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A Swamp Full of Dollars: Pipelines and Paramilitaries at Nigeria's Oil Frontier [Hardcover]

Michael Peel
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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Book Description

21 Aug 2009
Nigeria is a country where petroleum and polio have both boomed, where small villages challenge giant oil companies, and scooter drivers run their own mini-state. The crude-rich Niger Delta region at the heart of it all is a troublespot as hot as the local pepper soup. Through a host of characters, from the Area Boy gangsters of Lagos to the civil war general with a penchant for 19th century British poetry, Peel tells the story of this extraordinary country and how it has been shaped by the oil that pumps through western cities. Weaving reportage, oral history and investigative journalism, Peel illustrates the dark side of the global oil economy, and the unseen consequences of reckless resource extraction.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: I B Tauris & Co Ltd (21 Aug 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1845119207
  • ISBN-13: 978-1845119201
  • Product Dimensions: 14.5 x 22.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 548,628 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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'A compelling and well-written account. In this long awaited book, Peel has told the history of Nigeria and oil in a way that makes this important subject accessible to all. In doing so, he has done a service to everyone who is interested in development and in Africa' --Joseph E. Stiglitz, Nobel Laureate, Economics, 2001

'...a compelling journey through the oil-filled chaos of present-day Nigeria' --Louis Theroux

'A fascinating insight into Africa's wild west' --Giles Foden

About the Author

Michael Peel is a Financial Times journalist who has developed a fascination with west Africa, oil and financial crime especially when the three are combined. The genesis of A Swamp Full of Dollars was Peel's stint between 2002 and 2005 as the FT's west Africa correspondent, based in Lagos, Nigeria. He has since returned several times to the oil-rich region to research his book. Peel has been with the Financial Times since 1997. In 2000 he won a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust traveling fellowship to report on multinationals and the environment in Madagascar, Papua New Guinea and eastern India. Since 2006 Peel has been the FT's legal correspondent, covering, among other things, corporate corruption and other aspects of financial crime. His reporting from Africa has appeared in various publications, including The New Republic, the London Review of Books and Granta magazine.

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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Oil and Troubled Waters 16 Oct 2009
Michael Peel, the former West Africa correspondent for the Financial Times, has written a fascinating book. Part travelogue, part insight into big oil and the multinationals that produce and market it, the book is also a story of admiration for Nigeria with all its chaos, corruption and injustice. Peel travels the (often dangerous) world of the Niger delta where Shell, AGIP Chevron and other companies are tapping one of the more important reserves of crude oil in the world. The light, sweet crude is readily refined into petrol and there are considerable reserves in nearby Sao Tome, Gabon and Cape Verde. Yet the vast oil revenue that has come to the Federal Government (and the states) of Nigeria has done little to raise the living standard of the poor people who live in the delta. Quite the opposite, in fact. Pollution from the oil and the disinclination of the oil companies to clear up have turned the delta into something of a wasteland. And the story of theft by successive Nigerian government officials is staggering. Yet at the end of his story, Michael Peel is optimistic. Nigeria is a new country; its injustices and problems and abuses of power are more open, more blatant but in a way more honest. Legitimacy is really longevity, as it is in the West. People in newer countries can offer fresh ways of thinking and a hunger for reform. As the need for oil grows, and the need for this reformation, we shall surely hear a lot more about Nigeria.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The Nigerian Delta – a disturbing and alien place, its value system warped by oil? That was my preconception when I first went to Port Harcourt. But Michael Peel vividly describes the rich and raucous characters and life in Nigeria and the geopolitics of oil which enmesh us all, with which I can identify from my own experiences.

As a good journalist , Michael Peel meets and tells the tale of a range of characters from the street hustlers to the ruthless, violent delta rebels to oil executives to presidents and diplomats. He is a brave man. His excursions into the delta with unruly, heavily armed and ill disciplined rebels seem like exceptionally high risk journalism. As a Financial Times journalist he is well connected and gains access to Presidents, Ministers of State and senior oil executives. The book is based on a series of first hand conversations and interviews that set the framework for his interpretation of events.

The delta encompasses vast oil resources. Shell alone operates 90 oilfields, with 1,000 wells and 3,750 miles of flowlines and pipelines. A huge part of the oil produced is illegally tapped and stolen and the delta is heavily polluted by oil spills.

The deltan Ijaw people have been marginalised. In 1978 the president Olusegun Obasanjo gave the federal government ownership of all the region’s oil. The violence of the rebels can be seen as an attempt to share in the oil wealth.

Corruption is endemic at all levels. The local fishermen,as do the oil companies, pay protection money to community leaders. The cash can be put in an account administered by a local commander who gives donations to those in need.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Firsthand account of crude oil in a crude spot! 19 Oct 2010
By Gaurav Sharma VINE VOICE
Some say the history of crude oil extraction has a dark and seedy side; most say nowhere is it more glaringly visible than in Nigeria - a confused ex-colonial outpost with a complex ethnic and tribal mix turned into a unified nation and given its independence by the British some five decades ago.

In this candid book, Michael Peel, a former FT journalist who spent many-a-year in Nigeria, presents a warts n' all account of this most chaotic and often fascinating of African countries shaped by oil, driven by oil and in more ways than one - held to ransom by oil. The author dwells on how the discovery of crude oil has not been quite the bonanza for its peoples who remain among the poorest and most deprived in this world. End result is growing dissent and chaos.

The book has its 220 pages split into three parts, comprising of nine chapters, containing a firsthand and first rate narration of the violence, confusion, partial anarchy and corruption in Nigeria where its people who deserve better have to contend with depravity and pollution. Some have risen up and abide by their own rule - the rule of force, rather than the law.

If the reader seeks insight into this complex country, Peel provides it. If the reader seeks a travel guide - this is one candid book. If the reader seeks info on what went wrong in Nigeria from a socioeconomic standpoint, the author duly obliges. Hence, this multifaceted work, for which Peel deserves top marks, is a much needed book. It addresses an information gap about a young nation, its serious challenges, addiction to its oil endowment and the sense of injustice the crude stuff creates for those who observe the oil bonanza from a distance but cannot get their hands into the cookie jar.
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