ABUJA — Nigeria, Africa’s biggest oil exporter and 5th largest supplier to the United States, appears to be growing more productive.
After months of reports that theft has been costing the oil industry as much as $1 billion a month, and causing most of the oil spills devastating the Niger Delta region, officials say output is increasing.
"Yesterday we recorded an all-time high of 2.7 million barrels of crude-oil production, and these numbers have never been achieved before," said Andrew Yakubu, group managing director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, who attributes the increase to government efforts to protect pipelines and stop black-market oil trading.
Security forces say they focused this year's Niger Delta policing efforts on protecting oil facilities, declaring that militant groups who fought there between 2003 and 2009 are no longer operational.
However, Niger Delta residents complain that the grievances that started the militancy have still not been addressed. Lucky Daniel, a former chair of the National Youth Council of Nigeria, says young people in the Niger Delta are growing increasingly frustrated because of high unemployment.
"The ecosystem has been damaged to such an extent that we do not have even traditional occupations [such as fishing] to depend on, because all the fishes have been killed," he said. "The whole farming system: the ground is no longer fertile because of oil pollution."
Until the region is developed in a way that keeps regular people employed and fed, he says, the oil industry will be in danger of instability and theft.
In Nigeria, oil makes up 80 percent of government revenue and 95 percent of foreign-currency income.