THE FOUNDATION OF THE NIGER DELTA

NIGER EXPEDITION OF THE CMS OF 1841

            the expedition period in the Niger Delta

Cross River

Akwiabum state

 Benin state

Undo state

River state

Delta state

Note that in this search some of the activities were not fully carry out. the Chief target of Europeans expedition in west Africa at this time was the River Niger. this was because it was hope and believed that his discovery will turn it into highway through this legitimate trade, Christianity and European civilization could penetrate the interior and so supplant the slave trade. moreover, the Rive Niger, had in fact, become a romantic attraction that existed the spirit of adventure of many Europeans. account about this River handed down from medieval Arab source were so conflicting in there view about this sources, source an termination to that will solve the riddle became a romantic ambition of many European explorers. the African association formed in Britain in 1788 had the exploration of the Niger as its primary goal. thus between 1789 and 1793, the Association sent out three expeditions to unravel the fascinating mystery  of the Niger but all failed. the fourth, and first successful expedition was carried out by a young scottish Doctor Mungo Park.  

Niger Delta in the eighteenth century a new enlightenment swept through Europe. This enlightenment originated, in part, with Christian and humanitarian groups; and in part with the American and French Revolutions. Both preached the brotherhood of man and all worked towards the same end, namely the abolition of the iniquitous traffic in men. One of the main results of the Abolitionist Movement was that it altered the European attitude not only towards the Slave Trade but also towards the peoples of Asia and Africa. Already, with regard to British rule in India, Edmund Burke had put forward the theory that political relations involve moral obligations. The American and French Revolutions which occurred around this time insisted on the “Rights of Man” everywhere and, incidentally, on those of the “Noble Savage.” The Evangelical movement gave new life to the Church of the day and made the emancipation and regeneration of distant peoples the duty of Christendom. Its activities resulted in the formation of missionary societies. Thus the Baptist Mission was founded in 1792, the London Missionary Society in 1795 and the C.M.S. in 1799.

THE EXPLOITATION OF THE RIVER NIGER

the chief target of Europeans exploration in west Africa at this time was the River Niger. this was because it was hoped that its discovery will turn into highway through which legitimate trade, Christianity and European civilization could be penetrated the interior and so supplant the slave trade. moreover the river Niger had, in fact, become a romantic attraction that excited the spirit of adventure of many Europeans. account about this river handed down from medieval Arab sources were so conflicting in their views about its source, sources and termination to solve the riddle become a romantic ambition of many European explorer. the Africa association formed in Britain in 1789 had the exploration of the Niger as its primary goal. thus between 1789 and 1793, the association sent out three expedition to unravel the fascinating mystery of the Niger but all failed. the fourth, and the first successful expedition was carried out by a young Scottish Doctor MUNGO PARK.      

At the time of the missionary revival other forces were at work directed towards the opening up of Africa to British commerce. A body known as the “African Association,” whose membership included politicians such as Pitt and Fox, business men such as Josiah Wedgwood, humanitarians such as Wilberforce and Clarkson, sent expedition after expedition to explore the African interior and to trace the source and termination of the River Niger. Through the geographical work of its explorers such as Ledyard, Houghton, Hornemann, Mungo Park, Hugh Clapperton, Richard Lander and Jhon Beecrft interest in West Africa was greatly stimulated in Europe.

The River Niger formed an obvious means of communication with the hinterland. In response to the pressing demand of the Society, in 1841 the Government commissioned three ships, the Albert, Wilberforce and Sudan, to explore and chart the Rivers Niger and Benue. the C.M.S. was actively concerned from the start in the preparations for the expedition. Two men from Sierra Leone accompanied it on the Society’s behalf. The Rev. J. F. Schon, a German missionary and an able linguist, “was engaged to accompany the expedition with view of ascertaining for the C.M.S. what facilities there might be for the introduction of the Gospel among the nations of the interior of Africa” and “to report on the disposition of the (African) chiefs to receive missionaries.” He was accompanied by Samuel Ajayi Crowther, a catechist, an ex-slave boy of Yoruba parentage. Thus from the outset there was a direct connection between the mission in Sierra Leone and the mission to the Niger. The C.M.S. had already built up a considerable body of West African experience by its work in Freetown, where the first missionaries were sent out by the Society in 1804.

