Since gaining its independence in 1960, Nigeria has maintained strong relations with the United Kingdom, its former colonial master. The relationship between Nigeria and Britain is highly conflicted. Nigeria was a British colony and a British creation. This would suggest the development of a cordial relationship between the two countries as a result of shared history. However, some Nigerians insist Nigeria should never have existed and blame Britain for conducting a forced marriage of different nationalities in the creation of Nigeria, others blame Britain for what became of Nigeria, insisting the central problematic of the country is the product of deliberate British design.
Nigeria did not have to fight for independence from Britain. When Southern Nigeria asked for independence, Northern Nigeria made it clear that they needed the British rule and therefore, they were more or less against the fight for Independence. The British themselves readily relinquished their hold on Nigeria in the independence era because the climate and people of Nigeria were not sufficiently attractive to the British. But they made a mistake.
When Britain granted independence to Nigeria, power was delivered to the North, the very region that was reticent about independence, and not to the South, the region that demanded it.
When the new Tafawa Balewa government blundered by agreeing to an Anglo-Nigerian Defence Pact soon after independence, which meant the British military could maintain a presence in Kano, Nigerian students protested and the government had to back down. The message was clear: Britain had to be kept at arm’s-length. Nevertheless, Britain remained the preferred choice of the Nigerian elite for business deals, shopping, schooling and for going on holidays and in the years that followed, during Nigeria’s political restructuring, the British superstructure was retained including the judicial system, the civil service structure and the educational system. The historical record has proven that Britain has never developed any nation or country they colonise. Rather their main aim has always been to develop their country with the mineral resources laundered from those nations. The amalgamation of Nigeria as one entity in 1914 was solely for easier business administration on their colonial control territory. This intent is purely on business and that has never changed today.
Business-wise, Anglo-Nigerian relations centred on Nigeria’ s oil and on the activities of Shell and British Petroleum. Their meddlesomeness in Nigerian affairs has reared its head in so many ways especially during the civil war when Britain betted on the Federal Government winning the war while providing assistance against the secessionist state of Biafra. They were their main supplier of arms and as the outcry over the famine grew, Harold Wilson’s government came under attack at home and abroad for providing the weapons that tightened the noose on Biafra. The war began in 1967. Cabinet papers for that year showed how the decision to continue arming Nigeria was based on arguments against secession. The sole immediate British interest was to bring the (Nigerian) economy back to a condition in which the British substantial trade and investment could be further developed. The ‘thank-you’ they received for this was a monopoly in the import and export business, the supply of many household products in Nigeria and a broad stake on crude oil management and logistics in Nigeria. This could come as a shock to many but it is no more hidden than the main intent of Britain in Nigeria and other colonies they colonised have always been based on their business interest.
The Niger Delta is the most important oil-producing region in Africa, with its oil providing 70 per cent of Nigeria’s government revenue. However, alongside the legitimate trade in the Delta’s oil products, there is a lucrative and organised illicit oil trade that reportedly loses Nigeria 200,000 barrels of oil every day. Participants in oil theft, also called “oil bunkering”, steal oil from pipelines, refine the oil, and then sell it to local, regional and international markets. Every year, stolen Crude oil worth billions of dollars are exported and traded off in international markets and much of the remunerations are laundered with the help of the British Government. The estimates of these crude oil heists sum up to 100,000 barrels per day (bpd) which are stolen from pipelines in the Niger Delta and other export centres which include offshore Nigerian refineries located all over the Atlantic ocean. This amounts to around 5 per cent of Nigeria’s current 2 million bpd production which costs the Nigerian economy an estimated $5 billion a year in potential revenue. This deal is a well-orchestrated economic heist which has been going on for many years now.
This act is also accentuated by the consensus between the Ministers from the UK’s Foreign Office (FCO) who have agreed to lobby the Nigerian Government to protect Shell’s oil interests in the Niger Delta despite the company’s poor human rights and environmental record in the region. The FCO was more than happy to help Shell’s interests in Nigeria, and consistently failed to challenge its human rights and environmental record in the country despite numerous petitions from Human Rights agencies. This is because their relationship with the British Oil companies is part of a perfectly legitimate corporate activity’, which sees the company .engage regularly’ with many stakeholders including government ministers and officials.
The long list of foreign beneficiaries of Nigerian oil theft makes it difficult to stop and there are doubts whether anyone capable of curbing it really has the will to do so. This is because it has benefited a lot of corrupt individuals in Nigeria and Britain, the British use it to und and influence Nigerian politics, including election campaigns.
Nigeria’s supposedly legitimate oil sales business is suspicious itself, with almost all its crude oil exports sold through fraudulent traders, a unique system among oil-exporting countries and the lines between legal and illegal supplies of Nigerian oil can be blurry. The government’s system for selling its own oil attracts many shadowy middlemen who mist of the time have been put together by the British benefactors which create a confusing, high-risk marketplace.
The British Government also helps corrupt Nigerian politicians and businessmen in numerous money laundering schemes in the name of investing and in return they receive huge kickbacks and bribes. Every tenure of Government in Nigeria are required to pledge their allegiances to this cause and in return, Britain can offer solace and non-extradictory rights if the need be.
Another way that the British Government has sunk her fangs into the Nigerian nation-state is at the consular level. With millions of Nigerians living in Britain, the British attitude towards these Nigerians have often been hostile as long as they are not among the nouveau rich or the political class. Britain is now a multiracial society, not by design, but as a side-effect of its colonial heritage. Because of its history as the major colonial power, a number of the citizens of Britain’s former colonies landed on its doorstep. Among them, Nigerians have been quite prominent. It is now variously estimated that the number of Nigerians living in Britain are in an excess of 2 to 3 million. The British have not been able to determine how to handle this foreign influx. As a matter of fact, on the far right of the political spectrum, there have been those like Enoch Powell who are inclined to send them packing all the way back home.
The situation gets worse with every downturn in the economic situation in Britain when foreigners (Nigerians especially) are made scapegoats. They are accused of taking jobs from Britons, even though they principally do the jobs Britons refuse to do. They are also accused of exploiting Britain’s generous social security system. Those caught residing in the country illegally are subject to racial abuses and physical assaults as they are forcibly deported. Despite the fact that the majority of the resources used in establishing Britain’s economy was sourced from Colonial nation-states like Nigeria.
Nigeria’s relationship with Britain is enigmatic. While the affinity for Britain remains, given the lingual connection and the colonial heritage, Nigerians are increasingly less enamoured of the British. All they want is their own personal economic gratification and an upper hand in socio-political matters and with this, they keep robbing Nigerians blind. And as corrupt as the Nigerian Government is, the system has resorted to condoning these activities. Nigerians need to rise up and call for an end to this act. Nigeria belongs to Nigerians and they should take what rightfully belongs to them.
AFRICA TODAY NEWS, NEW YORK