britain. Nigeria has more than 36.2 billion barrels of proven petroleum
reserves, and reports suggest significantly increased output from deepwater wells in the coming 84
year. The government plans to increase its reserves to 40 billion barrels by 2010, although
experts suggest funding shortfalls could inhibit increased production. U.S. energy companies may
face increasing competition for rights to the country’s energy resources; China recently loaned
Nigeria $2.5 billion for infrastructure projects in exchange for oil exploration rights, and Russia’s
Gazprom is reportedly looking to tap its gas fields.
Gulf of Guinea crude is prized on the world market for its low-sulphur content, and Nigeria’s
proximity to the United States relative to that of oil producing countries in the Middle East makes
Nigeria’s oil particularly attractive to American interests. In 2005, the United States, Nigeria, and
other interested partners initiated the “Gulf of Guinea Energy Security Strategy,” a forum through
which participants work to address the challenges of oil production in the Niger Delta. Regional
heads of state met in April 2008 and called for the creation of an international security force to
protect the oil industry in the Gulf. Nigeria’s waters have been named the most dangerous in the
world; the country ranks first in global pirate attacks. The U.S. Navy has increased its operations
in the Gulf of Guinea to enhance security in the region. Through its Global Fleet Stations (GFS)
concept, the Navy has committed itself to more persistent, longer-term engagement and in 85
October 2007 launched a new initiative, the African Partnership Station (APS). The Department
81 “Governing Party Wins in Nigeria, but Many Claim Fraud,” New York Times, April 23, 2007.
82 The U.S. delegation was led by Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer and the U.S.
Ambassador to Nigeria. For more information see testimony of Lorne Craner, President of the International Republican
Institute, at a hearing of the House Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health, “Nigeria at a Crossroads: Elections,
Legitimacy, and a Way Forward,” June 7, 2007.
83 Testimony of Assistant Secretary of State Jendayi Frazer, Ibid.
84 Energy Information Administration, “Nigeria Energy Data, Statistics and Analysis,” Country Analysis Briefs, April
2007, available at http://www.eia.doe.gov.
85 Under APS, the USS Fort Henry was deployed to the Gulf of Guinea from fall 2007 to spring 2008 to serve as a
continuing sea base of operations and a “floating schoolhouse” to provide assistance and training to the Gulf nations.
Training focused on maritime domain awareness and law enforcement, port facilities management and security,
seamanship/navigation, search and rescue, leadership, logistics, civil engineering, humanitarian assistance and disaster
of Defense’s newest regional combatant command, Africa Command (AFRICOM), is expected to 86
maintain this increased focus on maritime security in the region.
Nigeria plays a significant role in peacekeeping operations across the continent, and the Bush
Administration considers Nigeria an important partner in the war on terror. Former President
Obasanjo reportedly played a critical role in building consensus on the continent for cooperation
in U.S. counter-terrorism efforts. The United States provides the country with military training
with an emphasis on professionalization and respect for human rights and civilian authority
through the International Military Education and Training (IMET) program and other security
assistance. The State Department has established ten “American Corners” to share information on
American culture and values with Nigerians. In early November 2007, Nigerian security forces
arrested a group of Islamic militants in northern Nigeria. The suspects, who were charged with
plotting to attack government buildings, are alleged to have ties with Al Qaeda.
In 2003, the United States offered a $2 million reward for the capture of former Liberian
president Charles Taylor, who was in exile in Nigeria. Taylor has been charged with war crimes
by the Special Court for Sierra Leone. The $2 million reward was inserted in the Iraqi Emergency
Supplemental bill, S. 1689, which became P.L. 108-106 in late 2003. The provision did not
specifically refer to Taylor, although it is widely believed that the reference was to him. The Bush
Administration has stated that Taylor should be held accountable for the crimes he committed in 87
Liberia and Sierra Leone, and reportedly encouraged Nigeria to offer Taylor political asylum.
President Obasanjo was opposed to transferring Taylor to the Special Court for Sierra Leone
(SCSL), which indicted Taylor on 17 counts of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and
violation of international humanitarian law in March 2003. The Nigerian government said that 88
any attempt to kidnap Taylor would be viewed as “a violation of Nigeria’s territorial integrity.”
In May 2005, President Obasanjo met with President Bush and other senior Administration
officials in Washington to discuss the crisis in Darfur, Sudan; debt relief; and the legal status of
former Liberian president Charles Taylor. Taylor was captured by Nigerian authorities in late
March 2006, after his failed attempt to flee to a neighboring country. A day after Taylor’s arrest,
Obasanjo visited Washington and met with President Bush. Taylor is now being tried by the SCSL
at the Hague.
The United States is the largest bilateral donor in Nigeria, and the Bush Administration has
requested almost $487 million in assistance to the country for FY2009. Democratic governance,
agriculture and economic reform, improved education and health services, professionalization and
reform of the security services, and HIV/AIDS provide the main focus for U.S. assistance
programs in Nigeria (see Table 1 for more on U.S. assistance to Nigeria). Working with local
partners, USAID is supporting early warning networks to prevent conflict in the Niger Delta. The
State Department’s FY2009 security assistance request, which focuses on peacekeeping support
and training, counter-narcotics, and law enforcement programs, includes $800,000 for
International Military Education and Training (IMET), $1.34 million in Foreign Military
86 For more information on AFRICOM and Nigeria’s response to the command’s creation, see CRS Report RL34003,
Africa Command: U.S. Strategic Interests and the Role of the U.S. Military in Africa, by Lauren Ploch.