The Niger was seen as a expedition  foundations in 1841. Its leaders were commissioned by the British Government to negotiate with important local chiefs treaties for the abolition of the slave trade and “to substitute instead thereof, a friendly commercial intercourse between Her Majesty’s subjects and the natives of Africa.” But the British Government was not concerned with trade alone. In the instructions to the leaders of the expedition the Government enjoined them to tell the rulers of Africa “that the Queen and the people of England profess the Christian religion; and that by this religion they are commanded to assist in promoting goodwill, peace, and brotherly love, among all nations and men; and that in endeavouring to commence a further intercourse with the African nations, Her Majesty’s Government are actuated and guided by these (Christian) principles.” In this and in subsequent Niger expeditions missionary, commercial and governmental activities were closely linked. Four thousand pounds was subscribed in England for the establishment of a model farm at the confluence of the Niger and the Benue, a practical demonstration of Buxton’s unity of “Bible and Plough”.

The outcome of this, in some ways, unfortunate expedition is more or less well known. The three vessels, the Wilberforce, the Albert, and the Sudan, entered the Niger in August 1841. Within a few weeks the dreaded malaria fever began to take heavy toll: of the 162 white men who entered the river, 54 died of malaria before the surviving ship, the Albert, reached Fernando Po in October of the same year. As a contemporary writer put it, the Albert “like a plague-ship [6/7] filled with its dead and dying” returned to the coast under the direction of John Beecroft. The 1841 expedition became a byword for hopeless failure.

Without doubt its fate ended Buxton’s public career and hastened his death. When the hopes of great commercial gains were not realised, many who had formerly given their support lost their enthusiasm for the development of trade with the Niger basin. The Humanitarians, called by their opponents the “devils of Exeter Hall,” were subjected to heavy attacks by literary critics and commercial publicists.

But as always in history during times of failure and reaction there are men who see beyond the happenings of the present to the possibilities of the future. These men clung tenaciously to Buxton’s idea and in missionary circles one such man was the Rev. Henry Venn, who became Honorary Secretary of the C.M.S. from 1841 till 1872. His period of office coincided with the foundation of the Niger Mission. His faith in the African, and particularly in Samuel Crowther, was unlimited. It is doubtful whether Crowther could have achieved the greatness he did in the Niger Mission without Venn’s unflinching support.

But to return to the expedition. It was not, in the end, the hopeless failure that contemporaries judged it to be. True, the high mortality obscured its achievements, but those achievements were nonetheless real. To take a few examples. During the ascent of the Niger, treaties for the abolition of the slave trade were negotiated with the rulers of Aboh and Iddah, who also granted permission for the entry of missionaries. The interview with Obi Ossai of Aboh conducted by the Rev. Schon demonstrates the warm reception accorded the Christian message by some of the Ibo rulers.

On arrival at the King’s house the missionaries explained the purpose of the visit and the message of the Gospel. At the end they presented Obi Essai with two Bibles, one in English and the other in Arabic. King Obi could neither read nor write but the missionaries were accompained by one Simon Jonas, an Ibo ex-slave from Sierra Leone who acted as interpreter. This gentleman read the Sermon on the Mount to the King. According to the journal of Schon and Crowther. “Obi was uncommonly taken with this. That a white man could read and write was a matter of course; but that a black man–an Ibo man–should know these wonderful things…was more than he could ever have anticipated.” It was indeed at Obi’s insistence that Simon Jonas was left behind at Aboh where he remained to preach the Gospel and expound the mysteries of the written word, while the rest of the expedition proceeded to Iddah.

Unfortunately the missionary activities of the members of the 1841 expedition and the treaties concluded between them and the communities on the banks of the Niger lapsed, since the promises and obligations were not honoured by Britain. After its failure no British mission was sent to the Niger valley for another thirteen years.

[8] Nevertheless, as far as the C.M.S. was concerned the interval was used to plan the work along more practical lines. The reports of Schon and Crowther greatly assisted them in formulating a sounder policy for a future assault on the Niger territories. Schon’s recommendations may be briefly summarised. He stated emphatically that the West African climate and lack of regular communications in the Niger Districts would make a mission run by Europeans a physical impossibility. The high mortality of the 1841 expedition, he said, “not only demonstrates to us, that the designs for which the expedition has been chiefly undertaken will, in the course of events, be carried out by Natives (of Africa);” he went on to stress that the inhabitants of the African interior “acknowledge the superiority over themselves of their own country people who had received instruction” at the white man’s hands. These educated Africans, Schon pleaded, mainly resident in Sierra Leone, should be sent back as missionaries to their own countrymen. “In Sierra Leone,” he claimed, “there is a general desire among the liberated Africans to return to their own countries. This was unheard of a few years ago.” Schon discerned the Hand of God in the reciprocity of feeling between the educated African abroad and the tribal inhabitants who desired their services at this critical hour in African history. He therefore called upon the Home Committee of the C.M.S. to adopt the measures he advocated. “Everything,” he said, “tends to confirm my opinion of Sierra Leone and its destiny, that from thence the Gospel will proceed to numerous benighted tribes of Africa.” He ended his appeal to the C.M.S. Committee with this question: “Are the Natives of Africa then, to become Missionaries to their own country people%3or this the Church of God has been longing and praying.”

