Nigerian novelist Dr. Elechi Amadi, perhaps best known for his novel “The Concubine,” was kidnapped in his country’s Niger River Delta region Monday night. But several African news outlets are reporting that Amadi was released without a ransom being paid. Interestingly, Bloomberg News is calling Amadi a “novelist and retired army captain,” although Amadi is certainly best known as a writer and cultural figure in Nigeria. The BBC noted in their report that Amadi is chairman of the state scholarship board, perhaps contributing to making him a target.
The Niger River Delta is rife with poverty, environmental degradation, kidnappings, and violence, with various militant groups fighting for greater rights and against injustices committed by the national government and foreign oil companies, who have long dominated the resource-rich delta. For an excellent primer on the challenges facing the area and its people, consider reading John Ghazvinian’s “The Curse of Oil,” which appeared in the Winter 2007 issue of VQR. I remember reading it before I was affiliated with VQR, and the piece has stuck with me ever since. Given that Nigeria is Africa’s largest oil producer and among the top five importers of oil to the United States, it’s especially worthwhile to become informed about some of the troubles afflicting the continent’s most populous nation.
Here’s a bit from Ghazvinian’s article:
The Niger Delta is made up of nine states, 185 local government areas, and a population of 27 million. It has 40 ethnic groups speaking 250 dialects spread across 5,000 to 6,000 communities and covers an area of 27,000 square miles. This makes for one the highest population densities in the world, with annual population growth estimated at 3 percent. About 1,500 of those communities play host to oil company operations of one kind or another. Thousands of miles of pipelines crisscross the mangrove creeks of the Delta, broken up by occasional gas flares that send roaring orange flames into the already hot, humid air. Modern, air-conditioned facilities sit cheek-by-jowl with primitive fishing villages made of mud and straw, surrounded with razor wire and armed guards trained to be on the lookout for local troublemakers. It is, and always has been, a recipe for disaster.