Well, the history of the Niger Delta states and this region in general, is quite eventful. Every Nigerian should be aware of it. Some mistakes that were made, should not be repeated.
History of Niger Delta in Nigeria
This region of the country is located in the Niger Delta and goes to the coast of the Gulf of Guinea. Here is the territory of dense tropical forests. In the past, they were an insurmountable obstacle for white slavers because of malaria, and the warriors of local kings themselves caught their fellow tribesmen in exchange for ‘firewater’.
These times are in the past, and today the leaders of some of the tribes receive a share in the profits of the oil companies: almost all of the country's hydrocarbons are mined here. The occupation is all the more risky because various rebel groups are fighting for control of the prey.
The tomb of the white man
The most numerous of the peoples of Southern Nigeria is Ijaw. They were the first Nigerians to come into contact with Europeans. Ijaw played the role of intermediaries in the slave trade between the coast where the Europeans lived and the inner regions of the mainland. There, among the marshes of the Niger Delta, malaria reigned, and until the appearance of quinine, this area was called the Tomb of the White Man.
The history of the Ijaw is little studied, however, most researchers argue that Ijaw is the most ancient population of Nigeria. In the XIV-XVI centuries, they created more than ten early political entities (trade organizations and city-states), the strongest were Bonnie (Ibani), Brass (Nembe), Okrika and New Calabar (Elem Calabari, or Ovome).
READ ALSO: Benue State culture and traditions
In the XVII-XIX centuries these states became the largest centers of the transatlantic slave trade on the West African coast. That is why the ethnic territory of the Ijaw (including Warri and Old Calabar) was called the Slave Coast, controlled mainly by England and the Netherlands, as well as individual services of the Portuguese and the French.
Nowadays, Ijaw are mainly engaged in fishing and trade, with both men and women. Farming is poorly developed, the reason is in a small amount of arable land.
History of Niger Delta crisis
In the Niger Delta, more than 90% of Nigeria’s national oil fields, which are among the ten largest oil-producing countries in the world, are concentrated. In the 2000s the Christian (98% Ijaw-Christians) and anti-Islamic rebel group Movement for the Liberation of the Niger Delta was created, mostly from Ijaw people. They demand the nationalization of the oil resources of Nigeria and reinforce their demands with the abduction of oil workers, pipeline explosions and opposition from the Nigerian army.
The conflict arose when significant oil fields were discovered on the shelf of Nigeria. Their development by multinational corporations (Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron) infringed upon the interests of the local people.
Various ethnic groups, the strongest of which are the Movement for the Liberation of the Niger Delta and the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People, engage in attacks on drilling platforms and passing vessels, kidnapping foreigners, and attacking police stations.
The armed conflict in the Niger Delta arose in the early 1990s and, unfortunately, continues to this day.
The potential oil production in the Niger Delta is 3 million barrels per day. However, in practice, in recent years, less than 2 million (1.9 million barrels per day in 2007) were produced. The activity of Movement contributed to the reduction of oil production thus affecting the economy of the country.
Modern Niger Delta
The Niger Delta and the coast of the Gulf of Guinea are located in the equatorial climate zone, during the year there is almost the same temperature. A lot of precipitation falls. Here is a zone of humid equatorial forests, and on the coast there are preserved areas of mangroves. Elevated sites are only in the Cross River on the border with Cameroon.
The south of Nigeria has been mastered by man since ancient times, all suitable places for farming are occupied by crops. Forests are threatened with destruction due to burning in order to increase the area under crops and cutting for firewood. The animal world is under threat of destruction due to poaching: most often people hunt animals for food. And the people of the Fulani tribe are increasingly invading these lands in order to graze cattle, which leads to severe inter-ethnic conflicts.
The only large conservation area is Cross River National Park with an area of about 4,000 km2. The park covers wet tropical forests (one of the oldest in Africa) and mangrove swamps and thickets. The park is home to 16 species of rare primates that are on the verge of extinction, including the common chimpanzee, dril, the western river gorilla, the maned mangabey, and the Pryce monkey.
All of them are objects of poacher hunting for their meat. The park is known as a habitat for over a thousand species of butterflies and 400 species of birds.
The contribution of Southern Nigeria to the country's economy is very significant. At the same time, a large number of the population and more than 40 ethnic groups live here, the largest of which are Igbo and Ijaw. The total number of Ijaw people is about 15 million.
Southern Nigeria is a predominantly flat territory formed by river sedimentary material — silt and sand brought from the inland areas of the Niger River.
A Big Heart of Nigeria
Each state of Nigeria has its own nickname, quite accurately reflecting its historical, economic or cultural significance in the country.
Ijaw adhere to the clan system, preserved from pre-colonial times. There are several powerful clans (Akassa, Nembe, Calabari, shouts), which are subject to dozens of clans, not so numerous.
The calendar has many dates that they celebrate, but the main event is the funeral of loved ones, which turn into drama lasting days and days, accompanied by long dances and Ijaw songs, putting on the masks of water spirits.
Delta is a ‘Big Heart’ due to the external similarity of the outlines of the delta with the human heart. More than 140 tribes live here, mainly Ijaw, Igbo and others.
READ ALSO: Name of God in Tiv language and other Nigerian languages