Schon was strongly supported by Crowther in this view. Writing to the C.M.S. Secretary from Fernando Po on November 2, 1841 the latter declared: “As regards missionary labours on the banks of the Niger and in the interior of Africa–very little can be done by European missionaries… On the other hand, it would be practicable to employ native converts from Sierra Leone who are willing to return and teach their fellow countrymen.” In order to implement this proposal, Schon strongly recommended that the C.M.S. should expand educational facilities in Sierra Leone in order to prepare its people adequately for missionary enterprise. He suggested the reorganization of Fourah Bay Institution “on such a footing that the students might receive superior education, with a special view to prepare them for the Missionary work.” He urged that the languages spoken in the Niger should be reduced to writing and that portions of the scriptures should be translated into these languages. He stressed that “the work of translating should be made a distinct branch of the operations of the Mission.” Perhaps Schon’s greatest service to the Niger Mission was his clear grasp of the practical difficulties in the field and his convincing presentation of these to the [8/9] C.M.S. authorities in England. The Home Committee agreed with Schon that Africa should be saved not only by European efforts but largely through the agency of her own children who had come into touch with Western civilization in Sierra Leone and the West Indies. The Niger mission therefore began, particularly with regard to its personnel, as a predominantly African Mission, drawing no doubt much guidance and financial support from the C.M.S. Fourah Bay College was developed along the lines he suggested, as a training institution “for a Native Ministry…”

It was clear from Schon’s recommendations that the man intended to lead the team of Native missionaries into the Niger Valley was Samuel Adjai Crowther. The story of Samuel Crowther is well known, but as he achieved his life’s fulfilment in the building up of the Niger Mission it is fitting that in this talk there should be an outline, however bare, of his extraordinary career. In 1822 Crowther, as a young boy, had been rescued from a Portuguese slaver by an English man-of-war. Together with the other slaves on board he was taken to Freetown where, to take up the story in his own words, “1 was under the care of the C.M.S. and in about iix months after my arrival at Sierra Leone 1 was able to read the New Testament with some degree of freedom; and was made a Monitor, for which I was rewarded by 7 1/2 d per month.” He was an outstanding pupil and when he enrolled as one of the first students at the African Institution established in 1827 Mr. Haensal, the Principal, wrote, “He is a lad of uncommon ability, steady conduct, a thirst for knowledge and indefatigable industry.” After the 1841 expedition, Schon who was greatly impressed by his conduct in that dangerous undertaking, recommended that Crowther should go to England for ordination. The Rev. F. Bultiman who knew him intimately at this time wrote: “I am convinced that he would do honour to our society, if presented by them as a candidate for Holy Orders to the Bishop of London… .though I am sure his modesty will not allow him to ask for it.” As his later career proved, Samuel Crowther more than justified the confidence placed in him by contemporaries. He was ordained in 1843.

But the call to return to the Niger did not come for another decade. His services were directed to another part of Nigeria. Already many of the freed slaves of Nigerian origin who had settled down in Sierra Leone were turning their thoughts to their old homes. The Yoruba traders who did return to settle in towns such as Lagos, Badagry and Abcokuta began to miss the religious instruction they had enjoyed in Freetown and sent urgent appeals for teachers and pastors. It was in response to this call that Samuel Crowlher was sent to Abcokuta in 1846 to work with the Rev. Townsend, a pioneer missionary among the Egbas.

