Before his death, one of the great and most respected Nigerians of the modern era, Claude Ake, warned about the “militerisation of commerce.” He repeatedly warned against Shell’s use of the military and mobile police force to protect their oil interests in the Delta.
In the twelve years since his death, America has increased its military operations in Nigeria, trying to protect their oil interests and now it seems the turn of the British for an ill-conceived military move into Nigeria.
Speaking at the end of the G8 meeting, UK Prime Minster Gordon Brown said that the UK was ready to offer the Nigerian military direct assistance to help restore oil output.
The UK Prime Minister said: “We stand ready to give help to the Nigerians to deal with lawlessness that exists in this area and to achieve the levels of production that Nigeria is capable of, but because of the law and order problems has not been able to achieve.”
The move was attacked by the main rebel group MEND, which abandoned a two-week-old ceasefire because of the statement. The group issued a “stern warning” to Mr Brown in an emailed statement: “Should Gordon Brown make good his threat to support this criminality for the sake of oil, UK citizens and interests in Nigeria will suffer the consequences.”
Brown’s African adventure is likely to backfire badly. Britain does not have the troops to deploy on the ground in large numbers and it would, rightly, be seen as a colonial power once again attempting to grab African resources.
According to Richard Dowden, the director of the Royal African Society, “Britain’s moral voice in the world has been weakened so much with Iraq and it would be obliterated by this. We have already heard the screams of neo-colonialism from Zimbabwe, and it would be catastrophic for Britain’s image in Africa if they were seen wading into Nigeria. Quite rightly, they could be accused of making a grab for the oil.”
If he were alive today, I am sure Claude Ake would have had something to say to Brown too…