87 “Confronting War Crimes in Africa,” Statement of Pierre-Richard Prosper, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for War
Crimes Issues to the House Subcommittee on Africa, June 24, 2004.
88 “Security Beefed Up Around Taylor,” This Day (Nigeria), November 12, 2003.
Financing (FMF). U.S. economic and agriculture assistance supports programs that will increase
productivity. Nigeria is one of 15 focus countries under the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS
Relief (PEPFAR), and received approximately $282 million in FY2007 to support HIV/AIDS
programs. That funding has increased in FY2008 to an estimated $410 million, and the same
amount has been requested for FY2009. U.S. assistance aims to halve Nigeria’s tuberculosis
incidence in the next decade.
The United States government provided over $12 million in assistance for programs aimed at
strengthening democratic governance in Nigeria in FY2007. The Administration has obligated an
estimated $10.6 million for such programs in FY2008 and has requested $14.3 million for
FY2009. FY2009 funds will support programs aimed at strengthening the capacity, transparency,
and independence of the judiciary; improving anti-corruption efforts; enhancing government
responsiveness in the areas of service delivery and fiscal management and oversight; and building
civil society capacity. Such assistance will also support post-election activities to foster the
independence and capacity of the electoral commission, according to the Administration’s
Congressional Budget Justification.
The 110th Congress closely followed Nigeria recent electoral process. On April 6, 2007,
Representative Tom Lantos, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee issued a press
release with three committee members expressing “serious concern about the prospects for free, 89
fair, and peaceful conduct of the upcoming elections in Nigeria.” Representative Donald Payne,
Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health, expressed
similar concern in a statement on April 20.
Following the 2007 elections, Senator Russ Feingold issued a statement condemning electoral
irregularities, saying “President Obasanjo’s leadership over the last eight years has been called
into question by the failure of efforts to reform Nigeria’s electoral system and combat political
corruption. The Administration should not legitimize this election as doing so would undermine 90
our commitment to good governance and transparency, and to building strong democracies.”
The House Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health held a hearing entitled “Nigeria at a
Crossroads: Elections, Legitimacy, and a Way Forward” on June 7, 2007. Nigeria’s flawed
elections also featured prominently in a July 17, 2007 hearing on Democracy in Sub-Saharan
Africa by the Senate Subcommittee on African Affairs. Earlier, in January 2007, the Senate
Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on the Geopolitics of Oil and its
Implications for U.S. Economic and International Security. The potential disruption of Nigeria’s
oil supply due to instability in the Niger Delta was among the topics covered in the hearing.
89 For more information, see http://foreignaffairs.house.gov/.
90 See “Statement of U.S. Senator Russ Feingold on the Marred Nigerian Election,” April 23, 2007 at
Several Nigeria-related bills were passed in the 109th Congress. In November 2006, the Senate
passed S.Res. 611, introduced by Senator Russ Feingold, to support the efforts of the electoral
commission, political parties, civil society, religious organizations, and the Nigerian people to
facilitate the country’s first democratic transition from one civilian government to another in the
2007 elections. In May 2005, Congress passed H.Con.Res. 127, introduced by Representative Ed
Royce, calling on the Nigerian government to transfer Charles Taylor to the Special Court for
Sierra Leone. The House Foreign Affairs Committee Africa Subcommittee held a hearing in May
2006 on Nigeria’s Struggle with Corruption. Nigeria’s oil resources were discussed in a hearing
by the House Resources Committee Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources on U.S.
Energy and Mineral Needs, Security, and Policy, in March 2005.
Table 1. U.S. Assistance to Nigeria
($ millions, fiscal years)
2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009
Actual Actual Actual Actual Estimate Request
DA 13.6 14.8 12.5 25.2 29.7 37.5
CSH 42.5 28.2 21.5 32.4 31.3 35.8
ESF 4.9 4.9 4.9 6.5 - -
FMF 1 1 1.4 1.4
GHAI 85.9 138.6 282 467.5 410
INCLE 2.2 1 0.4 1.2 1.2
IMET 0.8 0.7 0.8 .8
NADR - 0.1 .2 1.9 - .05
Total 61.1 136.2 180.4 350 533.6 486.7
Source: U.S. Department of State.
DA = Development Assistance
CSH = Child Survival and Health Programs Fund
ESF = Economic Support Fund
FMF = Foreign Military Financing
IMET = International Military Education and Training (Notification required)
INCLE = International Narcotics Control & Law Enforcement
GHAI = Global HIV/AIDS Initiative
NADR = Nonproliferation, Antiterrorism, Demining, and Related Programs
Figure 1. Map of Nigeria
Source: Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
Analyst in African Affairs