ACHIEVEMENT OF THE CMS 1854 AND 1857

The River Niger formed an obvious means of communication with the hinterland. In response to the pressing demand of the Society, in 1841 the Government commissioned three ships, the Albert, Wilberforce and Sudan, to explore and chart the Rivers Niger and Benue. the C.M.S. was actively concerned from the start in the preparations for the expedition. Two men from Sierra Leone accompanied it on the Society’s behalf. The Rev. J. F. Schon, a German missionary and an able linguist, “was engaged to accompany the expedition with view of ascertaining for the C.M.S. what facilities there might be for the introduction of the Gospel among the nations of the interior of Africa” and “to report on the disposition of the (African) chiefs to receive missionaries.” He was accompanied by Samuel Adjai Crowther, a catechist, an ex-slave boy of Yoruba parentage. Thus from the outset there was a direct connection between the mission in Sierra Leone and the mission to the Niger. The C.M.S. had already built up a considerable body of West African experience by its work in Freetown, where the first missionaries were sent out by the Society in 1804.

Origins of the Niger Mission

The foundations of the Niger Mission were laid in this expedition of 1841. Its leaders were commissioned by the British Government to negotiate with important local chiefs treaties for the abolition of the slave trade and “to substitute instead thereof, a friendly commercial intercourse between Her Majesty’s subjects and the natives of Africa.” But the British Government was not concerned with trade alone. In the instructions to the leaders of the expedition the Government enjoined them to tell the rulers of Africa “that the Queen and the people of England profess the Christian religion; and that by this religion they are commanded to assist in promoting goodwill, peace, and brotherly love, among all nations and men; and that in endeavouring to commence a further intercourse with the African nations, Her Majesty’s Government are actuated and guided by these (Christian) principles.” In this and in subsequent Niger expen this and in subsequent Niger expeditions missionary, commercial and governmental activities were closely linked. Four thousand pounds was subscribed in England for the establishment of a model farm at the confluence of the Niger and the Benue, a practical demonstration of Buxton’s unity of “Bible and Plough”.

The outcome of this, in some ways, unfortunate expedition is more or less well known. The three vessels, the Wilberforce, the Albert, and the Sudan, entered the Niger in August 1841. Within a few weeks the dreaded malaria fever began to take heavy toll: of the 162 white men who entered the river, 54 died of malaria before the surviving ship, the Albert, reached Fernando Po in October of the same year. As a contemporary writer put it, the Albert “like a plague-ship [6/7] filled with its dead and dying” returned to the coast under the direction of John Beecroft. The 1841 expedition became a byword for hopeless failure.

Without doubt its fate ended Buxton’s public career and hastened his death. When the hopes of great commercial gains were not realised, many who had formerly given their support lost their enthusiasm for the development of trade with the Niger basin. The Humanitarians, called by their opponents the “devils of Exeter Hall,” were subjected to heavy attacks by literary critics and commercial publicists.

But as always in history during times of failure and reaction there are men who see beyond the happenings of the present to the possibilities of the future. These men clung tenaciously to Buxton’s idea and in missionary circles one such man was the Rev. Henry Venn, who became Honorary Secretary of the C.M.S. from 1841 till 1872. His period of office coincided with the foundation of the Niger Mission. His faith in the African, and particularly in Samuel Crowther, was unlimited. It is doubtful whether Crowther could have achieved the greatness he did in the Niger Mission without Venn’s unflinching support.

But to return to the expedition. It was not, in the end, the hopeless failure that contemporaries judged it to be. True, the high mortality obscured its achievements, but those achievements were nonetheless real. To take a few examples. During the ascent of the Niger, treaties for the abolition of the slave trade were negotiated with the rulers of Aboh and Iddah, who also granted permission for the entry of missionaries. The interview with Obi Ossai of Aboh conducted by the Rev. Schon demonstrates the warm reception accorded the Christian message by some of the Ibo rulers.

On arrival at the King’s house the missionaries explained the purpose of the visit and the message of the Gospel. At the end they presented Obi Essai with two Bibles, one in English and the other in Arabic. King Obi could neither read nor write but the missionaries were accompained by one Simon Jonas, an Ibo ex-slave from Sierra Leone who acted as interpreter. This gentleman read the Sermon on the Mount to the King. According to the journal of Schon and Crowther. “Obi was uncommonly taken with this. That a white man could read and write was a matter of course; but that a black man–an Ibo man–should know these wonderful things…was more than he could ever have anticipated.” It was indeed at Obi’s insistence that Simon Jonas was left behind at Aboh where he remained to preach the Gospel and expound the mysteries of the written word, while the rest of the expedition proceeded to Iddah.

