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Nigerian student: “Almost all our oil goes for export, but most of my countrymen live in dire need”

© Форпост Северо-Запад / Павел Долганов

The International Monetary Fund has reported that by the end of the first quarter of 2024, Nigeria has fallen from second to fourth place in Africa in terms of GDP, behind Egypt and Algeria. Why can't an oil-rich country that was producing almost 2 million barrels per day before the pandemic monetize its natural resources and improve the quality of life of a population that has already reached 229 million? Could the reason be the proverbial “green transition” that has reduced demand for fossil fuels?

As Akinola Collins Kingsley, a third-year oil and gas student at the Empress Catherine II Saint Petersburg Mining University, assured Forpost, this is not the case. On the contrary, the demand for hydrocarbons around the world is only growing and natural resource extraction is still the most prestigious profession in Nigeria. However, barbaric production methods and the inability of the authorities to channel the main rent from subsoil use into the federal budget, does not allow the citizens of the country, half of whom live below the poverty line, to escape poverty.

“Black gold” in Nigeria was found in the early XX century, but its extraction began only in the 1950s. The license for exploration, as is customary in Africa, was obtained by Western multinational companies, in this case - British Shell and BP. They still largely control the industry, being its main beneficiaries.

In 1960, Nigeria gained independence. Its population had a glimmer of hope for a bright future, because it was believed that the technologies brought by overseas “friends” would increase oil revenues, which would become the basis for long-term progress and prosperity of the African state. However, the reality turned out to be far from as rosy as initially imagined. Firstly, most of the revenues from the sale of liquid hydrocarbons on foreign markets went into the pockets of “partners”, and, secondly, their methods of nature management turned out to be so barbaric that they led to an ecological disaster in the Niger Delta.

© Michel Isamuna/ вид реки Нигер

Numerous oil spills have contaminated large areas of arable land, as well as rivers and groundwater. However, the perpetrators of such accidents were practically not engaged in liquidation of consequences of such accidents, limiting themselves to payment of insignificant compensations, the total amount of which amounted to several tens of millions of dollars. Obviously, this money was not enough to eliminate the consequences of the emergency. And the shortage of specialized specialists and technical capabilities only aggravated the problem.

Sadly enough, all this was taking place against the background of permanent armed conflicts that periodically turned into civil wars and military coups. Oil pipelines, which run on the surface of the ground rather than under it (because it is cheaper), became and still remain an easy prey for gangs. The local population, forced by poverty to make taps and steal oil, also contributes. According to some reports, 150 thousand barrels of the mineral are “vaporized” in this way every day.

Law enforcers regularly organize raids on traders of stolen fuel. As a punishment, they often cut down the barrels and send their contents directly into the river, which leads to fish pestilence and, as a consequence, reduces the income of those guilty of theft. As a result of this peculiar view of justice, the Niger and its tributaries are gradually turning into oil swamps, and the jungle in places is beginning to resemble a Martian landscape. The population is increasingly suffering from bronchitis, lung and skin cancer, and women are having more premature births.

© Tope A.Asokere

“Almost all our oil goes for export. The European Union, for example, consumes half of what is produced in Nigeria, yet most of my countrymen live in dire need. This is a paradox that can only be solved in one way - to increase the number of our own qualified engineers and get involved in subsoil use. Our government should focus on preserving the unique natural heritage and urgently take a number of measures aimed at increasing the level of prosperity of the population, instead of protecting the interests of foreign business. I hope that my fellow countrymen will follow my example, come to Mining University for education and return to their homeland to change the state of affairs there. For now, I am the only representative of my country here,” said Collins Kingsley.

At home, he obtained his education at a private school. This opened up great opportunities for him. But more than 20 million children in Nigeria are out of school. The country is one of the world's top three countries - along with India and Pakistan. These are the latest figures from UNESCO. One of the main reasons is parents' fear of the Boko Haram militants (banned in Russia) operating in the north-east of the country. They deny the need for education and Christian values, carry out terrorist attacks in schools and often kidnap children for ransom.

© Abubakar Balogun

“Dad worked as an accountant, now he is a private entrepreneur. He is a man with education, so he understands how important it is for a start in life. All the six children in our family have been or are still in private school. The fee for one semester of three months is 150,000 naira (about 10,000 rubles with an average salary of 40,000 rubles in the country - ed.). At the end of school, after grade 12, I took the national exam with everyone else. Thanks to the fact that I showed one of the best results in the country, I had the opportunity to continue my education abroad. I was offered Morocco, Hungary, Japan and Russia. I chose the city on the Neva River and Mining University, where oil and gas engineering is taught at the highest level. To do this, I filled out an online application form that was sent to your country's Ministry of Education,” Collins added.

The official language in Nigeria is English. In order to learn Russian, the young man worked hard at preparatory courses at a St. Petersburg university and watched movies with subtitles. And now, when he began to speak almost without an accent, he switched to the TV series “Kitchen”.

“Of course, my classmates help me a lot. Without them it would be much more difficult. They always come to the rescue if necessary. But Russian is a difficult language. I don't always manage to express my thoughts clearly. Fortunately, the teachers here speak English, so there are no problems with communication,” assured the young man.

He likes life in St. Petersburg. Transportation runs exactly on schedule. For romantic walks there are embankments and squares, for rest - quiet suburbs, where you can rent a house and get away for the whole weekend with friends from the university. Nevertheless, after graduating from the master's program, Collins Kingsley plans to return to his homeland, where he has not been for three years. One of the reasons is high airfare prices, which reach 300 thousand rubles both ways.

© Форпост Северо-Запад / Павел Долганов