Unfortunately the missionary activities of the members of the 1841 expedition and the treaties concluded between them and the communities on the banks of the Niger lapsed, since the promises and obligations were not honoured by Britain. After its failure no British mission was sent to the Niger valley for another thirteen years.

[8] Nevertheless, as far as the C.M.S. was concerned the interval was used to plan the work along more practical lines. The reports of Schon and Crowther greatly assisted them in formulating a sounder policy for a future assault on the Niger territories. Schon’s recommendations may be briefly summarised. He stated emphatically that the West African climate and lack of regular communications in the Niger Districts would make a mission run by Europeans a physical impossibility. The high mortality of the 1841 expedition, he said, “not only demonstrates to us, that the designs for which the expedition has been chiefly undertaken will, in the course of events, be carried out by Natives (of Africa);” he went on to stress that the inhabitants of the African interior “acknowledge the superiority over themselves of their own country people who had received instruction” at the white man’s hands. These educated Africans, Schon pleaded, mainly resident in Sierra Leone, should be sent back as missionaries to their own countrymen. “In Sierra Leone,” he claimed, “there is a general desire among the liberated Africans to return to their own countries. This was unheard of a few years ago.” Schon discerned the Hand of God in the reciprocity of feeling between the educated African abroad and the tribal inhabitants who desired their services at this critical hour in African history. He therefore called upon the Home Committee of the C.M.S. to adopt the measures he advocated. “Everything,” he said, “tends to confirm my opinion of Sierra Leone and its destiny, that from thence the Gospel will proceed to numerous benighted tribes of Africa.” He ended his appeal to the C.M.S. Committee with this question: “Are the Natives of Africa then, to become Missionaries to their own country people?” “Yes,” he answered–“for this the Church of God has been longing and praying.”

Schon was strongly supported by Crowther in this view. Writing to the C.M.S. Secretary from Fernando Po on November 2, 1841 the latter declared: “As regards missionary labours on the banks of the Niger and in the interior of Africa–very little can be done by European missionaries… On the other hand, it would be practicable to employ native converts from Sierra Leone who are willing to return and teach their fellow countrymen.” In order to implement this proposal, Schon strongly recommended that the C.M.S. should expand educational facilities in Sierra Leone in order to prepare its people adequately for missionary enterprise. He suggested the reorganization of Fourah Bay Institution “on such a footing that the students might receive superior education, with a special view to prepare them for the Missionary work.” He urged that the languages spoken in the Niger should be reduced to writing and that portions of the scriptures should be translated into these languages. He stressed that “the work of translating should be made a distinct branch of the operations of the Mission.” Perhaps Schon’s greatest service to the Niger Mission was his clear grasp of the practical difficulties in the field and his convincing presentation of these to the [8/9] C.M.S. authorities in England. The Home Committee agreed with Schon that Africa should be saved not only by European efforts but largely through the agency of her own children who had come into touch with Western civilization in Sierra Leone and the West Indies. The Niger mission therefore began, particularly with regard to its personnel, as a predominantly African Mission, drawing no doubt much guidance and financial support from the C.M.S. Fourah Bay College was developed along the lines he suggested, as a training institution “for a Native Ministry…”

It was clear from Schon’s recommendations that the man intended to lead the team of Native missionaries into the Niger Valley was Samuel Adjai Crowther. The story of Samuel Crowther is well known, but as he achieved his life’s fulfilment in the building up of the Niger Mission it is fitting that in this talk there should be an outline, however bare, of his extraordinary career. In 1822 Crowther, as a young boy, had been rescued from a Portuguese slaver by an English man-of-war. Together with the other slaves on board he was taken to Freetown where, to take up the story in his own words, “1 was under the care of the C.M.S. and in about iix months after my arrival at Sierra Leone 1 was able to read the New Testament with some degree of freedom; and was made a Monitor, for which I was rewarded by 7 1/2 d per month.” He was an outstanding pupil and when he enrolled as one of the first students at the African Institution established in 1827 Mr. Haensal, the Principal, wrote, “He is a lad of uncommon ability, steady conduct, a thirst for knowledge and indefatigable industry.” After the 1841 expedition, Schon who was greatly impressed by his conduct in that dangerous undertaking, recommended that Crowther should go to England for ordination. The Rev. F. Bultiman who knew him intimately at this time wrote: “I am convinced that he would do honour to our society, if presented by them as a candidate for Holy Orders to the Bishop of London… .though I am sure his modesty will not allow him to ask for it.” As his later career proved, Samuel Crowther more than justified the confidence placed in him by contemporaries. He was ordained in 1843.

But the call to return to the Niger did not come for another decade. His services were directed to another part of Nigeria. Already many of the freed slaves of Nigerian origin who had settled down in Sierra Leone were turning their thoughts to their old homes. The Yoruba traders who did return to settle in towns such as Lagos, Badagry and Abeokuta began to miss the religious instruction they had enjoyed in Freetown and sent urgent appeals for teachers and pastors. It was in response to this call that Samuel Crowlher was sent to Abeokuta in 1846 to work with the Rev. Townsend, a pioneer missionary among the Egbas.

The Bishop’s activities were not confined to the Niger valley. In 1864 King William Pepple of Bonny wrote to the Bishop of London asking that missionaries be sent to preach to his people. This letter was passed on to Bishop Crowther. One of his first acts after his consecration was to found the Mission station at Bonny–the first outpost of Christianity in the Niger Delta. So successful was this Mission that in 1867 the worship of monitor lizards in Bonny town was publicly renounced. In 1871, Crowther’s son, Dandeson C. Crowther, took charge of Bonny and very soon had to face a revulsion of feeling against the rapid progress of Christianity. As in the Niger valley, progress in the Delta was [17/18] followed by persecution of converts. Even the Bishop and his son were kidnapped. In the course of these upheavals the proto-martyr of the Niger, an African named Joshua Hart, met his death by being thrown into the water and battered to death with paddles. Persecution, strange to say, did not impede the spread of Christianity to Brass, to New Calabar, to Okrika and Opobo. not that in Onitsha things were far been good After Bishop Crowther1 s favourable after givine a proposal report of 1865, in 1867 a disastrous fire destroyed the central Mission premises. There was a misfortune that lead to the aggressive distrust between the missionaries and the European merchants trading on the river. the simplicity, the knowledge and the wisdom of Bishop Crowther over the sitiuation “We are between two evils: the unjust suspicion of the merchants, as if the Mission agents were instigating the natives against them–and the evil influences of the mercantile agents which militate against our work.” The achievements of Onitsha mission brought  fortunes in 1879, in the history of the CMS thereafter a violent rioting broke out and a mob destroyed the British trading factories and plundered the Mission station. in couch of the riote The British Government at once prepare and sent  gunboat, to risqué the situation H.M.S. Pioneer, removed £50,000 worth of British trade goods at Onitsha and then subjected the town to naval bombardment for three days. The native town was nearly razed to the ground and the greater part of the Mission premises was destroyed. After this disaster a few Christian stalwarts carried on their worship at Onitsha, but the body of the Mission was for a time transferred to Asaba.

A BRIEF HISTORY ABOUT THE NIGER DELTA.

Note that the Niger Delta people stand that 70% of Nigeria economic is from the Niger Delta, how true is that? also Note that The Niger Delta is an unstable area of Nigeria, and inter-ethnic clashes are common – often access to oil revenue is the trigger for the violence. Pipelines are regularly vandalized by impoverished residents, who risk their lives to siphon off fuel. Vandalism is estimated to result in thousands of barrels of crude oil wastage every day – a loss to the Nigerian economy of millions of dollars each year. Nigeria is the world’s sixth largest oil-producing nation. However, mismanagement and successive military governments have left the country poverty-stricken. Although many observers of the South South think primarily of youths invading oil company properties when they think of conflict there, in fact the roots of South South conflicts lie deeper in history and in the contemporary social circumstances of the area. Contemporary history of the Delta can be summarized as economic decline and broken promises. Historically, Delta communities prospered as “middlemen” controlling trade with the interior, particularly palm oil products and slaves. But with the development of the colonial state and independence, the region experienced a steady decline and stagnation, for no new sources of wealth developed there to replace these activities. More recently, the failure of the early independent Nigerian government to follow through on a promise to treat the Delta as a special development area, the steady reduction in the share of oil royalties that states in the Delta have received, and, finally, the habitual disregard of state needs by non-indigenous military state governors, continued and worsened Delta problems. The FGRN’s neglect of the Delta’s development (roads, schools, electricity, and health services all ended well inland before reaching coastal communities), Nigeria’s overall economic decline since the mid-1980s, and the tendency of educated Delta youths to leave the area, have confirmed its status as an economic backwater. The people who remained behind simply lacked prospects elsewhere.

THE NIGER DELTA PEOPLE